Backpacking with Arctic Caribou

A journey along the route of the Porcupine Caribou herd of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska's Brooks Range.

Backpacking with Arctic Caribou

$5995 per person

A journey along the route of the Porcupine Caribou herd of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Come backpacking with caribou in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the traditional and current homelands of the Iñupiaq and Gwich’in people.

This trip is a looping route in the far northern section of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge(ANWR) in the Sadlerochit Mountains. These mountains sit just south of the Coastal Plain – the frequent calving and nursing ground of the Porcupine Caribou herd. The local Gwich’in people call the Coastal Plane “Iizhik Gwats’an Gwandaii Goodlit” (The Sacred Place Where Life Begins). The Coastal Plain is also often referred to as “the 1002” in reference to the section of legislation that left this area vulnerable to oil and gas development when the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was created. The Sadlerochit mountains serve as the barrier between the Coastal Plain and the rest of the Brooks Range. As the Porcupine Caribou herd, and the predators that follow them, move from the Coastal Plain to the higher peaks of the Brooks Range, they often travel through and around the Sadlerochit Mountains. Plan this trip for early- to mid-June to give yourself the best opportunity to see this great migration.

Come join us for a once in a lifetime opportunity to go backpacking with caribou in the Arctic Refuge. This route crosses alpine streams, arctic rivers, rolling tundra and mountain passes as it loops to and from the remote, bush landing strip where this trip begins and ends. As we travel we’ll learn about the delicate ecology of this special ecosystem. And we’ll look for the animals that call this place home, most notably caribou, but also grizzly bears, moose, wolverines, foxes, wolves and a multitude of bird species. Our days will be spent on foot, traversing this unique country with all of our necessities in our backpacks. We’ll spend our evenings and mornings beneath the cook tarp enjoying the simplicity of backcountry travel. We’ll travel 5-8 hours per day over trail-less terrain. Daily mileage will range from 8-12 miles with elevation gain/loss between 1000′-3000′ per day.

Because this trip utilizes bush flights to access this destination, it is a relatively higher-carbon adventure that some of our other trips. Carbon offsets for all air travel is included in the price of the trip.

Non-Profit Partner: Alaska Wilderness League

Prior to the trip, participants will have a chance to learn about the Alaska Wilderness League’s Arctic Refuge advocacy which works to oppose proposed oil and gas development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. A significant monetary donation will be made to the Alaska Wilderness League in honor of this trip. Learn more about our non-profit partner program on our Why Us page.


