Kobuk Valley National Park

Kobuk is up there as one of the most remote National Parks in the United States. It is probably tied with Gates of the Arctic, although its leading edge is the fact that you can’t drive a car anywhere close to the park, like we did when we took the Dalton Highway to within two miles of Gates of the Arctic.

One of the less ideal parts about visiting Kobuk is that there is no regular flight service to the park. You have to charter a plane to take you there. Even more unfortunate than the lack of regular flight service is the fact that the flights to Kobuk are incredibly expensive. It’s a one-hour flight to the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes, you get to hang out on the dunes for about an hour and then it is an hour flight back. When all is said and done it will cost you about $1,500. Kobuk thus wins the award for most remote and most expensive National Park to visit.

When we visited the Arctic tundra was in its full fall effect. There were varying colors of red, orange, yellow and green. Our pilot commented that fall in the Arctic only last a couple of weeks, so we hit the perfect time to see the color change.

As we flew to the sand dunes we passed picturesque after picturesque mountain, stream and lake. The colors were so vibrant and vivid that I was caught just staring out the window of the plane the entire time. It feels like you are living in the pages of a magazine. There is no sign of civilization for miles and you are flying over pristine wilderness. It’s funny to think that as soon as you step foot on the ground you would sink up to your shins in the muskeg. While it looks beautiful, it is also a very harsh land. Most of the ground is permafrost and stays frozen for most of the year. Throw in the bears, wolves and moose and it is not a place you would want to explore without knowing your way around.

As we flew in we could see the massive dune field. We landed the plane right on the sand dunes and the pilot let us know we had 45-minutes to explore around before we needed to head back to Kotzebue. 

My first order of business was to run to the edge of the dunes and down to the nearby stream. I immediately hopped in so that I could fulfill the goal to get wet in every National Park.

fter that I climbed back up the done and wandered around taking photos.  It was so strange to be standing on dunes in the middle of the Arctic tundra. How did they come to be?

We took some photos, ran around on the dunes and that was really about it. We had to get back into the plane and fly home before dark. We kept our eyes peeled for bears and other wildlife, but weren’t able to see anything. It was a brief but exciting trip. I wish we would have been able to stay for longer and do a river trip out. Next time.