This moderately difficult backpacking trip covers about 20 miles of some of the most spectacular mountain country in arctic Alaska. Starting in the austere Okpilak Valley, the route threads its way below the highest peaks in the Brooks Range, staying high in the alpine tundra, exploring broad river valleys, and penetrating the quiet side canyons. Glacier carved peaks over 9,000 feet tall dominate the views to the south and beckon the hearty day hikers. To the north the land falls away across the vast Coastal Plain toward the frozen Arctic Ocean. At this latitude the sun never sets in June. The vastness of the landscape and the unending daylight create a euphoric sense of possibility.
Last updated: January 24, 2020
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 p.m. in Fairbanks at Arctic Wild headquarters.
Fly 350 miles north from Fairbanks, across the Yukon River and the Arctic Circle to the Gwich’in Athabascan village of Arctic Village. In Arctic Village we will meet our pilot for the beautiful flight over the Continental Divide past countless peaks and glaciers into the Okpilak River valley. After hiking to a suitable campsite, we will make camp and search out the hot springs.
Each day will bring its own surprises. We have less than 20 miles to cover and plenty of time. The backpacking will be strenuous but the mileage covered short so there will be ample time for exploring the Okpilak, climbing high ridges and gawking at the glaciers. The hiking will be varied from soft tundra to long gravel bars and rocky slopes. The camping is excellent and the scenery unbeatable.
Pack up early and begin listening for our airplane. When it arrives we reluctantly load our gear and ourselves for the flight back through Arctic Village and on to Fairbanks, arriving late in the afternoon. A shower is in order.
Such a joy to spend days where time was meaningless. A wonderful adventure and I would like to return next year for a longer, more challenging trip.
You mentioned to me in an email that you have terrific guides - you do indeed. Dave is a superb guide. He is personable, knowledgeable about the Arctic, and has excellent group management skills. I appreciated the time he spent teaching me to read the map, which is not easy without trails. He allowed Adrian and me to hike at our own pace and he encouraged all of us to explore the area surrounding our campsites. I know the others would concur in my praise.
Transportation beyond Fairbanks, food while in the wilderness, stoves, cooking & eating utensils, water filter, safety & repair gear and professional guide service.
Lodging, non-camp meals, personal clothing and gear, backpack, tent, fishing gear, and fishing license. Gratuity for guide(s). An equipment list is provided upon registration. Rental equipment is available through Arctic Wild.
Weather this time of year is typically dry and this is the warmest part of the year, though we can get some powerful storms that can either rain or snow on us. Precipitation is generally light, and it’s fairly easy to keep comfortably dry. You can expect temperatures to range from the 30s to the 70s. Mosquitoes could be bothersome down in the river valleys but should be nearly absent up high among the rocks and glaciers. DEET and a headnet are essential.
Being Caribou by Karsten Heuer
People of the Noatak by Clair Fejes
Caribou and the Barren Lands by George Calef
Ordinary Wolves by Seth Kantner
Alaska Wilderness by Robert Marshall
Last Light Breaking by Nick Jans
Arctic Wild by Lois Crisler
More Alaska reading is available from our Bookstore.