Chiricahua National Monument

America’s nation­al mon­u­ments have been under the spot­light late­ly due to efforts to both save and elim­i­nate a few of them. With over 100 Mon­u­ments spread across the coun­try you prob­a­bly haven’t heard of, we thought now would be a good time to high­light some of the least visited.

Chiricahua National MonumentChir­ic­ahua Nation­al Mon­u­ment, Arizona
The Chir­ic­ahua Nation­al Mon­u­ment in Ari­zona is a des­ig­nat­ed wilder­ness acces­si­ble by foot and horse­back. It con­tains rough­ly 17 miles of day-use trails for the intre­pid explor­er with var­i­ous forests, mead­ows and tow­er­ing rock pin­na­cles to wind through. Though ille­gal, we hear it’s also pop­u­lar with climbers; we don’t rec­om­mend tempt­ing fate or the author­i­ties with that one, though. Oth­er­wise, it’s a won­der­ful, unique mon­u­ment with fas­ci­nat­ing rock for­ma­tions and great hikes like the Echo Canyon Trailhead.

Aniakchak National MonumentAni­akchak Nation­al Mon­u­ment, Alaska
Ani­akchak Nation­al Mon­u­ment sees few­er vis­i­tors than even Cape Krusen­stern, aver­ag­ing less than 300 a year. Access to the park is not easy, requir­ing a com­bi­na­tion of fly­ing, boat­ing and back­coun­try hik­ing very few can com­plete. That, com­bined with a large num­ber of wolves and griz­zlies in the region make most poten­tial vis­i­tors weary of mak­ing an attempt. If you can hack it, you’ll be reward­ed with an exten­sive array of hik­ing up Vent Moun­tain along with sport fish­ing and epic raft­ing in the Ani­akchak Riv­er. The region is also home to the 2,000-foot deep vol­canic caldera to explore.

Organ Pipe Cactus National MonumentOrgan Pipe Cac­tus Nation­al Mon­u­ment, Arizona
Organ Pipe Cac­tus was most­ly closed to the gen­er­al pub­lic for 11 years due to it being con­sid­ered the most dan­ger­ous nation­al mon­u­ment in the coun­try. Its loca­tion next to the bor­der of Mex­i­co made it a prime stomp­ing ground for the drug trade, so hik­ing here was pret­ty unsafe. Now that it’s reopened, it pro­vides some of the country’s most scenic hik­ing trails. The sur­round­ing Puer­to Blan­co Moun­tains and Alamo Canyon con­tain dozens of hik­ing trails as well as camp­ing spots where you can spend the night. Organ Pipe is in the heart of the Sono­ran Desert and con­tains unique wildlife you won’t find any­where else; it’s the only place on Earth you can find the cac­tus for which it’s named.

Cape Krusen­stern Nation­al Mon­u­ment, Alaska
Cape Krusen­stern is one of the most remote regions in the Unit­ed States and is locat­ed along 70 miles of the Chukchi Sea in Alas­ka. Get­ting there is no easy task and only the most expe­ri­enced back­coun­try explor­ers should even attempt it. Once there, how­ev­er, you’ll find the 540,000-acre mon­u­ment is loaded with Eski­mo arti­facts dat­ing back 5000 years and plen­ty of natives still liv­ing in the region. The wilder­ness is as rugged as it gets with blis­ter­ing win­ter colds pre­sent­ing the biggest threat, but dur­ing the sum­mer months, it’s a great place to explore the rolling lime­stone hills and coastal plains pep­pered with lagoons. Cape Krusen­stern is also kayak­ing heaven.

Buck Island Reef Nation­al Mon­u­ment, Vir­gin Islands
The U.S. Vir­gin Islands are vir­tu­al­ly teem­ing with adven­ture, though not a lot of peo­ple choose to wade into the Buck Island Reef Nation­al Mon­u­ment. The region is a spec­tac­u­lar spot for those who enjoy spend­ing time on the water. The coral grot­toes are per­fect for snor­kel­ing through­out the day, while fur­ther off­shore there’s plen­ty to dis­cov­er for scu­ba divers at the two des­ig­nat­ed moor­ings. If you pre­fer to stay above water you’ll find great oppor­tu­ni­ties for hik­ing and bird watch­ing through­out the area.

