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Ever wanted to see what the world was like before humans took over? Look no further than Gates of the Arctic — one of the largest and last intact wildernesses in the world. On our adventure, we’ll be trekking through the rugged beauty and high alpine tundra of the Brooks Range, way up there above the Arctic Circle. Prepare for seven whole days of exploring expansive valleys, revel in the midnight sun around hearty meals at camp, and catch glimpses of caribou roaming freely in their natural habitat. This isn’t just a place to connect with nature; it’s a place to reconnect with our own place in the grand scheme of things. Trust me, after spending time in this wild wonderland, you’ll come away feeling humbled by the sheer scale of the world around us.

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  • Endless daylight

    Yep, you heard that right! Imagine hiking under the glow of the midnight sun with the whole world stretched out before you

  • Mild terrain

    This tour has the kindest topography in Alaska – you’ll find almost no boulder fields or bushwhacking here

  • Perfect timing

    Visit after the snow had melted but before the notorious mosquitos hatch

Itinerary

Fly deep into the Brooks Range to the small native village of Anaktuvuk and embark on an unforgettable journey above the Arctic Circle. There are no trails in Alaska, so we’ll make our own way – camps are just spots on the map and our route is just a line that seems to go. Immerse yourself in seven days of exploration and adventure, revel in the midnight sun and spot wildlife in their natural habitat. Of all the backpacking trips in Alaska, this one has the kindest terrain – you’ll find almost no boulder fields or bushwhacking here!

  • Reach Fairbanks and check into your hotel anytime after 11am. We’ll meet in the Hotel lobby at 5:30 pm to go through gear and give a trip orientation followed by a shared dinner. Pack up, rest up and prepare for an adventure!

    Meals: Dinner
    Accommodation: Chena River Lodge

    Aerial View of Downtown Fairbanks, Alaska during a stormy Summer Sunset
  • In the morning after breakfast, we’ll shuttle to the airport for our first charter flight to either Bettles or Coldfoot, two small northern towns. From there, we’ll hop into the float plane for a super scenic flight into the wilderness. If you’ve never flown through Alaskan mountains in a float plane you’re missing out! The float plane will land us on a small alpine lake, we’ll unload our gear and make camp to settle into our new surroundings. If we feel motivated, we might set out on a day hike to explore, or just settle into camplife – enjoying good food, conversations, games, time to relax and reflect. 

    Meals: Breakfast, dinner
    Hiking: Up to 5 miles (8 km)
    Accommodation: Camp

    View from a plane flying over Alaskan wilderness
  • Day 3 will be our first real hiking day. We’ll have a delicious breakfast before setting off. Our routes in the Alaska wild are part art, part science — we have an idea where we want to go, but there’s room to explore along the way. Walking the Gates of the Arctic is quite friendly: long stretches of Alpine tundra await with big open views in every direction. 

    Meals: Breakfast, dinner
    Hiking: 5-10 miles (8-16 km)
    Accommodation: Camp

    Backpacking the Gates of the Arctic
  • Tonight we’ll roll into our final camp after covering a lot of ground and becoming a crew of friends. We’ll spend this evening reflecting on the experience and what insights and ways of being we want to carry back into our outside life. 

    Meals: Breakfast, dinner
    Accommodation: Campv

    Hikers in Alaska
  • After breakfast, we’ll pack up camp and wait for the quiet distant hum of an airplane engine in the distance. All too soon, we’ll load up the planes and be in the sky heading home. A quick plane transfer in Coldfoot and we’ll be back to Fairbanks in no time!

    Meals: Breakfast

    Float plane landing on the Chena River in Fairbanks, Central Alaska, old time steamboat in the background.
  • Any expedition in Alaska requires flexibility, patience, and a big sense of adventure.

    We always try our best to follow our itineraries as written, but rarely do. That’s part of the fun of it! Alaska weather is always changing and shifting and we will always respectfully honor what the weather allows or doesn’t allow us to do. We get the incredible luxury of flying into these beautiful places, but with flying also comes a need to defer to the conditions. Sometimes flights may be delayed for a day or more as we wait for an appropriate weather window. Trip itineraries may also shift due to group skill, pilot availability, or any number of unforeseen circumstances. Please come with an open mind, a spirit of enthusiastic adventure, and a willingness to see where the trip takes you. We do not offer refunds or cover incurred costs when trips have to be rerouted or itineraries changed due to weather or other circumstances out of our control. 

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Meet your guides

Jack Bynum
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Jack Bynum
IAG Owner and Lead Guide
Jack Bynum, owner of Indigo Alpine Guides, has 10 years of experience guiding backcountry trips around the world. He has traveled over 20,000 miles by foot, sea, bike, kayak, raft, and skis, is the youngest person to ever solo Denali, and has put up first ascents on several Himalayan peaks. 
Indigo Alpine Guides
5.00
Indigo Alpine Guides
Indigo Alpine Guides
Indigo Alpine Guides was founded by Jack Bynum who has 10 years of experience guiding backcountry trips around the world. He has also travelled over 20,000 miles by bike, sea kayak, raft, on foot and skis and has become the youngest person to solo Denali. He's also put up first ascents on 6,000 meter peaks in the Himalayas. Most expeditions and trips are guided by Jack and the company focuses on custom trips with superb logistics in the seldom-travelled parts of the world. They believe in doing risky things with humility and that wild space is sacred.

