Aurora and Arctic Wildlife in Early Winter
Explore the remote arctic of Alaska during early winter when arctic wildlife is most active preparing for winter, the seasons’ first snows blanket the landscape and the statistical peak of aurora borealis occurs. Spend nights photographing the magical northern lights during its’ annual peak of activity and days immersed in the Arctic landscape, searching for and photographing northern wildlife. After a night in Alaska’s Golden Heart City Fairbanks, get off the beaten path, where few travel, as you drive north of the Arctic Circle in the Brooks Range to the historic gold mining community of Wiseman.
During our days in Wiseman, we will search for iconic arctic animals such as the gray wolf, moose, caribou, red fox and grizzly bears, while you marvel at the aurora borealis by night. Travel north on the famous Dalton Highway over the highest road pass in Alaska, to the spectacular arctic coastal plain, looking for muskoxen, owls, falcons and other wildlife as we drive across the open tundra. Spend a night in a Prudhoe Bay oilfield hotel, and enjoy additional time photographing in the high arctic before, returning south to Wiseman for two more days of exploration and photography on the south side of the Brooks Range by day and two more nights to watch for the northern lights.
Take home unforgettable memories and photographs under the expert guidance of longtime Alaska resident, naturalist, and professional photographer Hugh Rose and expert aurora photographer Amy Johnson.
|Day 1||Arrive in Fairbanks, Orientation and Welcome Dinner||Pikes Waterfront Hotel, Fairbanks||D|
|Day 2-3||Drive to Wiseman, cross the Arctic Circle and Yukon River. Spend days exploring and photographing in the Brooks Range, nights watching for Aurora Borealis||Arctic Getaway, Igloo #8 Cabin B&B, Wiseman||B, L, D|
|Day 4||Drive north over Atigun Pass, highest road in Alaska to the “Northslope” and arctic coastal plain, stopping to photograph wildlife and scenery, arriving in Prudhoe Bay for dinner||Aurora Hotel, Prudhoe Bay||B, L, D|
|Day 5-6||Explore and photograph around Wiseman have one last evening for photographing the northern lights||Arctic Getaway, Igloo #8 Cabin B&B, Wiseman||B, L, D|
|Day 7||Drive south down the Dalton Highway to Fairbanks, arriving in time for a farewell dinner||Pikes Waterfront Hotel, Fairbanks||B, L, D|
|Day 8||Depart Fairbanks for home or trip extension in Alaska||B|
What Makes Us Different?
With over 25 years of experience conducting small group photo and natural history tours we have gotten to know our subjects and places better than anyone. This allows us to better predict wildlife behavior and have you ready and in position when the action begins and to have minimal impact on the wildlife we are observing and photographing. We have been conducting aurora photography tours for 20+ years and are committed to the highest quality, safest experience for you with the least impact on the environment we visit. We have been using Mercedes Sprinter vans for over 10 years, which are by far the most comfortable vehicle for these trips. In addition, we include everything in the tour price, no hidden costs.
Day 1: Arrive in Fairbanks, Alaska
Arrive in Fairbanks, Alaska. Transfer will be provided to your lodging for this night at Pikes Waterfront Lodge, located near the airport on the banks of the Chena River. We will meet for an orientation at 6:30pm in the lobby of Pike’s and enjoy a welcome dinner at a local restaurant afterwards.
Day 2 - 3: Drive to North to Wiseman for aurora and wildlife in the Brooks Range
We’ll drive north to Wiseman on the scenic Dalton Highway, the only road in the United States that crosses the Arctic Circle. During the drive, we’ll pass through the White Mountains, cross the mighty Yukon River and traverse the Caribou Mountains, before entering the Brooks Range, searching for wildlife and enjoying the scenic views along the way. Our destination for the day is Wiseman, a gold mining town that offers a glimpse into the recent human history of Alaska.
Wiseman is located approximately 60 miles north of the Arctic Circle at roughly 67°N latitude, an excellent location for aurora photography and perfect base for exploration of the Brooks Range. We’ll check in at Wiseman’s unique and historic bed and breakfast owned by Berni and Uta Hicker. Conditions permitting, we’ll have two nights for aurora photography and to learn techniques for obtaining stunning images of this spectacular and ephemeral phenomenon.
