Alatna River Packrafting Trip

Alpacka Packrafts. Pristine. Personal. Alaska By River. A Gorgeous, Wild Float Trip.

  • Gates of the Arctic National Park
  • Return flight in and out of the Park
  • 2-4 days packrafting the Alatna River
  • The Heart of the Brooks Range
  • A Classic Alaska Wilderness Journey

Packrafting is possibly one of the most interesting and most Alaskan of backcountry trips.

The serene Alatna River passes through some of the wildest and gorgeous country in Alaska. Meandering through the heart of the Brooks Mountain Range, this journey is a wonderful way to visit this land.

For this trip we travel from Fairbanks to Bettles, Alaska. Here we make a brief stop, switch to a float plane, regather and then depart for the park.

Gates of the Arctic National Park.

Fly in to the park and land on the upper Alatna River. We have a couple of options regarding the drop-off. That’ll also be determined by the trip length we schedule.

It takes a while to rig up and to learn to rig up the packrafts with your gear so we’ll send some time doing that, getting organized before making camp.

We’ll also spend some time in the water practicing and learning the fundamentals of packrafting technique and basic river safety.

Ready to go? We’ll break camp and set out downriver. This is a fun, easy float down Class I water. There are campsites at every bend of the great meandering river so our schedule is as loose and fluid as it needs to be.

We’ll make our way overnight down river and end up at the take out. Here we meet our bush pilot and air taxi service for the flight back to Bettles. Keep your camera handy for what is a stunning flight.

Overnight in the Bettles Lodge and return to Fairbanks the final day.

Packrafting Trip

The perfect finish to your Arrigetch Peaks backpacking trip. The Alatna River packrafting option adds 2-4 days to the hike. The two day option is the most popular, and a nice intro to packrafting for those who’ve never traveled this way before.

Gates of the Arctic National Park offers some extraordinary backpacking opportunities, but hiking is also a challenging way to travel in this country. Muskeg, and brushy, trailless terrain aren’t easy walking. For the newbie here, you’ll be surprised just how hard some of that very inviting landscape is to walk across.If you would like to packraft the Alatna from its headwater near the Continental Divide, we can run that trip separately from the Arrigetch Peaks hike. Inquire for details.

Rivers have historically been the highway of the Alaskan wilderness. During winter travel they offer an open, brush free frozen route to ski, snowshoe or snow machine along.

In summertime, Alaskan rivers become an ever better option. Canoes and rafts were long favored by early European explorers in Alaska.

Today, the packraft is the vessel of choice. Small, portable and light, they’re easy enough to roll and carry on even multiway portages. Versatile and flexible enough to handle even serious whitewater, they also excel on simple flatwater float, such as this stretch of the Alatna River.

Alatna Packraft Video

FAQ Section

  • No. Not at all.

    In fact I recommend this trip as a great option for those folks with zero packrafting experience.

  • Expeditions Alaska will include all your packrafting gear. If you have your own boat you’re welcome to use it. But dry bags, dry tops and dry pants, PFDs, paddles and packrafts are all included. You’ll need your own personal clothing, base layer items, any hiking clothes, etc.

  • That’s up to you. We can include your tent and all the food, cookware etc as you prefer or do it yourself.

  • Sure. Depends how much time you want to take. But we can add in a day, or two, or three, and do some hiking along the way.

    The Alatna River valley is a great wide forested floor for endless wanderings. Or if you’re up for it, we’ll climb some of the nearby ridges and get a view from high.

  • I recommend folks do the Arrigetch Peaks backpacking trip then finish up back at the Alatna River and packraft from there.

    We can also packraft first. Start  further upriver and packraft down to Arrigetch Creek, stash the boats and then backpack up to the high country.

  • Can be, for sure. Early summer is worse. My preference is August/Sept. Fewer bugs, and great fall colors.

    Bring a headnet and repellent.

  • There are quite a few bears along the Alatna, both black bears and grizzly bears. I’ve seen some most trips. Also moose. I’ve heard wolves howling at night and seen otter in the river as well.

