Denali and Arctic Wildlife in Spring
The trip begins in Fairbanks, the Golden Heart City of Alaska, with a night to relax in a cottage on the banks of the Chena River, and time to explore the unique gold rush era history of the area. The adventure begins the next day with a visit to the University of Alaska Museum of the North and a short drive south to the entrance of Denali National Park where you will stay in your own individual log cabin at Earthsong Lodge. A tour of the dog kennels at Earthsong gives you a view into the winter-time transport in bush Alaska known as “dog mushing”. The next day we have an early start, to experience the crown jewel of the US National Park system, Denali National Park, from our comfortable custom Sprinter van rather than a crowded tour bus. Look for and photograph birds and iconic wildlife, such as grizzly bears, moose and dall sheep, as you make an unhurried drive through the park.
Stay in Kantishna at the end of the Denali Park road in a small exclusive lodge run by the local airtaxi operator and long-time friend of Hugh. Enjoy the most spectacular flight on the continent, as you fly around the highest mountain in North America, “Denali”, in a bush plane from the airstrip in Kantishna, located less than a mile from your lodge and included in the trip price. Enjoy the unique views of Denali and the Alaska Range from the ground, reflected in Wonder Lake. At the end of our two-night stay in Kantishna we make a second drive through the park in our private vehicle giving more opportunities to see the wildlife and scenery of Denali ending back in Fairbanks for another night on the banks of the Chena River.
Next we head north up the “Dalton Highway” or “Haul Road”, made famous by “Ice Road Truckers”. This 500-mile road with only one truck stop, half-way between Fairbanks and “Deadhorse”, traverses some of the most spectacular arctic scenery in North America, and is the only road in the United States, which crosses the Arctic Circle, the Yukon River and the Brooks Range! Spend two nights at a cozy and comfortable cabin B&B located in the historic gold mining community of Wiseman, nestled deep in the heart of the Brooks Range, north of the arctic circle and at the northern edge of treeline.
You will have two days to explore this arctic wilderness, searching for and photographing the birds and mammals that call this spectacular landscape home. After your last night at the northern edge of the forest, journey north over the highest road pass in Alaska, Atigun Pass, to the treeless world of the North Slope and the Arctic Coastal Plain. Our destination this evening is Prudhoe Bay, the hub of the largest oil discovery in US history and located on the coast of the Beaufort Sea. On the drive we traverse habitat for wildlife such as grizzly bear, caribou, muskoxen, gray wolf, red fox and Moose. Birds such as spectacled and king eiders, gyrfalcons, short-eared owls and rock ptarmigan await you in Prudhoe as we traverse this arctic landscape.
As we journey north from the Brooks Range across the wide-open tundra of the Arctic Coastal Plains, you will witness the truly awesome gathering of migratory birds on the Coastal Plain, as they wait for nesting habitat to emerge from later winter snows. Two nights at a comfortable hotel located in Prudhoe Bay gives us a day and two evenings to observe and photograph arctic bird species that have accumulated on the ponds in close proximity to the oilfields and are approachable for photography. At the end of this journey take home countless memories and photographs under the expert guidance of Alaska resident and naturalist, Hugh Rose.
|Day 1||Arrive in Fairbanks, Orientation and Welcome Dinner||River’s Edge Resort||D|
|Day 2||Morning visit to UAF Museum of the North, Afternoon drive south to Healy and Denali Park Entrance, visit Denali Visitor Center, and experience dog kennel tour at Earthsong Lodge||Earthsong Lodge||B, L, D|
|Day 3||Early morning departure for drive through Denali National Park in our private van with plenty of time to stop for wildlife and scenic photos Arrive in Kantishna late afternoon at Skyline Lodge||Skyline Lodge||B, L, D|
|Day 4||All day to explore area around Wonder Lake and Kantishna, weather permitting scenic flight are Denali from Kantishna air strip||Skyline Lodge||B, L, D|
|Day 5||Early morning departure for drive through Denali Park in our private van, arriving in Fairbanks late afternoon, dinner on your own this evening||Rivers Edge Resort||B, L|
|Day 6||Drive north up the “Haul Road’ crossing the Yukon River and Arctic Circle to arrive at our log cabins in the historic gold mining community of Wiseman, nestled in the Wilderness of the Brooks Range||Arctic Getaway, Igloo #8 Cabin B&B, Wiseman||B, L, D|
|Day 7||Explore and photograph in the Brooks Range around Wiseman||Arctic Getaway Igloo #8 Cabin B&B, Wiseman||B, L, D|
|Day 8||Travel the Dalton Highway north to Prudhoe Bay, taking time to observe arctic wildlife and scenery||Aurora Hotel in Prudhoe Bay||B, L, D|
|Day 9||Explore the arctic coastal plain with its numerous birds and abundant wildlife and the area around the oilfields||Aurora Hotel in Prudhoe Bay||B, L, D|
|Day 10||Depart on Alaska Airlines flights to Fairbanks or Anchorage||B|
Day 1: Arrive in Fairbanks, Alaska
Arrive in Fairbanks, Alaska. Transfer will be provided to your lodging for this night at Rivers Edge Resort and Cottages, located near the airport on the banks of the Chena River. We will meet for a brief orientation at 6:00pm in the lobby of Rivers Edge and enjoy a welcome dinner at a local restaurant afterwards.
