Caribou Migration Backpack (Egaksrak)

GUIDED ALASKA Backpacking

Caribou Migration Backpack (Egaksrak)

DATES

June 14, 2024 - June 20, 2024

REGION

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR)

TRIP COST

$7,300

calendar

DATES

June 14, 2024 - June 20, 2024
region

REGION

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR)
price

TRIP COST

$7,300

In the northern Brooks Range, caribou amass in great herds in mid-June. This scenic backpacking trip follows their path to the northern edge of the mountain range.

This trip combines with our Egaksrak Packrafting Trip June 20 – 27, 2024. By doing both trips you spend 2 weeks in the wilderness and will get to hike and paddle from the high country to the Arctic Ocean. The combined price for both trips is $8,700/ person.

TRIP DETAILS

In the far north of Alaska where the sun circles the sky in June and trees seem like a distant memory, the Brooks Range rises from the coastal plain with ridge after rocky ridge after rocky ridge.

We start our trip in the mountains, the geologic basement of the Brooks Range where colorful ridges and cliffs of folded marine sediment tower above our camp. These are amongst the oldest rocks in the region. With plenty of time to reach our final destination we can dawdle a bit here where the topography is dramatic and we will take time to climb long ridges and dramatic peaks in search of ever more spectacular vistas.

Soon enough we will shoulder packs and head down the creek following eons worth of caribou trails heading north towards the famed coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge. We follow the caribou trails etched into blooming hillsides and walk along the cobble bars crossing the creek and crossing again in search of the best footing. Dall sheep and bears are common in the high country and we may see small bands of caribou, mostly bulls following the same trails we walk upon.

Hiking north, we climb a 2,000 ft pass and cross into the Egaksrak watershed. While we are at our highest elevation in the trip, we might as well drop packs and climb a peak with views back into the higher peaks and towards the coastal plain. Then we descend.

Beyond the headwaters, the valley grows broad. We find long sandbars where the hiking is good and skirt the willow thickets where the walking is more challenging. Moose winter in these valleys and their sign is abundant. We may also see ptarmigan, red fox, wolf and if very lucky, wolverine. The area is very rarely visited by hikers. The only tracks we see are left by wildlife.

 

As we approach the coastal plain, the mountains turn to foothills and the sky yawns in all directions. The combination of endless daylight and seemingly endless space is intoxicating.

The further north we get the more likely we might see large groups of caribou feeding on the greening tundra, nursing young calves, always walking and bleating. Many years they favor areas at the edge of the mountains so we will plan to spend a few days here among the last hills looking and hoping to see caribou.

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. It is a great hike with or without caribou, but we will keep our fingers crossed and our eyes peeled.

Near the end of the trip we intend to climb a small mountain at the very northern edge of the Brooks Range. From the top there are views of the coastal plain stretching to the Arctic Coast beyond with sea ice glittering in the Arctic sun. It is a highlight of the trip!

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 various kinds of wet tundra mixed in. We will have to contend with some tussock fields but mostly the walking is flat and gravely. There is a single mountain pass to cross and several stream crossings so expect tired legs and wet boots daily.

This is a good trip for both experienced backpackers and newcomers to Alaska 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 45 pounds.

Last updated: January 27, 2023

Itinerary

What follows is a general flow of events. Expect the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.

June 13

Meet your guide for a pre-trip meeting at 4pm in Fairbanks at Arctic Wild headquarters.

June 14

Fly north from Fairbanks across the mighty Yukon River and over the Arctic Circle. Land in Arctic Village, a Gwich’in settlement of about 100 people.
From there, we fly over the Brooks Range into the Arctic Refuge. Once our link to civilization wings back south, we will setup camp, take a hike to stretch our legs. Welcome to the Arctic!

June 15 - 19

We have thirty miles to hike and time enough to get there. The first day and a half is in the mountains and we will take advantage of the topography to do some extra exploring. Midway through the hike we have a more challenging day, crossing a 2,000 ft pass, but the views are worth the effort.
At the end of the trip we will plan on a layover day where we keep camp setup and we can hike up a mountain for views of the Arctic Coast to the north!
On moving days, we’ll walk about 8 miles, which will keep us on our feet for about 6 hours. With the endless daylight this leaves ample time for exploration and relaxation. There will be good hiking from every camp, whether it’s up a peak, or out looking for wildlife in the flats.  At any time, we could see thousands of caribou, a grizzly bear or two, a wolf, or other arctic wildlife. We will see wildlife, and plenty of birds so keep our binoculars at the ready.

June 20

If you are continuing north on our packrafting trip, this is a rest day and a chance to explore.

If this is the end of the trail for you, we expect the bush plane early in the afternoon and if the weather cooperates you will be back to Fairbanks in time for a late dinner and can begin exaggerating about the trip.

 

rafters having fun in the Arctic

Such a joy to spend days where time was meaningless.  A wonderful adventure and I would like to return next year for a longer, more challenging trip.

You mentioned to me in an email that you have terrific guides – you do indeed.  Dave is a superb guide. He is personable, knowledgeable about the Arctic, and has excellent group management skills. I appreciated the time he spent teaching me to read the map, which is not easy without trails.   He allowed Adrian and me to hike at our own pace and he encouraged all of us to explore the area surrounding our campsites. I know the others would concur in my praise.

- Sandra, California, USA

DETAILS

WHAT'S INCLUDED

Round-trip airfare from Fairbanks

Food while in the wilderness

Stoves, cooking & eating utensils, water filter, safety & repair gear

Professional guide service

Select Camping Equipment is available through Arctic Wild

WHAT'S NOT INCLUDED

Non-camp Lodging

Non-camp meals

Personal clothing and gear, backpack, tent. See complete equipment list.

Fishing gear, and fishing license

Gratuity for guide(s)

WEATHER & BUGS

Temperatures vary dramatically in the Arctic and can range from 20-80 degrees. Temperatures could be hot in the river valleys under the 24 hour sun, but as we get close to the Arctic Coast it will be cooler or downright cold. Ice fog along the coast and strong winds are part of the regions charm. There could be a few mosquitoes but the trip is too early for them to be very bad yet. Bring DEET and a head-net just in case.

 

RECOMMENDED READING

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge by Alaska Geographic

Being Caribou by Karsten Heuer

Midnight Wilderness by Debbie Miller

More Alaska reading is available at our bookstore

"The wilderness was spectacular, the leadership perfect."
"I am just finishing my tenth trip with you guys. As always, the trip was more than I expected and I had a great time. See you next year!"
"Of all outfitters with whom we have worked (and that is quite a number), you were by far the most organized and responsive."
"That feeling of wide open wonder, the possibilities for nearly limitless wandering, and the image of those proud caribou...that will stay with me a long time"
"Our guide was an encyclopedia on legs. He was always willing and ready to teach, to talk, to listen, to do another hike, or to lie low in camp if we were beat. He truly gave us the trip we wanted!"
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Eileen - Canning River