  • All multi-day trips (backpacking, basecamping, packrafting, photo tours) out of Fairbanks include transport to/from Fairbanks/Bettles, 1 night accommodations in Bettles, air taxi flights Bettles/The Backcountry, group gear such as cook tents, stoves, fuel, BRFCs, bear spray, etc. Hiking poles are included if you don’t have your own.

    We include a satellite phone for emergencies and one backup emergency contact device, such as PLB or Garmin InReach. First aid kits, map and compass included. All guides are Wilderness First Responder Certified.

    Storage of your overnight travel gear is limited but available (keep it simple, one small overnight bag).

    Outfitting of equipment such as tents is available. Expeditions Alaska can either fully outfit your trip (all food, tents, etc) or adjust things a la carte if needed.

    Guide gratuities are not included but most appreciated. Trip insurance is not included. I strongly encourage you to buy it on your own. Travelex is who we steer people toward.

    For a full outline of What’s included/not included, please see this page

  • That is trip dependent.

    For backpacking trips, a fully outfitted option includes your tent (one or two person tent), all your kitchenware, food and cooking by Expeditions Alaska. A typical trip, up to 12 days long, costs an additional $450.00 per person for the fully outfitted option ($350 for 4 day trips or shorter).

    Available “á la carte” options are (per person)

    Tent $50.00/tent
    Food/cooking $325.00 (up to 4 day trip duration)
    Food/cooking $425 (any trip 5 days or longer)

    For personal items such as a backpack, or sleeping pad, talk to me prior to your trip and we’ll see if we can possibly arrange something. If you need a pack I recommend you rent a backpack from a reputable local outfitter. They can find and fit a pack to you rather than “making do” with one of mine that may or may not be a good fit for you.

    Items such as BRFC, bear spray, fuel, hiking poles are included gratis with Expeditions Alaska trips. See What’s Included? for more info.

  • If you’d like, Expeditions Alaska can handle your backcountry food for the trip. Cost depends on trip length, but it’s typically $325 for a 2-4 day trip, and $425 for a trip 5 days or longer (backcountry days).

    We will organize and pack the food, handle all backcountry prep, as well as pots and pans, the stove/s, fuel and your mess kit. Assistance for cleanup and dishes is always appreciated, but not requisite.

    NB: this means, if we’re doing food for your trip, you must arrive with requisite space in your backpack for your share of the food. This typically means a BV500, sized 8.7 in. diameter. (22.1cm) x 12.7 in. (32.3cm) height. There’ll also be your mess kit (cup, bowl, cutlery, etc) and maybe some additional group gear, whether it’s a fuel bottle, stove or pan or skillet. In general your guide will carry the bulk of this stuff, but we certainly can’t and don’t intend to carry all of it. So don’t arrive with a backpack packed full, no space left in it, if we’re doing your food for you. Your food goes in your pack.

    More info linked on the page below.

    All your questions about our backcountry food answered right here.

  • Trip dependent. For a 12 day backpack and packraft you can expect a different constitution of food than you’ll see on a 5 day basecamp trip.

    Another thing to remember is Expeditions Alaska isn’t a simple “production line” outfit. Guides all have their own systems and menus and favorites, so we don’t have a generic “here’s your trip menu” at all. Menus vary trip to trip. Often a lot.

    What I can tell you is you’ll enjoy good food. Really good food. Whether it’s a great pizza, a dish of Pad Thai or greek salad or a lentil soup, I assure you that you’ll appreciate your guides’ culinary expertise. Good food takes a bit extra effort, but can really help bring your trip experience up a notch. Or three.

    We do our best to accommodate most dietary requirements, tastes and preferences. We have a comprehensive food form for you to complete and we’ll do our very best from there to put together a menu for the trip that you’ll enjoy.

    This is a common question we get , and an important one. So important, it warrants its own page.

    All your questions about our backcountry food answered right here.

  • We all do. Questions are good. That’s how we learn. Either give me a call or send me an email and we’ll go through them.

    I also send out a comprehensive Trip Information Packet upon your reservation and that will usually answer your questions.


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