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12-days

Backpacking the Ring of Fire – Aniakchak National Monument

$5,595 /person

 

Trip Details

$5,595 /person - 12-days

This all-inclusive 12-day backpacking trip begins and ends in Anchorage, and should be on every backpacker’s life list.

We’ll travel southwest to King Salmon, Aniakchak’s gateway community, before boarding our bush flight bound for the caldera itself and the iconic Surprise Lake. This is where the adventure truly begins! We’ll spend our days backpacking and hiking around the mighty Aniakchak Caldera. We’ll climb up Vent Mountain, visit the site of the 1930 eruption, explore the caldera floor & hike its rugged rim, and totally immerse ourselves within this dynamically unsettled landscape.

As we scour the hillsides for the coastal grizzly’s that call Aniakchak home, we’ll slowly acknowledge our inevitable return to civilization. Our route back to civilization descends the caldera’s northern aspects as we make our way toward the Bering Sea coastline and the village of Port Heiden. By expedition’s end, your sense of wilderness and wildness will forever be altered by the experience of spending 10-nights in a landscape that defines it. Perhaps Chris sums it up best.

“Mostly what I remember, though, is the feeling of a different rhythm taking hold, not of the wristwatch but of natural places. Each day as we hike, the sun sets a little sooner. We see salmon gather in the bays, sniffing for their home rivers—and see bears come down to the shore, ready to flick their sushi onto the sand. My fancy GPS watch dies; I don’t much care. I go days without thinking of e-mail or my iPhone. This is what we want from our Aniakchaks, isn’t it?  Places that help us shake off the dross and find a surer and more ancient pulse.” Christopher Solomon – Outside Magazine, May 2014.

Images courtesy of Gabe Rogel and Rogel Media.

“Mostly what I remember, though, is the feeling of a different rhythm taking hold, not of the wristwatch but of natural places. Each day as we hike, the sun sets a little sooner. We see salmon gather in the bays, sniffing for their home rivers—and see bears come down to the shore, ready to flick their sushi onto the sand. My fancy GPS watch dies; I don’t much care. I go days without thinking of e-mail or my iPhone. This is what we want from our Aniakchaks, isn’t it? Places that help us shake off the dross and find a surer and more ancient pulse.” Christopher Solomon – Outside Magazine, May 2014.

Images courtesy of Gabe Rogel and Rogel Media.

In 2013, owner Dan Oberlatz guided writer Christopher Solomon & photographer Gabe Rogel across the Alaska Peninsula and through the wild and remote Aniakchak National Monument & Preserve. They backpacked from the village of Port Heiden, located on the windswept Bering Sea coastline, up and over the caldera rim, and into the surreal confines of the largest volcanic caldera of its kind in Alaska. They camped along the shores of Surprise Lake, hiked the caldera rim, and basked in the solitude granted to the rare few who step foot in the least visited National Park unit in the nation. Their trip was featured in the May 2014 issue of Outside Magazine, and subsequently Christopher was interviewed on NPR and on Rick Steves’ nationally syndicated radio show in June of 2014. While we have been guiding river trips in Aniakchak since 2007, Dan’s adventure with Chris & Gabe inspired this amazing backpacking trip. So join us for this one-of-a-kind 12-Day Backpacking Adventure into the heart of Alaska’s Ring of Fire.

Itinerary

Day 1
Dinner & accommodations included

Your trip begins today in Anchorage, Alaska. You’ll be staying at the Aloft Anchorage Hotel. You can arrive anytime and transfer to the hotel on their complimentary shuttle.  Depending on your arrival time, the remainder of the day is yours to relax after your flight or to explore some of the city’s notable sites including the Anchorage Museum of History & Art or the city Park Strip.  This evening, you’ll meet your guide at 5pm at the hotel for a pizza dinner with local craft brews and group orientation. The orientation will include a discussion of the route, an introduction to our unique style of Alaska wilderness travel, a familiarization of the principles of Leave No Trace, and a conversation about traveling safely in bear country.

Day 2
All meals included, Distance: 3 miles, Elevation Gain: 500’

After and early breakfast, you will be transferred to the airport for the 1+ hour flight to King Salmon, where you’ll next board a bush flight destined for the absolutely surreal and spectacular Surprise Lake, where we’ll set up camp for the next 3-nights. As we unload our gear and settle into camp, you’ll begin to feel the majesty of this incredible landscape and the eager anticipation associated with a big wilderness hiking and backpacking expedition in Alaska. If time allows, your guides will lead a short hike along the lake.

Day 3-5
All meals included, Average Distance: 7-12 miles daily, Average Elevation Gain: 1000-3000’

We’ll take the next three full days to explore the inner sanctum of the Caldera. With light packs containing only the essentials, we’ll strike out daily in search of adventure. Whether climbing to the caldera’s rim, scanning for wildlife along the lake’s edge, or climbing Vent Mountain, our days will be dictated by the serendipity of a flexible itinerary and the incomprehensible amount of perfect hiking terrain near Surprise Lake!

