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

 

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

RECENT BLOG POSTSCurrent Favorites and Inspirations X Renee RoamingThe best national park in America? A guide to Lake Clark National ParkExploring bear country - Katmai National Park

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.

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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

 

PIN FOR LATER!

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

RECENT BLOG POSTSCurrent Favorites and Inspirations X Renee RoamingThe best national park in America? A guide to Lake Clark National ParkExploring bear country - Katmai National Park

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.

Renee Hahnel

Hi! My name is Renee and I'm an Australian photographer, blogger & travel addict. I now call the U.S.A home but you can usually find me wandering the globe with a camera in hand ✈ Let's get lost!

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16 Comments

  1. Jackie on October 9, 2017 at 10:35 pm

    Renee the photos in this blog are stunning and great info in the blog. Love it.

  2. Chesca @ chescaislost.com on October 10, 2017 at 7:43 am

    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

    • Renee Hahnel on October 10, 2017 at 7:15 pm

      It sure is a magical place! I cannot wait to return one day 🙂

  3. Elizabeth Tea on October 11, 2017 at 9:08 pm

    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

    • Renee Hahnel on October 31, 2017 at 12:57 pm

      Thank you Elizabeth! I am so stoked to make this album with you – it’s going to be a wonderful way to reminisce on our trip 🙂

  4. Jacqueline Wallace on October 12, 2017 at 6:03 am

    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.

    • Renee Hahnel on October 31, 2017 at 12:56 pm

      Thanks Jacqueline! I am currently using the Sony A9 & the Sony A7Rii. I have a blog post all about my gear, just click the “photography” tab above to access it 🙂

  5. Sidney on October 13, 2017 at 2:55 pm

    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!

    • Renee Hahnel on November 12, 2017 at 11:37 pm

      Thanks so much Sidney! You will LOVE the Alaska parks!

  6. Brandy kirschner on October 17, 2017 at 3:51 pm

    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

    Best,
    Brandy kirschner

    • Renee Hahnel on October 31, 2017 at 12:54 pm

      Hi Brandy. Thanks for reaching out! Are you able to send me more information via my contact form or to info@?

  7. Chris on October 23, 2017 at 5:52 pm

    Great pics! It’s so nice to see such unspoiled wilderness. Great adventuring!

    • Renee Hahnel on October 31, 2017 at 12:51 pm

      Thanks Chris! I loved how untouched it was and can’t wait to go back 🙂

  8. Ines on April 11, 2018 at 1:45 pm

    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!

  9. 10 Tips for Winter Camping - Renee Roaming on August 22, 2018 at 2:40 am

    […] Hiking in Gates of the Arctic National Park […]

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Renee Hahnel

Hi! My name is Renee and I'm an Australian photographer, blogger & travel addict. I now call the U.S.A home but you can usually find me wandering the globe with a camera in hand ✈ Let's get lost!

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The Ultimate Romantic Couples Getaway to Bora Bora, French Polynesia

Bora Bora is undoubtedly one of the most romantic and beautiful destinations in the world! My husband and I recently spent 12 days exploring French Polynesia, and Bora Bora was probably our favorite part of the trip. In this blog post I’m sharing all of the details on how to get there, when to visit,…

What to Pack for a Tropical Vacation to The Islands of Tahiti

Time to get some vitamin D! In this blog post I am sharing exactly what you should pack for your tropical vacation to the Islands of Tahiti, or to pretty much any warm, humid, and sunny destination! Keep reading to find out what essentials to take along, how to select versatile pieces, and what things…

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