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At 19-million acres, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) is the largest federally protected conservation area in North America. To say the the refuge is big would be paltry misrepresentation of its magnitude – ANWR is in fact incomprehensibly massive. It’s one of the few places left on the planet where one can literally disappear within the complex topography and utterly disconnected serenity of the far north. That said, it’s also one of the most approachable and user friendly wilderness areas anywhere in Alaska – the hiking is simply sublime! Combine all of this with an ancient, though largely invisible, history of human presence and the Arctic Refuge could possibly be the perfect representation of the America’s incomparable culture of wilderness preservation.
Join Alaska Alpine Adventures for a truly remote and incredible experience in one of the world’s most celebrated wilderness areas – join us for a backpacking trip in the Arctic Refuge.
In 2014, owner Dan Oberlatz and longtime guide Haley Johnston completed a 100 mile backpacking traverse of the eastern portion of the massive Arctic National Wildlife Refuge with longtime guests (15 straight years longtime!!!) Mark & Joan Strobel. They were so astounded by the experience that Dan vowed to make an extended backpacking trip in ANWR a new offering for the 2015 season. Not only did the Arctic Refuge deliver on the customary and expected fronts – ample wildlife and spectacular mountain scenery – but it also served up absolutely breathtaking tundra hiking and a huge helping of solitude. They didn’t see another human being for 12 full days.
Today you are free to arrive in Fairbanks on your own. From the airport, grab the complimentary airport shuttle to Pike’s Waterfront Lodge, which is located near the airport on the banks of the Chena River. After checking into the lodge, you’ll meet our guides by late afternoon in the hotel lobby. Tonight we’ll do an orientation dinner in Fairbanks and upon returning to our hotel, we’ll pour over maps and discuss the route.
After breakfast at the lodge, we’ll make our way over to Wright Air Service to check in for our bush flight to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. You’re in for an incredible day of aviation, so make sure you have the camera at the ready – your flight(s) will take you past the White Mountain National Recreation Area, over wild & scenic rivers, across the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge and the Yukon River itself, and finally into the rugged Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Today, we’re bound for a small tundra airstrip situated on the headwaters bank of the majestic Jago River. Depending on the timing of the flights, we’ll either set up camp on the river or choose to move up valley. Regardless – you will be awestruck by the magnitude of the first “real” day. Welcome to the arctic!
For the next week, we’ll make our way west through the refuge. Our route will take us up into both forks of the Jago, and finally down into the Hulahula River drainage to our pickup airstrip. As with all Alaska Alpine Adventures backpacking trips, we’ll take at least one full layover day over the course of the expedition, and the overall pace will be steady and rhythmic. While the primary goal of this trip to complete this point-to-point backpacking adventure, our true motive is revealed by truly experiencing the wonders of the Alaskan landscape. We’ll spend the entire trip in the alpine zone – far above treeline, and most of the hiking will be on a mix of dry alpine tundra, some tussocks, and a fair share of high mountain talus, scree, and glacial ice. The rest of the miles will pass along the river bars and riparian zone of both the Jago & Hulahula Rivers. Over the course of the journey we plan on covering more than 50 miles of wilderness travel.
By the afternoon of the 9th day of the expedition, we’ll be headed south along the Hulahula River towards the gravel bar airstrip and our pickup location. Here we’ll set up our final camp of the trip, revel in the success of the accomplishment, and enjoy our last evening under the midnight sun.
After a leisurely morning alongside the Hulahula River, we’ll begin to break camp and prepare for our bush flight out of the wilderness and our return Fairbanks. If you’re leaving Alaska this evening, please schedule your homebound flight for after 10PM. Better still, opt for another night in Fairbanks at Pikes lodge.
- All group gear: Expedition quality tents, all cooking equipment & eating utensils
- Toilet supplies including TP, trowel, and hand sanitizer
- Safety equipment: Satellite phone, Garmin InReach, maps, and medical kit
- Water treatment options
- Trekking poles
- Roundtrip air transportation from Fairbanks to Arctic Village
- Roundtrip air transportation from Arctic Village into the wilderness
- Lodging on night one in Fairbanks
- Professional guide service at a maximum 4:1 client to guide ratio
- All meals from dinner on day one through lunch on the final day of the itinerary
Alaska Factor: The Real Deal
While Alaska Alpine Adventures endeavors to follow our itineraries as written, odds are in fact slim that you actually will during the camping portion of this trip. The expeditionary factors at play quite often compel our guides to deviate from the written itinerary. Guide considerations could include weather conditions, group preference, individual ability, specific safety considerations, or unforeseeable circumstances; collectively what many have called “The Alaska Factor.” Flight times into and out of the wilderness may also vary based on any number of similar factors. Therefore we strongly suggest that you approach any adventure in Alaska with an open mind.
June 8 - June 17, 2023
July 25 - August 4, 2023
June 17 - June 26, 2024
5 available spots | 4 needed to guarantee
July 29 - August 7, 2024
5 available spots | 4 needed to guarantee
- $6,795 /person
- 60+ miles
- Level 3
- Min Age:
- Begins In:
- Ends In:
- Fairbanks International (FAI)
- Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
- Moose, Bears, Wolves, Dall Sheep, Caribou
- Great For:
- Explorers, Couples, Individuals
Helpful gear suggestions and recommendations for this trip.Gear List
Download a detailed itinerary of this trip.Itinerary
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It was amazing. My impressions of ANWR defy description. I want to go back!
The reality is that Alaska Alpine Adventures sets the standard for backcountry adventures. Everything about the trip was first rate and met the exceedingly high standards that we expect from Alaska Alpine Adventures.
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Have questions about this trip? We’ve got answers.
Rafting and hiking in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is simply an experience of a lifetime. ANWR is one of the least visited and remote areas left in North America, and, despite the media attention it receives, it offers the opportunity for unparalleled exploratory adventure. Though the exact number is unknown, it is estimated that the 19 million acre Arctic refuge – an area the size of South Carolina – receives approximately 1500 recreational visitors a year. ANWR lives up to its description as “America’s Serengeti” and this vast area supports more species and habitat diversity than any conservation area in the northern hemisphere. The US Fish and Wildlife Service calls the refuge, “The only conservation system unit that protects, in an undisturbed condition, a complete spectrum of the arctic ecosystems in North America.”
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge lies 250 miles northeast of Fairbanks, and over 450 miles north of Anchorage. The national wildlife refuge is the eastern component of the 700 square mile protected Brooks Range. Gates of the Arctic National Park makes up the central portion, and the Noatak Preserve the western.
Access to the refuge is mainly by small aircraft or, in some instances arduously accessed by foot.
Absolutely, our Arctic trips are all inclusive from Fairbanks. All you need to do is get yourself to our lodge in Fairbanks on Day 1 of your itinerary.
Your Alaska Alpine Adventures guide(s) will meet you in the afternoon at the lodge on day 1 for an orientation dinner and gear check.
You will join your guides for breakfast at the lodge on the morning of day two. From there, the group will shuttle to the air taxi for the flight to Arctic Village. We will be flying with Wright Air from Fairbanks to Arctic Village. From there, we’ll transfer to another plane equipped for tundra landings for our flight into the wilderness.
Absolutely. The wildlife refuge is home to grizzly and polar bears, Dall’s sheep, caribou, moose, wolves, and tremendous seasonal populations of migratory birds.
Yes, there is an additional fee of $275 if you request OR end up in your own room at the hotel on night one.
For additional information, please reach out to us.