Day 2: Travel to Denali National Park
Drive to Denali National Park and enjoy the Denali Visitor Center located at the east end of the park before heading to EarthSong Lodge. If timing and availability work out, get a tour of the working dog kennels and a wonderful slide show presentation from the lodge owner, Jon Nierenburg, an excellent photographer and “dog musher”.
Day 3 - 4: Denali National Park, including scenic flight
Denali National Park exemplifies Interior Alaska’s character as one of the world’s last great frontiers. Most of the park remains largely wild and unspoiled. It’s an excellent place for viewing wildlife and wildflowers, mammals, and birds. Stony Creek is one of the special areas to explore with 132 species of wildflowers, as well as northern wheatears (a bird that migrates to North Africa for the winter), nesting shorebirds, long-tailed jaeger, and other summer time avian visitors to the park.
Depending on the weather, you’ll have the opportunity for a scenic flight around Denali’s impressive peak (cost included). The mountain makes its own weather and is often hidden in clouds, especially in the afternoon. Staying two nights in Kantishna provides excellent opportunities to photograph this majestic mountain and explore the Kantishna side of the park, including Wonder Lake for iconic photos of Denali’s reflection.
Day 5: Denali National Park north to Fairbanks
You’ll depart early for what will hopefully be more stunning views of Denali and great wildlife experiences traversing back through the park in our private van. You’ll travel the Parks Highway north back to Fairbanks with plenty of time for scenic and wildlife stops. You will be returning to Rivers Edge Resort where you will have time to do laundry, walk the banks of the Chena River and enjoy a dinner on your own.
Day 6 - 7: Drive North to Wiseman through arctic wilderness to 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, and serves as an excellent base for exploration of the surrounding Brooks Range. We’ll check in at Wiseman’s unique and historic bed and breakfast owned by Berni and Uta Hicker. Depending on weather and pilot availability, you may have the option of a scenic flight over the Brooks Range and the wilderness of the Arctic National Park. Cost not included, but Hugh will organize it.
Day 8: Search for wildlife on the Arctic Coastal Plains
We’ll depart early for our 240-mile drive on the Dalton Highway to Prudhoe Bay 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 road 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.
After descending from the mountains to the rolling hills of the North Slope the Dalton Highway crosses the Arctic Coastal Plain. We will search for wildlife and other photographic opportunities in-route to Prudhoe Bay. Animals come to the plain to partake of the brief, but intense bloom of life and its brilliant carpet of tundra flowers are an excellent backdrop for photos.
We’ll arrive in Prudhoe Bay in time to enjoy dinner at our hotel. Depending on the weather this evening we may stay up through the midnight sun to photograph and bird watch.
Day 9: Prudhoe Bay for arctic wildlife
The industrial complex of Deadhorse (consisting of the airport, lodging, and general store) supports the oil industry on the North Slope along the Arctic Ocean. This area appears at first glance to be an unlikely place to view wildlife. However, muskoxen, caribou, gray wolf, Arctic fox, and many spectacular birds make the Arctic Coastal Plain their home during the brief summer season. The oil industry’s presence results in residual heat creating freshwater pools that would otherwise be frozen. These pools are an excellent place for you to spot opportunistic shorebirds and other unusual birds like spectacled and king eiders. You may want to stay out late to photograph in the soft light of the Midnight Sun.
Day 10: Fly to Fairbanks or Anchorage
After breakfast and a final morning of bird watching and photography take Alaska Airlines flights back to either Fairbanks or Anchorage. If you would like additional time in the arctic or wish to make the drive back south down the Dalton Highway inquire about price and availability.
Day 10 (optional Add-on): 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 11 (optional Add-on): 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 below. 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, January 15th: $2,100
- Final payment, March 15th: Remaining Balance
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 unless described as optional.
- Accommodations for the nights of June 1 through June 9.
- Meals from dinner on June 1 through breakfast on June 10 except dinners listed in the Not Included section.
- Scenic flight in Denali National Park (weather permitting; no portion of the tour cost is refunded if the flight must be cancelled).
- Airport transfer on June 12 in Fairbanks.
- Airport transfers on June 1 in Fairbanks and June 10 in Prudhoe Bay.
- Gratuities to lodge and hotel staff throughout the trip.
- Trip Materials – information about flights, packing, entry and departure requirements, airport transfers, gratuities, etc.
- Airfare to Fairbanks, Alaska from your home, airport and departure taxes, and excess baggage fees.
- Airfare from Prudhoe Bay to Fairbanks or Anchorage at the end of your trip.
- Separate Airport transfer fees if booking extra nights in Fairbanks before June 1.
- Dinner in Fairbanks on June 5.
- Optional scenic flight in Wiseman (approximately $300, depending on length, paid at time of flight, and subject to weather conditions and availability).
- Gratuities for the scenic flight pilots. We recommend $10–$15 per participant per flight.
- Emergency medical and evacuation insurance and trip cancellation insurance.
- 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.