Located entirely north of the Arctic Circle, Kobuk Valley National Park is the least visited park in the nation. Though nearly completely unknown, the park is full of natural beauty and fascinating human history.
The Great Kobuk Sand Dunes are a sea of sand in the Arctic wilderness formed during the last ice age as winds tore through the region depositing glacial sands in the broad Kobuk Valley. We will spend the better part of the week exploring these seldom visited sand dunes from our comfortable base camp.
The Kobuk Dunes are the largest dune complex in arctic North America. The dunes were formed during the last ice age as winds tore through the region and deposited sand south of the Kobuk river in an enormous mountain basin. They are both fascinating and beautiful. The eastern side of the dunes are vegetated. There are ponds, wolf and fox dens, and fingers of spruce forest which extend into the dunes. To the west, the dunes get larger and larger. Some of the sand ridges are over 200 feet tall!
There are vast areas where a hiker cannot see the edge of the dunes anywhere and can imagine himself in the Sahara Desert, until a sandhill crane flies by with its prehistoric sounding call, or a moose trots off over the sand. On the West side of the dunes sand blows off the ridges and into the woods and creek.
Wildlife is always unpredictable but we often see fox, wolf, moose and caribou in the area along with a great diversity of birds. Some years big groups of caribou migrate right through the dunes, a truly magical and memorable sight.
This sea of sand makes for great “sledding”, animal tracking, photography, and some of the best hiking around. It is a unique and inspiring environment full of surprises.
The sand is soft in places but generally it is firm enough that we can take full strides. You need not be an athlete to enjoy this trip but we hope to spend our days walking and exploring this unique and beautiful area.
Weather in the central Kobuk Valley is warmer than most of the arctic. Sunny skies are the norm. Temperatures in the seventies are possible. Snow is also possible but I’m bringing sandals and a beach towel just in case.
What follows is a general flow of events. Expect the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.
Meet your guide in Kotzebue for a pre-trip meeting in the afternoon.
Fly from Kotzebue straight to the Kobuk Sand Dunes. Once on the ground we will make camp and settle into our home for the week.
We have three full days to explore the dunes. Each day we can head in a new direction. There are deep ponds and springs contrasting with the tawny sand, broad flats covered in wolf tracks and wind blown dunes which are fun to climb and offer great vistas. After a day of exploration we return to our camp for a delicious dinner. With luck and a late-August time frame, our nights may even include the aurora dancing above the dunes.
Weather permitting, our bush plane will arrive to fly us back to “civilization”. We plan to arrive back in Kotzebue by early evening. Take a shower!
Transportation beyond Kotzebue
Food while in the wilderness
Stoves, cooking & eating utensils
Water filter, safety & repair gear
Professional guide service
Personal clothing and gear per our equipment list
Gratuity for guide
Rental equipment is available through Arctic Wild.
Temperatures vary dramatically in the Arctic. It could be warm, but it could be cold and rainy. Temperatures will range from the 20s to 70s. Cold rains and snow are possible, but we do get sunny weather this time of the year too. Mosquitoes should be minimal or totally nonexistent this late in the season. Bring a mosquito head net and a small bottle of DEET repellent just in case.