Shepard – Gates of the Arctic Backpack – 2023

Shepard – Gates of the Arctic Backpack – 2023


August 13, 2023 - August 21, 2023


Gates of the Arctic


5 participants, $6,300/ person. 6 participants, $6,600/ person. 7 participants, $6,300/ person. 8 participants, $6,000/ person



August 13, 2023 - August 21, 2023


Gates of the Arctic


5 participants, $6,300/ person. 6 participants, $6,600/ person. 7 participants, $6,300/ person. 8 participants, $6,000/ person

If you are looking to get off the beaten path, look no further than Gates of the Arctic National Park where the only trails are wildlife trails and the only people in the area are your companions. This private backpacking trip in a forgotten corner of Gates of the Arctic features exquisite mountain scenery and challenging hiking.



Backpack through the rarely traveled and wildly scenic mountains of the Central Brooks Range in Gates of the Arctic National Park. We’ve chosen the area for its spectacular scenery, outstanding wildlife encounters, and unmatched solitude.

Our backpack on the continental divide at a place we call Summit Lake, where south spilling water flows the pacific and north flowing water to the Arctic. From here we head north into a maze of mountains and canyons. This route follows the gray gravels of the headwater creeks, deep into the mountains past innumerable waterfalls and crags. Far north of the tree-line these mountains are almost never explored by backpackers.

This remote and rich area is home to a great variety of wildlife and we can expect encounters with all sorts of arctic animals during our week long trek. The cliffs and alpine meadows are home to Dall sheep. Caribou use the creek beds to wind their way through the mountains, and bears gorge in berry thickets leaving tufts of wooly hair on the willow branches. We can’t predict what we will see for wildlife, but we will keep our eyes peeled.

The scenery is as good as it gets and, being over 80 miles from the nearest village, and just as far from a road, opportunities for solitude are everywhere.

The route starts at a lake in a broad pass but quickly enters the mountains and on the second day we encounter our first pass. There is loose scree and several steep pitches. Packs are heavy. The view is worth the effort!

From our high-point at the pass we descend into a new valley, surprisingly different from the first. We enter a region of Limestone with soaring cliffs and long gravel flats. The hiking is excellent. After a day of relatively flat hiking with a few creek crossings we reach the second pass. It isn’t as steep as the first and packs are lighter. No problem right?

From this point in the high-country of rock and ice we will aim to spend a few days exploring without packs, ridge walking if the weather permits. Or checking out side canyons and looking for wildlife. It is all down-hill from here and the country is unbelievably beautiful!

This is a difficult backpack.  Expect to carry a 50-pound pack at the outset, which includes 15-20 pounds of group food and fuel.  We will travel about seven miles per day, a total of thirty-five miles.  There are two 1,500-foot climb over a steep pass, and the rest of the route is alpine terrain.  The footing is mostly good, but the last day will be a little brushy and wet with numerous creek crossings. We’ll have at least one layover day to explore and enjoy our surroundings without the burden of our packs.

Last updated: September 27, 2022


What follows is a general flow of events. Expect the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.

August 12

Meet your guide for a pre-trip meeting at 4pm in Fairbanks at Arctic Wild headquarters.

August 13

Fly north from Fairbanks across the Yukon River to the tiny village of Bettles. After touring both streets in town, we board a small plane and continue on into the Gates of the Arctic National Park.  After landing on a clear water lake, we’ll hike a short distance to the best camp we can find.  We can use the rest of the evening to explore the valley.

August 14 - 20

We have about thirty five miles to go and six full days to cover the distance.  Of these, we will take at least one layover day to hike and explore.  On moving days, we’ll travel about seven miles, which will keep us on our feet for five to six hours.  The day hiking from our campsites will be good. On layover days we can strike out without our heavy packs and climb peaks or enjoy a leisurely day resting in camp and watching the wildlife and light dance around the landscape.

August 21

Hike a few miles to our pick-up spot, on the Nanushuk River.  Weather permitting, we’ll meet the charter flight for our scenic trip back to town and a hot shower!


We had a guide whose judgement and advice I trusted unconditionally. I am sure we had the great fortune to benefit from her many years of guiding, especially regarding the food she selected to bring. I found it incredible that the meals never tasted like they were selected for camping but also it always seemed to be very efficient, starting from the good coffee in the morning, to lunches that included gourmet cheeses, to the dinners she prepared that were better than those in many restaurants.


- Kirsten , LA, USA



Round-trip airfare from Fairbanks

Food while in the wilderness, stoves, cooking & eating utensils, water filter

Safety & repair gear

Professional guide service

Select Camping Equipment is available through Arctic Wild


Non-camp lodging

Non-camp meals

Personal clothing, gear, backpack, and tent. See full equipment list.

Gratuity for guide(s)


Weather this time of year is often cool and sometimes stormy, though we can get some awesome clear weather. Precipitation is generally light, and it’s fairly easy to keep comfortably dry. Because it’s the arctic, however, snow is always possible and you can expect temperatures to range from the 30s to the 60s. Because of the cool weather, mosquitoes should be absent but there could still be a few flies so DEET and a head-net are prudent things to pack.


Nunamiut by Helge Ingstadt

Land of Extremes by Alex Huryn

We Live in the Arctic by Constance Helmericks

More Alaska reading is available at our bookstore

"The wilderness was spectacular, the leadership perfect."
"I am just finishing my tenth trip with you guys. As always, the trip was more than I expected and I had a great time. See you next year!"
"Of all outfitters with whom we have worked (and that is quite a number), you were by far the most organized and responsive."
"That feeling of wide open wonder, the possibilities for nearly limitless wandering, and the image of those proud caribou...that will stay with me a long time"
"Our guide was an encyclopedia on legs. He was always willing and ready to teach, to talk, to listen, to do another hike, or to lie low in camp if we were beat. He truly gave us the trip we wanted!"
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Eileen - Canning River