As featured in the May 2014 issue of Outside Magazine, join us this summer for a truly exploratory hiking expedition into the seldom visited Aniakchak National Monument & Preserve, located along the volcanically active “Ring of Fire” in the heart of the Aleutian Mountain Range. Combine it with 3 nights at the world famous Brooks Camp in Katmai National Park, including a tour of the Valley of 10,000 Smokes, and you’re in for one of Alaska’s most amazing hiking and national park experiences.
“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
Your trip begins today in Anchorage, Alaska. You’ll be staying at the Lakefront Anchorage Hotel. You can arrive anytime before 4pm 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 afternoon, you’ll meet your guide at 5pm at the hotel 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 an early breakfast, you’ll meet your guide, load up and transfer to the airport for the flight to King Salmon, a small fishing town on the Naknek River near the Bering Sea coast. Once in King Salmon, you’ll gather gear, and board a float plane bound for Brooks Camp. Here, you’ll have a chance to view the famous brown bears of the Brooks River, camp at the famous campground, and prepare for tomorrow’s bus ride and tour of Katmai’s Valley of 10,000 Smokes.
This morning we board the Valley of 10,000 Smokes bus and leave this outpost of civilization behind. The 26-mile bus ride will take you along Margot Creek, through a beautiful boreal forest, across two more creeks, and eventually to the Three Forks Visitor Center. It will be here that we leave the rest of the tourists behind, and step foot into the Katmai wilderness. The Valley’s eerie landscape reflects the power of the eruption that buried the valley floor under 700 feet of pumice and ash and dotted the surface of this lunar-like topography with thousands of steam vents (fumaroles). Nearly a century of harsh weather has enhanced the beauty of the Valley of 10,000 Smokes, and one can now gaze into river canyons hundreds of feet deep where the layers of pumice and ash have been slowly eroded by the channeled rain and snow melt. As we hoist our day packs and head to the valley floor, we will immediately see the effect that this powerful and historic event had on the landscape.
Today we’ll spend the day exploring the area around Brooks Camp, Brooks Falls, and the Dumpling Mountain trail. The Dumpling Mountain Trail is a an 8-mile roundtrip hike with 2500’ of elevation gain & loss. Reaching the summit along this straightforward trail offers incredible views of Naknek Lake, Brooks Lake, and the Bristol Bay region.
After breakfast at the campground, you’ll then board a floatplane destined for Surprise Lake within the Aniakchak Caldera. As we unload our gear and establish camp on the shores of the lake’s azure waters, you are sure to be awestruck by the magnitude of your surroundings. With mountains surrounding you on all sides, the outside world will suddenly seem distant and detached, and you’ll never forget the overwhelming feeling of solitude as the float-plane lifts from the lake and disappears over the crater rim.
We’ll take the next few days to explore this surreal wilderness on foot. With light packs containing the day’s essentials, we’ll head out in search of incredible vistas, wildlife, and solitude. Whether climbing to the caldera’s rim, climbing to the summit of Vent Mountain, or scanning for wildlife along the lake shore, you are sure to experience a wilderness like nowhere else on earth! All meals included. Hikes will average 6-8 miles in length with 1000-3000’ of elevation gain & loss.
By noon we’ll be ready for the skilled bush pilots to whisk us back to King Salmon. In his article in Outside Magazine, writer Christopher Solomon best sums up 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 home bound flights from Anchorage for after 11:00pm. Better still, we suggest staying in Anchorage this night.
- All group gear: Expedition quality tents, group tarp, all cooking equipment & eating utensils
- Safety Equipment: Satellite phone, maps, GPS, and medical kit
- Toilet supplies including TP, trowel, and hand sanitizer
- Water treatment options
- Trekking poles
- Roundtrip air transportation from Anchorage to King Salmon
- Roundtrip air transportation from King Salmon into the wilderness
- Camping at Brooks Campground
- Valley of 10,000 Smokes tour
- 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.
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!
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Have questions about this trip? We’ve got answers.
Small groups are the best way to witness the Last Frontier! This wilderness trip is limited to 8 guests. And with a guest to guide ratio of 4:1 you are assured of our commitment to risk management and safe operations. Furthermore, it is a best practice to keep groups exceptionally small to minimize our impact on the Alaskan backcountry by following Leave No Trace principles.
In case you’ve heard horror stories… the number of mosquitoes is greatly dependent on hatching season, annual weather conditions, specific locations, and time of year. While you are bound to encounter some mosquitoes during the course of your summer adventure, their numbers rarely present major problems. That said, please arrive prepared with insect repellent and a head net to fend off any bugs that are present.
