Gates of the Arctic National Park
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Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve is located in northern Alaska, covering an area of over 8.4 million acres. It is America’s second-largest national park, as well as the northernmost national park in the United States, situated entirely north of the Arctic Circle. The region boasts six scenic rivers, glacier-carved valleys, and aurora-lit night skies, attracting over 11,000 visitors in 2017. What sets this national park apart from others is its sheer remoteness. Here, there are no marked roads or trails and the traditional lifestyles of those who once lived in the Brooks Range are almost completely preserved. Additionally, the only way to enter the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve is to fly in or hike.
Despite its seemingly inhospitable nature, the land we know today as Gates of the Arctic has hosted human life since time immemorial. Inupiaq and Athabascan peoples traveled over this rough terrain, hunting and gathering, as small nearby communities still do, and the caribou that live here have sustained Nunamiut Eskimos, Eskimo people of the Kobuk and Noatak Rivers, and Koyukon Indians for more than 11,000 years. Learn more about the indigenous history of this national park here.
When it comes to the weather in this area, winter is long, lasting from September to May. Winter temperatures range anywhere from 0 to -50 F, however, visitors can expect snow and freezing conditions to happen in every month of the year. A short, cool summer occurs between June -August, which is when the park receives most of its visitors. During this time, the average temperature is around 50 F, resulting in generally ice-free rivers and less precipitation.
Due to its far north location, there are hardly any towns or villages interwoven into the national park, nor are there many on its outskirts. Anaktuvuk Pass is a small city found within the region and some very remote towns do exist further out, including Wiseman, Coldfoot, Kobuk, and Bettles.
There are no scheduled events at Gates of the Arctic, but when it comes to in-park activities, you will be spoilt for choice. These include backpacking, hiking, bird-watching, camping, swimming or floating down the rivers, flightseeing trips, and hunting. Many people visit the region to experience the unique solitude it has to offer, as well as to put their own survival skills to the test.
- Spring -20 F
- Summer 18-70 F
- Fall -1-30 F
- Winter -50-0 F
- Coming soon
- Coming soon
Gates of the Arctic National Park Hiking Trails
As we mentioned previously, the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve doesn’t have any marked trails or roads, as visitors are welcome to explore its vast backcountry at their own will. While this makes planning a hike more difficult than usual, we advise visitors do their research beforehand and study amap of the large park to determine a plan of action.
The national park chooses not to plan designated hiking routes for travelers for a few reasons, mostly because they cannot evaluate the skill level of each individual hike (or hiker), as well as the fact that repeated use of a route tends to impact the fragile nature of the arctic groundcover. Additionally, rapidly fluctuating weather conditions on any given day determine which areas are accessible via foot.
When choosing to hike or backpack in the park and preserve, the National Park Service advises that Air taxi operators should also be consulted before finalizing a route, as they have specific places that they can pick up and drop off people and gear. It’s also recommended that visitors have at least one alternate route planned in case weather, natural disasters, or rising water levels prevent them from taking their initial route. Find out morehere.
Things to do Outside Gates of the Arctic National Park
If the immense solitude of the Gates of the Arctic has got you craving a restaurant meal, shopping trip, museum visit, or sightseeing adventure, then you’re in luck. Despite the park’s location, there are still some fun activities to do within Alaska that will have you back among humanity in no time.
Due to the remote nature of the national park, some of these places may require a few hours of travel, however, they’re certainly worth the trip
RV Resorts & Campsites in Gates of the Arctic National Park
There are no designated campsites in Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, as camping usually takes place in conjunction with other recreational activities (such as hiking, backpacking, etc.). The National Park Service advises visitors to camp only on durable surfaces in places where it’s safe to do so (i.e. well above current water levels). For information regarding site selection and camp setup, clickhere.
If you’d prefer to stay in an established campground rather than backcountry camping, there are some options near the region, which we’ve listed below.
Campgrounds Near Gates of the Arctic National Park
Find the Best Dumpstations Near Gates of the Arctic National Park
Dumpstations Near Gates of the Arctic National Park
How to get to Gates of the Arctic National Park
Gates of the Arctic is a wilderness park, with no roads or trails into the parklands, so visitors must fly or hike into the park.
Alternatively, you can drive or rent an RV to take you through Alaska, before parking at a campground in Fairbanks or Cold Foot and making the rest of the journey via plane (as RVs and vehicles are unable to gain access to the remote park). This is perfect for those not wishing to rough it in the region’s backcountry and who simply wish to visit the national park just for a day. If you don’t own an RV, RV rentals are available across the country.
The nearest airport with major airline service and car rental is in Fairbanks, a 277-mile drive of more than 11 hours on the Dalton Highway. Most visitors take a charter flight from Fairbanks or coordinate with a private air taxi to reach the park.
There are several small airlines in Fairbanks that provide daily flights into the gateway communities of Bettles, Anaktuvuk Pass, and Coldfoot, allowing visitors to backpack from here to the national park and preserve if they wish.
Frequently Asked Questions
Parts of Gates of the Arctic are accessible for disabled visitors. Visitor centers have wheelchair-accessible ramps and designated parking. There are no trails or NPS facilities in the park, but there are businesses that provide transportation and tours. Check with each individual business to see what accommodations they make for disabled guests.
Pets are allowed at Gates of the Arctic National Park. There are no areas that are closed to pets at the park, but they must be on a leash that is 6 feet in length or shorter, or in a crate or otherwise confined.
Some of the top things to do in Gates of the Arctic National Park include hiking, fishing, flight-seeing tours, and watching for wildlife including bears, wolves, and caribou. Although there are no designated hiking trails in the park, there are game trails for backpackers and hikers to follow.
No, there are no designated camping spots in Gates of the Arctic National Park. Tent campers can set up anywhere within the park, taking into account the fragile ecosystem of the area. RV campers can set up in Fairbanks, where there are several campgrounds available.
Gates of the Arctic National Park is 13,238 square miles large, or almost 8.5 million acres. It's the second-largest national park in the U.S.
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