One of several spectacular mountain lakes in the northwest corner of Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve is the setting for this trip, with rugged peaks soaring above the sweeping expanse of tundra. We pick these remote locations both for their remarkable beauty and the abundant wildlife. At this time of year, we can see hundreds to thousands of caribou a day, making their way south in a steady stream across the land.
This trip is a photographer’s dream—the tundra is a multi-textured tapestry, ablaze with colors, and the caribou bulls are in their glorious prime, with sleek brown sides and white ruffs, often set off by blood-red antlers as they shed their velvet. In addition, it’s possible to see the northern lights this time of year, since it’s beginning to get dark again for a few hours at night. We have a very flexible schedule on this trip, with abundant day hiking opportunities from leisurely strolls to exhilarating ridge climbs, and with plenty of time for wildlife viewing or photography. We travel through the village of Bettles both coming and going on this trip.
We don’t have set “daily itineraries” since all of our trips are true wilderness expedition-style trips, where we build in flexibility to respond to weather and other conditions, animal sightings, etc. Here is a sense of the general flow of the trip:
Each trip leaves Fairbanks in the early morning of the trip start date, so you need to be in Fairbanks by at least the day before that. We’re scheduled to be back in Fairbanks by late afternoon/early evening of the trip end date. We recommend leaving at least a day’s leeway at the end of the trip in scheduling other travel plans, since there’s always a chance of getting weathered in at the pickup point.
Since a basecamp trip means that we don’t have to move camp or travel from one place to another, these trips have the most flexibility and are the easiest physically. While the guide will generally lead a day hike every day, not everyone has to do the same thing, or hike the same distance-and just relaxing in camp and enjoying the beauty and quiet of the wilderness is a great option!