Land of the Midnight Sun

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Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve is entirely north of the Arctic Circle, in the center of the Brooks Range; at 8.2 million acres, it's the size of four Yellowstones. This is parkland on a scale suitable to the country. It includes the Endicott Mountains to the east and the Schwatka Mountains to the southwest, with the staggeringly sharp and dramatic Arrigetch Peaks in between. To the north lies a sampling of the Arctic Alaska foothills, with their colorful tilted sediments and pale green tundra. Lovely lakes are cupped in the mountains and in the tundra.

Alaska: Gates of the Arctic National Park

This landscape, the ultimate wilderness, captured the heart of Arctic explorer and conservationist Robert Marshall in the 1930s. Accompanied by local residents, Marshall explored much of the region now included within Gates and named many of its features, including Frigid Crag and Boreal Mountain, two peaks on either side of the North Fork Koyukuk River. These were the original "gates" for which the park is named. Wildlife known to inhabit the park includes barren-ground caribou, grizzlies, wolves, musk oxen, moose, Dall sheep, wolverines, and smaller mammals and birds. The communities of Bettles and Anaktuvuk Pass are access points for Gates of the Arctic, which has no developed trails, campgrounds, or other visitor facilities (though there is a wilderness lodge on private land within the park). You can fly into Bettles commercially and charter an air taxi into the park or hike directly out of Anaktuvuk Pass. The Park Service has rangers stationed in both Bettles and Anaktuvuk Pass; they can provide information for those entering the wilderness, including the mandatory orientation films and bear-proof canisters for food storage.

The Dalton Highway

Driving the gravel James Dalton highway through the center of the Alaskan wilderness is one of America’s great motoring adventures. The scenery is magnificent, from the spectacular peaks of the Brooks Range to the board sweep of tundra blanketing the coastal plain. The 30-mile stretch between Atigun Pass and Galbraith Lake is one of the finest viewing areas in Alaska for Dall sheep. Galbraith is a lambing area and Atigun is a rearing area for lambs. Motorists may see muskoxen, arctic foxes, and caribou throughout most of the year. In June, when grasses and lichen poke through roadside rinds of half-melted snow, concentrations of geese and other birds such as tundra swans, red-throated loons, and oldsquaws cluster beside the highway. Also, north of the Brooks Range, watch for peregrine falcons, gyrfalcons, rough-legged hawks, Smith’s longspurs, bluethroats, and golden eagles. Drive north out of Fairbanks on the Steese Highway; at Fox, take the Elliott Highway 74 miles to Livengood. The Dalton highway begins a few miles north of Livengood The best time to drive the Dalton highway is between late May and mid-September. Coldfoot, Deadhorse, and the Yukon River bridge are the only places with gas stations, restaurants, and hotels. Please Note: More than 100 miles separate services, and emergency road assistance can be very expensive. The oil companies than manage Prudhoe Bay must approve access to the area. Guided tours are available.