Alaska backpacking tours are an opportunity to travel lightly through the Arctic wilderness. These guided trips offer a chance to appreciate the landscape step by step, and to experience the arctic at your own pace.
With spectacular destinations like the Romanzof Mountains and Gates of the Arctic National Park you will be as delighted by the Brooks Range scenery as you are by our professional guides.
Summer in the Brooks Range is serene with daylight as our constant and companion. The complete lack of darkness frees us of a time-oriented schedule and so we eat when hungry, walk when inspired, and sleep when the sun circles lazily along the northern horizon. Backpacking in the Brooks Range is an adventure.
What to Expect from Alaska Backpacking
Backpacking in Alaska is always an adventure. We frequently use streams as highways, as do the migrating wildlife. There are vast gravel bars where we can take long strides and take in the magnificent views of the mountains. There are dry ridges where we will feel as if we are walking amongst the clouds.
Backpacking in Alaska, and especially in the Brooks Range, is an off-trail experience, so a 6-mile day leaves us happily tired but with some energy left over for exploring near camp. We will typically travel around 35 miles over 8 days with one or two days devoted to hiking without our packs, watching wildlife, or just enjoying the beauty of the Brooks Range from camp.
Alaska Backpacking Preparation
While Alaska backpacking is appropriate for both experienced backpackers and newcomers in good shape, it is a very good idea to have some experience with overnight backpacking prior to the trip. Each hiker will get 15-20 pounds of food and community gear to carry, expect to start the trip with a pack weighing close to 50 pounds.
Conditioning is highly recommended for everyone. We recommend walking as often as possible with 25-30 pounds in your backpack. Use the boots you will be hiking in. A couple weeks before your trip, add weight until your pack weighs 40-45 pounds. You can alternate this with the Stairmaster or bike riding. The better condition you are in, the more you will enjoy your backpacking trip.
The route of the Caribou Migration Backpack takes us through the eastern Brooks Range in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, where we will cross the Continental Divide to the North Slope of Alaska. This is big wilderness; the nearest road is 100 miles away. We will be hiking in the stretched-out days leading up to the summer solstice, a season rich in wildflowers, wildlife, and endless sunlight. Explore the best of the Arctic with this unique backpacking adventure.
This trip combines with our Kongakut to Coast Rafting. Discounts apply for joining both trips.
This is a relaxed 30-mile route that starts at the edge of tree line and concludes on the tundra of the Kongakut River valley. We’ll work our way from the starting point westward through mountain passes used by migrating caribou. We’ll be in broad valleys most of the way, each ringed by outcroppings and knolls that roll up to craggy peaks. The mountains are colorfully striated limestone, and many of them offer easy ridge-walking to the peaks. This is alpine country with vast vistas in which to see wildlife, a sky full of colorful clouds, and the streaming midnight sun.
More than likely, we will cross paths with the migrating Porcupine Caribou Herd, numbering around 180,000 animals, the Porcupine Herd courses through these mountains en route to the Coastal Plain of the Arctic Refuge, their core calving grounds. Calving happens in early June. The caribou we are likely to see are yearlings of both sexes, and older bulls, their antlers in shimmering velvet. They roll through the country by the hundreds and thousands at times, moving, always moving.
Where there are caribou, there are those animals who live from their unwariness: wolves and grizzly bears. And where the two join, there are scavengers like fox, wolverine, and ravens. This is a trip with excellent potential for wildlife encounters.
Hiking in the arctic is an “off-trail” experience, so a six-mile day can take as long and be as taxing as ten miles in other parts of the world. The footing is a mix of dry tundra benches and gravel bars with about an equal portion of various kinds of wet tundra. We will have to contend with some tussock fields. There are no sustained elevation gains or losses in excess of 200 feet per mile. We will cross several small creeks and then the Kongakut River the last day. This is a good trip for both experienced backpackers and newcomers in good shape who are willing to push themselves. Experience with overnight backpacking prior to the trip is highly recommended. Each hiker will get 15-20 pounds of food and community gear to carry. Due to the small party size and the trip’s duration, expect to start the trip with a pack weighing no less than 50 pounds.
What follows is a general flow of events. Expect the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.
Meet your guide for a pre-trip meeting at 4pm in Fairbanks at Arctic Wild headquarters.
From our camp by the Kongakut River we pack up early and begin listening for our airplane. When it arrives we reluctantly load our gear and ourselves for the flight back through Arctic Village and on to Fairbanks, arriving late in the afternoon. If you are paddling from here to the Arctic Coast on the Kongakut to Coast rafting trip. It is time to change your socks and prepare for the next leg of your adventure.
Round-trip airfare from Fairbanks
Food while in the wilderness
Stoves, cooking & eating utensils, water filter, safety & repair gear
Professional guide service
Personal clothing and gear, backpack, tent
Fishing gear, and fishing license
Gratuity for guide(s)
Rental equipment is available through Arctic Wild. See complete equipment list.
Temperatures vary dramatically in the Arctic and can range from the 20-70 degrees F. Temperatures could be hot in the river valleys under the 24 hour sun but as we get into the high country it will be cooler or maybe even cold and snowy. Snow is more likely than mosquitoes but be prepared for both!