Day 4: Search for wildlife on the Arctic Coastal Plains
If weather conditions allows, we will spend a day driving north across the coastal plain to spend the night in Prudhoe Bay, location of the massive Alaska North Slope Oilfields. We’ll depart early for our 240-mile drive along the Dalton Highway to “Deadhorse” located on the coast of the Arctic Ocean. As we climb the Brooks Range, we will scan the boreal forest for Gray Wolf, Moose, Grizzly Bear, and Black Bear. We’ll go over Atigun Pass, the highest pass in Alaska at 4,800 feet and descend the north side of the Brooks Range into a world devoid of trees and home to many species of arctic wildlife, such as Muskox, Red Fox, Gray Wolf, and Caribou. Birds of prey, including Gyrfalcon, Snowy Owl, Short-eared Owl, and Rough-legged Hawk, hunt the open arctic tundra while other birds, such as willow and rock ptarmigan, Tundra Swans and Pacific Loons, can be found on the open tundra and in ponds near the road. The Trans-Alaska Pipeline snakes over the open tundra parallel to the road, adding another component to the landscape photography. We’ll arrive in Prudhoe Bay in time to enjoy dinner at our hotel.
Day 5-6: Photograph northern lights at night and search for arctic wildlife by day
Before departing on the drive south to Wiseman we will search the Prudhoe Bay area for Arctic Foxes, Snowy Owls, and other wildlife. During the drive south, we will have time to walk out to muskoxen or wait by the road for herds of caribou to cross. If it gets dark while we are driving south we will stop to look for and photograph aurora in the high peaks of the Brooks Range.
Day 7: Drive south to Fairbanks, crossing the Arctic Circle
We’ll bid farewell to Wiseman and depart south toward Fairbanks. As usual, we will maximize wildlife viewing and photographic opportunities during this day of travel, searching the landscape for one last glimpse of Alaska’s arctic wildlife. We’ll retrace our path south, crossing the Arctic Circle and Yukon River. After arriving in Fairbanks and settling back into Pikes Waterfront Lodge we will meet for a farewell dinner.
Day 8: Depart homeward from Fairbanks
Transfer to the Fairbanks Airport for your flights home or extend your stay with an Alaska add-on.
We reserve the right to charge for cost increases that occur between when we set tour prices and the date of travel, for example, changes due to the cost of lodging and transportation. If you are a single traveler and you are willing to have a roommate, we will find a roommate for you, and if we cannot, we will not charge you a single supplement fee. Single rooms are subject to availability and cannot be guaranteed throughout the trip.
Payment, Reservation & Cancellations:
Payments will be due based on the schedule above. All reservations require a deposit to confirm reservation of your space. For reservations made after a due date, all past payments will be due with registration. By sending your initial deposit, you agree to accept our payment schedule and cancellation policy as a contract. If payments are still outstanding two weeks after the due date, your space may be forfeited.
- Deposit, due to reserve your space: $1,000
- Second payment, August 15th: $3,350
Until the Second Payment due date, deposits are refundable minus a cancellation fee of $500 per person, which can be applied toward another tour if reserved within one year of the cancelled trip’s departure date. Cancellations are non-transferrable. No refunds are given after the Final Payment due date, unless we can fill the space(s) you have reserved.
- All activities, leaders, transport, park entry and user fees, landing fees and permits.
- Accommodations for the nights of Oct 10 through Oct 16.
- Meals from dinner on Oct 10 through breakfast on Oct 17
- Airport transfers to/from Pikes Waterfront Hotel on Oct 10 and Oct 17 in Fairbanks.
- Complimentary beverages (wine, beer) in Wiseman.
- Trip Materials – information about flights, packing, entry and departure requirements, airport transfers, gratuities, etc.
- Warm insulated Arctic Muck boots, for use during the trip.
- Airfare to Fairbanks, Alaska from your home, airport and departure taxes, and excess baggage fees.
- Separate Airport transfer fees if booking extra nights in Fairbanks before Oct 9 or after Oct 19.
