Cape Krusenstern – Kobuk Valley – Gates of the Arctic

Cape Krusenstern – Kobuk Valley – Gates of the Arctic


July 10, 2025 - July 16, 2025


Gates of the Arctic and Kobuk National Parks





July 10, 2025 - July 16, 2025


Gates of the Arctic and Kobuk National Parks



Alaska’s National Parks are true wilderness parks; most of them are rarely visited and stunningly beautiful. Our northwestern Alaska National Park trip visits Cape Krusenstern, Kobuk Valley National Park, and Gates of the Arctic National Park in a single fun filled trip.


Gates of the Arctic National Park is 8.5 million acres of unspoiled and largely untraveled wilderness. The park is beautiful and diverse. As one travels from south to north, boreal forest gives way to broad green tundra basins, vast glacial lakes and severe granite spires. Beyond the Continental Divide the landscape opens to big sky and the seemingly endless tundra stretches beyond the horizon.

We will spend the first 2-1/2 days of our trip in the wilderness of Gates of the Arctic National Park. We will land just north of the spruce forests in a landscape of mountains and tundra. Clear lakes feed fast, rocky rivers. Rugged and barren peaks stand sentinel above the verdant tundra and signs of wildlife are everywhere. We will camp by the river and spend our days exploring on foot. Many of the nearby ridges can be ascended with effort for grand views of unnamed mountains. We can explore side valleys with waterfalls and hidden grottoes. The scenery is stunning and the hiking is limitless.

Located entirely north of the Arctic Circle, Kobuk Valley National Park is the least visited park in the America. Though nearly totally unknown, the park is full of wildlife and scenic wonders. Kobuk Dunes is like the Sahara but with wolves, moose and cranes. Onion Portage is an archaeological district with evidence of human use for the past 12,000 years! The Kobuk River is a magnificent river rich with wildlife and broad vistas.

On the third day of our trip we will fly southwest from Gates into Kobuk Valley National Park and arrive at the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes, a sea of sand in the arctic wilderness. The dunes were formed during the last ice age as winds tore through the region and deposited sand south of the Kobuk River in an enormous mountain basin. This is the largest dune complex in arctic North America and it is both fascinating and beautiful. The eastern side of the dunes is more stable and vegetated. There are ponds, wolf dens, and fingers of spruce forest which extend in to the dunes. On the leeward side, the dunes get larger and larger with sand ridges over 200 feet tall! There are vast areas where a hiker cannot see the edge of the dunes anywhere and one expects to see a camel until a sandhill crane flies by with its prehistoric sounding call, or a moose trots off over the sand. On the west side of the dunes, sand blows off the sand ridges and into the woods and creek. It is easy to visualize how the forest is being swallowed by the advancing dunes.

Towards the end of our trip we have the privilege to explore Cape Krusenstern which offers great contrast to the inland parks. Equally beautiful and interesting, Krusenstern sits on the Chukchi Coast where limestone hills meet the cold Arctic Ocean. Seabirds swirl overhead and we occasionally see whales and seals in the surf. Archeological evidence indicates this is one of the earliest places where people settled in North America. We camp on the beach and have opportunities to venture either along the coast or into the Iguik hills to the east. In addition to fantastic birding, the cape has a resident population of Muskoxen which we may get to see. The cultural and natural history of the area bring a depth to the end of an already interesting trip.

Last updated: December 1, 2023


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

July 9

 After exploring the town and collecting park stamps at the Western Arctic Parklands visitors center,  meet your guide for a pre-trip meeting at 6:45 pm in Kotzebue.

July 10

Fly from the Inupiat village of Kotzebue on the Chukchi Sea up the Kobuk River and then head north into Gates of the Arctic National Park. Landing on a gravel bar near a clear fast river we will unload and set up camp. We spend the afternoon and evening settling in, learning the birds and plants, and planning the next day’s adventure.

(Please note that landing areas in the wilderness are ephemeral. Some years our landing strip has been just barely outside the National Park Boundary. We strive to use a landing area within the Park but there is some chance you’ll camp near the Park Boundary and will hike to the Park. From the ground it is all spectacular wilderness!)

July 11

A full day to explore and enjoy Gates of the Arctic. Your desires help govern our activities. We can hike to deeper part of the river and try some fishing, ascend the nearest peak and watch Dall Sheep grazing, or plan a big loop hike, up one drainage and down the other. With 24 hours of daylight and more wilderness than we could explore in a lifetime, our energy and imagination are the only limits to what our day in the wilderness will hold.

July 12

After packing up our camp, we await the pilot’s return. We will fly south right into the heart of the Kobuk Dunes. Once we unload we may have to carry our gear a ways to access fresh drinking water but then we can go and explore the dunes, springs and sand flats.

July 13

A full day to enjoy the dunes. Moose, wolves and fox all frequent the dunes as do a great number of birds. The sand constantly shifts and swirls. There are springs coming right out of the sand and great expanses where nothing seems to live. The hiking is soft in places but great distances can be covered if you are so inclined. Swim in the ponds, look for wolf dens, slide down the tallest dunes, or just stretch out your beach towel and parasol.

July 14

Our now familiar pilot circles and descends. When the roar of the engine is quiet we reload the plane for the next adventure on the Arctic Coast. By afternoon we’ll be on the beach.

Don’t expect to sunbathe, but the beachcombing in Cape Krusenstern is beyond compare.

July 15

Awake to the sound of crashing waves and complaining gulls. We have a full day to explore the Cape and it is worth climbing into the hills to look for muskoxen and to see the coast curve away north and south. It is a little too far to see Russia, but it is fun to imagine the outline in the distance.

July 16

Weather permitting, our bush plane will arrive to fly us back to “civilization”. We plan to arrive back in Kotzebue by early evening. Empty sand from boots and take a shower.

We had a guide whose judgement and advice I trusted unconditionally. I am sure we had the great fortune to benefit from her many years of guiding, especially regarding the food she selected to bring. I found it incredible that the meals never tasted like they were selected for camping but also it always seemed to be very efficient, starting from the good coffee in the morning, to lunches that included gourmet cheeses, to the dinners she prepared that were better than those in many restaurants.


- Kirsten , LA, USA



Round-trip airfare from Kotzebue, Alaska to Gates, Kobuk and Krusenstern

Food while in the wilderness, stoves, cooking & eating utensils, water filter, base camp tent

Safety & repair gear

Professional guide service

Select Camping Equipment is available through Arctic Wild


Non-camp lodging

Non-camp meals

Personal clothing and gear. See full equipment list

Gratuity for guide(s)


Temperatures vary dramatically in the Arctic.  It should be hot at this time of year, but it could just as easily be cool and rainy.  Temperatures will range from the 20s to 70s. Cold rains and snow are possible, but we get plenty of sunny weather this time of the year. Mosquitoes could be an issue in Gates of the Arctic, so bring a mosquito head net and a small bottle of DEET repellent.


Ordinary Wolves by Seth Kantner

Last Light Breaking by Nick Jans

The Brooks Range by Alaska Geographic

Alaska’s Brooks Range by John Kauffmann

People of the Noatak by Clair Fejes

Furs and Frontiers of the Far North by John Bockstoce

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