Raft from the peaks of the Brooks Range to the Arctic Ocean on the fast-paced Hulahula River. This rafting trip has it all: day hikes to glacier views, whitewater rafting, arctic wildlife, spring wildflowers and even a walk on the frozen Arctic Ocean. Traverse the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge on this classic rafting trip from the mountains to the sea.
From the high peaks of the Brooks Range to the windswept Arctic Ocean, our Hulahula raft trip traverses the diverse and stunning Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. There is no better way to experience the grandeur of the region. We start with several days paddling and hiking in the mountains, then paddle the canyon’s Class III rapids, before spilling into the foothills. Two more days of nonstop Class II rapids take us to the Coastal Plain, a wilderness region unlike any other—with stunning views and superb camping. Then we continue on through the river’s delta to the Arctic Ocean, where we make our last night’s camp on a gravel island next to the Arctic sea ice.
The beauty of this trip is in the diversity of landscapes and wildlife. High in the mountains Dall sheep dot the mountainsides and bears dig roots on the river flats. In the foothills we often see wolves hunting marmots or following caribou trails. The Coastal Plain is where we may see musk oxen and we will keep our eyes peeled for arctic fox as we approach the coast. On this trip we also have good chances of seeing peregrine falcons, golden eagles, jaegers, plovers, and a great variety of other migratory birds.
Hiking in the mountains and on the tundra is excellent. Our travel schedule allows three layover days to hike the country, and plenty of free time each day. Our first hike will be high in the mountains where Dall Sheep graze and glaciers carve dramatic ridge-lines. As we emerge from the higher peaks we will stop and hike among the wildflowers with views of peaks behind and the sprawling Coastal Plain downriver. After leaving the mountains and entering the Coastal Plain’s yawning sky the wildlife changes and the birding gets even better. Arctic rarities abound and the Hulahula is one of the best birding locations in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
No experience is required for paddle rafting, as instruction is provided. Everyone joins in the fun of paddling the boats under the guidance of a raft captain. Everyone will be busy and engaged on this small rock studded river. There are several rapids that your skilled guide will negotiate with grace. You will get splashed but in all our years of running the Hulahula we’ve never had anyone go for a (unintentional) swim.
Summer travel in the arctic can be rigorous and participants should be ready for anything, including low water levels that require us to get out of the boats and drag them over shallow spots. A half-mile portage is typical at the end of this trip. The hiking opportunities are limitless; from easy ambles up the valley, to all day peak ascents. Day hikes will be tailored to your interests and abilities.
On a wilderness trip like the Hulahula, one never knows what conditions we may face nor what opportunities might arise. This is the nature, and the honor, of wilderness travel.
What follows is a general flow of events. Expect the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.
Pre-trip meeting with your guide(s) in Fairbanks at 4pm at Arctic Wild headquarters.
Fly north from Fairbanks across the Yukon River, the Arctic Circle, and the Brooks Range, to the headwaters of the Hulahula River. We’ll make a comfortable camp, have a good dinner, and watch the sun refuse to set! Welcome to the arctic! We can climb a small hill for a lovely view of the valley ahead.
We’ll paddle and hike our way down the Hulahula River, allowing for three layover days for hiking and exploring. We’ll take a layover in the mountains, another on the Coastal Plain, and another on the river’s delta en route to the Arctic Ocean.
Awake this morning at the northern edge of the continent. Weather permitting, we get a quick flight to the Eskimo Village of Kaktovik and then a longer flight back south across the Brooks Range, the Arctic Circle, and the Yukon River to Fairbanks arriving late in the day. Time to change your socks!
Transportation beyond Fairbanks, food while in the wilderness, stoves, cooking & eating utensils, boats, paddles, life jackets, safety & repair gear and professional guide service.
Lodging, non-camp meals, personal clothing and gear, waterproof river bag, fishing gear, and fishing license. Gratuity for guide(s). Rental equipment is available through Arctic Wild. See full equipment list.
(Please note that if you are unable to depart Kaktovik on the last day of the trip as scheduled, you will need to get yourself meals and a hotel in Kaktovik. This is not included in the trip price.)
Temperatures vary dramatically in the Arctic and can range from the 20s to 70s. When the wind comes from the north, the temperature can drop to below freezing. Cold rains and snow are possible, but we get lots of sunny weather in the summer season. With luck this trip is prior to the “bug season” but bring along a mosquito head net and a small bottle of DEET repellent. Better safe than sorry.