Brooks Range - Vacation plans

The Brooks Range of Alaska is one of the worlds few remaining huge wildernesses. It has been on my list since the mid 70's. I'm beginning to feel that if I shall ever get around to doing a long walk among those un-named mountains, now is the time. So I am planning my summer vacation there

By Jörgen Johansson

Brooks Range is the area marked '1' in the map above. There are only a couple of villages and one road, The Haul Road along the pipeline a k a Dalton Highway, in the whole area.

My plan is to walk slightly less than half the lenght of the range, starting close to the Canadian border and finishing at the Haul Road, which is slightly east of the '1'. It will be approximately 500 kilometers and I plan to spend a month alone in this great expanse where I expect to find almost no traces of man, and no men.

This is not a widely traveled area, but there have been some notable solo treks across this wide expanse. One that has been a great inspiration to me is the one made by Buck Nelson in 2007. He made a film about it that I have watched a number of times. And I figured that if one grey-bearded guy with glasses and a base-ball cap can do it, another one can as well...

Here is a trailer from Buck that gives a hint of what you can expect in the Brooks Range.

Another traveller in later years is Andrew Skurka who followed the Brooks Range on the last leg of his Alaska-Yukon Expedition in 2010. He averaged an astounding 27 miles per day through this area with absolutely no man-made trails or bridges. Needless to say, I plan to take it a lot slower...

This last summer the first, to my knowledge, woman to follow the spine of the Brooks was Kristin Gates. A very accomplished trekker despite her fairly modest age of 26.

All of these have travelled fairly close to the watershed, the spine, of Brooks Range. The reason for this is because the rivers are at its smallest and most fordable if you catch them as close to their source as possible. And I do of course plan the same.

Packraft and food for 10 days made for a 22 kilo pack hiking to the headwaters of the Nahanni

My backpacking and packrafting trip to the South Nahanni River a couple of years ago gave me a feeling for travelling in a really big and remote sub-arctic wilderness, the likes of which you will not find in Europe, or even in most of North America or Asia. It was a strange feeling, a mixture of exposure and exhilaration. Maybe feeling really small is what helps you grow? Difficult to describe, but... I want more!

In comparison with the Brooks Range, Sarek NP in Sweden, often marketed as 'the last European wilderness', is pretty civilized. At no point will you be more than 10 kilometers as the crow flies, from a house or a trail or a road. I am not belittling Sarek, it is a wonderful place and I love it. But it has been traveled and hunted regularly by the Sami people for hundreds of years and traveled by scientists and tourists for the last hundred years. Every peak has a name and has been climbed. Every creek has a name and have been crossed thousands of times, often exactly where I am crossing it.

Fall trip in Sarek NP, testing a HMG Porter 4400 Porter pack that will accompany me to the Brooks Range
 In the Brooks Range I will pass some 100 kilometers from Arctic Village, the only village in the Artic Wildlife Refuge. That is the closest I will be to human habitation. When I start I will be 500 kilometers from the nearest road and 300 kilometers from Arctic Village. Most of the hike will be through the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which is 40 times the size of Sarek.

The trip of a lifetime? Yes.


  1. There will be one day I will start to make a Brooks Range crossing too. Already thinking about that for many years. Trip of a lifetime? Oh yes indeed! I'll be definitely following your experiences very close. Good luck with further preparations Jörgen!

  2. Thanks Joery. Right now I am so busy with preparing Coast2Coast Sweden that Brooks Ranges seems far away. But I have already made most of the preparations. At least the mental ones ;-)

  3. Bucks full video is a must watch. Roman Dial did a trip the whole length and only I have read of a few others trips. I recall one persons blog, but cant find the link right now. Good luck planning this, and I am looking forward to reading your reports.

  4. Thanks Martin. Yes, Bucks video has been a great inspiration to me. Andrew Skurka more or less followed his route with exception of a detour Andrew did due to poor weather. He had one of few zero days then. Last year Kristin Gates did the whole thing as well. She's at

  5. All I can say is wow. Good luck and godspeed. I look forward to reading your report upon your return.

  6. Thanks, Niels. I hope the report will not be too adventurous. That is not why I am going. I just wanna have good time on my vacation :-)


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