The Gates of The Arctic National Park is a beautiful and remote escape covering 8.4 million acres in Alaska. There are no roads or trails, just vast scenic nature and unblemished ecosystems that are cherished by adventurers, photographers, and hikers.
Gates of The Arctic National Park is remote and driving there directly isn't an option. Because of this, there are only three flight options from Fairbanks that take you close to the Anaktuvuk Pass where you'll hike into the national park.
If you visit, you'll experience glacier-carved mountains dominating the wilderness while pristine rivers flow below. Not only is it famous for its sheer remoteness, but it's also a great place to see the aurora borealis, more commonly known as the Northern Lights. Read on below to learn more about how to get to Gates of the Arctic National Park.
Can you drive to Gates of the Arctic National Park?
The Gates of the Arctic is very remote with no roads, making it impassable. No matter what vehicle you have, driving there is not an option.
You can drive to Fairbanks and take an air taxi or a flight with a small airline. You'll depart from Fairbanks and arrive in Bettles, Coldfoot or Anaktuvuk Pass. Check the NPS website for details on where you can get an air taxi to Gates of the Arctic National Park.
You can also drive on the Dalton Highway and then hike or take a plane into the park but this is a far longer journey. This means that there is no direct drive into the park.
Even though you cannot drive to Gates of the Arctic National Park, there are plenty of options to get you there. Read on to learn more about how to get there, how to stay safe, and what to do once you get there.
How to get to Gates of the Arctic National Park from the mainland USA
|Departure Point||Arrival Point||Mode||Distance||Travel Time|
|Fairbanks||Bettles||Plane||240 miles||1 hour and 10 minutes|
(via 2 flights)
|250 miles||1 hour 30 minutes|
|Fairbanks||Anaktuvuk Pass||Plane||250 miles||1 hour and 30 minutes|
|Fairbanks||Coldfoot||Drive||250 miles||6 hours and 10 minutes|
Gates of the Arctic National Park is located in the remote heart of Alaska, northwest of Fairbanks. It's an untouched wilderness park with no roads or trails into the park grounds, so the only way to enter is by flying or hiking into the park.
Getting to the park is difficult yet many people do it every year. The most common way to get to this hard-to-reach corner of Alaska is by flying.
From Fairbanks, flights make the journey over rural Alaska and land in either Anaktuvuk Pass, Coldfoot or Bettles. You can also fly into the park from Bettles with a convenient air taxi.
The most exciting way to get into the park is by hiking from the Anaktuvuk Pass airstrip. Just be sure to ask for permission from the native residents if you plan to camp.
Another option is to drive 250 miles from Fairbanks to Coldfoot on Dalton Highway (It's a mostly unpaved, two-lane industrial road, with no amenities or services between Fairbanks and Coldfoot) or take a commercial flight there. You can then take another flight into the park or take a long and arduous hike.
If you have the chance, you can take a guided tour via an air taxi. This will bring you up close and personal to the wondrous National Park. (check the NPS website for their information)
It's recommended to visit for a day because there's no accommodation inside the Gates of the Arctic itself. Camping is restricted and you'll need to ask permission before camping out of respect for the Native People who live there.
How long does it take to get to Gates of the Arctic National Park?
Gates of the Arctic National Park is a very remote destination, with only a few options to get there. That said, the quickest way to arrive is by taking a flight from Fairbanks.
The only way you won't need two flights is to fly to Anaktuvuk Pass, which will take 1 hour and 30 minutes, and then hike into the park. The other options will require a second flight.
Getting to Bettles from Fairbanks by plane will take 1 hour and 10 minutes, and then you will have to take an air taxi into the park. The times for the air taxi vary depending on the weather conditions.
You can either fly or drive to Coldfoot, and then take a plane into the park as an alternative option. The flight from Fairbanks to Coldfoot takes 1 hour and 30 minutes, followed by another flight to Anaktuvuk Pass which takes 40 minutes for a total travel time of 2 hours and 10 minutes.