- Emergency medical and evacuation insurance and trip cancellation insurance. Refer to our website for more information:
- Items of a personal nature such as laundry, telephone calls, medical costs or hospitalization, room service, alcoholic and other beverages, items not on the regular menu, etc. If you have special dietary needs, please indicate them on your Reservation/Release Form.
Even though it’s October, weather can be winter-like and the Arctic has ever-changing weather. Temperatures could range significantly in a matter of hours. Expect daytime temperatures in the low 20’s °F (-10 °C), though perhaps as high as the 30’s °F (+3 to –1 °C), with nights dipping down to 0 to -10 °F (-15 to -20 °C). Snow is always possible as well, so dressing in layers with a waterproof outer shell is best and you can remove or add layers as the temperature dictates.
This tour covers a great deal of ground, so photography from or near the vehicle is quite common. Walks are generally under a mile and are at a slow pace with stops for observation and photography. Peak aurora activity is statistically around solar midnight (2:00 am, Alaska-time); this means staying up late into the night, which may lead to sleep deprivation.
Distances are large in Alaska and a significant amount of time will be spent in the van searching for wildlife while driving to our next destination. We will make the journey to the Arctic in our custom 12 passenger Mercedes Sprinter van, specially modified for these photo tours. The Sprinter is outfitted with, un-tinted, sliding windows for superior viewing and photography and the van is tall enough to allow people to stand inside. These features make the Sprinter van the ideal platform for wildlife viewing and photography. We also use the van as a blind for animals and birds we encounter near the roadway.
Lodging throughout the tour is clean and comfortable albeit basic at times. Accommodations are very limited in “Bush Alaska”, but we have found the best options in these off the beaten path places. Good food and a personal touch can also be expected, especially in Wiseman. Most lodges have shared baths, except in Fairbanks and Prudhoe Bay, where each room has private bathrooms. Over many years of leading tours, Hugh has built good relationships with these lodges and their owners, which mean our groups, are always welcome and we are happy to have the opportunity to continue coming to these locations for the unique wildlife experiences! Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns about our accommodations during the trip.
Airfare to/from Fairbanks is not included in trip costs.
Flights that you (or a travel agent) book: Arrive in Fairbanks, Alaska (FAI) by Oct 10 in time for a welcome orientation dinner (6:30PM). For your flights home, depart from Fairbanks anytime on Oct 17, or if your schedule demands you can book your return flight on the evening of Oct 16 after 10pm.
- Maximum time in nature: We try to spend as much time in nature as possible, sometimes resulting in long days but giving you a more in-depth experience and more photographic opportunities.
- Itinerary route: The itinerary route stops, and plans are subject to change by unforeseen circumstances beyond our control, such as weather or road conditions.
- Additional forms: For some of our tours, you may be asked to fill out additional forms (e.g., medical questionnaire).
- Medical conditions and travel risks: Travel to remote places is exciting, but it is important to understand and accept the risks, both medical and logistical. Minor medical problems can usually be treated, but because we are often far from medical facilities, there can be no expectation for immediate medical treatment or evacuation, even in cases of trauma. I maintain a Wilderness First Responder certification and we always have a satellite phone while in remote locations, but often due to rugged terrain, distance and weather, advanced medical treatment can be sometimes hours away. Anyone with health problems needing close medical supervision should consider before going on this tour. Bring enough medication for the duration of the trip for any chronic medical needs, since pharmacies are usually not available. When you send your deposit and signed Reservation/Release Form, you certify to us that you do not knowingly have any physical or other conditions that would create a risk for yourself or for other trip participants.
Hugh Rose Photography and Tours is dedicated to preserving the places we visit for future generations. We believe that by conducting our tours using sustainable and minimal impact practices, we contribute to sustainable conservation of these valuable wildlife habitats. We urge you to support conservation organizations that protect and restore natural habitats and write letters to tourism and government agencies to promote work in preserving wildlife. If you have further questions regarding our conservation efforts please feel free to contact us.
Hugh Rose has photographed and lived in northern climates most of his life with the latter part of it in Alaska. Compelled by Alaska’s natural beauty, he left a 10-year…