Alaska is bear country! There are both grizzly and black bears in most of the wilderness areas of Alaska we visit.We love seeing bears in the wild, and consider bear sightings one of the most thrilling privileges common in Alaska’s backcountry. That said, traveling safely and taking precautions to minimize a negative encounter are considerations we take very seriously. In addition to conducting a thorough pre-trip bear safety orientation, your guides also take many precautions on all of our trips including: 1) all of our food is packaged to minimize odors – we vacuum seal most of our fresh ingredients and sauces, we pack our food in bear resistant food canisters, and we store our food well away from camp. 2) We make noise when we’re hiking in thick brush or when we’re hiking in windy conditions to minimize surprise encounters. 3) We keep an exceptionally clean camp and 4) as a last resort guides travel armed carrying pepper spray.
It’s important to keep in mind that while we do have abundant wildlife populations in Alaska, animals are often obscured by the vastness of the landscape, subject to imprecise migration routes and often affected by Alaska’s dynamic weather patterns. While historically wildlife viewing on our trips has been reliable, and we schedule our trips to maximize the chances of seeing wildlife, there are simply too many factors to make any guarantees.
Our food is excellent – in fact it is something that clearly differentiates us from our competition. We have spent the past fifteen years fine tuning our backcountry menu. And in 2012, we launchedAdventure Appetites– an award winning food company focused on bringing our lightweight and packable wilderness cuisine to adventurers everywhere. Breakfasts include steel cut oats, scrambles, homemade granola and cereal, locally roasted coffee, assorted tea and cocoa. Lunches could include an Italian club torta sandwich, asiago bagels and Alaska lox, a curried tuna pita, or perhaps crackers with genoa salami with a roasted red pepper goat cheese spread. We also feature snack mixes (both savory & sweet), and an assortment of energy bars available throughout the day. Dinners could include pasta carbonara, Alaska reindeer rotini, chicken and chipotle enchiladas, and more. And we ALWAYS experience one of Adventure Appetites home baked desserts or gourmet chocolate after dinner. *Please not that you’ll be enjoying included meals at Brooks Lodge during your camping stay at Brooks Camp.
Alaska has some of the most dynamic and dramatic weather on the planet. During the summer months in Alaska, average daytime temperatures range from 60 to 80 degrees F, nighttime and morning temperatures are cooler, but rarely dip below 40 degrees F. Fall arrives early at these latitudes and you’ll experience cooler temperatures and fewer hours of daylight in late August and early September. Throughout the summer season, you may experience rain, sun, wind, clouds and fog on your departure. We live by the adage “prepare for the worst, hope for the best, and you’ll likely end up with some of both”.
Alaska Alpine Adventures has camped in some of Alaska’s most remote and wild places; from the remote beaches of the Alaska Peninsula, the rugged glaciers of the Neacola Mountains, to the open tundra expanses of the Brooks Range, With literally thousands of nights camped in the Alaska wilderness in all seasons, we have refined camp craft to a science. Expedition quality tents, included trekking poles, group-size tarp shelters, and only the best cooking equipment accompany each and every one of our wilderness trips. Not only does including the finest equipment make camp life more comfortable, it also adds a level of safety to trips that could otherwise be relentlessly unforgiving to the unprepared. In other words, we take our camping very seriously! Don’t be surprised if you find yourself waiting out a storm under the group tarp, out of the weather, enjoying hot drinks, sumptuous meals and excellent company, while your guide fastidiously tensions all of the tent guy lines!
Near the end of the Alaska Peninsula and along the crest of the Pacific Rim of fire there sits a National Park of legend and lore. This park, Katmai, is home to the largest brown bear population in the world, holds the spawning grounds of literally millions of sockeye salmon, and contains within its wild borders the unaltered evidence of one of the world’s most powerful volcanic eruptions ever recorded. What remains today is a vast area known as the Valley of 10,000 Smokes, and, even nearly 90 years after the cataclysmic eruption, the landscape still bears the scars. Brimming with adventurous possibility and inviting exploration, Katmai is a great choice for an Alaska hiking vacation.
The 3.5 Million-acre Katmai National Park lies the end of the Alaska Peninsula at the crest of the Pacific Rim of fire. This remote park is over 200 air miles south west of Anchorage.
Access to the Valley of 10,000 Smokes in Katmai National Park and Preserve is solely by small aircraft or, in some instances, by boat.
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.
Access to Aniakchak National Monument is solely by small aircraft or, in some instances, by boat.
Absolutely, our trips are all inclusive from Anchorage. All you need to do is get yourself to Anchorage on Day 1 of your itinerary.
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.
Your guides will meet you at the hotel 1.5 hours prior to your scheduled 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 Katmai Air from King Salmon to Katmai and then onto Aniakchak on Day 5.
Absolutely. Katmai and Brooks Camp in particular are famous for brown bear viewing. Aniakchak is home to grizzly, coastal brown, and black bears, 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.