Things to know

  • What you get on this adventure:

      • An experienced, local hiking guide with extensive knowledge of the area
      • 8 days of backpacking in the Oolah Valley
      • National Park entrance fees
      • Accommodations on the first night in Fairbanks
      • Flights in and out of Gates of the Arctic during the tour
      • All grounds transportation during the tour
      • All breakfasts and dinners
      • All group supplies
        • Cooking equipment
        • Water treatment options
        • Group shelters
        • Bear canisters
        • Toilet supplies
        • Emergency communication devices, maps, GPS, first aid kit

    What’s not included:

      • Transportation to and from Fairbanks
      • Transportation from the airport to your accommodation
      • Accommodations before and after the tour
      • Personal gear
      • Guide gratuities — optional
      • Travel and medical insurance
  • Backpacking in Alaska can be hard but two things can make it easier: having a light pack and being in good shape when you arrive. Accomplish both of those goals and your trip will be more enjoyable.

    You will hike for 5 to 10 miles (8-16 km) per day of off-trail travel. There will be enough time on this trip to rest and read and make art, but also be prepared for some long challenging days, especially as you climb over high passes up to 3,000 ft (915 m)

    To get in shape we recommend regular hiking for 1-2 months before the trip starts. Start hiking with low weight and slowly build up until you’re hiking with around 20-30 pounds (9-13.5 kg) in a day pack. Plan to do one hike like this per week for 1-2 months. That being said, everyone has their own way to get in shape so do what works for you. Anything that builds endurance and tendon/ligament flexibility will be great (think running, biking, cross country skiing, hiking, rowing).

  • Here’s a list of the equipment you need to bring:

      • Tent (3-season) — can be rented from the guide
      • Backpack with a sturdy hip belt (50L)
      • Sleeping bag (20 °F or cooler)
      • Sleeping pad
      • Hiking poles — optional
      • Water bottle or hydration bladder (2L capacity)
      • Plastic or metal bowl and utensils
      • Headlamp or flashlight
      • Compression sack 
      • Patch kit — optional

    Here’s a list of the clothing you need to bring:

      • Lightweight hiking boots with sturdy sole (Vibram) and solid construction
      • Gaiters
      • Camp shoes (sandals or crocs)
      • Wool socks
      • Rain jacket
      • Midweight fleece
      • Down puffy jacket
      • Long-sleeved base layer
      • Hiking t-shirt
      • Rain pants
      • Hiking pants
      • Long underwear bottoms
      • Underwear and sports bra
      • Warm hat
      • Sunhat
      • Gloves
      • Sunglasses
      • Mosquito mask 
      • Toiletries (sunscreen, hand sanitizer, bug spray, toilet paper, etc.)

    Extra optional items that you might find handy:

      • Hiking shorts
      • Fleece or puffy pants and vest
      • Wind jacket
      • Bug shirt
      • Bathing suit — pick dark colors
      • Buff 
      • Camera 
      • A book or Kindle
      • Thermos
      • Sit pad
      • Camp towel
      • Small waterproof stuff sacks
      • Trail snacks, tea, coffee
      • Set of travel clothes — leave at the hotel

    Note that weather will likely vary week to week, and it’s best to be prepared for the full range of potential weather. Certain items are really worth getting right: hiking boots, rain gear, sleeping bag. For other items, use what you have, or what you can borrow, and always avoid cotton.

    Keep in mind that there are essentially no opportunities to purchase gear once you arrive to begin the expedition. If needed, some of this gear can be rented for an additional fee.

  • Choosing the right equipment for an outdoor trip is crucial to your safety and happiness. Alaska is notorious for its variable weather, and your equipment must keep you warm, dry, comfortable, and healthy in challenging conditions. 

    Keep your packs light! 

    When your pack has everything you plan to bring with you, it should weigh no more than 15% of your body weight. Make sure your backpack has a sturdy hip belt and should fit everything you’re planning on bringing with room (at least 15L) for group gear and food. 

    If you plan to bring something not on the gear list, please ask us to make sure it makes sense. Once we start an expedition, we have to carry everything with us until the end. Items like extra clothes, lots of toiletries, big knives, and bulky flashlights are unnecessary weight. You may have to make some hard decisions about which optional items to bring – your pack will be enormous if you bring them all. Avoiding bringing duplicates of any items (e.g. t-shirts) will reduce weight. 

    Select a boot with a sturdy, preferably Vibram sole, and solid construction

    You will travel off-trail most of the time, so high-top hiking boots are recommended. You will cross numerous rivers in your hiking shoes (and get them wet), so a non-Gore-Tex model can be preferable—they’ll dry quicker. 

    Make sure your shoes are comfortable and broken-in before you arrive. Setting off on this trip in boots that you’ve just removed from the box is a recipe for blisters. Invest time in breaking in your boots before the expedition. 

