This is a true wilderness adventure where the only trails are the ones you make and seeing other people is extremely rare.
We offer backpacking adventures throughout the Brooks Range and Gates of the Arctic National Park. Hike some of the world’s most spectacular areas such as the Noatak and the Arrigetch Peaks. Follow the footsteps of Robert Marshall as you hike the North Fork of the Koyukuk around Mt. Doonerak and Frigid Crags. Bettles Lodge has specialized in custom trips to the Brooks Range for the past 30 years. Creating a unique experience, Bettles is far from the beaten path, a real Alaskan Lodge with plenty of character and characters! Bettles Lodge is proud to provide professional, safe and efficient aviation services in addition to our Local Tours, Hotel, Restaurant, Gift Shop, Bar and Fueling. Purchase bear spray, white gas, propane, iso-butane and other camping basics.
A great resource to reference before any excursion out of Bettles (or most other places in Alaska) is Karen Jettmar’s book “The Alaska River Guide” available in softback or there is a Kindle version too.
Charter aircrafts into the Brooks Range in the Summer for flight seeing, drop off, pick up and food drop services. Year round flight seeing is also available. The Brooks Range has everything to offer from incredible fishing to pristine hiking, camping, rafting trips and much more. Bettles Lodge does not provide guide services but can recommend a local guide or group to accommodate your needs, and we also recommend searching the internet as guides have their own information available online.
Create your own unique adventure in the back country or let us provide the info you need to decide on locations, time of year and group size. Everything from packing lists to menu planning. Be sure to check the Events page for info regarding time of year and group trips planned.
Areas of Interest in the Brooks Range Many groups combine backpacking with river float adventures. We would be happy to put together the wilderness adventure of a lifetime to fit your interests. The Brooks Range offers some of the most spectacular pristine wilderness left on earth. Wildlife viewing, spectacular scenery, fishing, and exceptional hiking opportunities abound.
We recommend renting gear from one of Alaska’s rental companies, such as Arctic River Guides.
Below are some of our favorite trips to recommend. Prices may vary depending on group size and total weight.
Arrigetch Peaks & Alatna River
The Arrigetch Peaks are the most spectacular mountains in the Brooks Range and perhaps all of Alaska. We cater to basic backpackers and serious mountain climbers. We offer several options for experiencing the Arrigetch up close. The closest access points to begin your trip are Circle Lake and Takahula Lake, which are both within hiking distance of the Alatna River and Arrigetch.
After you are finished with the Arrigetch hike, you can either be picked up by float plane or begin a river trip down the Alatna River. Another option is to begin your trip at the Alatna headwaters and stop into the Arrigetch during your float trip. We can also re-supply your group for longer treks so you can travel light.
Simply flightseeing the Arrigetch Peaks from Bettles is also an option and we have day trips that include an afternoon picnics at lakes in Gates of the Arctic National Park. Our Arrigetch clients have included Climbing Magazine, National Geographic, PBS Nature, Discovery Channel and Ken Burn’s National Parks.
Gates of the Arctic Hike
Just east of the two mountains called “the Gates of the Arctic,” is a hiking route between Summit Lake and Chimney Lake. The 15 to 18 miles can be covered in a moderate pace in 4 to 5 days. The hike from Summit Lake to Chimney is mostly downhill until you get to the North Fork of the Koyukuk River. You are more than welcome to hike from Chimney to Summit which would be mostly uphill if you want more of a challenge.
Continental Divide Backpacking
We have many extended backpacking suggestions for above tree line near the continental divide in Gates of the Arctic. Some routes connect the Alatna drainage to the Noatak and Killik headwaters; others follow April Creek and Easter Creek in either direction. Further east has excellent hiking in the Itkillik Valley north of the headwaters of the Koyukuk River. Re-supplies are also available. Late August has incredible autumn colors and caribou viewing throughout.
North Fork Koyukuk River Float
The spectacular scenery makes this one of the most popular trips in the Brooks Range. Fly from Bettles to Red Star Lake and then hike north to the two mountains dubbed “the Gates of the Arctic.” Float the North Fork of the Koyukuk River back to Bettles. We recommend allowing at least 5 days.
Noatak Headwaters Hike & Float
This trip can begin at either Pingo Lake or Twelve-Mile Slough. The experience includes amazing hiking above tree line and along the continental divide. Large animals that can be seen include caribou, dall sheep, bear, wolf and muskox. The annual caribou migration in August can allow you to see thousands of animals. A 5 to 10 day float trip can end at Matcharak or Kavatacharak Lake. Longer trips of up to 2 weeks end in Noatak Village.
John River Float
This trip normally begins at Hunt Fork Lake in Gates of the Arctic National Park. The Dehavilland Beaver is the only float plane able to land on this small lake. Moderate experience is required as the first 47 miles is class 2. This is a mostly easy, leisure float with beautiful vistas. Hiking options are good, especially at the upper end. Fishing includes grayling and pike. The last pick up point is at the confluence of the Koyukuk River in our motor boat at “Old Bettles,” just down river from Bettles. Allow 5 days. An optional take out point is at Crevice Creek airstrip, the hike in is about 1 mile to an old homestead gold mine.
Alatna River Float
Drop-off options include the actual river headwaters, Circle Lake, Takahula Lake and Kutuk Lake all in Gates of the Arctic. Many people on this trip also combine their float with a multi-day hike into the nearby Arrigetch Peaks (see above). If starting from the headwaters, be mindful of water levels before beginning your trip as the river can be too low to float with a raft. Water levels at the other drop-off areas are always good and the river is Class I. Pickup options include the Help-Me-Jack Creek area on the river or Takahula Lake if starting from the headwaters.
To start your Kobuk River adventure you can fly to Walker Lake. Walker Lake is located in Gates of the Arctic National Park and has sandy beach camping and crystal clear water. The fishing at Walker is fantastic with large lake trout, arctic char and arctic grayling. The outlet of the lake flows into the Kobuk River and then passes through two small canyons. Most parties portage around the canyons, however, depending on water levels and experience, they can be floated through.
It is approximately a 5 to 7 day float to the confluence of the Pah River or Kobuk Village. You can either be picked up by float plane at a remote spot on the river or by wheel plane at the Kobuk airstrip. From Kobuk Village you can also be flown directly to Fairbanks, Coldfoot or Prospect Creek.
We also offer base camping at Walker or on the Kobuk itself instead of a float trip. We also offer day trips to go Sheefishing on the Kobuk River and be back in time for dinner at the Lodge.
Killik River Float
The Killik River flows north from the central Brook Range into the Colville River. The area has excellent hiking and wildlife viewing. Water is Class I-II with the exception of Sunday Rapids (35 mi. from confluence with Easter Creek) which is Class II-III depending on water level. Suitable for canoes and inflatables. Trip length can be 5 to 14 days depending on the pick-up point. This area is above tree line and is excellent for viewing the fall caribou migration. Pick-up options include the confluence of the Killik and Colville (Killik Bend) or the gravel runway at Umiat.
Nigu River Float
The Nigu River is a small fast moving clear water river that flows north into the Etivillik River. Excellent hiking, wildlife viewing, and fishing for grayling, arctic char, and lake trout. Water is Class I-II. Suitable for canoes or inflatables. This area is also above tree line and excellent for viewing the fall caribou migration. Pick-up options include the confluence of the Killik and Colville (Killik Bend) or the gravel runway at Umiat.