Escape: Kobuk Valley National Park

A Cessna 206 lands on the Kobuk Sand Dunes in the heart of Kobuk Valley National Park, with the Waring Mountains in the distance to the south. (photo by Cameron R. Baird)

Take a roll in the dirt.


Kobuk Valley National Park allows visitors to explore a sand dune amusement park, one that’s frequently traversed by migrating caribou. With almost 1.8 million acres of remote backcountry, you won’t run out of outdoor adventures or run into many tourists. Like other parks in the Brooks Range, this region lacks trails and facilities, but that’s part of its allure. Photography, flight-seeing, backpacking, snowmachining, dog mushing and just about anything else you can think of are possibilities here. Fly from Anchorage to Kotzebue and charter a flight to the park. Just come prepared for all types of weather, even snow in summer.

  • Canoeing Sixty-one exceptional miles of the 350-mile Kobuk River flow through the park. Paddlers are expected to fly their own gear into the park (as there are no developed facilities here), but we recommend hiring an outfitter and enjoying their boats, PFDs and expertise instead. This is vacation, after all.
  • Fishing Grab your rod and a permit, and thoroughly review the Alaska state fishing guidelines, because a visit to Kobuk Valley National Park wouldn’t be complete without catching a few fish. The river is flush with salmon, grayling, pike, and sheefish, so whether you choose to catch and release or catch and consume, there are a variety of options that await you within the national park. nps.gov/kova/index.htm
  • Hiking One of the greatest places to both hike and camp within the park is the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes. Small planes are allowed to land on the dunes, and hikers can set up camp and run, jump, surf, and plow through the rolling hills. Bring your orienteering skills or hire a guide. One dune looks like the next, and there are no labeled trail signs within the area. arcticwild.com

LOCALS SAY: “Give subsistence fishers (who may be fishing with set nets) wide berth so they can have a good harvest.”