Enjoy the wild landscape of the central Brooks Range in Gates of the Arctic National Park with us this summer. Camp by a deep blue lake, hike the tundra mountains, watch for arctic wildlife, explore ancient Eskimo sites, and enjoy fishing in the nation’s northern most National Park.
Gates of the Arctic is the “crown jewel” of America’s National Park system. With 19 million acres of sprawling and undeveloped wild land in the central Brooks Range, it is a wilderness like no other. With no constructed trails, no campgrounds, and no visitor services of any kind, Gates of the Arctic is the perfect place for wilderness exploration and solitude. One of our favorite places in the Park is near the continental divide on the shores of an enormous lake surrounded by mountains and tundra as far as the eye can see.
Camping at Agiak Lake is sublime. Views across the lake into the peaks of the Brooks Range change hour by hour with the light and the weather. Days will be spent hiking through the varied landscape. There are peaks to climb, glacial cirques to explore, and broad valleys to wander. Adventures abound.
One of our favorite routes follows the edge of the lake and up a side creek to the east. As we ascend, the valley narrows into a canyon, often full of animal sign. A caribou trail leads over a low pass from which we can survey the entire area, with broad valleys, small ice fields, clear creeks and the broad lake all surrounded by the rugged and rocky peaks. From the high point of the hike, we can make our way back to camp stopping at several archaeological sites along the way, marveling at the ingenuity and fortitude required to thrive in the Arctic hundreds of years ago.
Arctic grayling and lake trout are abundant in the lake and we are happy to help you learn to fish and to cook them for dinner if you are successful. Both spinning gear and fly rods are appropriate and this is a great place to learn to fish.
The area is rich in history. There are several Inupiat Eskimo archaeological sites to examine a short walk from our camp and numerous stone fences once used to herd caribou into the lake. The National Park Service has studied the area and has even conducted a few underwater digs in the lake which yielded fragments of skin parkas and sections of kayaks.
We never know exactly what wildlife we may encounter on a trip, but caribou frequent the area in August, feeding on the rich green tundra in small bands. It is also a great place to watch bears grazing the flats or eating berries on the slopes. We may also see wolves, red fox, moose and a great variety of other furred and feathered creatures during our time in the mountains. The serendipity is part of what makes encountering wildlife so rewarding. A keen interest and keen eyes are certain to spot a great variety of wildlife.
You need not be a seasoned adventurer to enjoy this trip. Our sturdy base camp and excellent cooking leave you free to enjoy the wilderness and our seasoned guides are on hand to teach you the skills of living in the remote and sometimes challenging arctic. With good equipment and a great attitude this will be an adventure never to be forgotten.
Last updated: February 13, 2020
What follows is a general flow of events. Expect the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.
Meet your guide(s) for a pre-trip meeting at Arctic Wild headquarters in Fairbanks.
You’ll be picked up early at your hotel in Fairbanks and shuttled to the airport where we’ll catch a charter flight to the bush village of Bettles in the southern foothills of the Brooks Range. From there we’ll load our gear into a small float plane for the hour long flight across the mountains to Agiak Lake. Once there we’ll set up a comfortable camp on the tundra next to the lake before heading out to explore.
Each day in the backcountry brings something different. Some days we will take day hikes to explore the glacial cirques, nearby alpine lakes, or wander the high ridges. Other days we may stick closer to camp, allowing the opportunity to fish, search for wildlife, or simply enjoy the solitude and quiet.
Weather permitting, we’ll say a final goodbye to Agiak Lake and the Brooks Range before boarding the float plane for the trip back to Bettles and on home to Fairbanks. If the weather cooperates and all goes as planned we’ll arrive back in Fairbanks in time for dinner and well-deserved showers.
The guides were uncommonly knowledgeable, competent, hardworking, and they consistently took care of the group before taking care of their own stuff. They kept our safety in mind while staying open to suggestions, and allowing folks a lot of freedom for personal wanderings.
Transportation beyond Fairbanks
Food while in the wilderness
Stoves, cooking & eating utensils
Safety & repair gear
Professional guide service
Temperatures vary from the 60’s to below freezing. Snow is possible; rain is likely. As summer turns to fall we can expect a wide variety of weather. With the warm weather behind us we don’t expect many bugs but bring a small bottle of DEET just in case.