Great Basin National Park

Plan a trip to Yel­low­stone or Yosemite and you’re like­ly to see as many humans as ani­mals. While these icon­ic regions are not to be missed, our Nation­al Park sys­tem offers plen­ty of hid­den trea­sures, too. Check out some of these equal­ly dynamic—but-less-visited—parks.

gates of the arcticGates of the Arc­tic, Alaska
Cari­bou, griz­zly, wolf, and moose all make them­selves at home here amid one of Alaska’s most dra­mat­ic land­scapes. If you’re a self-suf­fi­cient adven­tur­er who longs to expe­ri­ence the pris­tine Arc­tic envi­ron­ment in all its beau­ty, this is one of the best places in the world to real­ize your fantasy.

Just be aware that no por­tion of this park is that vis­i­tor friend­ly, which accounts for its low vis­i­tor tal­ly. There are no guest ser­vices, no neat­ly marked camp­sites. Not so much as a trail dis­turbs the wilder­ness. To reach this remote place, you’ll have to hike in, ford­ing rivers in the process.


northern cascadesNorth Cas­cades, Washington
Some pre­served places are so far off track, just get­ting there is a quest. But if you’re seek­ing alpine back­coun­try, abun­dant glacial activ­i­ty, and plen­ti­ful wildlife, you don’t real­ly have to sac­ri­fice all ameni­ties. North Cas­cades is just about three hours from Seat­tle and fea­tures trails and des­ig­nat­ed camp­ing spots. Vis­i­tors get a first­hand view of a cli­mate in transition—scientists do lots of research here on glac­i­er melt—as well as a dose of splen­did iso­la­tion. Despite all its acces­si­bil­i­ty, this park is still among the least vis­it­ed in the system.


Great Basin National ParkGreat Basin, Nevada
Unex­pect­ed diver­si­ty is on full dis­play at Great Basin. Rang­ing from the sum­mit of Wheel­er Peak to the foothills, this park has plen­ty of sur­pris­es. Here you’ll dis­cov­er forests of bristle­cone pine (the old­est tree species on the plan­et) and a host of aston­ish­ing cav­erns to be explored. Great Basin is also a par­adise for star-gaz­ers, where you can spot fan­tas­tic astro­nom­i­cal activ­i­ty over the clear, dry Neva­da skies.


Isle Royale National ParkIsle Royale, Michigan
This diminu­tive island in enor­mous Lake Supe­ri­or offers vis­i­tors the gift of iso­la­tion. Con­sist­ing of one main island and 450 small­er ones, Isle Royale is a par­adise for kayak­ers, Scu­ba divers, and oth­er explor­ers. Pulling ashore in your kayak or canoe, you’ll be wel­comed by the teem­ing wildlife. Lush­ly forest­ed, Isle Royale is home to moose and wolves, conifers and ferns. Although far few­er species are rep­re­sent­ed here than on the main­land, the iso­la­tion of the park makes vivid encoun­ters like­ly. Even dur­ing peak sea­son, you might avoid meet­ing anoth­er human on your excur­sion. Dur­ing the win­ter, the storm-and-snow-buf­fet­ed island is almost exclu­sive­ly the ani­mals’ domain.


Congaree National ParkCon­ga­ree, South Carolina
Nation­al Parks high­lights some of our nation’s most rare and spe­cial wild places. Con­ga­ree is no excep­tion, encom­pass­ing the last remain­ing and the biggest por­tion of old growth bot­tom­land hard­wood for­est remain­ing in the Amer­i­can south­east. It’s also a thriv­ing flood­plain ecosys­tem, which owes its bio­di­ver­si­ty to the nat­ur­al ebbs and flows of the Con­ga­ree and Wateree Rivers. Explor­ing here is noth­ing short of a bio­log­i­cal and geo­log­i­cal delight.


dry tortugasDry Tor­tu­gas, Florida
Don’t let the word “dry” in its name fool you: More than 99 per­cent of this park is under the sea. If you’re look­ing for a vis­it to a warm-water par­adise, Dry Tor­tu­gas is your per­fect match. Snor­kel­ing, div­ing, swim­ming, and boat­ing are prime choic­es for explo­ration. A Tech­ni­col­or vari­ety of fish and plant life beck­ons. But the human mark on Dry Tor­tu­gas is fas­ci­nat­ing in its own right. The island was home to Fort Jef­fer­son, a valu­able post for patrolling ships of yesteryear.

