Located in the remote northwest region of Alaska, Kobuk Valley National Park is a 1.7-million-acre park protecting several unique features of Alaska’s Arctic. The park occupies a broad valley in which the Baird and Waring mountain ranges surround the Kobuk River. It is perhaps best known for its most iconic attraction, the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes, a unique geological attraction formed by the grinding action of glaciers; the wind-sculpted dunes can rise to 100 feet and are stabilized by the area’s vegetation. The dunes lie 40 miles above the Arctic Circle, yet summer temperatures can reach 100 degrees.
The park is named after the Kobuk River valley, which runs through its center. “Kobuk” is an Iñupiaq word meaning “big river.” The Kobuk River’s bluffs, some of which stand more than 150 feet high, and is home to a treasure chest of anthropological discoveries. Do its permafrost ice wedges hold Ice Age mammal fossils? The slow-moving Kobuk River offers adventure seekers extraordinary wilderness float trip opportunities through scenic boreal forests.
There is no road access, campgrounds, or well-maintained trails in Kobuk Valley. The park headquarters and visitor center are located 75 miles west in Kotzebue. During the summer, there is a scheduled air service from Anchorage to Kotzebue or Fairbanks to Bettles. Once in Kotzebue or Bettles, visitors fly to the park via floatplane or a small wheeled plane on the dunes. In the winter, access is by plane, snowmachine, or dog sled.