Tips for Visiting Small Alaska Airports: Kotzebue, Gustavus, King Salmon, and Juneau

If you’re visiting Alaska’s eight epic national parks, you may find yourself in some small airports, like Kotzebue (gateway to Kobuk Valley National Park), King Salmon (near Katmai National Park), and Gustavus (near Glacier Bay National Park).

These airports, and the one in Juneau, which is a necessary layover for folks headed to Gustavus, are all fairly small and have their own quirks.

Some of these airports don’t have wifi, cell service, or any place to buy food or snacks. So planning ahead is essential!

small alaska airports

You can reach all of these airports on Alaska Airlines. It’s nice that a major airline flies there. I’ve personally been to all of these airports, and can share some tips and advice.

Here’s what you need to know if you plan on visiting any of these airports! All photos by Quirky Travel Guy.

Kotzebue Airport

Airport Code: OTZ
Official Airport Name: Ralph Wien Memorial Airport
Airlines: Alaska, Bering
Often Used By Travelers To: Kobuk Valley National Park

kotzebue airport alaska

Kotzebue’s Ralph Wien Memorial Airport (OTZ) has daily flights from Anchorage on Alaska Airlines. Many visitors to Kobuk Valley NP fly here and stay for a few days, then catch a small bush plane flight out to the national park.

What is Kotzebue Airport like? Kotzebue Airport has a tiny pre-security area. There are just a few seats and no services. There’s one check-in counter. The post-security area has more seating, but it’s still fairly small.

Is there wifi and cell service at Kotzebue Airport? There is no wifi here. Cell service is hit or miss. I was able to get a connection on AT&T, but my friends with Verizon did not get any service.

Is there food in Kotzebue Airport? No. There are no convenience stores, no restaurants, no nothing. It’s a very small airport and there aren’t even enough seats for the small number of passengers they get.

kotzebue view from air
View of Kotzebue from the plane.

Where should you stay near Kotzebue Airport? The town has lots of expensive lodging options, from B&Bs to Airbnbs. Nullagvik Hotel is the largest and most popular hotel, and has rooms with views of the ocean.

What’s near Kotzebue Airport? There’s a small grocery store (North Star Market) one block away with plenty of snacks if you need to grab a bite. Kotzebue has a handful of restaurants within a 20-minute walk. Many will deliver to the airport.

The Northwest Arctic Heritage Center is just a block away. It’s run by the National Park Service and has info and brochures about all of Alaska’s national park units.

Walk another two blocks, and you’re at the ocean. Gaze out at the water and imagine Russia just 200 miles away.

kotzebue airport selfie

There’s also a cool sign just outside the airport near the gate, noting that Kotzebue is near the Arctic Circle. It’s a good selfie spot!

King Salmon Airport

Airport Code: AKN
Official Airport Name: King Salmon Airport
Airlines: Alaska, Grant, Ravn, Katmai Air
Often Used By Travelers To: Katmai National Park

king salmon airport
King Salmon Airport is about as small as a large house!

Almost everyone visiting Katmai National Park — with its famous brown bears at Brooks Falls and the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes — will pass through King Salmon Airport (AKN) from Anchorage.

Once arriving in King Salmon, travelers heading to Katmai will have to switch to a bush plane, or hop on the ferry to the park. Here’s an extensive guided to getting to Katmai National Park.

What is King Salmon Airport like? King Salmon Airport is about as tiny as Kotzebue. This place literally has one bathroom with two urinals and one stall. Yikes! If you wait outside, beware that there are often insane levels of mosquitos in this area. I strongly suggest a head net.

Is there wifi and cell service at King Salmon Airport? There is no wifi, and very little cell service. Some Verizon customers can get a weak signal occasionally. There’s a pay phone, which can be used to call a taxi. If you really need wifi, try the nearby Sockeye Saloon, which sometimes has service for customers (it worked when I visited, but they don’t guarantee it will always be functional.)

Is there food in King Salmon Airport? There are no restaurants, but there is a small gift shop. The store doesn’t have any actual meals, but has a few snacks: candy bars, jerky, popcorn, and a surprisingly large selection of Asian snacks like wasabi peas and red bean mochi.

king salmon airport food
The snack selection at King Salmon Airport.

Where should you stay near King Salmon Airport? Antlers Inn is within easy walking distance of the airport and has clean rooms and cabins.

What’s near King Salmon Airport? You can find a handful of interesting places within walking distance of the airport.

Sockeye Saloon is a bar/restaurant with large screen TVs. Eddie’s Fireplace Inn is another restaurant option. If you have an hour or two to relax before your flight, grab a meal at one of these spots (average cost $20-25.)

