Due to its location, the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve frequently land on lists of least-visited national parks in the United States. In 2021, it only attracted more than 7,000 visitors as the northernmost national park in the U.S.
The park does not have roads or trails, an enticing prospect for those who want to get out of their comfort zone – but at the same time a turn-off for others. It might not be the first choice of vacationers but the Gates of the Arctic is a humble adventure zone, thanks to its rugged beauty. Others might not be aware of its existence, but true-blue nature travelers should not miss the chance to visit this Alaskan delight.
Home to unique wildlife and the Brooks Range, the highest mountain in the Arctic Circle, the Gates of the Arctic is not shy to share its charm. The undeveloped character of this icy destination makes it an ideal hangout spot for backcountry adventurers. However, tourists who just want an Arctic experience should not fret because there’s a corner for everyone in this northern refuge.
Plan your visit: what to do when you first arrive at gates to the arctic national park
It’s one wild winter wonderland out there, so tourists should not just be ready but eager when visiting the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve. Here’s some basic information about the park.
- The park is closed during winter, only opening its doors to tourists from June to end-September from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
- There's no entrance fee to the park, but tourists are encouraged to go to the visitor center for an orientation.
- The Anaktuvuk Pass Ranger Station is open from Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (April to September). 101
Arctic Adventures at the northernmost national park in the u.s.
The Gates of the Arctic is beyond anyone’s comfort zone, but it is comfortable on its own. With its stunning landscape, it’s one cool destination, literally.
Backpacking And Hiking
Backpackers are in for a treat in this Alaskan destination. When winter ends, the Gates of the Arctic is more than eager to welcome travelers; it’s challenging them.
- Since the Brooks Range is just out there standing supreme, it’s what most backpackers conquer. Trips for experienced hikers take more than a week, a taxing but rewarding journey once they’ve seen the glacial spectacle.
- A week-long journey to the rugged Arrigetch Peaks will take guests to the park’s various ecozones. Reaching the subalpine area, trekkers will be afforded breathtaking landscapes only the Arctic can provide.
- For packrafters, the Alatna River awaits. The waterway serves as the starting point of an Arrigetch adventure, and also its endpoint, the perfect place to cap off an Arctic escape.
- Climbers can take on the challenge of Arrigetch, Mount Doonerak, or Mt. Igikpak.
Whatever journey the backpackers take, they will be welcomed by majestic ridges, stunning vistas, and pristine rivers. Basically, Mother Nature's best. 159
Birdwatching and Wildlife Viewing
The heat of summer sunshine makes the park a home to various birds. Aside from winged pals, the Gates of the Arctic also serves as a playground for bears, deer, and caribou, among others.
- There are over 140 bird species in the park, some of them can be observed from Anaktuvuk Pass, Coldfoot, Bettles, and along the Dalton Highway.
- Some of the birds that can be spotted include hawks, eagles, kites, falcons, owls, gulls, terns, kingfishers, and warblers, among others.
- Mammals also thrive in the area, like the busy beavers, the lynx of the boreal forest, the Ice Age gift that is the muskox, and the commanding brown bears.
- Among the stars are the caribou, which migrate through the Central Brooks Range – reaching over 500,000 during migration.
- For botany enthusiasts, the boreal forest is home to diverse plants such as spruce, birch, and aspen. Meanwhile, the moss campion can be seen blooming in the tundra. 156
Camping And Fishing
Since the park is undeveloped, there are no campgrounds, so it's like Survivor out there. Gravel bar camping is the name of the game in the Gates of the Arctic, and matching it with fishing makes for a satisfying day outdoors.
For the latter, since there's low productivity in the Arctic, catch-and-release fishing is encouraged, or fishers should keep what they can immediately consume. Anglers can score trout, char, pike, whitefish, salmon, or sheefish in some streams. 77
Arctic Attractions at gates of the arctic national park
From the hospitable gateway villages to the mountains and waterways, everything is an attraction in the park. It’s not a crowded destination, so tourists can have it all to themselves. 30
There are four gateway villages to the park, each offering a warm welcome to curious adventurers. The locals have many stories to share, possibly including one about the tourist’s arrival.
- The Anaktuvuk Pass, located inside the park, is the last remaining settlement of the Nunamiut. There’s a rich subsistence culture in town which can be learned at the Simon Paneak Memorial Museum.
- Home to just 23 people (2020 census), Bettles is located near the park and is an important stopping point for an Arctic adventure.
- The gold rush boomtowns of Coldfoot and Wiseman are always ready to receive tourists. The former is known for its truck stops, while the latter is proud of its old log cabins. 118
Walker Lake And Scenic Rivers
Thanks to the Arctic, the waterways in the park are pristine. Add the scenic views, and it’s always a splashing good time in the lake and rivers.
- The assemblage of plants around Walker Lake adds to the panoramic beauty of this waterway. The lake looks calm, making it the perfect spot to go with nature’s flow.The John River is one of the most ideal waterways for some paddling in the Brooks Range.
- Paddlers who want some little action can take on the Class V rapids of the Kobuk River.
- The Noatak, meanwhile, is a match for those who want a serene float since it's one of the longest wild rivers in Alaska.
- Kayakers are in for a treat along the North Fork of Koyukuk River if they spot reindeer while paddling.
- The Tinayguk River is for those who want to work out as some portions of it are shallow while others have Class II rapids.
From the mountain ridges to the scenic rivers, the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve knows how to spell adventure, and the alphabet is not enough to capture what it can offer.