Northwest Arctic – Mills Custom

Northwest Arctic – Mills Custom


August 16, 2019 - September 3, 2019


Gates of the Arctic National Park





August 16, 2019 - September 3, 2019


Gates of the Arctic National Park



Explore the beauty and wildness of America’s most northerly National Parks with Arctic Wild as summer turns to fall. We start at Bering Land Bridge where we can soak in the solitude and hot-springs, before moving to inland to the famed Kobuk Sand Dunes. From there we wing into the Brooks Range to explore the Noatak River, and then our final days at a remote lake along the Continental Divide right in the heart of Gates of the Arctic National Park.


Our aim is to show you the very best of America’s most remote and wild National Parks.

For our first park, 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 shelter of the valley. 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 here is excellent and musk oxen are frequently sighted.

When we have had our fill of tundra hiking and exploring here we fly north and then 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. We camp at the edge of the dunes in the woods and spend our days walking, tracking and enjoying this unique sea of sand.

After a couple of days, our pilot returns for a flight deep 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 “crown jewel”. There is no place in the Brooks Range where we so regularly see wildlife as on the Noatak River. And though I know river travel is not your cup of tea, I think we should explore the Noatak River as part of this trip.

The Noatak hosts the largest run of salmon in the Brooks Range and each August bears move into the Noatak for the annual food bonanza. Camping on the Noatak is an unparalleled opportunity to watch bears on the tundra and explore a pristine and beautiful river. With 5 days on the Noatak and only 15 miles of river travel planned, there will be lots of time for hiking and wildlife. The river is placid and we can use canoes or a raft, your choice. The lake where we finish this section of the trip is a jewel, green and shimmering beneath limestone mountains. One of the prettiest places in the Brooks Range.

Then, on the appointed day, a float-plane arrives at Pingo Lake (we have used wheel-planes thus far, and part of the reason to paddle a little on the Noatak is so we can switch from wheels to floats). Once loaded into the plane we fly near the highest peaks in the Central Brooks Range and land on a big lake along the continental divide. Here we will establish a solid tent camp complete with wood-stove. From this cozy base, days are spent wandering the tundra, exploring the lake and with luck watching caribou stream through the pass in bands of 10 to 100, dark coats and heavy racks contrasting with the autumn tundra. We never know about the caribou but autumn on the tundra is a soul stirring experience.

Last updated: December 3, 2021


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

August 15

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.

August 16

Meet back at the pilot’s hangar and then we are off. After an hour-long flight down the Baldwin Peninsula, we head west into Bering Land Bridge Preserve. After setting up camp a bath is in order! Then we can start exploring the tundra and mountains. Welcome to paradise!

August 17-19

Three full days 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.

August 20

Weather permitting, we’ll say a final goodbye to Bering Land Bridge with it’s granite spires and hot creeks and fly north exploring Bering Land Bridge by Air. If the weather permits we will land at Cape Espenberg on the Arctic Ocean for a beach walk and picnic mid-day before flying west over the sprawling wetlands of the Selawik Wildlife Refuge, before spotting an island of sand in a sea of trees, your new home for a couple of days.

August 21-22

Two full days to explore the dunes, search for wildlife, photograph the nearby surroundings, or day-dream with no one for miles around to disturb you. Maybe you’ll want a beach towel and umbrella so you can bask in the sand. Maybe you will search for rare plants growing in the sand. No matter the activity Kobuk Sand Dunes is lovely and interesting.

August 23

The sound of the plane will break the silence (weather permitting). Once we load our camp into the plane we fly into the heart of the Brooks Range. We land on a gravel bar in the shadow of Mount Igigpak, Gates of the Arctic’s tallest peak.

August 24 - 27

The Noatak is a river like no other. With 4 full days and only 15 miles to paddle, there is lots of time for watching bears, hiking and searching for the wolf den near Pingo Lake. There will be either one full day, or two partial days on the water. to get from the drop-off location to the gravel bar where we meet the plane.

August 28

Weather permitting, our pilot arrives mid-day for the flight out of the Noatak, and onto the continental divide. We will establish a warm and comfy camp high in the mountains on a lake where we think caribou will be migrating and settle in to watch summer fade and wildlife heading south.


August 29 - September 2

Five full days on the Divide. Hiking or sitting by the fire and looking out the tent, either way, it is a place and an experience never forgotten.

September 3

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 Fairbanks by late evening. Time to change your socks and take a 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.

- Sandra, California, USA



Transportation starting in Kotzebue and ending in Fairbanks

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.


Non-camp lodging

Non-camp meals

Personal clothing and gear per our Equipment List

Fishing gear, and fishing license

Gratuity for guide.


Temperatures vary dramatically in the Arctic. Temperatures range from the 20s to 80s, averaging in the 60’s. August is a transition from summer to fall and temperatures will decline during the course of the trip. Temperatures should be warmest on the Kobuk and coldest at the “Caribou Cabin”. Bugs will be on the wane but bring a little DEET, just in case.


Nunamiut by Helge Ingstadt; Land of Extremes by Alex Huryn; Ordinary Wolves by Seth Kantner; Last Light Breaking by Nick Jans; People of the Noatak by Clair Fejes. 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!"
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Eileen - Canning River