Yukon Air Service

Yukon
Air
Service

Backpacking

Nearly all the various terrain found in the refuge is successfully traversed by backpackers and it is possible to span a diverse cross-section of the Refuge on foot with a minimal budget and without constraining yourself to a particular river valley.

I have supported many backpackers covering most of the regions of the refuge and can suggest a number of feasible routes for most areas of the Refuge and can advise you about some of the advantages or drawbacks of a particular area or route you may be considering.

You will find no trails (except those frequented by animals) in the Refuge and the terrain varies widely. Most experienced backpackers avoid routes involving the crossing of open-tundra and plan on an average of 6 miles per day, with a long day covering 10 miles. Utilizing gravel stream-beds is the most common avenue of travel here and involves a lot of stream crossings to stay in good hiking terrain. Most backpackers find a walking stick helpful for river crossings and for traveling across soft tundra. Expect your feet to be wet for much of your trip and bring footwear for stream crossings. Backpackers should have experience carrying the weights that will be required through unmarked and varied terrain and good navigation skills are essential.

Available aircraft landing sites, the feasibility of stream crossings and the nature of the hiking terrain must be considered and assessed carefully in forming a reasonable plan. Most of the major rivers here, and their tributaries, can be crossed on foot close to the continental divide or near their source. Exceptions to this are early in the season when spring run-off is still in progress, hot days on glacially-fed rivers such as the Jago, Okpilak and Sheenjek, and during intense rain. On cool days, early in the morning, or when the rivers are generally low, the Aichilik, Jago, Okpilak and Egaksrak can often be forded in many areas throughout their course. The Hula-Hula, Canning, Sheenjek, Coleen, Chandalar, Sadlerochit and Kongakut normally have enough volume and current to make such crossings difficult or impossible.

I do not recommend beginning or ending a hike in Arctic Village. The terrain in this broad valley is boggy, often densely vegetated and quite difficult to travel through on foot. Few that have tried this recommend it.