yellow tent on green tundra in front on mountains
Camping in Noatak National Park offers superb views from your tent.

NPS Photo/Emily Mesner

Camping in Noatak National Preserve is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Far from any roads, trails or signs of civilization, a camping trip in the preserve is a unique wilderness experience that is hard to find anywhere else in the world.

Backcountry Opportunities

Camping in the backcountry allows visitors to experience the best of Noatak National Preserve. Campers can hike through the tundra, wade in the Noatak River or climb the peaks of the DeLong and Baird Mountains.

Hiking is easier in the mountains, where the ground is drier and less spongy. Planes cannot land high up in the mountains, so talk with your pilot about landing at lower elevations or on the river and then hiking up to the ridgelines. The mountains are quite a distance from the valley and accessing the mountains from the river is a trek over tundra and through patches of forest. Blazing your own trail across is possible, but it takes much longer than hiking on firm ground and can be rough going, so plan you time and resources accordingly.

A backcountry camping trip is also one of the best ways to see some of the preserve’s spectacular wildlife. Grizzly bears, caribou, moose and peregrine falcons can all be seen in the preserve.

girl in pink shirt jumping on top of a mountain with more mountains in the distance
Backpacking in Noatak National Preserve is challenging, but the views more than make up for the difficulty.

NPS Photo/Emily Mesner

Wilderness Experience

Noatak National Preserve is the fourth largest wilderness area in the United States, and there are no roads, trails, calculated mileages or specialized maps of the area. There are also no designated campsites, and visitors must choose their own place to camp. Contact the Northwest Arctic Heritage Center for tips on the best places to make your camp. Large tracks of unspoiled and undeveloped land is increasingly rare in the United States, and backcountry visitors are encouraged to practice the 7 Leave No Trace principles to help preserve this pristine wilderness. Visit the link in the previous sentence or this NPS site.

Come Prepared

Camping in the Arctic backcountry is an unforgettable trip, but the scenery is as spectacular as the terrain is challenging. Be prepared to do a lot of orienteering. We recommend all visitors being prepared with map, compass, and GPS as well as the knowledge to use all three. Even in the summer, it can be cold in the Arctic and the weather can change on a dime, so be prepared for any and all conditions.

Noatak National Preserve is bear country, and campers are responsible for storing their food out of reach of wildlife. Animal-resistant food containers are available to borrow from the Northwest Arctic Heritage Center in Kotzeube. Permits are not required for independent travelers, but organized recreational groups do need to get a permit from the Chief Ranger. Contact the Northwest Arctic Heritage Center to get one.

Be Respectful

For many local residents, Noatak National Preserve is more than a national preserve; it’s their back yard. There are many parcels of private land through the preserve. If you see any sign of personal property, buildings or habitation, respect their property and steer clear.

Unlike in many national parks, local residents are allowed to hunt and gather resources from the land in Noatak National Preserve. Please respect these subsistence activities and give people a wide berth so they may finish their work without interruption.

Last updated: July 13, 2022

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Kotzebue , AK 99752


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