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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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Gates of the Arctic- National Parks Service

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