Light and nimble packrafts allow us to start high on the Alatna, far upriver of where most travelers ever get to set foot. Join our 8 day Gates of the Arctic pack rafting adventure on the Alatna River, where the paddling is fast and fun, the hiking is superb, and the open tundra provides long vistas and wildlife encounters. With long arctic days and nearly limitless wilderness, this trip explores the very heart of Gates of the Arctic National Park.
Starting high on the Arctic Divide, the Alatna River’s clear water flows through the dramatic peaks of the central Brooks Range. Tundra peaks beckon in all directions and we will have time to explore them. After hiking to where the river is deep enough to paddle, we will lash our gear into the packrafts and paddle down this lively and fun clear water river. As we head down river we will be rewarded with tantalizing glimpses of the sheer granite spires of the Arrigetch Peaks emerging from the boreal forest. Dall sheep, wolves, moose and caribou are commonly seen in the area and we are likely to encounter them. Arctic grayling swim below the pristine water and, with luck, can be caught along the route.
Your guide will provide instruction on pack rafting and river safety and the Alatna is a good place to develop paddling skills. No previous packrafting experience is required but being comfortable on the water is a big help.
Packrafting was invented in Alaska and is a great way to enjoy the remote corners of Gates of the Arctic National Park. Packrafts are light, strong, and relatively easy to learn. Ask about discounts for bringing your own packraft.
Last updated: March 5, 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 pm in Fairbanks at Arctic Wild headquarters.
Fly north from Fairbanks across the Yukon River to the town of Bettles (population 15). Here we board a smaller plane and continue on into the Gates of the Arctic National Park. Our skilled pilot lands us at the very headwaters of the Alatna River, right on the Arctic divide….and then the plane leaves and we are alone in the grandeur of the wilderness.
The Alatna River is too shallow to paddle as it leaves the headwater lakes. We spend our first full day of the trip shouldering our packs and walking down river. Packs will be heavy and all will be glad when side creeks join the Alatna and make it navigable.
Paddle and day hike in turn. The upper valley offers outstanding hiking and we will have time each day to explore. We have 5 full days to cover a little more than 50 river miles, which leaves some time for climbing mountains, watching wildlife or simply relaxing by the river.
Await the arrival of our bush plane at Takahula Lake. The busy world awaits. Weather permitting we fly to Bettles and then back to Fairbanks in time for a late dinner. Shower.
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.
Round-trip airfare from Fairbanks
Food while in the wilderness, stoves, cooking & eating utensils
Packrafts, paddles, life jackets, safety & repair gear
Professional guide service
Personal clothing and gear, waterproof river bag, wading pants/ chest waders
Fishing gear, and fishing license
Gratuity for guide(s)
Rental equipment is available through Arctic Wild. See full equipment list.
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 possible but unlikely to remain on the ground. Bug season is over, but there may still be mosquitoes and gnats around. You should carry a head net and one bottle of insect repellent.