Gates of the Arctic

The Gates of the Arctic is a national park in Alaska that preserves portions of the Brooks Range of Mountains. It is the northernmost national park in the United States as well as the second-largest, behind Wrangell-St Elias National Park and Preserve, also in Alaska. The name Gates of the Arctic comes from two area mountains, Frigid Crags and Boreal Mountain, that seemingly form a portal into the Arctic.

The park is unique in that it is entirely within the Arctic Circle. Adventurers to this remote national park in Alaska will be rewarded by glimpses of true wilderness—grizzly bears, moose, caribou, wolves and other animals, in a habitat largely undisturbed by humans. Hiking, backpacking, mountain climbing, canoeing, and kayaking are just a few of the activities you can do at this beautiful wilderness sanctuary.

Gaining access to the Gates of the Arctic National Park is not easy. Although a highway runs just five miles east of the park, vehicles cannot get any closer to the area. Visitors to the park usually arrive by aircraft from nearby bush villages at various entry points, including Anaktuvuk Pass, a passage through the mountains inhabited by Nunamiut Inuit. It is best to travel to this national park in Alaska during the summer, as during the harsh Arctic winter, the temperature can drop to -80 degrees Fahrenheit. In June, the tundra blooms with thousands of spring flowers, and the sun stays above the horizon 24 hours a day.

Attractions at the Gates of the Arctic National Park include its namesake, the two steep peaks that form the gates, and the granite Arrigetch Peaks that attract rock and mountain climbers from around the world. In the mountains above the Arrigetch Peaks there are pristine mountain lakes and blooming tundra to explore. Many hikers and backpackers follow the Alatna River through the park, which flows down from the tundra to the forested lower valley through some of the most magnificent scenery in the park. Another scenic river is the Kobuk River, which flows through two canyons en route to Kobuk Valley National Park.

Another major attraction at the park is the Nunamiut community at the Anaktuvuk Pass. If you visit this area, you may see the local residents engaged in activities such as hunting, fishing, berry picking, and other activities that are part of their traditional lifestyle. Travelers can enter Anaktuvuk Pass on foot or by dog team but are required to remain respectful of the Nunamiut people. There is a village where you can get supplies, but you can only camp in a designated camping area, out of sight of the village. You can buy food, use the laundry/shower facilities, and buy souvenirs in town. Check with a park ranger for details about staying in the area.

There are few accommodation options in the Gates of the Arctic National Park besides backcountry camping. Look for more information at one of the three ranger stations about camping in the park. Visitors to the Gates of the Arctic should be prepared for primitive and challenging conditions, and they should also be in good physical condition. Tourists should be aware of the fragile ecosystem of the tundra and do their best to minimize the impact they make.

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