If you love driving through the Alaskan wilderness, it is possible to drive from Fairbanks to Coldfoot and then take a flight to Anaktuvuk Pass. This option will take 6 hours and 40 minutes and is by far the longest option.
|Starting Point||Distance||Travel Time|
|Fairbanks||250 miles||6 hours 10 minutes|
|Anchorage||610 miles||12 hours 10 minutes|
|Vancouver||3,700 miles||44 hours|
|Seattle||2,400 miles||46 hours|
Which hub should you arrive at in Gates of the Arctic National Park?
Because of the remoteness of Gates of the Arctic National Park there are only a few flight options available. Each flight is a similar length and total price.
The 250-mile flight from Fairbanks to Coldfoot takes 50 minutes. It's another 40 minutes to fly from Coldfoot to Anaktuvuk Pass to the north.
Flying to Bettles is quicker. It takes 1 hour and 10 minutes, plus the incredibly scenic air taxi to the National Park. This journey will take you 240 miles total.
The best option is to take a flight to Anaktuvuk Pass and then hike into the park. This flight will take you 250 miles with 1 hour and 30 minutes of flying time.
Things you need to know about driving to Gates of the Arctic National Park
The drive and flights to Gates of the Arctic National Park will be something out of a magazine. You'll see gorgeous wildlife and stunning views in this remote corner of Alaska. That said, there are plenty of things to keep in mind to stay safe and make the most of your journey.
Here are our top tips when it comes to preparing for a drive to Gates of the Arctic National Park:
- Many tour companies only run excursions between June and August. This is because of bad weather in the winter. Air taxis are also at the mercy of the weather, so if it's poor, you will have to wait until it's safe to fly.
- Anaktuvuk Pass is the closest entry point to the Gates of the Arctic National Park. The Anaktuvuk Park Ranger Station will provide you with information on how to access the park safely from here.
- Coldfoot Camp is a lodge that also runs excursions into the Gates of the Arctic National Park. This is a farther hike but takes you through incredible wilderness landscapes on the way.
- Bettles Lodge at Bettles is one of the nearest lodgings that also run backpacking excursions to take you inside the park. This lodge is close to the airport and makes for a convenient starting off point.
- As with any wilderness excursion, we recommend contacting the park to outline your plans and listen to advice. Visitor centers do orientation for the backcountry as well, so you can learn all you need to know to stay safe.
- We only recommend visiting the park without a guide if you're skilled in the wilderness and have survival skills. There's no cell phone coverage so you'll have limited communication. Consider hiring a satellite phone before entering. And this being the Alaskan wilderness, you must brush up on bear safety before entering.
- Remember, there are no accommodation options within the park, so we recommend getting lodging in one of the communities outside.
- The Wright Air freight isn't like standard commercial airplanes. Expect small planes with limited seats so booking is vital. You can't book online and you'll have to phone 907.474.0502 to reserve a seat.
Things to do once you reach Gates of the Arctic National Park
This is mother nature at its most pristine. This wild and unruly corner of America is full of adventure and excitement. Below are our recommendations for what to do once you reach this incredible destination.
- Hiking - Hiking the wild landscape is a top attraction in the Gates of the Arctic. However, with no trails, it's a hard task with even skilled hikers only managing around five miles per day.
- Rafting - The scenic and wild rivers of the Gates of the Arctic offer a scenic, tranquil journey through the national park. Hire from a local vendor or use inflatable canoes because most charter companies won't transport standard rafts. May and June are the best months to raft as in winter the rivers are frozen solid.
- Camping - You can camp in the park, but there are no designated campsites. You must plan ahead and it's often the case that camping is in conjunction with guided tours.
- Fishing - The alpine lakes provide excellent fishing spots. To preserve wildlife, it's suggested you put back your catch.
- Wildlife - Spot the native wildlife. Caribou, grizzly bears, wolves, and moose are common animals to roam the untouched terrain.
- Photography - The unblemished landscape and roaming wildlife attract professional and amateur photographers alike.
Although this national park is hard to reach, you can be sure to have the trip of a lifetime. Take these tips and pointers into consideration and enjoy making plans for this epic journey to the heart of Alaska.