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Gates of the Arctic National Park

Travel Guide North America USA Western United States Alaska Gates of the Arctic National Park

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Introduction

Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve is a U.S. National Park in Alaska. It is the northernmost national park in the U.S. (the entirety of the park lies north of the Arctic Circle) and the second largest at 3,428,702 ha, slightly larger in area than Belgium. The park consists primarily of portions of the Brooks Range of mountains. It was first protected as a U.S. National Monument on December 1, 1978, before becoming a national park and preserve two years later in 1980 upon passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. A large part of the park is protected in the Gates of the Arctic Wilderness which covers 2,900,460 ha. The wilderness area adjoins the Noatak Wilderness Area and together they form the largest contiguous wilderness in the United States.

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Geography

Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve lies to the west of the Dalton Highway, centered on the Brooks Range and covering the north and south slopes of the mountains. The park includes the Endicott Mountains and part of the Schwatka Mountains. The majority of Gates of the Arctic is designated as national park, in which only subsistence hunting by local rural residents is permitted. Sport hunting is only permitted in the national preserve. To hunt and trap in the preserve, a person must have all required licenses and permits and follow all other state regulations.

The eastern boundary of the park generally follows the Dalton Highway at a distance of a few miles, with the westernmost part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge 16 kilometres farther east. Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge is near the park's southeast boundary. Noatak National Preserve adjoins the western boundary, and the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska adjoins the northwest corner of the park. Almost all of the park is designated as wilderness, with the exception of areas around Anaktuvuk Pass. A detached portion of the park surrounds the outlying Fortress Mountain and Castle Mountain to the north of the park. The park contains mountains such as the Arrigetch Peaks and Mount Igikpak.

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Sights and Activities

  • Backpaking/hiking
  • Rafting/Canoeing
  • Birding
  • Photography

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Opening Hours

Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve is open year round to visitors, but some of our visitor centers are only open seasonally. It is best to call each visitor center or office prior to arrival to confirm current operational hours. The Arctic Interagency Visitor Center in nearby Coldfoot is open from late May to early September, providing information on the parks, preserves and refuges of the Brooks Range, Yukon Valley and the North Slope.

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Cost

No fees or registration are required to enter the park; however visitors are requested to stop at one of the visitor centers to attend a back country orientation. During an orientation you can get valuable information about current weather, fire and wildlife alerts, back country safety, bear safety and Leave No Trace camping techniques.

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Getting There

There are no established roads, trails, visitor facilities, or campgrounds in the park. The Dalton Highway (Alaska State Highway 11) comes within 8 kilometres of the park's eastern boundary, but requires a river crossing to reach the park from the road.
It is possible to park far off the highway and hike into the park or you can perhaps make special arrangements to be dropped off and picked up by the Dalton Highway Express bus service.

There are several Native Alaskan villages within the park which all have small airstrips, which can be reached by air taxi (regular service or charter). The largest village and most used airstrip is located at Anaktuvuk Pass, which has regular air taxi service. The village is used to tourists visiting the park and some services as well as a NPS office can be found here. Air taxi services generally fly from Fairbanks, Coldfoot, or Bettles.
Another option for remote locations is by bush planes which may either use the airstrips or land on a remote lake. By hiring a bush plane, you have greater flexibility (at a price). You will typically organize a custom trip where you are dropped off on a lake on a specific day and the plane returns to a specific rendez-vous point a couple days or a couple weeks later to pick you up. Thus for most wilderness backpackers in the park, this is your best (but certainly not cheapest) option to explore the wild side of the park.

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Eat/Drink

All food will need to be brought into the park as no supplies are available. Drinking water is plentiful but requires purification.

Proper food storage is required while visiting Gates of the Arctic, a requirement that can be met by using bear resistant food containers. National Park Service Ranger Stations in Bettles, Coldfoot, Anaktuvuk and at the Alaska Public Lands Information Center in Fairbanks have containers on loan free of charge; call ahead to check availability.

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Sleep

There are no developed lodging or campsites in the park, but camping is allowed. Because this is remote wilderness, be sure to be prepared with supplies and pack everything out that you take in, including garbage. Also keep in mind that, like the rest of Alaska, this is bear country so take appropriate precautions. Camping may be restricted by easements when crossing Native Corporation lands within the park.

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This is version 1. Last edited at 8:47 on Dec 9, 15 by Utrecht. 3 articles link to this page.

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