  • Destination
  • Departure
  • Dress Code
  • Included
    Food While In The Wilderness
    Lodging on Night One of Your Trip (Location Varies by Trip)
    Professional Guide Service
    Roundtrip Transportation from Your Trip's Departure City (Typically Anchorage or Fairbanks)
    Safety & Repair Gear
    Stoves, Cooking & Eating Utensils
    Water Filter
  • Not Included
    Additional Food or Meals (beyond those described in the itinerary)
    Additonal Hotel Nights (beyond any described in the itinerary)
    Alcoholic Beverages
    Guide Gratuities
    Personal Clothing & Equipment
Day 1 - Arrive in Fairbanks, Orientation, Depart for Coldfoot
This morning will meet in Fairbanks for an early (~8am) breakfast orientation and gear check. At 11am we will depart for our check-in with the local air taxi that will transport us from the city of Fairbanks, to the small community of Coldfoot, along the Dalton Highway. After arriving in Coldfoot in mid-afternoon we will check-in with our air taxi pilot who will be flying us into the Arctic Refuge the following morning. You will have the remainder of the afternoon to visit the excellent Arctic Interagency Visitor Center, located in Coldfoot. We'll enjoy a hearty buffet dinner at the Trucker's Cafe at Coldfoot Camp before pitching our tents for the evening. If you imbibe, this will be your last chance for a cold beer for the next 7 days.
We recommend that you arrive in Fairbanks the day prior (June 11th) to allow for any unexpected delays or travel complications. If travel delays prevent you from arriving in Fairbanks by 11:30am on the morning of June 12th, you will not be able to fly to Coldfoot in time to join the group and no refunds will be given. 
Meals included: all; Accommodations: Camping in Coldfoot, AK
Day 2 - Depart for the Backcountry
We'll gather early for another group breakfast at the Trucker's Cafe before taking the brief walk from Coldfoot Camp to the airstrip where we will meet our pilot and (weather allowing) depart for the Sadlerochit Mountains. The roughly two hour flight will take us across the stunning western expanse of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge - have your camera handy to capture the incredible view from the air. We anticipate arriving at a remote tundra airstrip in the Sadlerochit Mountains by late-morning or early-afternoon, after which the 24-hour daylight will render time of day utterly irrelevant. We'll begin our backpacking journey by heading west up a small drainage, past rock formations containing seafloor fossils before making out first camp nestled in a high valley of these mountains, keeping our eyes open for any wildlife in the area and hoping to catch a glimpse of the Porcupine Caribou herd.
Meals included: all; Accommodations: backcountry camping
Days 3-7 - Backcountry Travel
We'll spend these days making a loop through the Sadlerochit Mountains of the Arctic Refuge. We'll climb steep mountain passes, travel across tundra and, water-levels depending, ford alpine streams and arctic rivers. We'll learn about the delicate ecology of this special ecosystem and hope that we are lucky enough for our trip to coincide with the great migration of the Porcupine Caribou herd. Our days will be spent on foot, traversing this unique country, looking for wildlife. Our evenings and mornings will be spent beneath the cook tarp getting to know one another and enjoying the simple camaraderie of backcountry travel.
Meals included: all; Accommodations: backcountry camping
Day 8 - Return to Coldfoot
After days of traveling through these mountains, we'll listen closely to hear the whine of an approaching aircraft, our ride back to the relative civilization of Coldfoot. We'll depart from the same remote, tundra airstrip at which we arrived and reverse our flight path back to the community of Coldfoot over the jagged and serrated peaks of the western portion of the Arctic Refuge. In Coldfoot we'll enjoy hot showers, cold beers and another tasty dinner at the Trucker's Cafe.
Meals included: all; Accommodations: "Hotel" Room at The Inn at Coldfoot Camp 
Day 9 - Return to Fairbanks
After a hearty breakfast, we will return to Fairbanks on a late-morning flight. If returning home this day, please schedule flights for after 5pm to allow for any unexpected delays. Better yet, if your schedule allows, give yourself a couple of days to explore Fairbanks and beyond to see a little more of what Alaska has to offer.
Note: All air taxi flight times are best viewed as optimistic suggestions. We will always be on time and ready to go as instructed by our pilots, but any number of factors (including weather, maintenance, flight logistics, etc) may influence their ability to depart or arrive at the anticipated time. 
Meals included: breakfast; Accommodations: none

About the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

The area of public land currently known as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge occupies the historical and current lands of the Iñupiaq and Gwich'in people of Alaska. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the largest Wildlife Refuge in the United States and was established in 1960 as the Arctic National Wildlife Range. It was expanded with the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act(ANILCA) of 1980 and designated as a Refuge. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is still threatened by oil and gas development - pushed through with reckless speed by Alaska's congressional delegation and the Trump administration, now awaiting full and permanent protection to forever safeguard this place.

Ready to Join this Trip?

  1. Fill out the Trip Interest Form.
  2. We will get in touch with you to discuss the trip.
  3. Confirm your participation with a trip deposit.
    • What if the trip has not yet met the minimum number of three guests? Pay your deposit per usual. If the trip does not meet it's minimum by 30 days prior to departure, you have three options:
      1. Pay a premium for a private and/or below-minimum trip
      2. Transfer your deposit to another Tundra Travels trip in 2022 or 2023
      3. Receive a full refund of your deposit
  4. Prepare by downloading the Personal Equipment Checklist, commit to a physical training plan if necessary and stock up on some books and podcasts from our recommended list to get stoked!
  5. Book your flights and pre- and post-trip accommodations.
  6. Stay in touch with any questions that come to mind!