Arrigetch Peaks Backpacking Trip
The Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve is home to the Brooks Mountain Range and the stunning Arrigetch Peaks region; this backpacking trip is some of the most incredible scenery in Alaska.
- - 9 nights in the backcountry
- - Unparallelled mountain views
- - Rtn flights Fairbanks - Bettles, plus air taxi into the backcountry
- - 1 nights accommodations in Bettles
- - Mix of challenging terrain with easier sections
- - Additional multi-day packrafting option on the Alatna River
- - Backpack-dayhike combination
- - Stunning mountain scenery.
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Travel north up in to the Arctic Region to explore this amazing region. Gates of the Arctic National Park, while smaller than Wrangell - St. Elias National Park, is an incredible wilderness, at over 8 million acres in size. That's a whole lot of walking! We fly in to the Arrigetch Peaks area and spend 8 days exploring the region.
The Arrigetch Peaks area is a world famous climbing region, though we'll not be climbing, but backpacking and exploring the landscape. By scheduling a combination of basecamping and backpacking, we get the best of both worlds. We'll see some of the most popular peaks and vistas here in the Arrigetch Peaks, but won't have to endure the burden of a heavy pack every day. Some of the day hikes will include Valley of the Maidens and the Aquarius Valley, home to a stunning array of alpine tarns and lakes so clear and turquoise.
The hike is a combination of terrains and landscapes, including tundra, alpine and subalpine, boreal forest, and all the transitional landscape along the way; Gates of the Arctic National Park is a fantastically diverse area.
Starting out low, near the designated Wild and Scenic River, the Alatna River, we traverse through the boreal forest, mixed black and white spruce forest, interspersed with a few small groves of hardwoods here and there. Then it's the transition to the alpine region, where we backpack through dwarf birch and brushy willow to reach the high subalpine country and those amazing views of this special landscape; simply jaw-dropping granite peaks towering above our camp that we move beneath in amazement.
Endless talus and moraine tell the story of the harsh arctic climate here, and the hiking is not always easy. It is, however, incredibly rewarding, and the camera snaps incessantly; this landscape is simply beyond description. View the slideshow of Arrigetch Peaks and Gates of the Arctic Photos to the left here and see for yourself.
Massive granite spires and craggy pinnacles soar skyward around us, and we'll be sure to have a grand time walking the alpine valleys and passes, basins and meadows.
"Arrigetch" is an Inupiat word that translates in English to, approximately, 'fingers of the outstretched hand', an apt phrase to outline the almost lifelike, clawing scrapes of rock here. The Arrigetch Peaks, part of the Endicott Mountains in the central Brooks range, are a designated National Natural Landmark, recognized as an "outstanding example of natural history both biological and geological features in the US"; all this means is that the Arrigetch Peaks are amazing.
The best way to get around the arctic backcountry is by river. Rivers have been known as the highways of the arctic for years here in Alaska, for both summer and wintertime travel. Packrafts have really opened up travel in the Alaska wilderness like few other non-motorized equipment ever have. It's now perfectly feasible to do a trip over 4 days and cover 60-80 miles of terrain, or even more in some places.
What I suggest for most folks on our Arrigetch Peaks trip is to combine the backpacking and hiking trip with a packraft trip down the Alatna River. We'll store the packrafts and boating gear at our landing zone area when we first fly in to the backcountry, so we're not carrying all that equipment on the hikes. When we come back down from the mountains, we pick up our packrafts and other equipment, and then float the river.
The Alatna River is a very easy, Class I flatwater river. The 2 options include a 20 mile float to Takahula Lake, where we exit the river and make a short portage to the lake for our pickup. The other is a longer, 45 mile float to the confluence with Malamute Fork. My suggestion for most inexperienced boaters is the shorter trip. Neither trips involve any sketchy water at all, and oth options are fine for beginning boaters.
All packrafting gear, paddling equipment, dry bags, paddling clothes, PFDs (Personal Floatation Devices) are supplied by Expeditions Alaska.
Take a look at the Alatna River Packrafting Video here.
We meet in Fairbanks, and then fly Bettles. You'll fly from Fairbanks to Bettles, and we'll meet there at the Lodge. The following morning we'll fly in to the Brooks mountains, landing near the Alatna River. The hike up in to the Arrigetch involves some minor bushwhacking to get started, but nothing too bad.
Then we hit the subalpine, and spend our time in this amazing granite range. We can either run this as a backpacking trip, or a combination backpack/basecamp and exploratory dayhike trip.
It's best done moving camp every few days, I think, and spending at least a couple of days in each area, hiking and scrambling up the ridge lines and valleys for some of these great views. The options really do go on forever up here.
We then hike back down below treeline and back toward the Alatna, meet our pilot for the air taxi ride back to Bettles. We'll spend another night in Bettles, then fly back to Fairbanks the following day.
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Where are we?
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