In the far western Brooks Range near the Chukchi Coast is a colorful and remote wilderness. Aqua colored creeks carve limestone canyons through the steep rocky ridges. The country is stunning. Rolling green tundra is punctuated by steep rocky ridges. Golden eagles soar in the brilliant sky searching the mountains for prey. Wolves wander the ridge tops hoping to find caribou migrating through. And during the end of June, caribou crowd these hills by the thousands.
The Wulik peaks are the very Northwestern extreme of the Brooks Range where there is ample solitude and room to roam. The only trails in the area are those made by passing caribou. There are no campgrounds, no other hikers, and not even any footprints on our route through the mountains. We trade the noise of civilization for 24 hour daylight, long vistas, quiet canyons, and the possibility of wildlife around every corner.
Our route winds through the Wulik Peaks. We skirt the western and northern edges of the peaks and marvel at the rolling expanse of tundra stretching to the horizon. Then we follow the deeply rutted caribou trails into the rocky and narrow canyons that curve, maze like, through the Wuliks. This area is the core or the Western Arctic Caribou herds summer range. We never know the exact date but this trip has excellent chances of encountering caribou. Even if we are too early of they choose a different area, the Wulik Peaks are riddled with caribou trails.
We’ll travel about 25 miles with backpacks during the seven days and nearly as many miles on the optional day hikes. The route is an easy one in terms of elevation gain and the terrain covered, but there will be some long days and we’ll need to cross creeks from time to time.
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 in addition to personal gear; due to the small group size and the trip’s duration, expect to start the trip with a pack weighing around 45 pounds.
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 in Kotzebue.
Fly northwest from Kotzebue, across the Noatak River and right over the Wulik Peaks. Our competent pilot lands us right on top of a ridge with commanding views in all directions. Once the pilot leaves, we’re on our own. We’ll hike several miles to the first of many lovely camps. You’ll have the evening to settle into your surroundings, hike up a ridge, or just gape at the awe-inspiring scenery.
Following the valleys and canyons, the route is circuitous. Gravel bars, caribou trails, and rocky ridges make our path. Your guide will help you find the best route through the wilderness and each evening we will make camp by a creek and have several hours to explore the area unencumbered by packs. Once in the heart of the peaks, there will be several small passes to negotiate. The ascents are fairly gradual and the views are unforgettable. On traveling days you can expect to hike for about 8 hours camp to camp. There will likely be a day or two devoted entirely to exploring without packs.
Hike a short distance to meet our plane in a sheltered valley literally in the shadow of the Wulik Peaks. Weather permitting we fly back to Kotzebue mid-day and change our socks.
….the caribou herd through our camping meadow, the several grizzlies, the arctic fox, the gorgeous Brooks, the exotic Arctic ocean, ice bergs, great people, excellent AW gear, and wonderful guides!!!
Round-trip airfare from Kotzebue
Food while in the wilderness
Stoves, cooking & eating utensils, water filter, safety & repair gear
Professional guide service
Weather this time of year is often clear and beautiful. Sometimes it is downright hot. July is mosquito season so bring a head-net and DEET.