Alaska Has Removed the "Into the Wild" Bus

More than 28 years after Chris McCandless took up residence there, a National Guard helicopter airlifted the abandoned vehicle out of the backcountry.

The state of Alaska on Monday relocated the abandoned bus made infamous by Into the Wild, airlifting it out of the backcountry in a joint operation conducted by the Alaska Army National Guard and the state’s Department of National Resources.

In a press release the National Guard said that a team of 12 soldiers cut holes in the bus’s ceiling and floor in order to rig chains to the vehicle’s frame and attach it to a twin-rotor Chinook helicopter, which then carried the bus away from its resting place near the outskirts of Denali National Park. 

Also known as the “Magic Bus,” the abandoned 1940s-era Fairbanks transit bus first served as a shelter for hunters harvesting game in the forests off of the Stampede Trail. In 1992, adventurer Chris McCandless spent 114 days living in the bus, where he starved to death after becoming trapped by the fast-flowing Teklanika River. McCandless’s story became famous with the release of the 1996 bestseller Into the Wild and its 2007 Hollywood adaptation.

The success of Into the Wild drew a steady stream of pilgrims to the Magic Bus, many of whom were unprepared for the Alaskan backcountry. Between 2009 and 2017, crews responded to 15 emergency calls from hikers who had become lost, injured, or trapped on their way to the bus; in February 2020, state police rescued five Italian hikers, one of whom had developed frostbite. At least two hikers have died attempting to make the 20-mile trip, including a Belarusian visitor who drowned in the swollen Teklanika last year.

“We encourage people to enjoy Alaska’s wild areas safely, and we understand the hold this bus has had on the popular imagination,” Corri A. Feige, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, said in the release. “However, this is an abandoned and deteriorating vehicle that was requiring dangerous and costly rescue efforts, but more importantly, was costing some visitors their lives. I’m glad we found a safe, respectful and economical solution to this situation.”

The bus is currently in storage while the state considers what to do with it, Feige said. One proposed solution is to put it on display in a safer location.

See the airlift in the video below: