Noatak Canoe


June 7, 2025 - June 14, 2025


Gates of the Arctic





June 7, 2025 - June 14, 2025


Gates of the Arctic



A classic wilderness canoe trip in Gates of the Arctic National Park with canoeing, hiking, and wildlife in Alaska’s ultimate arctic wilderness. There are few places in Alaska’s Arctic where we so reliably see a variety of wildlife.


Far north of the Arctic Circle in the heart of Gates of the Arctic National Park, the Noatak River is an arctic gem. From its headwaters in the granite peaks around Mt. Igikpak, it flows west through glacier-capped peaks and rolling tundra for over 400 miles to the Chukchi Sea. There is no better place to experience the wilderness and wildlife of the Brooks Range than on the Noatak River.

On our canoe trip down the Noatak we savor the headwaters of the river, focusing our time in the most mountainous and scenic part of the watershed. We have several layover days to enjoy some of the best hiking in the arctic and to fish for arctic grayling, northern pike, dolly varden, and lake trout. With spring in the air we will see birds arriving from the world over and watch the tundra erupt with wildflowers. Willows along the river won’t have their leaves quite yet allowing us to see wildlife on the flood plain. It is an exciting time of year to be in the Arctic.

The open country makes wildlife sightings a daily experience on the Noatak. We almost always see wolves, fox, moose and Dall sheep. We may even see caribou from the western arctic caribou, heading north and west to join the swelling herds. The plateaus above the river are accessible on day hikes and we may see dall sheep lambs, barely a month old, playing or nursing on the greening tundra. Birds from as far as New Zealand and Antarctica are arriving to nest in the willow tickets, gravel bars, and on the grassy plains. Their songs start at midnight and continue for hours, a celebration of spring under the midnight sun.

In addition to the natural wonders of the area, the Noatak also has a rich human history and artifacts of ancient Inupiat life can be found near the deep lakes and across the tundra. We can hike to the remains of a very old log-cabin hidden in the cottonwoods, the only enduring sign of modernity in the upper Noatak.

From each and every camp the hiking is superb. There are leisurely strolls to verdant springs where wildflowers will be emerging. There are ambitious climbs to ice-capped peaks offering views of the incomprehensibly huge Brooks Range, rugged land folded and buckled further than we can see. Each camp offers opportunities to suit your interests and abilities. With a small group and attentive guides we can tailor each hike to suit the needs of the group.

Paddling on the Noatak is fun. The river starts-out tranquil with little gradient. This gives you a chance to remember how to steer and propel your canoe, and also allows us to scan the banks for wildlife. As you gain confidence, the river gains current and we negotiate around sweeping bends and past small riffles. It is an ideal river to improve your canoe skills.

This is a fairly easy 70-mile canoe trip, but you can fish and hike and explore until you’re worn out. The Noatak flows along smoothly on this stretch, with current enough to keep us moving, but if the wind blows opposite the current we will have to work to reach camp at each days end. Towards the end of the trip the river picks up speed and there are a few spots where we must avoid rocks. Previous experience is not strictly required to paddle canoes, instruction is provided by guides, but we highly encourage you to get some canoe practice or training prior to your trip in the Arctic.

Last updated: January 22, 2024


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

June 6

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

June 7

It’s a long day.  We plan to fly north from Fairbanks over the Yukon River and Arctic Circle to the arctic village of Bettles.  From Bettles we use a smaller plane  to fly into the Gates of the Arctic National Park.  We’ll land near the river with mountains all around. If the mood strikes us, we will assemble the canoes and paddle for a bit. Or we might elect to explore our surroundings on foot and save the paddling for the next day.

June 8- 13

We’ll canoe our way down the Noatak.  On days when we travel, we will spend about five hours on the river paddling about 15 miles each day.   Alternating days will be layover days when we will explore on foot from camp. We can climb peaks from every camp, but there is also lots of good walking along the river, or up pretty tundra creeks.  There will be free time each and every day after camp is pitched.  The long evening is yours to enjoy the golden arctic sunlight.

June 14

Clean up and pack our gear. Weather permitting, we’ll catch our return flight back up the Noatak, over a great many mountains and then on to Fairbanks. Remove rubber boots!


I had a great time. This trip was amazing in every single way. Definitely one I will never forget. ….an amazing guide. As good as you can ask for: knowledgeable, cool, great cook, always positive… Kind of guy who can turn the worst scenario into the best. Definitely the best guide I’ve ever had, hands down!

- Mario, SD, Dominican Republic



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 from Arctic Wild


Non-camp lodging

Non-camp meals

Personal clothing and gear, See full equipment list.

Fishing gear, and fishing license

Gratuity for guide(s)


Temperatures vary dramatically in the Arctic. Temperatures range from the 20s to 70s, averaging in the high 50’s. Cold rains are possible as is snow, but typically early June is clear and sunny.  Mosquitoes should not be a problem on this trip, we hope to be gone before they hatch. That said, traveling with insect repellent (DEET) and a head-net is always prudent.


Nunamiut by Helge Ingstadt

We Live in the Arctic by Constance Helmericks

Land of Extremes by Alex Huryn

A Thousand Trails Home by Seth Kantner

People of the Noatak by Clair Fejes

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