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Pho­tog­ra­phy pro­vid­ed by Hud­son Hen­ry from the film­ing of “An Amer­i­can Ascent”

When Stephen Shobe first heard about Expe­di­tion Denali he was all in. As he says, in this day and age to have an expe­di­tion of this mag­ni­tude ful­ly fund­ed is prac­ti­cal­ly unheard of, espe­cial­ly if you’re not a pro­fes­sion­al climber. The expe­di­tion was to be the first all African-Amer­i­can ascent of Denali, the high­est moun­tain in North Amer­i­ca. The film An Amer­i­can Ascentwhich debuted in 2015, not only tells the sto­ry of Expe­di­tion Denal­i’s sum­mit attempt, but also address­es a long-stand­ing issue with­in the out­door com­mu­ni­ty, the lack of diver­si­ty. We sat down with Stephen to talk about the film, climb­ing, and how the out­door com­mu­ni­ty might go about tack­ling this problem.

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When did you first get into climb­ing and were there any dif­fi­cul­ties you faced get­ting involved with a sport that is lack­ing in diversity?
I’ve been climb­ing for over 20 years now and sure it was very white back then, but that was it, there was nev­er a sit­u­a­tion where I felt strange for doing what I was doing.  If any­thing I felt embold­ened and spe­cial, at the begin­ning it was all good. The one thing I did notice was in adver­tis­ing, all the climb­ing mag­a­zines, the retail­ers, there was nev­er any col­or, it was all white, and that’s what it was. Even­tu­al­ly that start­ed to change.

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How did this expe­di­tion come together?
One of the guys on my climb­ing team had worked at NOLS, and he was anoth­er African-Amer­i­can, and NOLS put the whole thing togeth­er to raise aware­ness about diver­si­ty, and they pulled me in to add to the ros­ter. The guys from An Amer­i­can Ascent came on once we’d start­ed training.

What kind of impact do you think this film could have on would-be climbers, what­ev­er their background?
I look at it as an aware­ness, mak­ing them aware of what could be done. That’s how I start­ed climb­ing, I was exposed to it, I’d nev­er thought about climb­ing until I was exposed to it. So, to me a lot of it is about expos­ing young peo­ple to this sort of thing. This par­tic­u­lar film is an excit­ing film to watch, you have peo­ple from vary­ing back­grounds in the process, it’s not just pro­fes­sion­als, we were all just reg­u­lar peo­ple. It’s empowering.

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What sort of expe­ri­ence did you per­son­al­ly and the rest of the crew have going into this climb?
Most of the climbers had not done any­thing to this extent, while they were all required to go through mul­ti­ple NOLS cours­es to be on the team, 90% of them had nev­er been above 9,000 feet. I was not includ­ed in that group, I already had four of the Sev­en Sum­mits under my belt. At the end of the day, and this is where my hat real­ly goes out to NOLS, they made some­thing hap­pen that had nev­er hap­pened before. To get 19 peo­ple from diverse back­grounds all onto Denali would have nev­er hap­pened with­out them.

Were there any effects of chang­ing cli­mate that you were able to see while on the climb?
When you fly into the area you actu­al­ly land on the Kahilt­na Glac­i­er on a ski plane. By the time we left they’d had to move the air­field high­er up because the orig­i­nal land­ing strip had melt­ed out and it was all crevass­es. The glac­i­er had begun to move, the hot weath­er had moved in. From what I’ve read there was much more snow melt than they were used to, but that was the first time I’d ever been to Alas­ka so I had noth­ing to com­pare it to. Where I first noticed cli­mate change in rela­tion to glac­i­ers was in Africa when I was doing Kil­i­man­jaro. You could actu­al­ly see where the snow used to be, and where it used to be glaciated.

Why do you think it’s tak­en this long to get diver­si­ty inte­grat­ed into the out­door industry?
I think there are a cer­tain per­cent­age of white peo­ple who are afraid to let you in, because they think ‘we own this, this is ours.’ If you look back at all the sports in the world, it’s the same sto­ry. And now it’s become eco­nom­i­cal­ly viable to let black peo­ple in, it’s a busi­ness deci­sion. The his­to­ry is that there are so many African-Amer­i­cans that have con­tributed to the out­doors, from Matthew Hen­son, the first African-Amer­i­can on the North Pole to Charles Cren­chaw, the first African-Amer­i­can to sum­mit Denali. I think this is just the melt­ing away of some old walls.

