We’ve found an unbeatable combination in Gates of the Arctic National Park this summer. We will kayak in the headwaters of the Alatna River and then hike into the towering Arrigetch Peaks on our twelve-day Gates of the Arctic adventure. Single-person inflatable kayaks allow us to start high on the Alatna, far above where most others venture.
We will spend five days on the upper Alatna River, where the paddling is easy but fast, the hiking is superb, and the open tundra provides opportunities for watching wildlife. When the river begins to slow as we reach the boreal forest, we will leave our boats behind and head up into the Arrigetch Peaks for a week of backpacking and day hiking.
The weather and river levels will determine our exact starting point for the trip, but we plan on landing near tree line on the upper Alatna River. Tundra peaks beckon in all directions and we will have ample time to explore them. Dall sheep, wolves, moose and caribou are commonly seen in the area and we are likely to encounter them. When not climbing the peaks or wandering the valleys on day hikes, we will lash our gear into the kayaks and paddle down this spunky and fun clearwater river. Your guide will provide instruction on paddling and river safety and the Alatna is a good place to develop kayaking skills. Fishing along the river is decent and the scenery is superb.
As we head downriver we will get tantalizing glimpses of the Arrigetch Peaks to the south. Once we reach Arrigetch Creek we will don backpacks and head up into the granite spires. In the Arrigetch, razor-sharp ridges surround rugged and inviting headwater basins. Sheer granite walls shoot 2,000 – 3,000 feet high. Spires pierce glaciers on their way to the sky. All this is amid a landscape of gentle meadows, rushing streams, and alpine tarns. We spend the final 6 or 7 days of our trip backpacking 30 miles through the Arrigetch Peaks, the most dramatic in the Brooks Range.
Once we head out on the backpack trip, we will follow the shortest route to the peaks. At times we are on a small animal trail, but mostly the route is cross-country over tussocks, boulders, and streams. Three layover days are planned for side explorations.
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. Experience backpacking is recommended for this trip, but novices in good shape, who are willing to do some training, would enjoy the trip too. Each hiker will carry 15-20 pounds of food and community gear; 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.
Previous backpacking experience is recommended. Participants must be in good shape and able to carry a 50-pound pack (including 15 – 25 lbs. of food, fuel, and community gear).
What follows is a general flow of events. Expect the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.
Meet your guide for a pre-trip meeting at 4 pm in at Arctic Wild headquarters in Fairbanks.
Fly north from Fairbanks across the Yukon River to Coldfoot, a little “Outpost of Progress” in the Brooks Range. 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 . . . and then the plane leaves and we are alone in the grandeur of the wilderness.
Kayak and day hike in the upper valley. We have 4 days to cover between 25 and 30 miles, which leaves plenty of time for climbing mountains, watching wildlife, or relaxing by the river.
The backpacking portion of the trip is less than 30 miles but some of the terrain is difficult. There are no constructed trails and a 6 mile day with packs is enough to make you feel you have earned your dinner. It usually takes a couple days of hiking to get into the high alpine basins. Once in the high country we have a day or two to explore the spires, tarns and high passes.
Await the arrival of our bush plane. The busy world awaits. Weather permitting we fly to Coldfoot and from Coldfoot we go back to Fairbanks. Shower.
Transportation beyond Fairbanks, food while in the wilderness, stoves, cooking & eating utensils, boats, paddles, life jackets, safety & repair gear and professional guide service.
Lodging, non-camp meals, personal clothing and gear, waterproof river bag, fishing gear, and fishing license.Gratuity for guide(s). An equipment list is provided upon registration. Rental equipment is available through Arctic Wild.
A variety of weather should be expected including rainy periods and bright sunny conditions. Temperatures can range from in the 70’s down into the 30’s or lower. Snow is unlikely on this trip in midsummer. Although the worst of the bug season is over, there will still be mosquitoes and gnats around. You should carry a head net and one bottle of insect repellent.