    Above is everything you’ll need for a weeklong expedition. On the left is required gear,in the middle are the optional items chosen. On the right is leader-specific gear (satellite communication device, medical kit), plus the approximate amount of food and group gear you should expect to carry (the pot is full of food!).

  • Meals on trail will be delicious backcountry cuisine. Your guides have spent a lot of years in the backcountry and we like to eat well! Meals strike a balance between dehydrated backpacker food and gourmet fresh — in that balance are delicious meals without crazy weight. 

    Your guides can accommodate most dietary restrictions. Please let us know well beforehand if you have any dietary restrictions or strong dietary preferences. We will be unable to change the menu within 3 weeks of the trip start. 

    Lunches in Alaska will simply be extended snacking throughout the day. By not having long elaborate sit-down lunches, you’ll have more time to experience new terrain. You are expected to provide your own snacks — your guide will provide you with guidance for how to plan for proper amounts and keep the weight low. Plan for around ⅓ to  ½ pound of snacks per day depending on your appetite. So around 2-3 lbs (1-1.5 kg) for six days of hiking

  • Group sizes and pricing

      • For this/these private/group adventure/s, the usual client-to-guide ratio is 8:2. 
      • It takes a minimum of 4 people for this tour to operate. 

    Min. age requirements

      • If you are older than 18, you’re good to go.
      • Minors younger than 18 may be permitted to join the hike on a case-by-case basis, but must be in the presence of a parent or legal guardian.
      • If your group has hikers under the age of 18, contact us prior to booking to make arrangements.
  • To get to Fairbanks, most people fly in from other major U.S. cities. Fairbanks International Airport offers daily connections to Seattle, Chicago, Minneapolis, and other mainland U.S. cities.

    Fairbanks is also connected to Anchorage via the George Parks Highway (a 6-hour drive), which runs from Fairbanks itself to the town of Gateway, just north of Anchorage. 

    Arrive to Fairbanks no later than 4 pm on Day 1. Book all homebound flights anytime on the final day. Book all homebound flights anytime after 11 pm on the final day. 

    You’ll meet your guide on Day 1 at the Chena River Lodge. Check into your room anytime between 11 am and 5 pm and meet at 5:30 in the lobby. Please plan to arrive and check in to the Lakefront Hotel by 5 pm on Day 1. After dinner, you will do a complete gear check so you’re ready to take off in the morning. This will also be a great time for any lingering questions. 

  • We highly recommend that you cover all your bases with both emergency medical and travel insurance. 

    With medical insurance, if you have an accident or medical emergency on or off the mountain, you’ll avoid paying out of pocket for costly expenses. This covers everything from hospital treatments to emergency air transportation and more. Travel insurance covers canceled flights, natural disasters and other scenarios that may interrupt your travel plans. 

    We also expect you to respect local regulations and take measures to protect yourselves, your guides, and the communities you’re traveling to. For more information on travel recommendations and restrictions in Alaska, please refer to The State of Alaska website and  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

    If you need assistance selecting the right insurance for your group, let us know and we will be happy to help!

  • Deposits

    You can secure one of the 2024 dates with a $1000 deposit upon booking. The remaining amount of the trip price is to be paid 120 days prior to departure, at the latest.

    Secure your early bird spot for 2025 with a 10% deposit! This tour gets sold out very quickly, but with early-bird booking, you will be the first one to know about any new upcoming dates. Pick your preferred dates without the risk of your bucket list adventure selling out!

      • Only 10% of the total amount should be paid as a deposit upon booking. This deposit is non-refundable, but can be transferred to another 57hours adventure any time in case the dates don’t suit you.
      • Once the dates are set, you can confirm your booking by paying another 20% of the total amount.
      • The final balance is due 3 months (90 days) prior to departure.

    Cancellations

    Upon checkout, you can choose one of our 57hours flexibility options:

    Basic: Fully refundable in the first 48 hours after the booking has been made. Deposit non-refundable afterwards. If Client cancels the Booking anytime prior to ninety (90) calendar days in advance of the trip contemplated by the booking, Client is entitled to a second payment refund. After that deadline, Client is not entitled to any refund. Date change is available 3 months (or earlier) before the trip for additional 10% fee.

    Flexible: If Client cancels the Booking anytime prior to sixty (60) calendar days in advance of the trip contemplated by the booking, Client is entitled to a full refund. For cancellations thirty (30) to fifty nine (59) calendar days in advance, Client is entitled to a refund in the amount of fifty percent (50%) of the total amount paid when Booking. For cancellations one (0) to twenty nine (29) days in advance, the Client is not entitled to any refund.

    Super Flexible: If Client cancels the Booking anytime prior to fourteen (14) calendar days in advance of the trip contemplated by the booking, Client is entitled to a full refund. For cancellations one to thirteen (13) calendar days in advance, Client is entitled to a refund in the amount of fifty percent (50%) of the total amount paid when Booking.

    All cancellations must be made by e-mail. You can read more about our Terms of service here.

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