Spanning from the heart of the Brooks Range to the Chukchi Sea on the western coast of state, the Noatak River is home to abundant wildlife including the Western Arctic Caribou Heard. Often comprised of close to 500,000 caribou, these nomadic animals cross the Noatak National Preserve and parts of Gates of the Arctic National Park twice a year as they travel to and from their southern wintering areas and northern calving grounds. The Noatak is also arguably one of the largest wilderness river basins and also one of the longest untouched arctic rivers on earth. With class I & II whitewater, the river is fun for both novice and experienced boaters, and the hiking along the river is simply astounding.
After 6-days of river life in both Gates of the Arctic and the Noatak National Preserve, we’ll then make the bush flight to Kobuk Valley National Park and the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes, where we’ll have 2-full days to explore this oddity of the north. We’ll spend our days traveling around this obscure landscape with light daypacks. The Great Kobuk Sand Dunes cover 25 square miles and constitute the largest active sand dunes within arctic latitudes. We’ll surely marvel at the stark contrast from the Noatak River to the barren landscape that makes the sand dunes as marvelous as they are unique.
Join us for an amazing combination guided rafting and hiking trip through two of Alaska’s most remote national parks. You’ll spend the first 6 days of our adventure canoeing and hiking along the Noatak River. The Noatak River is a federally designated Wild and Scenic River as rich with tradition as it is with wildlife, and one that still boasts a completely intact arctic ecosystem. You’ll then continue by bush plane southwest to one of Alaska’s most obscure and seldom visited national parks, Kobuk Valley National Park. Here you’ll spend 2-full days hiking and exploring the park’s Great Kobuk Sand Dunes.
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 your guide by late afternoon for orientation and gear check, followed by a group dinner featuring gourmet pizza and local craft brews. 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.
After breakfast at the hotel, we’ll make our way back to the airport for our bush flight from Fairbanks to Bettles, the gateway community to Gates of the Arctic NP. We’ll transfer our gear to an awaiting floatplane for the 1-hour flight to Pingo Lake, near the headwaters of the Noatak River in Gates of the Arctic National Park. After a short portage of equipment and food, we’ll set up camp along the river, and if time allows, stretch our legs with an incredible hike into the tundra covered mountains above the river. Hiking in this amazing place will help us gain a sense of the arctic landscape, and the true scale of the Alaskan wilderness.
We’ll spend 6 adventure-filled days floating and hiking along the Noatak River. Our hikes will venture into the glacially carved mountains that make up this magnificent river drainage. Our days on the river will be spent scouring the hillsides for wildlife and perfecting our paddling techniques with ample opportunities for photographs and fishing.
After our last day on the Noatak, we’ll make camp for the night at the gravel airstrip known as Otter Bar. We’ll pack up our boats and stow our river gear one last time before preparing for our morning bush flight to the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes. As we enjoy our last night along the river, we’ll tally our wildlife sightings and relax to the sounds of this amazing wilderness.
As our small plane lifts off of our gravel runway, we’ll bid the Noatak River a fond farewell and make our way toward Kobuk Valley National Park. The Great Kobuk Sand Dune is one of 3 clusters of sand dunes within the national park, and is one of the least visited places in the entire national park system. With light day-packs, we’ll spend our days exploring the uniqueness of the landscape of the largest active dune field in arctic North America, returning each evening to our comfortable basecamp for a great meal and conversation.
After savoring our morning coffee and our final wilderness breakfast, we’ll attempt to absorb the euphoria and recollect the vast expanse of wilderness we’ve explored. By afternoon, we’ll board bush plane for the short flight to Kotzebue, where we’ll transfer to commercial flights bound for Anchorage and the conclusion of our adventure. Please schedule all homebound flights for after 10 pm.
- All group gear: Expedition quality tents, group tarp, all cooking equipment & eating utensils
- All Rafting Equipment: Inflatable canoes, life jackets, paddles plus spares, repair kits, throw bags, and dry bags
- Toilet supplies including TP, trowel, and hand sanitizer
- Safety Equipment: Satellite phone, maps, GPS, and medical kit
- Large backpack-style drybag for transporting and storing personal gear while on trip
- Water treatment options
- Trekking poles
- One way bush flights from Fairbanks to the Noatak River
- All bush flights between the Noatak, Kobuk Valley, and Kotzebue
- One way commercial flight from Kotzebue to Anchorage
- Lodging on the night one at the Pikes Waterfront Lodge
- 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
- Storage for your extra travel items while in the field
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.
