What you need to know about Gates of the Arctic National Park
There seems to be a dating app or website for every type of person. So why not make one for National Parks? Until someone creates Tinder for travelers, I’ll be showcasing some of the lesser known parks here. Read their profile to see if these under-the-radar spots might be your National Park soulmate.
Here’s why you should swipe right on Alaska’s Gates of the Arctic National Park.
Age: 1980! That means I’m just barely NOT a millennial.
Location: The middle of nowhere. There are no roads or trails into the park lands, so if you want to visit, you’ll either have to hike in or hire an air taxi. Your best bet is to book a flight from Fairbanks, which offers a few daily.
Size: I’m made up of 8.4 million preserved acres. That’s bigger than Massachusetts and Rhode Island combined! The whole point was to maintain my wild, undeveloped character. Let me just tell ya, if you want to experience the world untouched by most humans, you’ve come to the right place.
Height: The Brooks Range runs through my borders, including Mount Igikpak, which tops out at 8,276 ft.
Claim to fame: I house the most remote Starbucks in the world. Haha, just kidding! I’m the least-visited national park, with just 10,000 visitors a year (fun fact: The Great Smoky Mountains, the most visited park, typically sees over 10 million people annually). There are a lot of reasons for that. First, there’s no road leading here. Second, there are zero park services. Third, your phone isn’t going to work. And then there’s the fact that I’m wholly north of the Arctic Circle. I know what you’re thinking: brrrrr! And yep, you’re right! But I promise if you’re up for an adventure, I will provide for the wildest experience of your life. Literally.
History: Though I’m quite remote, humans have played a part in my ecosystem for over 13,000 years. Nomadic peoples traveled between my mountains’ forested southern slopes and the Arctic Coast. Today, their descendants still depend on the park’s resources. A Nunamiut Inupiat village, Anaktuvuk Pass, lies inside the park.
Hobbies: Can solitude be a hobby? Because I’m really good at being alone. Many people come here to experience life without other humans—it’s quite common to go your entire trip without seeing another soul. I’m one of the last places on the planet with what I like to call environmental integrity, aka untouched wilderness. While you’re here, you’ll want to hike, fish, hunt, kayak and enjoy life on the edge of the civilization.
Not to be presumptuous, but if you were to spend the night…: Better bring a tent—there’s no Motel 6. Well, technically there are cabins, but most of them date back to the goldrush and aren’t exactly in very good shape. Feel free to look, but don’t touch!
Not-so-weird fact about me: I’m obsessed with safety. You would be too if you could only rely on yourself. When you arrive, you best have everything you need for the entire trip—and maybe a few extra days. Bush travel means you’re at the mercy of the weather, so bring extra food in case your air taxi is delayed. Be sure to bring or check out a bear resistant food container (grizzlies love it here!), and rent a satellite phone. Spend time going through backcountry orientation, pre-plan your route as much as possible, and let someone know where you’ll be and expect to be back.
Favorite Season: From November to March, most activity ceases while -20ºF to -50ºF temperatures persist. No thanks. Summer is your best bet. It’s relatively mild, fairly dry and windy.
Favorite quote: “Whosoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a god.” — Aristotle
Best place for a Selfie: Well, a selfie is pretty much the only way you’re going to get a photo anyway. Snap one with the Brooks Range in the background.
Since you’re in the neighborhood… “In the neighborhood” is relative in Alaska, but hire an air taxi to take you into neighboring Kobuk Valley National Park to see the sand dunes.
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