Arctic Circle National ParkImagine wilderness as far as the eye can see. A treeless landscape full of life. A place where the sun doesn’t set (in summer) and northern lights dance (in winter).

If you’re above 66⁰ north latitude, you’re above the Arctic Circle. And Alaska is the only place to experience the Arctic in the United States. Whether you have a day or a week, a trip to the Arctic is an unforgettable experience.

As an introduction to the Arctic

Try a flightseeing tour out of Fairbanks or drive up the Dalton Highway (aka the Haul Road) to the old mining town of Wiseman in the Brooks Range. Or, travel further north to the terminus of the Pan-American Highway and the oil fields of Prudhoe Bay.

Once here, you’ll need a reservation and valid photo ID to dip your toes in the Arctic Ocean outside of Deadhorse, an oil company town that supports the state’s largest industry.

Fly Over

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Alternatively, take a small plane from Fairbanks to the small community of Bettles, a former U.S. Navy support base, and the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve. Often called “Alaska’s Ultimate Wilderness,” the 8.4 million-acre Gates is home to magnificent landscapes, steeped in history and wildlife.

Mountains and Wildlife

Mountains drift into tundra, and wild rivers provide access to some of the most remote areas of the state. Tour operators support day trips or overnight camping trips in Gates of the Arctic, as well as the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge farther north and east.

Northwestern Alaska, along the Bering Strait and the Chukchi Sea, takes you off the beaten track. Cruise through the Northwest Passage by ship, or fly to an Alaska Native community for a land-based adventure. In Northwestern Alaska, you can visit one of the many national parks north of the Arctic Circle for a true wilderness experience and world-class river trips. Kotzebue, Northwest Alaska’s largest community and regional hub, is a short, commercial flight away from Fairbanks.

Norwest Artic Circle

Spend a day walking the town, including a stop at the Northwest Arctic Heritage Center. Kotzebue is the jumping off point for Kobuk Valley National Park and the Kobuk National Wild and Scenic River, the Noatak National   the Noatak River, Selawik National Wildlife Refuge and the Selawik River, Cape Krusenstern National Monument, and the Koyukuk National Wildlife Refuge. The Iñupiaq people still traverse these lands and waterways as they have for 10,000 years, living a subsistence lifestyle dependent on marine and terrestrial animals. Commercial operators can provide guided multi-day raft trips down some of the most amazing wild and scenic rivers in the country.

Winter visitors may be a little more intrepid, but the Arctic in winter has a special beauty all its own. On clear nights, the northern lights drift across the sky and the short daylight hours include an opportunity for dog sledding adventures. At this time of year, tour operators provide warm coats and warm hospitality to visitors seeking a distinctly Alaskan experience.

In the know: Sand dunes in Alaska? Sure!

Kobuk Valley National Park, 35 miles above the Arctic Circle, has more then 30 square miles of sand dunes. Glaciers retreating 14,000 years ago ground rocks to sand, which blew into the Kobuk Valley. Today, dunes at the largest dune field—Great Kobuk Sand Dunes—tower more than 100 feet into the air. Bring plenty of water when you visit, too: temperatures can be almost Saharan, topping 100 degrees at times during the long summer days.

source: Alaska Travel Industry Association · 610 E. 5th Ave., Ste. 200 · Anchorage, AK 99501 · USA

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Joan McCray

Joan McCray is a travel writer living in NYC. Her work has appeared in the NewYorker,Travel & Leisure, Town & Country, Condé Nast Traveller, Food & Wine,and many local publications.She has published travel anthologies in Salon.com and Lonely Planet.

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