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Kobuk Valley and Gates of the Arctic National Park Trip

Camping in Alaska's Kobuk Valley National Park and Gates of the Arctic National Park

Visit Alaska's most remote and beautiful National Parks with Arctic Wild. Kobuk Valley National Park and Gates of the Arctic National Park in Northwest Alaska are the least visited parks in the nation. This 5 day camping adventure highlights the best of these two hard to reach National Parks. Your experienced guide and naturalist makes your trip to arctic Alaska's parks safe, fun and memorable.

• Dates: July 28th through August 1st, 2015

• Region: Kobuk Valley National Park and Gates of the Arctic National Park

• Cost: $5,100/ person from Kotzebue Alaska.


Interested in all of Alaska's National Parks? Combine this trip with our Krusenstern and Bering Parks Explorer Trip.

Sketch of the Alaska National Parks trip…

Located entirely north of the Arctic Circle in Alaska, Kobuk Valley National Park is the least visited park in the nation. Though nearly totally unknown, the park is full of interest. Kobuk Dunes is like the Sahara but with wolves, moose and cranes. Onion Portage is an archeological district with evidence of human use for the past 12,000 years! And the Kobuk River itself is a magnificent river rich with wildlife and broad vistas.


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 "crowning jewel". The park is beautiful and diverse. As one travels from south to north boreal forest gives way to broad green tundra basins, vast glacial lakes and severe granite spires. Beyond the continental divide the sky opens and the seemingly endless tundra stretches beyond the horizon.


We will spend the first 2-1/2 days of our trip in Kobuk Valley National Park at the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes, a sea of sand in the arctic wilderness. Formed during the last ice age as winds tore through the region and deposited sand south of the Kobuk river in an enormous mountain basin. This is the largest dune complex in arctic North America and it is both fascinating and beautiful. The eastern side of the dunes is more stable and vegetated; there are ponds, wolf dens, and fingers of spruce forest which extend in to the dunes. On the leeward side, the dunes get larger and larger with sand ridges over 200 feet tall! There are vast areas where a hiker cannot see the edge of the dunes anywhere and one expects to see a camel or caravan until a sandhill crane flies by with its prehistoric sounding call, or a moose trots off over the sand. On the west side of the dunes sand blows off the sand ridges and into the woods and creek. It is easy to visualize how the forest is being swallowed by the advancing dunes.



On the third day of our trip we will fly from Kobuk Valley northeast, deep into the wilderness of Gates of the Arctic National Park. We will land north of the spruce forests in a landscape of mountains and tundra. Clear lakes feed fast rocky rivers. Rugged and barren peaks stand sentinel above the verdant tundra and signs of wildlife are everywhere. We will camp riverside and spend our days exploring on foot. Many of the nearby ridges can be easily ascended for grand views of unnamed mountains. We can explore side valleys with waterfalls and hidden grottoes. With any luck caribou will be in the area and we will get to watch them and their attendant predators thriving in North America's largest wilderness. The scenery is stunning and the hiking is limitless. A client a few years ago, got teary-eyed upon arriving in Gates of the Arctic because it was so beautiful.


*Please note that if you are interested in visiting Noatak Preserve, or Gates of the Arctic Preserve we can arrange that as part of this trip (weather permitting).

Gates of the Arctic National Park
Kobuk Sand Dunes, Kobuk Valley National Park
Gates of the Arctic National Park

Kobuk and Gates of the Arctic Itinerary

What follows is a general flow of events.

Expect the unexpected and prepare to be flexible.


July 27: Meet your guide at 4pm for a pre-trip meeting in Kotzebue.


July 28: Fly from the Eskimo village of Kotzebue on the Chukchi Sea. After briefly seeing the sights in Kotzebue and collecting park stamps at the new Kobuk Valley National Park visitors center, we fly east up the Kobuk River and land right in 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.


July 29: 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.


July 30: After a morning in the dunes our pilot arrives for the spectacular flight into Gates of the Arctic. Landing on a gravel bar near a clear fast river we will unload and set-up camp anew. We spend the afternoon and evening settling in, learning the new birds and plants, and planning the next day’s adventure.


July 31: 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 24 hours of daylight and more wilderness than we could explore in a lifetime, our energy and imagination are the only limits to what our last day in the wilderness will hold.


Aug 1: Weather permitting, our bush plane will arrive to fly us back to "civilization". We plan to arrive back in Kotzebue by early evening. Empty sand from boots and take a shower.

Gates of the Arctic National Park
Camping in Gates of the Arctic National Park
Kobuk Valley National Park Camping Trip

Kobuk Valley and Gates of the Arctic Parks Trip Details

Included in the price of the trip: Transportation starting and ending in Kotzebue, food while in the wilderness, stoves, cooking & eating utensils, water filter, base camp tent, safety & repair gear and professional guide service.


Not included in the price of the trip: Lodging, non-camp meals, personal clothing and gear, backpack, tent, photographic equipment. Gratuity for guide(s). An equipment list is provided upon registration. Rental equipment is available through Arctic Wild.


Weather & Bugs: Temperatures vary dramatically in the Arctic.  It should be hot, but it could be cool and rainy.  Temperatures will range from the 20s to 70s. Cold rains and snow are possible, but we get plenty of sunny weather this time of the year. Mosquitoes could be an issue in Gates of the Arctic so bring a mosquito head net and a small bottle of DEET repellent. 


Recommended Reading: Ordinary Wolves, Seth Kantner, Last Light Breaking, Nick Jans.The Brooks Range, Alaska Geographic; Alaska’s Brooks Range, John Kauffmann. More Alaska reading is available from our Bookstore.



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