Alaska’s National Parks are true wilderness parks, rarely visited and stunningly beautiful. This custom and private trip visits both Kobuk Valley National Park and Gates of the Arctic National Park in a single fun filled trip, and ends with a few days in Kaktovik, Alaska for world-class polar bear viewing and boat tours on the Arctic Ocean.
Last updated: October 2, 2019
What follows is a general flow of events. Expect the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.
After seeing the sights in Kotzebue and collecting park stamps at the new Western Arctic Parklands visitors center, meet your guide for a pre-trip meeting at 6:45 pm in Kotzebue.
Fly from the Eskimo village of Kotzebue on the Chukchi Sea up the Kobuk River and then head north into Gates of the Arctic National Park. Landing on a gravel bar near a clear fast river we will unload and set up camp. We spend the afternoon and evening settling in, learning the birds and plants, and planning the next day’s adventure.
A full day to explore and enjoy Gates of the Arctic. Your desires help govern our activities. We can hike to a lake and try some fishing, ascend the nearest peak and watch Dall sheep grazing, or plan a big loop hike, up one drainage and down the other. With long-days and more wilderness than we could explore in a lifetime, our energy and imagination are the only limits to what our day in the wilderness will hold.
After packing up our camp, we await the pilot’s return. We will fly south right into the heart of the Kobuk Dunes. Once we unload we may have to carry our gear a ways to access fresh drinking water but then we can go and explore the dunes, springs and sand flats.
A full day to enjoy the dunes. Moose, wolves and fox all frequent the dunes as do a great number of birds. The sand constantly shifts and swirls. There are springs coming right out of the sand and great expanses where nothing seems to live. The hiking is soft in places but great distances can be covered if so inclined. Swim in the ponds, look for wolf dens, slide down the tallest dunes, or just stretch out your beach towel and parasol.
Weather permitting, our bush plane will arrive to fly us back to Kotzebue where you can reunite with your luggage and then check-in to the Nullagvik Hotel on the shores of the Chukchi Sea.
After a morning wandering around Kotzebue or resting in the hotel, you’ll make your way back to the airport to meet a chartered airplane which will take you on a 2.5 hour flight across the width of Alaska from the Chukchi Sea nearly to the Canadian Border. After landing in Kaktovik and meeting your host, you can settle into Arctic Chalet B&B. If the weather cooperated and we arrived early enough in the day we can don parkas and head onto the water to see what the bears are doing. We are likely to find several loafing near town and some younger animals playing in the water, a taste of the many experiences we’ll have with the bears in the coming days.
Our first full day in Kaktovik and we will spend much of it on the water with our local guide. With a full day to explore we can travel a bit further and take time to watch the bears interacting with each other.
We can choose to spend another full day on the water and/ or tour the village of Kaktovik with a local guide, or split our time between both. Either way, it will be a good day and the weather, the light, and the bears will inform our choices.
A final trip out on the water to see what the bears are up to. Changing light, temperatures, and weather make each trip on the water unique. We will have the bulk of the day to watch loons, eiders, or polar bears, or do whatever suits your fancy. Weather permitting, we will fly back to Fairbanks in time for dinner.
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.
Trip begins in Kotzebue, Alaska and ends in Fairbanks, Alaska.
Round-trip airfare from Kotzebue, Alaska to the National Parks and back, transportation to Kaktovik and back to Fairbanks
Food while in the wilderness, stoves, cooking & eating utensils, water filter, base camp tent
Lodging in Kotzebue Sept 6
Lodging and boat tours in Kaktovik Sept 7 – 10
Transportation in Kaktovik
Safety & repair gear
Professional guide service
Rental equipment is available through Arctic Wild
Non-camp lodging except as listed above
Non-camp meals except in Kaktovik
Personal clothing and gear. See full equipment list.
Gratuity for guide(s)
Outstanding guide service
Should weather prevented your departure from Kaktovik on 9/10, you will be responsible for additional nights of food and lodging.
Temperatures vary dramatically in the Arctic. September is autumn in the Arctic. The dark of night is returning and frost is a regular occurance. Temperatures will range from the 20s to 60s. Cold rains and snow are possible, but we get plenty of sunny weather this time of the year. Mosquitoes should be long gone but bring a mosquito head net and a small bottle of DEET repellent just in case. Weather on the Arctic Coast will be cold and windy.