You’ve been involved in the out­door com­mu­ni­ty for years, what sort of orga­ni­za­tions are out there ded­i­cat­ed to help­ing young peo­ple, from any back­ground, get involved in the outdoors?
There are tons of orga­ni­za­tions out there, from Out­ward Bound Adven­tures to my orga­ni­za­tion, Pio­neer Climb­ing Kids Foun­da­tion, and there are tons more. They help by teach­ing kids that the only lim­its you have are the ones you put in front of your­self, by elim­i­nat­ing those imag­i­nary bound­aries of what you can and can­not do.

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Rumor has it you might be think­ing about doing the Sev­en Sum­mits? Is that what’s next on your climb­ing agenda?
Oh it’s not a rumor, it’s some­thing I’m doing, I’ve already climbed Aconcagua, Elbrus, Kil­i­man­jaro, and Kosciuszko. I’m either gonna be the old­est dude to climb all Sev­en Sum­mits or I’m gonna take up per­ma­nent res­i­dence on one.

Do you think this film will have his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance with­in the out­door community?
You know what, I can’t see the future, but all I can say is that I hope so. I can tes­ti­fy to the fact that every screen­ing I’ve been to has been greet­ed with so much enthu­si­asm and positivity.

 


An Amer­i­can Ascent was Direct­ed & Pro­duced by Andy Adkins & George Pot­ter. Pho­tog­ra­phy by Hud­son Hen­ry.

To learn more about the film check out An Amer­i­can Ascen­t’s web­site.

Inter­view & Sto­ry by Col­in Houghton

©istockphoto/Kenneth Wiedemann

©istockphoto/Kenneth WiedemannSum­mer means sev­er­al things in Alas­ka: almost 24-hour sun­light, rainy weath­er, and of course, tourists. As a local Alaskan, I’ve host­ed many out-of-town­ers and wit­nessed many more in typ­i­cal tourist haunts. So, if you’re plan­ning a sum­mer excur­sion to Alas­ka, here are 10 things you’ll need to get the most out of your trip.

1. Rain Jacket
If there’s one thing you can count on from an Alaskan sum­mer, it’s rain. Usu­al­ly, in the form of a light driz­zle, it can increase to a full-on mon­soon. Keep your­self warm and dry with a light, breath­able, and water-resis­tant jacket.

2. Cool Weath­er Wear
It’s no secret that Alas­ka boasts cool­er tem­per­a­tures than most places. So, depend­ing on your cli­mate of ori­gin, you may want to bun­dle up a lit­tle more than you would else­where. Don’t break out your snow­suit, but pre­pare with long pants and long sleeves. The best lay­ers are ones you can shed if the tem­per­a­ture creeps up.

3. Warm Weath­er Wear
Many vis­i­tors are so pre­oc­cu­pied with dress­ing for cold weath­er, that they com­plete­ly for­get the poten­tial for hot sum­mer tem­per­a­tures. Espe­cial­ly for peo­ple plan­ning to vis­it dif­fer­ent areas of the state, keep in mind temps can reach the 90’s in var­i­ous areas. Pre­pare by bring­ing shorts and t‑shirts, know­ing a quick change in weath­er may require adding a layer.

4. Cam­era
Try not to spend so much time behind the lens that you miss out on your actu­al expe­ri­ence, but of course, you’ll want to snap that per­fect pro­file pic. Big or small, bring your pre­ferred camera—just remem­ber to be aware of your sur­round­ings. While the view might be beau­ti­ful, stop­ping on the side of a two-lane high­way while locals rush to the riv­er, may not be the best course of action. When you’re dri­ving use spe­cif­ic pull­outs to stop and take pictures.

5. Shoes with Tread
While many places you’ll trav­el in Alas­ka have paved roads and side­walks, you’ll prob­a­bly want to ven­ture off the beat­en path at some point. Depend­ing on your antic­i­pat­ed activ­i­ty, opt to bring a shoe with con­sid­er­able tread. A trail run­ning shoe or hik­ing boot is a good option for most out­door activities.

©istockphoto/Marcopolo94426. Sleep­ing Mask
It’s not called the “Land of the Mid­night Sun” for noth­ing. With sun­sets occur­ring in the ear­ly morn­ing hours (if at all), most Alaskans fash­ion room dark­en­ing shades or place tin foil on their win­dows to get prop­er shut­eye. As a vis­i­tor, a sleep­ing mask should do the trick.

