Staying Safe at Gates of the Arctic National Park

A vast and rugged national park situated in northern Alaska, Gates of the Arctic National Park lies entirely north of the Arctic Circle. An utterly remote destination, the park attracts visitors who are willing to explore its untouched wilderness. It’s important to take the necessary safety precautions when visiting Gates of the Arctic National Park. 

Weather 

The vast Alaskan wilderness can be unforgiving, so it’s essential to be prepared. Bring plenty of layers to keep you warm in harsh temperatures. Weather conditions in the park can be extreme and there are no official lodgings, so you’ll need to make sure your camp is able to withstand whatever inclement weather you’re met with, including snow storms at any time of year.

Wildlife 

You’re likely to experience your share of wildlife when visiting Gates of the Arctic National Park, in particular, bears. Know what to do if you encounter a bear and be sure to keep your food, trash, and scented items stored properly in a bear-proof container. Always keep a safe distance from wild animals and never feed or approach wildlife. 

Other Concerns

Gates of the Arctic is truly remote and completely untouched. It’s important for visitors to the park to recognize that they are genuinely on their own and be prepared to self-rescue in case of emergency. It’s essential to bring sufficient food, water, and supplies, including extra just in case. There is no cell phone service, no amenities, and no infrastructure in the park, meaning that travelers take a significant risk when visiting the park and must be completely self-reliant. 

If you plan to fly in and out of the park, make sure to bring a few days’ worth of extra food and supplies, as weather conditions often inhibit pilots’ ability to fly in the area. Consider renting a satellite phone for your journey. Make sure to file a plan with the park service before you go so that someone knows where you are and where you’re supposed to be. 

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Points of Interest at Gates of the Arctic National Park

Situated in northern Alaska, Gates of the Arctic National Park is defined by vast, rugged wilderness that seems to stretch on and on. The entire park is located above the Arctic Circle, so conditions can be harsh and unforgiving. Visitors to Gates of the Arctic National Park will want to explore the main points of interest. 

Arrigetch Peaks

The Arrigetch Peaks are a grouping of rugged granite peaks in the Endicott Mountains. These scenic peaks can be seen around the head of the Kobuk River and the tributaries of the Alatna River.  

Alatna National Wild and Scenic River

This gorgeous winding river is popular for float trips due to its calm nature and breathtaking landscapes. Said to be one of the most beautiful rivers in the country, the Alatna River is a can’t miss on any trip to Gates of the Arctic National Park. 

Walker Lake 

This glassy lake feeds the powerful Kobuk River. Walker Lake holds both cultural and historic relevance and has been designated as a National Natural Landmark. 

Frigid Crags 

A striking mountain in the Brooks Range in Gates of the Arctic National Park, Frigid Crags provides a dramatic frame for the area’s spectacular landscape. The mountain was so named by explorer Robert Marshall in 1929.

Places to Visit After Gates of the Arctic National Park

A truly remote wilderness, Gates of the Arctic National Park is located in northern Alaska. Only the hardiest travelers visit the park to explore this untouched area. The following destinations are relatively nearby for park visitors to continue onto after Gates of the Arctic National Park. 

Bettles, Alaska – Known as the primary gateway to Gates of the Arctic National Park, most visitors begin their journey in Bettles. Here you can explore the wilderness lodges, see the Northern Lights, and the nearby ranger station. 

Fairbanks, Alaska – A wonderful place to watch the midnight sun or catch the Northern Lights, Fairbanks offers the perfect mix of remote wilderness and a charming town. Explore the Alaskan Native culture, local arts community, and host of authentic Alaskan activities.

Kobuk Valley National Park – Similar to Gates of the Arctic National Park, Kobuk Valley National Park is located in the arctic region of Alaska. Here you can explore the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes, hike, fish on the Salmon River, and more.

Denali National Park and Preserve – Home to Denali, North America’s tallest peak, Denali National Park and Preserve covers 6 million acres in southern Alaska. Brimming with glaciers, mountains, and forests, Denali is a popular national park to explore in the region.

U.S. Hidden Gems: Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve

Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve in Northern Alaska is easily one of the best kept secrets in the US. Wild rivers run through glacier-carved landscapes in this vast and untouched national park. Head to Gates of the Arctic to immerse yourself in true wilderness in the heart of Arctic Alaska.

What to Do

There are no officially designated trails or roads anywhere within the park; Gates of the Arctic is a truly untouched wilderness, changing only as nature intends. A genuinely remote destination with rugged landscapes and abundant wildlife, any trip to this national park will be nothing short of an adventure. Float down rivers in rafts or inflatable canoes, hike and wander through the wilderness as you please. Make camp alongside picturesque alpine lakes, go fishing, and observe wildlife in its natural habitat. Take in the timeworn beauty of the Brooks Range and look on from a safe distance as caribou graze. This is a popular region for migratory birds due to the endless summer sunlight, making Gates of the Arctic an ideal destination for birdwatching. 

Prepare for frigid temperatures in winter and cold but milder temperatures in summer, accompanied by 24-hour sunlight throughout the season. Here, human life has coexisted with ancient ecosystems for thousands of years. Be prepared to adhere to “Leave No Trace” principles in order to leave minimum impact on the natural environment in which you’re visiting. 

The main draw for visiting this hidden gem is experiencing rugged wilderness in its purest form. Come here to attain complete peace, serenity, and solitude. 

How to Get There

A truly off the beaten path destination, even just getting to the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve will be a journey. To access the park, you’ll need to fly from Fairbanks, Alaska to the gateway towns of either Bettles, Anaktuvuk Pass, or Coldfoot, Alaska. From there, you will  be able to catch an air taxi into the park itself.

If you plan to visit the park on your own, know that you will be veering far off the beaten path with no established services or assistance within park boundaries. You will have limited options for communication, so it is essential that visitors to Gates of the Arctic be completely self sufficient and capable of caring for themselves and their travel companions in case of emergency. This includes arriving with your own means of shelter, food, water, and anything else you may need during your journey. 

Alternatively, for those who still want to experience the backcountry but aren’t prepared to make the trip alone, there are several local air taxis that provide day trips, overnight camping trips, and flight-seeing trips to the park’s remote destinations. By air taxi, you’ll also have the option to visit the nearby Noatak Preserve and Kobuk Valley National Park to explore the sand dunes. Organizing your trip through a third party company provides a safer, stress-free option for visiting this secluded destination. 

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