Day 6-9
All meals included, Average Distance: 8-10 miles daily, Average Elevation Gain: 500-2000’

After breaking camp on the morning of day 6, we’ll head south toward the “Gates” of the Pacific-bound Aniakchak River. Aptly named, the Gates mark the sole cleft in the wall of the caldera where the lake that once partially filled it spontaneously drained in a catastrophic flood. Surprise Lake is the small remnant of a lake that once spanned the 6-mile breadth of crater floor, and now provides the headwaters of the 35-mile-long Aniakchak River. After crossing the river near the Gates, we’ll continue wrapping around the flanks of the volcano heading north toward the Bering Sea.

Day 10 - 11
All meals included, Average Distance: 8-10 miles daily, Average Elevation Gain: 500-1000’

We’ll spend the next two days descending the north flank of the ancient volcano on our way toward the Bering Sea and the village of Port Heiden. We’ll hike through verdant tundra, camp along crystal clear creeks, and trek across ash flows from past eruptions, making our own path from the caldera rim to the village 3000 below.  By the afternoon of day 11 we’ll be enjoying our last campsite of the trip and celebrating miles past and adventures shared.

Day 12
Breakfast & lunch included

Breakfast and hot beverages will help us greet our final day in the wilderness of the Alaska Peninsula.  By noon we’ll be back at the airstrip and ready for the skilled bush pilots to whisk us back to King Salmon.  Again, Christopher Solomon sums it up best describing Aniakchak on the flight out. “I press my forehead to the window and stare for a long time as the ramp finally climbs higher and higher, until it vanishes in a smother of white clouds.  I look up.  Gabe and Dan are smiling. For a moment we grin like idiots at one another.  Then we press our foreheads against the cold of the Cessna’s tiny portholes. Seeing all this, some of our fellow passengers look out their windows, perplexed.  If you hadn’t been there, it would be easy to think there was nothing worth seeing at all.” From King Salmon, we’ll conclude our adventure with a flight back to Anchorage. Please make certain that you schedule all homebound flights from Anchorage for after 11:00pm.  Better still, we suggest staying in Anchorage this night.

What's Included

  • All group gear: Expedition quality tents, all cooking equipment & eating utensils
  • Toilet supplies including TP, trowel, and hand sanitizer
  • Water treatment options
  • Safety equipment: Satellite phone, maps, GPS, and medical kit
  • Trekking poles
  • Roundtrip air transportation from Anchorage to King Salmon
  • Roundtrip air transportation from King Salmon to Aniakchak & Port Heiden
  • Lodging on night one in Anchorage
  • 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.

Available Dates

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Trip Stats

Price:
$5,595 /person
Duration:
12-days
Length:
50+ miles
Intensity:
Level 3
Min Age:
16
Begins In:
Anchorage
Ends In:
Anchorage
Airport:
Anchorage International (ANC)
Wildlife:
Bears, Eagles, Caribou, Fox, Wolves
Great For:
Explorers, Couples, Individuals
Activity:
Backpacking

Get Ready

What to Pack:

Helpful gear suggestions and recommendations for this trip.

Gear List
Logistics:

Information about how to get here, reservation policies, trip insurance and more.

Logistics

Location

Trip Reviews

Exceeded my wildest expectations! The country was wild, unspoiled and brand new geologically. The caldera was only 3700 years old and we felt than we were witnessing the birth of the earth as if we were transported back in time hundreds of millions of years. A fantastic, once in a lifetime experience!

Again, I cannot begin to thank you for the most incredible trip ever! It was perfect in every way!

Looking for more reviews? View all trip testimonials.

Trip Photos

Trip FAQs

Have questions about this trip? We’ve got answers.

Where is the Aniakchak National Monument?

The Aniakchak National Monument lies the end of the Alaska Peninsula in the Pacific Rim of fire. This remote park is over 250 air miles south west of Anchorage.

How do you get to Aniakchak National Monument?

Access to Aniakchak National Monument is solely by small aircraft, on foot, or in some instances, by boat.

Is transportation to Aniakchak included in the price of the trip?

Absolutely, our trips are all inclusive from Anchorage. All you need to do is get yourself to Anchorage on Day 1 of your itinerary. All bush flights are included.

Where will you meet us?

Your guide(s) will meet you at 5pm at the Aloft Hotel in Anchorage for an orientation dinner of local pizza and craft brews. They will also do a gear check, so make sure you bring your backpack and complete kit.

Who will I be flying with and what time will we be departing on day one?

Your guides will meet you at the hotel 1.5 hours prior to your morning flight. You’ll fly with your guides commercially to King Salmon, Alaska with either Alaska Airlines or Pen Air. From there, we’ll be flying with Grant Aviation to Port Heiden.

Is the Aniakchak Caldera a good place for viewing wildlife?

Absolutely. Aniakchak National Monument is home to grizzly, coastal brown, and black bears, Dall sheep, caribou, moose, wolves, and tremendous seasonal populations of migratory birds.

I'm traveling solo. Is there a single supplement charge?

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.

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