7. Casu­al Wear
Even Alaskans like to enjoy a nice night on the town. Should you ven­ture to a nicer venue, you don’t want to show up to a fan­cy din­ner in your zip-off adven­ture pants. Plan a cou­ple of com­fort­able, casu­al out­fits and don’t feel the need to get to gussied up. Alaskans may not be the best-dressed folks in the nation, but you’ll get some side­ways glances if you show up to din­ner look­ing ready to hike.

8. Mon­ey
Ok, so this prob­a­bly goes for any trip you take but do bear in mind things are lit­tle prici­er in Alas­ka. Pri­mar­i­ly due to the costs of import­ing goods, high costs trick­le down to locals and vis­i­tors alike. If your bud­get is less padded, opt for as many free activ­i­ties as pos­si­ble. Most sight­see­ing can be done from a car win­dow or atop a local hik­ing trail.

9. Sense of Direction
Locals are big into using car­di­nal direc­tions to send you to a des­ti­na­tion. If you find your­self con­fused at where to go fear not—just remem­ber in South­cen­tral Alas­ka, East is toward the moun­tains. Always ask for clar­i­fi­ca­tion, and car­ry a map.

10. Flex­i­bil­i­ty
No, we’re not refer­ring to your down­ward dog, but rather to your emo­tion­al flex­i­bil­i­ty. Plans change as fre­quent­ly as the weath­er in the Last Fron­tier. Sum­mer road con­struc­tion, inclement weath­er, or a griz­zly post­ing up in your camp­ing spot can put a stick in the spokes of the best-laid plans. When trav­el­ing in Alas­ka, it’s best to keep a sense of humor and see obsta­cles as an adventure.

It’s that time of year when the days are longer and the nights are get­ting hot­ter. Sum­mer is the sea­son for week­end escapes to the beach and reunions at the fam­i­ly lake house. But with air­fare approach­ing 4‑year lows, it’s not a bad time to book a flight, even if it’s just for a quick week­end escape. A group of Clymb employ­ees and friends recent­ly took advan­tage of cheap flights to Alas­ka, and with almost 20 hours of day­light, the week­end was packed with action. Here are the high­lights from their 3 dif­fer­ent itineraries.

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Surf & Scram­ble — Kyle, Col­in, Craig

Fri­day

  • Arrived in Anchor­age at 11:50pm, picked up a rental car, and start­ed the 2 hour dri­ve south to Seward.

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Sat­ur­day

  • Arrived in Seward at 2:30am, quick­ly set up a tent in the down­town, and slept for 4 hours.
  • Met up with Cap­tain Liska of Alas­ka Surf Adven­ture at 8:00am and board­ed The Drekkar. Took an hour-long boat ride out of Res­ur­rec­tion Bay to get to the surf break at Bear Glacier.
  • Surfed for 5 hours and then head­ed back to port.
  • Met up with Suzie and Natal­ie for a hike up the Hard­ing Ice­field Trail.
  • Grabbed a beer at Yukon bar, set up camp near Exit Glac­i­er, and passed out around midnight.

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Sun­day

  • Woke up at 8am and drove an hour north to Byron Glacier.
  • Scram­bled for sev­er­al hours get­ting as close as we could safe­ly get to the glacier.
  • Drove 15 min­utes to Whit­ti­er. Grabbed a bowl of seafood chow­der and spent a few hours explor­ing the town that is rich in WWII and Cold War history.
  • Drove back to Anchor­age, met up with the girls, had a few beers, and head­ed to the airport.

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Hike & Kayak — Suzie, Natal­ie

Fri­day

  • Arrived at 11:50pm, and spent the night in Anchorage.

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Sat­ur­day

  • Picked up the rental car and made the scenic day­time dri­ve to Seward.
  • Arrived in Seward and spent the morn­ing explor­ing the downtown.
  • Met up with Kyle, Col­in, and Craig and hiked up the Hard­ing Ice­field Trail until the snow was too deep to pass.
  • Set up camp in Kenai Fjords Nation­al Park.