- $8,495 /person
- 50+ miles
- Level 2
- Min Age:
- Begins In:
- Ends In:
- Fairbanks International (FAI)
- Caribou, Wolves, Bears
- Great For:
- Explorers, Families, Couples, Individuals
I flew to Alaska a few times during my time in the Marine Corps. I instantly fell in love with everything Alaska. It took longer that I would’ve hoped, but I finally got to take my trip this summer. I have to say, it did not disappoint. Our guides were friendly, knowledgeable and very accommodating. Visiting one of the most remote places on earth with a group of people was an experience of a lifetime. We took over 1000 pictures between the 7 of us and I can say that none of them do this landscape justice. It was boggy, wet, mosquito ridden, rocky, cold, hot…you get the idea. However, it was the most wonderful experience of my life. The folks at AAA know how to treat their guests and I can only hope to go back one day on another trip.
I took the big trip, 12 days in Gates of the Arctic and Kobuk Valley, from Aug 8 to Aug 19, 2023. You might be wondering if you can do it. I’m 62 and in reasonable shape–I walk 20 miles a week–but I’m also about 20 pounds overweight. I had not slept on the ground in a while. But it was fine. Don’t kid yourself, it gets hot and cold out there, there are bugs, you have to paddle fair distances, and your sleeping mat is not your memory foam bed at home. BUT, if you are in generally good shape and can roll with the circumstances as they change, you can do this.
The trip organization and the guides are 100% top notch. I mean, every detail is accounted for and safety is #1 by a long, long distance. Our guides were 24 and 26 years old, but they were both seasoned professionals. They were friendly and helpful the whole time. They took extra care of one member of our party who was having a pretty tough time with some of it.
That part in the description about “the Alaska factor” is real. When we got to Bettles, it was too smoky from wildfires to travel til the next day. When we finished the river portion, it took 24 hours for the clouds to clear and get a plane in. So, yes, it went from 85 and smoky to 50 and raining with wind in about 7 days. But you know what? We got to canoe 83 miles as promised and we spent the night at both national parks. But there are factors beyond anyone’s control and they will come into play.
We saw 6 grizzlies which, oddly, we saw on the same day. 2 musk ox. 2 caribou. A fox. The scenery is stunning. You will never think of another area as “wilderness” again. Canoes, paddles, tents, etc. are top notch. And the food is, of course, a little heavy on noodles, but it was all tasty. It is not the freeze dried stuff from the store. They have their own kitchen and bring real food, vacuum-sealed. Snacks are great. Coffee and tea every morning.
I strongly recommend this trip. It’s not “easy,” but you don’t have to be in any special condition to do it if you are willing to sleep on the ground (on a mat), paddle a canoe, and be hot/cold/dry/wet in the same day. The guides do an amazing amount of the work, so be prepared to tip lavishly. Believe me, by the end, you’ll recognize what they were worth.
Finally, the price. It’s not cheap. But think about it a minute. 12 days. A night in a nice hotel. FIVE internal flights. Full-service guides the whole time. Every meal. Canoes. Hiking poles. Quality tents. Try to price out what it would cost to do it yourself. Then pay AAA the money.
Both Brian and Dan were phenomenal guides and took the experience to another level. They were extremely helpful and engaged throughout the week, and they ensured our safety while maximizing fun.
Could not be improved by much. Both guides were wonderful. The activities were just right as were the accommodations. Weather was perfect, activities were fine and both guides were willing to go out of their were to make sure we all had the best time.
Looking for more reviews? View all trip testimonials.
Have questions about this trip? We’ve got answers.
Gates of the Arctic National Park, despite being the recipient of frequent media attention over the past 45 years, remains one of the most remote and unspoiled places on earth. Its 8.4 million acres cover an area twice the size of Connecticut and only slightly smaller than Switzerland. The park is essentially a road less wilderness area and, except for limited and difficult access along the Dalton highway. Traversing the landscape alters our sense of scale as well as our definition of true wilderness. Rafting, hiking, and backpacking in Gates of the Arctic are the activities that Alaska Alpine Adventures specializes in and we have been operating in Gates of the Arctic National Park since 2005.
Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve lies 250 miles north of Fairbanks, and over 450 miles north of Anchorage. The national park is the central component of the 700 square mile protected Brooks Range. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is to the east, and the Noatak Preserve is to the west.
Kobuk Valley National Park located in northwestern Alaska 25 miles north of the Arctic Circle, and roughly 100 miles from Kotzebue and the western coast of Alaska.
Access to Gates of the Arctic National Park is mainly by small aircraft or, in some instances, can be 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 2. From there, the group will shuttle to the air taxi for the flight to Bettles. We will be flying with Wright Air from Fairbanks to Bettles. From there, we’ll transfer to the float plane lake in Bettles for our float plane flight into the wilderness with Brooks Range Aviation. We’ll be picked from the Noatak river on a small gravel bar by Kotzebue based Golden Eagle Outfitters.
Absolutely. The parks are home to grizzly and black bears, dall 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.