Highly pathogenic avian influenza & other frequently asked bird health questions

Highly pathogenic avian influenza has been confirmed in both domestic and wild birds in Canada and the United States. The strain now present in North America has caused illness and death in waterfowl, shorebirds, gulls, and birds of prey. Birds that migrate to Alaska to nest and breed could be infected. Learn more including steps hunters can take to reduce infection risk and how to report observations/concerns. See also: Alaska Bird FAQ: if it's sick, abandoned, injured or dead

Commercial Polar Bear Viewing Closed

Commercially supported boat-based polar bear viewing at Arctic Refuge is currently unavailable. In addition, the community of Kaktovik has a non-resident travel restriction in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Do not make plans to visit Kaktovik for polar bear viewing at this time.

Special Use Permit Application Periods

Arctic Refuge has established application periods for the following types of Special Use Permits: Commercial Activities - There are two applications periods: January 1 until April 15 and October 1 until November 30. Scientific Research Activities - October 1 until November 30 (for activities proposed the following calendar year). Additional information and instructions. 

Visit Us

National wildlife refuges offer us all a chance to unplug from the stresses of daily life and reconnect with our natural surroundings.  

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, in the far northeast corner of Alaska, is a place of austere beauty driven by forces of nature. These lands, and the plants and animals that live here, evolved knowing only the light step of occasional nomadic hunters. Today, refuge lands continue to support a subsistence way of life for local residents. Visitors from around the world travel to the refuge for recreation and research. Most visitors plan a stay of 6 to 10 days while they camp, hike, float rivers, hunt, or fish.  

Prepare to visit a truly wild place

Visitors to the refuge plan and arrange their own transportation, trip locations, and itineraries. There are no roads, established trails, or facilities of any type within our borders. Most visitors bring their own food and gear and access the refuge by air taxi or personal airplane, flying in from communities outside the refuge. Even experienced visitors may wish to use the support of commercial recreational services (see Tours for information about authorized recreational guides, hunting guides, and air taxi operators). Although there is no cell phone coverage, satellite phones do work in many areas. See Rules and Policies and explore the activities section below for helpful trip planning information.

Floating a river through the Brooks Range of Arctic Refuge.

Activities

Many more people visit these lands than in the past. This vast and remote landscape is a place of great power, but it is easy to scar and slow to heal. As a visitor, your experiences will be intertwined with the wildlife and habitats the refuge is meant to preserve, and your practices will influence the future well-being of this place.

Paddling a river in Arctic Refuge

We all share responsibility to preserve this wild place—the responsibility to have a limited impact on the land and to protect the intricate web of life it supports—so that those in the future may be rewarded and inspired in their turn by this majestic place. Thank you for your efforts to limit your impacts when on Arctic Refuge. We hope your visit is an experience to remember! Explore the following activities for more information.

Trails

Hiking across the tundra at Arctic Refuge.

Arctic Refuge has no designated trails. Visitors have the freedom to respond to the landscape as it unfolds before them. Explore our activities section for tips on hiking and camping in the refuge, including leave no trace principles to minimize your impact on the fragile arctic environmetn.

Related Documents

Interactive map of Arctic Refuge.

Easements and private land

There are two areas of public easements across private lands within the refuge: along the north coast near Barter Island, and near Elusive Lake in the western portion of the refuge. These two maps show lands managed by the refuge in green and depicts public rights-of-way [called ANCSA 17(b) Public Easements] across private lands in orange: 

Easements near Barter Island
Easements near Elusive Lake

Entry onto private lands is only allowed with prior approval from landowners. It is the visitor’s responsibility to learn about land status and to get prior approval before entering non-refuge lands. Private lands probably will not be marked with signs. Explore the interactive map to identify if your trip plans take you near private land, and either choose to avoid or seek permission from the landowners prior to travel.

Rules and Policies

All Arctic Refuge lands are open to the public at all times, and there are no visitor fees charged anywhere on the refuge. Hunting, fishing, and firearms are allowed following state regulations. 

Safety and self-reliance

Ensure that you have the skills necessary for a successful visit. Know your expertise and limitations in remote, backcountry travel and survival.

Careful preparation and self-reliance are necessary for a successful visit to the refuge. Leave your itinerary with family or friends and put a safety plan in place before you visit.    

Leave no trace

Large groups may leave especially noticeable and lasting impacts on fragile Arctic landscapes. Refuge employees and research project leaders limit their groups to the fewest necessary participants. Commercial guides are required to limit their group size. We encourage private users to do the same. 

The recommended maximum group size is 7 people for land travel and 10 people for water travel.

The use of domestic sheep, goats, and camelids (i.e., llamas and alpacas) on Arctic National Wildlife Refuge lands is prohibited, due to concerns about disease transmission to Dall sheep and other wildlife.  

Help us reduce the harmful introduction of invasive species invasive species
An invasive species is any plant or animal that has spread or been introduced into a new area where they are, or could, cause harm to the environment, economy, or human, animal, or plant health. Their unwelcome presence can destroy ecosystems and cost millions of dollars.

Learn more about invasive species
! Before entering the refuge, make sure clothing, equipment, vehicles and aircraft are clean by removing all dirt, mud and debris. Watch out for “hitchhikers”—those seeds that stick to your socks, clothing or domestic animals’ fur. Visitors who bring animals to the refuge should choose bedding and feed materials that will not introduce new plants by accident.

Leave natural objects and private property undisturbed. It is illegal to remove specimens from National Wildlife Refuges without a pre-arranged collection permit. Leave noticeable objects for others to enjoy. 
 

Locations

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

The Arctic National Wildlife Range reaches across more than 19 million acres (the size of South Carolina) in the northeast corner of Alaska. A truly wild landscape, the refuge contains no public facilities, but does contain three Wild and Scenic rivers and the largest designated Wilderness (about eight million acres) in the National Wildlife Refuge System. 

The majestic Brooks Range, with peaks and glaciers to 9,000 feet, dominates the refuge. These rugged mountains extend east to west in a band 75 miles wide, rising abruptly from a flat, tundra-covered plain. This treeless expanse is cut by numerous braided rivers and streams. South of the continental divide, rivers wind serpentine courses through broad, spruce-covered valleys dotted with lakes and sloughs.   

The refuge includes an array of landscapes and wildlife habitats: from the boreal forest of the Porcupine River uplands, to the foothills and slopes of the Brooks Range, to the arctic tundra of the coastal plain, to the lagoons and barrier islands of the Beaufort Sea coast.  

The ground lies permanently frozen below much of the refuge. This impenetrable "permafrost" layer causes many areas to remain wet during the summer. Plants grow rapidly with 24-hour daylight, but the growing season is short. These factors make the refuge a fragile area easily impacted by human activities. In this most northern of refuges, plant communities take a long time to recover from disturbances. 

A caribou antler and tundra wildflowers.
Driving Directions

Although the Dalton Highway passes close to one small section of Arctic Refuge, most visitors arrive by air. Kaktovik, Deadhorse, Arctic Village and Fort Yukon are the communities located nearest to Arctic Refuge. These remote communities receive regularly scheduled air service from Fairbanks. From there, you may charter authorized commercial air operators to fly into and out of the refuge based on trip arrangements made with the air operators. There are no constructed landing strips or facilities within the refuge.  

Hours
Refuge Hours
Year-Round
Always open to the public
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Offices
101 12th Ave, Rm 236 Fairbanks, AK 99701-6237

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge main offices are located in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Phone Number: 800-362-4546 or 907-456-0250

Hours
Refuge Offices
Mondays to Fridays
8 am to 4:30 pm