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Sun­day

  • Woke up at 7:00am and made breakfast.
  • Met up with the crew from Sun­ny Cove Sea Kayak­ing at  8:00am.
  • Went kayak­ing for 4 hours in Res­ur­rec­tion Bay,  and saw all sorts of wildlife includ­ing breach­ing whales, seals, sea lions, otters, and bald eagles.
  • Sun­bathed and pic­nicked on Low­ell Point beach before head­ing back to Anchorage.

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Back­pack — Olivia, Lau­ra, Michelle, Grace, Han­nah, Alaina

Fri­day

  • Arrived in Anchor­age and spent the night in Bar­rett Hotel.

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Sat­ur­day

  • Stopped by Adven­ture Appetites to get back­pack­ing food and bear spray at 8am.
  • Drove south on Hwy 1 to the trail­head for the Res­ur­rec­tion Trail.
  • Hiked 14.5 miles through the Chugach Nation­al For­est to the East Creek Cab­in. Saw 2 bears, a baby moose, and a bunch of bald eagles on the trail.
  • The cab­in came equipped with an out house and wood for wood-stove, as well as axe and saw. There was no bear box so we hung our food. We made our din­ners, hung our wet clothes to dry, drank wine, and watched the sun go down after 11pm.

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Sun­day

  • Woke up, made break­fast, and hiked 14.5 miles back out to the van with sun­shine and blue skies. Legs were throb­bing from 30 miles cov­ered in 24 hours.
  • Got back to the van and imme­di­ate­ly took off our boots and socks to soak our feet in the near­by creek.
  • Drove back to Anchor­age to meet up with the rest of the crew for Fish-n-chips, Salmon Spread, and well-deserved beers. Returned our bear spray and rental car and head­ed for the air­port for our return flight home around 10pm.

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These are just a few ideas for your next week­end get­away whether it’s by air or road. Remem­ber to share your sto­ries with us using #Clym­bLife. Now get out­side and explore!

©istockphoto/brytta

If it’s not yet, a long vis­it to Alas­ka belongs on your buck­et list. But how to see it and where to go? While lots of vis­i­tors opt for cruise tours via the Inside Pas­sage, this route is only a frac­tion of what Alas­ka has to offer. If you’re feel­ing intre­pid, con­sid­er tra­vers­ing the state over­land via one of these famous routes and get a new view on Alaska’s bog­gling 663,300 square miles (or what por­tion of it you have time to explore).

Alas­ka Cana­da Highway
Built dur­ing WWII, the Alas­ka Cana­da High­way con­nects Daw­son Creek, British Colom­bia to Delta Junc­tion, Alas­ka. Its 1,387-mile length guides dri­vers through forests of black spruce, past aus­tere tun­dra, around snow-glazed moun­tains, and by fields of wild­flow­ers. Its north­ern end enters Beringia, where evi­dence sug­gests some of the ear­li­est New-World human set­tle­ments were established.

This dri­ve not only gives you a feel for the grandeur, geol­o­gy, and his­to­ry of Alas­ka, it’s also become quite a safe, reli­able route. Acces­si­ble year-round, it’s a per­fect intro­duc­tion to Alaska’s beauty.

George Parks Highway
Vis­it­ing Denali Nation­al Park via the Parks High­way should be a pri­or­i­ty. More than 6 mil­lion acres of wilder­ness, crowned by the tallest peak in Alas­ka, Denali Nation­al Park’s beau­ty is almost incom­pre­hen­si­ble. And high­way access is pret­ty straight­for­ward. Bonus: it’s total­ly paved and open dur­ing all sea­sons. The route runs 362 miles, link­ing Anchor­age to Fairbanks.

If you decide to make a win­ter vis­it, you’re more like­ly to be reward­ed with views of Denali, which is vis­i­ble only about one in three days dur­ing the summer.

Denali High­way
Before the com­ple­tion of the Parks High­way in the ear­ly 1970s, the Denali High­way, con­nect­ing Pax­son to Cantwell was your lone route into the nation­al park. These days, it’s a sea­son­al, par­tial­ly unpaved option for dri­vers who like plot­ting a slight­ly adven­tur­ous course. It’s acclaimed by Men’s Jour­nal as one of America’s most thrilling roads and as a top 10 dri­ve for “dri­vers’ dri­ve” by Nation­al Geo­graph­ic Traveler.

Some rental com­pa­nies place restric­tions on des­ig­nat­ed routes, so plan accord­ing­ly if you’ll be rent­ing your ride.

