Explore the beauty and wildness of America’s most northerly National Parks with Arctic Wild. We spend our first days in the the Dunes of Kobuk Valley National Park, then move to the high country of Gates of the Arctic National Park. After hiking and birding on the tundra, we move to the Arctic Ocean at Cape Krusenstern National Monument before ending our trip among the rocky spires and hot-springs of Bering Land Bridge. The trip aims to balance the desire to see lots of country with the fun of truly exploring each of these remarkable parks.
Our aim is to show you the very best of America’s most remote and wild National Parks.
Our first park is just east of Kotzebue across “Kobuk Lake” and up the Kobuk River. Located entirely north of the Arctic Circle, Kobuk Valley National Park is the least visited National Park in the America. Though nearly totally unknown, the park is full of wildlife and scenic wonders. Kobuk Dunes is like the Sahara but with wolves, moose and cranes. Onion Portage is an archaeological district with evidence of human use for the past 12,000 years! The Kobuk River is a magnificent river rich with wildlife and broad vistas. We will spend our time in the sand dunes, wandering the flats and climbing mountains of sand, marveling at the geology and searching for wildlife.
After a couple of days our pilot returns for a flight into the Brooks Range. Gates of the Arctic National Park is 8.5 million acres of unspoiled and largely untraveled wilderness. The National Park Service is justly proud of its “crowning jewel”. The park is beautiful and diverse. As one travels from south to north, boreal forest gives way to broad green tundra basins, vast glacial lakes and severe granite spires. Beyond the Continental Divide the sky opens and the seemingly endless tundra stretches beyond the horizon.
There is no end to the adventures we can have on the tundra and each night we return to our comfortable camp to enjoy the evening light and a hearty meal. Within a day’s walk of camp there are jagged peaks, long sinuous ridges, quiet canyons, vast grassy plains and with any luck, wildlife. Wildlife is unpredictable, but if you keep your eyes peeled and your binoculars handy there is always a bird or a mammal somewhere on the tundra making a living in this austere but seasonally rich landscape.
The trip would be a success if we ended here but we think a little time on the Arctic Coast makes it even better. Next stop, Cape Krusenstern National Monument. The park is known for it’s impressive archeological resources, but it has much to offer everyone. We regularly see muskox in the hills above the lagoon and the birding on the beach and in the wetlands is world-class. The contrast of coastal tundra and wildlife to the boreal forest along the Kobuk River and the alpine tundra in Gates of the Arctic make an interesting study. Whether we spend our time beach-combing, hiking the hills, or stalking muskoxen, our time at the Cape will be memorable.
With days of sand, mountains and beaches etched in our memories and a growing list of stories to tell, we head south into a dramatic volcanic landscape of Bering Land Bridge National Preserve. On a peninsula pointing towards Siberia in far western Alaska, Bering Land Bridge is rich in natural and human history. We will base out of Serpentine Hot Springs so we can enjoy the bath-house and study the unique botanyof the springs. The hiking in the hills near the springs is even more wonderful than the geothermal bath, though after a day or climbing ridges and clambering through the granite tors a soak sure feels good. The birding in Bering is excellent with chances to see Bristle-thighed Curlews, Wagtails and Blue-throats.
Four unique parks and enough time to experience the beauty and magic of each one. This promises to be an interesting and fun trip in the western Arctic.
After the trip we got a letter from one of the participants which read:
What follows is a general flow of events. Expect the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.
We’ll have a pre-trip meeting in Kotzebue the evening before our departure at 6:45 pm where we’ll check gear, and discuss the next day’s logistics.
Meet back at the pilot’s hangar and then we are off. After an hour-long flight up the Kobuk we land in right in the sand and then set-up camp next to a nearby creek. Welcome to paradise.
A full day to explore the dunes, search for wildlife, photograph the nearby surroundings, or day-dream with no one for miles around to disturb you.
Weather permitting, we’ll say a final goodbye to the Kobuk Dunes and then fly north into the Brooks Range and eventually land on a gravel bar with tundra all around. Welcome to Gates of the Arctic National Park. Camp is quickly re-assembled leaving us with the afternoon to take the first of many hikes.
Three full days enjoy the mountains and creeks of Gates of the Arctic. We can gain the ridge behind camp and hike deep into the peaks, or take a more leisurely stroll by the river. No matter where our feet take us, we’ll keep our eyes and ears trained for birds and wildlife. The endless daylight and broad landscape is inspiring.
The sound of the plane will break the silence of the mountains (weather permitting). Once we load our camp into the plane we fly west, across Noatak Preserve, stopping for lunch and a short walk if you want, and then we fly further west to the edge of the continent. We land on the beach in Cape Krusenstern between the lagoons and the Chukchi Sea with the pale limestone hills beckoning us inland.
Between the waves of the ocean and the peaks of the Igichuk Hills, there are lots hikes, strolls and wanders we can try. The lagoons and wetlands offer exceptional birding and with luck we will see some muskoxen within hiking distance of camp. We often do. Between the beach-combing, birding, and hiking in the hills, it will be a busy and fun day in Krusenstern.
Weather permitting, our pilot arrives mid-day for the flight south, past Kotzebue and down the Baldwin Peninsula, before heading west into Bering Land Bridge Preserve. After setting up camp a bath is in order! Then we can start exploring the tundra and mountains.
A full day in Bering Land Bridge. We will visit the hot springs, hike the volcanic landscape, explore the rock formations that dot the tundra, and watch the variety of birds and wildlife. With constant daylight, energy and imagination are the only limits to what we can do.
There is more to explore and enjoy but when we hear the sound of the propeller we know that this adventure is nearly done. If the weather cooperates we should be in Kotzebue by mid-afternoon. Time to change your socks and take a shower!
Transportation starting and ending in Kotzebue
Food while in the wilderness
Stoves, cooking & eating utensils
Safety, repair and camping gear
Professional guide service.
Select Rental gear is included in the price of the trip.
Personal clothing and gear per our Equipment List
Fishing gear, and fishing license
Gratuity for guides.
Temperatures vary dramatically in the Arctic. Temperatures range from the 20s to 80s, averaging in the 60’s. This is the “heat of summer” but it may not be particularly hot. Temperatures should be warmest on the Kobuk. Krusenstern likely the windiest and coldest. Mosquitoes could be an issue so travel with insect repellent (DEET) and a head-net.