Alatna River Canoe

Alatna River Canoe


August 20, 2025- August 27, 2025


Gates of the Arctic


$7,300/ person



August 20, 2025- August 27, 2025


Gates of the Arctic


$7,300/ person

The Alatna River is a jewel in Gates of the Arctic National Park. Its clear waters flow through the boreal forest and under the peaks of the Brooks Range. Serene lakes and craggy peaks beckon hikers and the river offers a great place to learn about wilderness travel.


The Alatna River is like no other and is the perfect place for an introduction to Gates of the Arctic National Park. The rich and beautiful valley winds through the Brooks Range and skirts the edge of the iconic Arrigetch Peaks.

We will begin our trip adjacent to, and within sight of the Arrigetch Peaks which as their translated name implies do jut from the Alatna valley like fingers reaching for the cold arctic sky. Here deep in the Brooks Range and almost a hundred miles from the nearest road we feel the solace of wilderness and begin to learn about the complexities of arctic ecology.

The Arrigetch Peaks themselves are beyond our reach but there is plenty of good hiking to beckon us to climb up through the boreal forest into the high country. Dall sheep, wolves, bears, moose and caribou inhabit the area and we may see them moving quietly in the woods or walking high on the ridgelines above the river.

The river itself is lovely with colorful rocks and clear waters flanked by the greens of spruce and tundra. Its single channel sweeps across a broad floodplain, swinging west and carving cliffs at the foot of the mountains before wandering back to the east past oxbow lakes and willow flats littered with animal sign.

Gates of the Arctic in the autumn is rich with wild berries. Blueberries are a daily treat and the densest patches attract bears, birds, porcupine, and other wildlife all trying to fatten up for the long winter ahead. We don’t know what wildlife we may see in the boreal forest but we will keep the spotting scope at the ready and our eyes peeled.

Canoeing the Alatna is the best way to traverse this part of Gates of the Arctic. The river here is simultaneously swift and serene, providing an efficient path through the wilderness and an excellent place to discover the joys of canoe camping in the Arctic. Your guides will provide instruction on the fine points of paddling a canoe and the current will provide much of the propulsion.

This 60 mile paddling trip through Gates of the Arctic brings us from the higher peaks of the Brooks Range, into the dramatically folded sedimentary peaks, rich with marine fossils, of the southern foothills, and finally to the edge of the wildlife rich Koyukuk flats as summer turns to fall. The last week of August is typically the peak of fall colors  and we expect the birches to burn brilliantly yellow above the crimson berry bushes. With the return of autumn darkness we have chances to witness the Aurora borealis dancing above the Brooks Range. It is a lovely time of year.

Gates of the Arctic National Park is 19 million acres and protected by law. Unfortunately, there is a proposal to build an industrial road across the southern portion of the park to access the Ambler Mining District. The proposed Ambler Road would bring irreparable harm to the region and its residents. We will paddle the Alatna River to near the proposed road and can discuss the project and our efforts to keep the area as wild as it currently is.

The Alatna is a good place to improve canoe skills and is a fairly easy canoe trip. But all wilderness travel is challenging and high water or storms could make paddling the Alatna more challenging. If you don’t have any canoe experience, we highly encourage you to take a canoe class before joining the fun.

Last updated: February 16, 2024


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

August 19

Meet your guide at 4 pm in Fairbanks for a pre-trip meeting at Arctic Wild’s World Headquarters.

August 20

Fly north from Fairbanks across the Yukon River to the town of Bettles (population 15). Here, we board a smaller plane and continue on into the Gates of the Arctic National Park.  Our skilled pilot lands us on a gravel bar next to the Alatna River….and then the plane leaves and we are alone in the grandeur of wilderness.

August 21 - 26

Paddle and hike in turn, exploring the Alatna River. We will paddle about five hours on the river each day with a nice long picnic lunch and several breaks to walk around, pick berries, and enjoy the area.

We intend to have a couple of days when we won’t break camp and can explore from camp on foot. The area around Takahula Lake is an especially good layover day. If ambitious we can access the cave-pocked mountains to the north of the lake. The view from the summit is among the best in Gates of the Arctic.

If the weather is low or there is more interest in a mellower day, we can hike to the lake, fish it’s spectacularly clear waters and look for wildlife on the broad ridge between the river and the lake.

August 27

We have the morning for a short walk, then break camp and  await the arrival of our bush plane. Weather permitting, we fly back to Bettles and then onto Fairbanks, arriving in time for a hot shower and a late dinner


The trip  met all my expectations which were very high.  Of course the star is the Brooks Range – but your guides are excellent.  So knowledgeable about so many things and adding that warm touch (while also being a fine guides).

- Patrick, Illinois, USA



Round-trip airfare from Fairbanks

Food while in the wilderness, stoves, cooking & eating utensils

Boats, paddles, life jackets, safety & repair gear

Professional guide service

Select Camping Equipment is available through Arctic Wild


Non-camp lodging

Non-camp meals

Personal clothing and gear per our Equipment List

Fishing gear, and fishing license

Gratuity for guide(s)


The weather on the Alatna is milder than many parts of the Alaskan Arctic, but this is autumn and we could get some cold weather especially at night. Expect temps from 30 to 70 degrees and occasional rain. We don’t expect there to be any bugs this time of year but a little bottle of DEET is always good to have along.



Nunamiut, Helge Ingstadt

Land of Extremes, Alex Huryn

Ordinary Wolves, Seth Kantner

Last Light Breaking, Nick Jans

Our Arctic Year, Gil Staender

More Alaska reading is available from 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!"
client client client client client
Eileen - Canning River