A Guide to Gates of the Arctic National Park

Today I am sharing a guide to Gates of the Arctic National Park, including hiking tips, photography ideas and fun facts. As part of our 59 National Parks Road Trip, we have been sharing mini guides to each of the parks on the Evolve website. Click here to check out the rest of the guides!

A Guide to Gates of the Arctic National Park

A Guide to Gates of the Arctic National Park Alaska - Renee Roaming
Location: Northern Alaska
Park Tally: 39/59
Orientation: Gates of the Arctic National Park is just like it sounds – a slice of natural beauty within the parameter of the Arctic Circle. Gates of the Arctic is wild, rugged, jaw-dropping and almost untouched. Similar to its neighboring park Kobuk Valley, Gates of the Arctic is extremely remote and does not have developed facilities of any kind. There are no roads or maintained trails and visitors have a choice of plane or foot for accessing the park.
A Guide to Gates of the Arctic National Park Alaska - Renee Roaming
Gates of the Arctic is one of the least visited parks in the country, with only 10,000 people traveling to the park each year (on average). The park can be partially seen within a day on a flight-seeing tour or truly explored by venturing into the backcountry. Rock climbers, paddlers, hikers and mountaineers are drawn to Gates of the Arctic, the reason only really understood by those who take an adventure into the isolated wonderland.
A Guide to Gates of the Arctic National Park Alaska - Renee Roaming
Most iconic view:  The Arrigetch Peaks are arguably the most famous section of the Brooks Range and quite possibly the park. Adventure seekers come from all over the world to experience the mesmerizing views of the Arrigetch, to climb the jagged granite spires, and to spot wildlife in the valleys. The Arrigetch is best appreciated via a backcountry trek, though the peaks can be viewed via air for those unable to make such a journey. The name Arrigetch means ‘fingers of the outstretched hand’ in the native Inupiat language – perfectly describing the cirque-like formation of the peaks. We opted to venture on a 9-day wilderness trek in the Arrigetch – more about this can be read in the “for the adventurous” section below.

A Guide to Gates of the Arctic National Park Alaska - Renee Roaming
Accessible activity:  For those short on time or unable to endeavor into the backcountry, a flight-seeing day tour of the park is the perfect option. Bettles Lodge (a short flight from Fairbanks) offers day trips to Gates of the Arctic, which allows visitors to touch down in a section of the park for a land and air experience. These trips can also be combined with a flight-seeing tour of neighboring Kobuk Valley National Park.
A Guide to Gates of the Arctic National Park Alaska - Renee Roaming
For the adventurous: As mentioned above, we opted for a backcountry adventure in Gates of the Arctic. Our 9-day trek with Expeditions Alaska gave us the true Alaskan wilderness experience. We were dropped by float plane at Circle Lake, where we stashed our pack rafts for later use and starting our hike towards the Arrigetch Creek. There aren’t any maintained trails in Gates of the Arctic so our ‘hike’ involved some fairly intense bush-whacking through tough tundra, forest, marsh and water.
A Guide to Gates of the Arctic National Park Alaska - Renee Roaming
We bush-whacked along the Arrigetch Creek for a day before making it to the base of the peaks. From here we decided to basecamp for 3 nights, allowing us to explore the different valleys, lakes and mountains without our heavy packs. It was incredible waking up each morning, crawling out of the tent and looking up to the towering peaks all around us. Our day hikes consisted of boulder hopping, scrambling up mountain sides and crossing creeks. It was the ‘roughest’ hike we had ever accomplished but by far the most rewarding. Another highlight of the trip was finishing up with 2 days of pack rafting along the Alatna River before getting picked up at Takahula Lake. We would highly recommend Expeditions Alaska if you are interested in taking a similar trek yourself!
A Guide to Gates of the Arctic National Park Alaska - Renee Roaming
Best photo opportunities: The entire Arrigetch was extremely photogenic, plus there were plenty of wildlife around to add variety. We saw a grizzly bear eating berries, a black wolf by the river and an abundance of moose tracks around camp. Fall would be absolutely magical in Gates of Arctic, a season we would love to return and photograph.

A Guide to Gates of the Arctic National Park Alaska - Renee Roaming
Quick facts

  • Gates of the Arctic was designated a National Park in 1980. It is the second largest national park in the country (after Wrangell-St. Elias).
  • Numerous subsistence communities still thrive within Gates of the Arctic, with several Eskimo tribes living in the area as well as natives of the Koyukan tribes.
  • Gates of the Arctic is the northernmost national park in the United States, and lies entirely above the Arctic Circle. The Brooks Range is one of Earth’s northernmost mountain ranges.
  • There are six Wild and Scenic River in Gates of the Arctic, including the Alatna River, John Rover, Kobuk River, Tinayguk River, a portion of the Noatak River, and the North Fork of the Koyukuk River.
  • Wildlife found within the park include wolf, grizzly bear, muskox, caribou, moose, wolverine, fox, dall sheep and birdlife. Fish species include chum salmon, arctic char, dolly varden trout and grayling.
  • In 2016, Gates of the Arctic National Park had just over 10,000 visitors.

A Guide to Gates of the Arctic National Park Alaska - Renee Roaming
A Guide to Gates of the Arctic National Park Alaska - Renee Roaming
A Guide to Gates of the Arctic National Park Alaska - Renee Roaming


A Guide to Gates of the Arctic National Park Alaska - Renee Roaming

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Discalimer – All photos in this blog post were taken and edited by myself and my husband, Matthew Hahnel. This road trip is in partnership with Evolve and GoWesty Campers. All opinions are my own and unbiased.


    1. If you have substantial off-trail hiking experience (top navigation skills) and are used to hiking in bear, moose and wolf country… then yes! Otherwise I would suggest taking the trip guided. I would consider myself an experienced backpacker but I personally felt much more comfortable taking this trip guided

  1. you are the second blog that highly recommends Expedition Alaska, duly noted. After my visits to Denali I wanted more of the rugged Alaska and I think I found it. Thanks for the report !!! Have you been to Wrangell St Elias ?

    1. I have been! But I am yet to undertake a multi-day backpacking trip in the park. Hoping that will change in 2021 🙂

  2. Wow! It really looks incredibly stunning and untouched! What a great adventure that must have been. Alaska is really high up in my bucket list and I can’t wait to explore it after seeing your beautiful photos. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I would be very interested in interviewing you and your husband for a potential tv opportunity!
    Please feel free to call or email when you have a moment! 4045383094
    Brandy kirschner

  4. Excellent pictures that looks like it took a lot of time, care, and planning to take! We are looking forward to the Alaska part of our own quest to visit all national parks. These posts are great!

  5. These photos are gorgeous! I am incredibly jealous. What time of camera and lens do you use for the majority of photos? I apologize if this has been asked before.

  6. These picture are amazing!! I had never even heard of this place and now it’s on my bucket list.
    I really love that you’re “experiencing” every place and not just driving through as a check list. I think it’s so cool how you stop and really do something in each park.
    Seriously can’t wait to make this into an album for you:)
    – Elizabeth

  7. I didn’t even know this park existed! It sounds absolutely magical. I’m currently in crowded Bali, and I’m now craving some cool, fresh mountain air, stretching my legs over passes and watching grizzlies and black wolves. What incredible photos too <3

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