A Truly Remote and Wild Destination for a Getaway This Summer

Allison Burney

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Are you looking to make a great escape this summer?

If you’re dreaming of getting out of the house and far away from it all (and from the crowds), you can’t get much more remote than Alaska. With more wildlife than people, it lives up to its nickname as America’s ‘last frontier.’

National Geographic’s documentary series, America’s National Parks, describes Gates of the Arctic National Park as “the definition of remote. Situated entirely above the Arctic Circle, it contains no roads or trails; just staggering wilderness full of truly wild things.”

Centennial Travel reports that Gates of the Arctic only receives around 10,000 visitors a year, making it the least-visited national park in the entire system. When you compare those numbers to the several million visitors seen annually by some of America’s most popular parks (like Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, or Yosemite), you realize just how rare a trip here really is.

And there’s good reason for that. Unlike those famous, iconic parks mentioned above, Gates of the Arctic has essentially no infrastructure, making it a challenge to even get to, let alone explore. It’s also incredibly vast—the second largest of the nation’s 63 official parks, at 8.5 million acres!

Then there’s the rugged terrain, the mosquito army, and the extreme temperatures and unpredictable weather to contend with. I can attest to that last one, having visited parts of Alaska with my family several years ago in August and freezing my butt off, despite wearing many layers and thinking I was prepared. My dad even had to buy a new winter jacket on the trip! (He and I are both always cold.)

These factors combined would be more than enough to scare off the majority of people (which explains the park’s low visitor rate). So if it’s difficult to get to and no "walk in the park" once you’re inside its borders, then why bother?

Because often, the most challenging things in life are also the most rewarding. And Gates of the Arctic has much to offer.

A real adventure

“Where the road ends … the real Alaska begins.” — Alaska Geographic Society

Getting lost in one of the last truly wild places on earth will be nothing if not an adventure!

If you’re somebody who loves the outdoors and enjoys being surrounded by nature rather than crowds of people, then America’s northernmost park should definitely be on your list of travel destinations this year.

Outfitters and lodges offer guided rafting and backpacking trips for those wanting to get a taste of the wilderness, but there are many other ways to experience the park, including camping. Bettles Lodge and Alaska Alpine Adventures are good places to start your search.

See the northern lights

Gates of the Arctic has another unique feature: the spectacular northern lights. I have always dreamed of seeing the northern lights, and the park’s Brooks Range creates the perfect backdrop—dark mountain ridges covered in snow and valleys scattered with trees below.

According to Alaska.org, “Your best chance to see the northern lights is during the cold, clear winter nights between September and April.” Although it is possible to see them year-round, being there in August, we had a slim chance and unfortunately we missed out on one of Alaska’s famous phenomenons.

While you’ll definitely have to bundle up, catching even a glimpse of the mesmerizing flashes of yellow-green light dancing across the sky would be worth braving the frigid temperatures of one of the coldest places in the U.S.—at least to me!

Wildlife viewings

Alaska is also known for its wildlife, and some of the largest and most determined animals are found here.

From hibernating bears to mountain-duelling sheep to one of the hardiest animals on earth, the musk ox, Gates of the Arctic contains a diverse array of wildlife, both large and small. The park plays host to some of the greatest migrations on the planet as well, that of the caribou and the famed salmon run.

This sparsely-populated land is full of amazing animals, all with their own stories of hardship and survival—most of which humans will never witness or fully understand.

For more information on all things Gates of the Arctic, check out The Parks Expert.

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Freelance writer & proofreader. I love travel, reading, coffee, and exploring nature. On a mission to keep learning, growing, and enjoying this adventure we call life.

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