Kobuk Valley and Gates of the Arctic are two of the least visited national parks in the USA. I put them both together in this video as it is hard to see someone visiting just one, due to the remote nature of the parks, unless they are doing a backpacking trip or rafting adventure. Getting to the parks is expensive and time-consuming, and the park’s have no infrastructure. Seeing such a stunning and remote part of Alaska was amazing though, even if only for a few minutes.

How to access Kobuk Valley and Gates of the Arctic

There is no way around it, you have to fly to visit these two parks. You can fly from a few places in Alaska, such as Fairbanks and Delta Junction, but the quickest flight is from Kotzebue, so we decided to do that. We flew out of Anchorage to Kotzebue on Alaska Airlines and planned to spend two days in the town waiting for the weather to hopefully be good enough to allow us to do the long flight into the parks. For comparison, if you do the flight into both parks from Fairbanks, it is about an 8-hour day of flying, and from Kotzebue, it is about a 4-5-hour day of flying.

Once you arrive in Kotzebue, you have to check in for your flight to see when they anticipate being able to set out. Ours was planned for only a couple of hours after we got in, which allowed us to change our flight back to Anchorage the following morning instead of two days later. We explored the park visitor center right across the street from the airport before heading out on our flight.

The flight was in a ten-seater Otter plane, and we first spent about 2 hours flying to the Gates of the Arctic. When we reached the park, our pilot touched down and let us out for 30 minutes of exploring. Then we got back in the plane and flew about an hour and a half to Kobuk Valley, where we landed on the sand dunes and explored for a little bit before flying back to Kotzebue.

What you will see at the parks

Gates of the Arctic

We flew over other national park service land most of the way to Gates of the Arctic, so we saw little of the park itself. From what we saw, the park had lots of mountains and was stunning, with high-altitude lakes and rivers running through the valleys in between. Where we landed was the most picturesque view I could have imagined from a short time in the park, and we got to dip our hands in the water and take lots of photos of the mountains and even some wildflowers.

Kobuk Valley

We flew over a lot more of this park than I anticipated, and it had dozens of rivers bending as they made their way along their route. From what we saw, the park seemed relatively flat, with many trees and rivers instead of large mountains dotting the horizon. The sand dunes came out of nowhere and were such a small part of the park that it was confusing even to see them there. We landed on the dunes and could walk around and explore for about 20 minutes before heading on. It was a lot more anticlimactic than Gates of the Arctic, but it was still well worth seeing.

Where to stay when visiting Kobuk Valley and Gates of the Arctic

If you fly to Kotzebue, Nullagvik is an excellent spot to stay. It is a nice hotel in the middle of town with a restaurant and an observation room for relaxing before you check in or out. The town has a grocery store and multiple restaurants for you to eat at. If you travel in the summer, see the midnight sun here too.

Two day itinerary for visiting the parks

Example itinerary for visiting Kobuk Valley & Gates of the Arctic.

Day 1

  • Fly from Anchorage to Kotzebue
  • Check in for flight and see if they will be able to fly with the weather
  • Explore the national park visitor center
  • Check into hotel and get dinner at the restaurant
  • Watch the midnight sun

Day 2

  • Flight to visit the two parks
  • Find a place to relax and wait for flight back to Anchorage

Cost to visit the parks

Here is the cost of getting to these two parks; note that it was costly to visit these parks.

Let me know what other questions you have in the comments, and watch my Kobuk Valley and Gates of the Arctic videos in the description.