The Park Chasers are heading to Alaska! This is the fifth installment in a series on how to prepare for an unforgettable Alaskan vacation. Check out our first few posts on choosing dates for your trip, selecting a base camp, traveling North of the Arctic Circle, and to camp or not to camp in Alaska. With millions of acres of national parks to explore, follow along with us as we plan our next big adventure! Today we’re talking about visiting Gates of the Arctic National Park.
Project Alaska has been on the back burner in June and July during our trips to Isle Royale National Park and Olympic National Park. After we completed plans for Barrows and Fairbanks, the next step was to start exploring the options for visiting Gates of the Arctic National Park. Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve is like many in Alaska. Limited access and limited amenities. The only way in and out of the park is via small airplane.
In many ways, Gates of the Arctic serves as the cornerstone of the 21 million acres of continuous wilderness in the Brooks Range. While it is ridiculous to expect to see even a fraction of the nearly 8.5 million acres of park and preserve in one day, we’re anxious to see some of Alaska’s most remote interior wilderness. Even a short stop will help us get a sense of what life is like that far north. Seems like it’s time to hire a guide.
Visiting Gates of the Arctic National Park
There are many guided options for people wanting to spend a few days or a week in the park. Hiking, rafting, and camping in Gates of the Arctic are the most popular guided trips. Additionally, you can hire a number of bush pilots or guide services to drop you off on your own “independent adventure.” Given this is our first trip to Alaska and our first visit to Gates, we are not looking for something quite that serious!
Therefore, what we are hoping for is flightseeing in the park via plane and getting a few hours on the ground to explore. We also want to visit Anaktuvuk Pass, the only operating ranger station in the interior of the park.
Taking a Solo Flight
Hence, we’ve started researching pilots that know the area and give flight-seeing tours departing from Fairbanks. Most pilots are willing to land (where it is possible!) and let you explore the immediate area around Anaktuvuk Pass.
Because it will be the 2 of us and the pilot, this option can be fairly expensive. Most charge several hundred dollars per hour of time in the air and $100 to $200 an hour of ground time. In addition to price, the weather can be a major factor in these small chartered flights. We have a limit of 2 1/2 days in Fairbanks to fit in the tour.
Taking a Group Tour
Another option is to take a group tour plane to Anaktuvuk Pass, what seems to be a popular option. In Alaska, it is “popular” in the sense it is offered by more than one outfitter on a regular basis.
In our research we came across five different vendors. Almost all of whom offer trips visiting the major fly over sights in Gates of the Arctic National Park for roughly the same price range:
1) Travel Alaska.Net
2) Go Alaska tours – offers a full or evening only trip
3) Northern Alaska Tour Company – Full or evening only trips
4) Alaska tours.com
As for now, taking a group tour is the route we’ll be pursuing. The vendor choice likely will depend on availability and timing of our other stops in Fairbanks, although we’re easily persuaded. Once this step of the trip is completed, our next task will be to travel south to Denali. Look for that post in the coming weeks.
And don’t forget to leave us a comment below if you will be visiting Gates of the Arctic National Park soon. We’d love to hear about your travel plans.