There’s a Wells Fargo bank and ATM in walking distance. There’s also the King Salmon Visitor Center, which has exhibits and information about Katmai and the entire surrounding area, plus books and gifts for purchase.

Gustavus Airport

Airport Code: GST
Official Airport Name: Gustavus Airport
Airlines: Alaska
Often Used By Travelers To: Glacier Bay National Park

gustavus airport
The entire Gustavus Airport is this one room.

Folks heading to Glacier Bay National Park must fly from Juneau to Gustavus, via one of the shortest commercial flights — just 26 minutes! (My flight was actually only 19 minutes due to favorable winds.)

What is Gustavus Airport like? Gustavus is the tiniest airport in this group. It’s just one large room, with one men’s bathroom, a women’s bathroom, and a very small seating area.

There are a total of 2 outlets for emergency charging. Most people wait outside since it’s so cramped. Baggage claim is outside too.

One piece of advice: Alaska Airlines has a machine you can use to check in and print boarding passes. If you use this machine, you won’t have to wait in the long check-in line.

Is there wifi and cell service at Gustavus Airport? There is no wifi. Do not expect cell coverage, but you may get lucky. I was able to get a weak signal on AT&T.

gustavus baggage claim

Is there food in Gustavus Airport? Nope, there is no convenience store or restaurant of any kind.

Where should you stay near Gustavus Airport? The scenic Glacier Bay Country Inn is the top-rated lodging option in Gustavus. It’s not near the airport; you’ll have to use their shuttle.

What’s near Gustavus Airport? Nothing, really. You won’t find a restaurant, store, or any kind of business within walking distance. People simply arrive here, and get shuttled to their lodges or the national park.

If you’re really desperate for food, the only option is to grab a ride with TLC Taxi and have them take you to the closest eatery.

Juneau Airport

Airport Code: JNU
Official Airport Name: Juneau International Airport
Airlines: Alaska, Delta, Alaska Seaplanes (Kalinin Aviation)
Often Used By Travelers To: Juneau, Gustavus, Mendenhall Glacier

juneau airport

Juneau International Airport (JNU), located in the state capital, is a busier airport than the others on this list, but it’s still small by international airport standards.

Most people wouldn’t have a reason to go there, unless they’re making a trip specifically to explore Juneau, or if they’re passing through on the way to Gustavus.

What is Juneau Airport like? Juneau is the largest of the four Alaska airports we’re discussing, with a whopping six gates! It has more room to sit as well, though the seating area can still get crowded on busy days with multiple flights.

The airport has a gift shop at baggage claim and a mini-concession store in the Tailwind restaurant that sells chargers, headphones, and other travel accessories.

Is there wifi and cell service at Juneau Airport? Yes! Juneau does have free wifi. Cell service should be working at the airport for all carriers as well.

Is there food in Juneau Airport? Yes, thankfully. The Juneau airport actually has two restaurants, both called Tailwind — one before security, and one after. Both offer pizza, toasted sandwiches, and refrigerated items.

juneau airport interior

Where should you stay near Juneau Airport? Extended Stay America is the closest hotel to the airport. It’s literally a 2-minute walk after you exit the terminal. Check pricing and availability.

What’s near Juneau Airport? The cool thing about Juneau International is that it’s located within walking distance of several shops and eateries. I had a couple hours to kill, so I actually left the airport and walked 20 minutes to a nearby Subway.

Other options within walking distance of the airport include Donna’s traditional American restaurant, Papa John’s, and Suwanna Thai Cafe.

If you have a layover, it’s worth walking outside of Juneau International Airport to take in the scenery. You’ll see the impressive forested mountains, and you can catch a glimpse of the snow in the distance.

Recommended Juneau Layover Tour: The Whale Watching & Mendenhall Glacier Tour includes a stop at the visitor center of the famous glacier, followed by a couple hours in the water searching for humpback whales. The tour takes 4.5 hours, and you’ll have to Uber 8 miles from the airport to downtown Juneau from the airport to join it.

About Flying to These Small Alaska Airports

How reliable are flights to these small airports?

Most flights are on Alaska Airlines, which is a major airline with a good performance record. Still, due to Alaska’s unpredictable weather, flight delays and cancellations do happen.

It’s wise to build an extra buffer day or two into your Alaska itinerary, in case your schedule changes.

The flight from King Salmon to Anchorage, for instance, is often delayed. So if you plan to head to Anchorage and then fly somewhere else that same night, prepare for the possibility that it may not work out.

What else should you do while in Alaska?

See our extensive collection of Alaska articles. We’ve provided an Alaska road trip itinerary, a list of cool things to do in Downtown Anchorage, a guide to budgeting for an Alaska trip, tips for camping in Denali National Park, and articles about the quirky towns of Talkeetna and Chicken.

Do you have any other tips for any of these airports?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *