Hulahula River Backpack

Hulahula River Backpack




Arctic National Wildlife Refuge







Arctic National Wildlife Refuge



For years clients on our river trips have been telling us that they would love to backpack in the Brooks Range. Unfortunately many are intimidated by the heavy packs and challenging terrain. The Kick back Backpack is the solution.


The trip is a brief six days, to help minimize the weight of our packs. The route is short, only seven miles down a river valley. This trip may lack rigor (to some) but there is no lack of adventure. Starting high in the glacially carved valley of the Hulahula River we will have time to explore upstream without the burden of our backpacks. Opportunities for day hiking are endless and the ridgelines offer vistas south into the forested drainages of the Chandalar River and north towards the Arctic Coast.

Dall sheep are abundant and we often see wolves and grizzly bears in the area.If you plan this trip in early June you can witness spring in the Brooks Range and see the land awakening from its nine month slumber. Migratory birds will be arriving and singing in the sunny midnight hours, soil will be warming and giving birth to the first spring flowers. Mosquitoes will still be, thankfully, just larva.

After a couple of nights in the upper valley we will shoulder our packs and head downstream. There are no trails here except the ones made by caribou and bears so we will follow gravel bars when we can, caribou trails when we can, and hike over the tundra when we must. The hiking might be a bit wet at times or a bit uneven but mostly the footing is good. After three or four miles of leisurely hiking it will be time to once again kick back and enjoy spring in the mountains.

After another layover day spent day hiking or lounging, we will again shoulder our packs for the final miles downriver to our pick-up point. Then it will again be time to kick back and feel proud that you are a Brooks Range Backpacker.

Last updated: January 24, 2020


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

Day 0

Pre-trip meeting with your guide in Fairbanks at 4pm at Arctic Wild Headquarters.

Day 1

Fly north from Fairbanks across the Yukon River, the Arctic Circle, and the Brooks Range, to the headwaters of the Hulahula River. We’ll make a comfortable camp, have a good dinner, kick back and watch the sun refuse to set! Welcome to the arctic! We can climb a small hill for a view of the valley ahead.

Day 2 - 5

We’ll hike our way down the Hulahula River covering seven miles total with our packs on. This will allow for three layover days of hiking, lounging or exploring.

Day 6

Kick back and wait for the plane to come and take us to points south. Or better yet, if you are joining us for the Hulahula Raft trip you can kickback and wait for the plane to bring rafts, more food and clean socks.

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.

- Sandra, California, USA



Transportation beyond Fairbanks, food while in the wilderness, stoves, cooking & eating utensils, waterfilter, safety & repair gear and professional guide service.


Lodging, non-camp meals, personal clothing and gear, backpack, tent, fishing gear, and fishing license. Gratuity for guide(s). An equipment list is provided upon registration. Rental equipment is available through Arctic Wild.


Temperatures vary dramatically in the Arctic and can range from the 20s to 70s. When the wind comes from the north, the temperature can drop to below freezing. Cold rains and snow are possible, but we get lots of sunny weather this time of the year. This trip happens during mosquito season, though bugs are made more bearable by cool, coastal breezes as we near the coast. Bring along a mosquito head net and a small bottle of DEET repellent.


Being Caribou by Karsten Heuer

People of the Noatak by Clair Fejes

Caribou and the Barren Lands by George Calef

Ordinary Wolves by Seth Kantner

Alaska Wilderness by Robert Marshall

Last Light Breaking by Nick Jans

Arctic Wild by Lois Crisler

More Alaska reading is available from 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!"
client client client client client
Eileen - Canning River