Seward High­way
The Seward High­way, a 127-mile stretch from Anchor­age to Seward, is one of the best visu­al feasts you’ll ever expe­ri­ence, with prime pic­ture-tak­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties of water­falls, moun­tain views, and steely blue water­scapes. Take this paved, year-round road all the way to Seward, locat­ed on the Kenai Penin­su­la, where you can fish, camp, and watch glac­i­ers calv­ing out in the bay.

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Pho­to by @kyleoutside

Dal­ton Highway
This one’s for the road war­riors. Dal­ton High­way is 75% unpaved and has plen­ty of steep grades (as well as intense truck traf­fic). Although it’s open year-round, tourists unused to intense con­di­tions should plan to tack­le this road dur­ing best pos­si­ble con­di­tions: dur­ing late spring or sum­mer. If the dri­ving is a lit­tle too white-knuck­le and you still want the expe­ri­ence, tours are avail­able. If you’ll be rent­ing a vehi­cle, check to make sure the com­pa­ny allows its vehi­cles to be dri­ven on this wild road.

Gen­er­al Road Advice
You’ll want to make sure that your vehi­cle is up to the chal­lenge of the Alaskan high­ways. Even the best of these roads take a long year­ly pum­mel­ing from intense weath­er and some lead through total iso­la­tion. If you’ll be tack­ling a tough one, think 4‑wheel dri­ve SUV or RV. Keep in mind that Alaska’s fuel prices tend to run high, so account for that cost in your trav­el budget.

Statewide, you’ll have the best con­di­tions for dri­ving between May and Sep­tem­ber. The length of your trip will depend on the num­ber of places you plan to see. Use this mileage chart to find the dis­tance between your intend­ed route stops.

©istockphoto/Natalia Bratslavsky

 

The Trip of a Lifetime
Reach­ing Alas­ka is a quest in itself. Get­ting around once you’re there can be a thrilling and chal­leng­ing expe­ri­ence. Remote wilds, high gas prices, the very real fear of run­ning into a moose—Alaska offers plen­ty of excitement.

So grab your paper-bound road atlas (who knows if the GPS will work out here) and get going.

 

 

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There are few places around the world that have been able to keep up their wild and mys­te­ri­ous aura. There are even few­er places that remain rel­a­tive­ly unex­plored and unclimbed. Deep in the heart of Gates of the Arc­tic Nation­al Park of North­ern Alas­ka lies more than 37,000 acres of wild gran­ite spires, so remote that many of them are only clas­si­fied by number.

Remote and Wild

These are the Arrigetch Peaks, a col­lec­tion of tow­er­ing rock columns that have seen just over 50 expe­di­tions since 1963. Famed climbers such as Fred Beck­ey, Galen Row­ell, Jon Krakauer, Mikey Schaf­fer and Tom­my Cald­well have estab­lished bold, inno­v­a­tive and explorato­ry routes through­out the range, going with­out guide­books or mark­ers and rely­ing on old-fash­ioned route find­ing and good climb­ing intu­ition to make astound­ing alpine ascents.

The Brooks Range and the Arrigetch Peaks were mapped out for the first time in 1911, but did not see their first ascents until 1965. Because of the wild and remote nature of the range, many of the climbs have gone unre­port­ed and unrecord­ed, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to dif­fer­en­ti­ate a first ascent from what’s already been climbed.

Get­ting There

An expe­di­tion into the Arrigetch starts with a flight from the city of Bet­tles and its neigh­bor Evans­ville, which in 2010 had a com­bined pop­u­la­tion of 40. A bush plane typ­i­cal­ly drops climbers in the plains more than 100 to 150 miles south of the range. From there, they’re forced to pack­raft, hike, or ski into the Arrigetch Val­ley, where they are then able to access dozens of spires, ridges, and peaks that dot the range.

The tow­ers are char­ac­ter­ized by dra­mat­i­cal­ly point­ed sum­mits, sharp ridges and loose, treach­er­ous, third and fourth class approach­es. Many of the for­ma­tions, such as Shot Tow­er and Alba­tross, fea­ture steeply sloped approach­es lead­ing to a ver­ti­cal col­umn to the top. The climb­ing across the range com­bines moun­taineer­ing with a unique brand of alpin­ism that incor­po­rates aid, big wall tac­tics and long dif­fi­cult-to-pro­tect pitches.

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Pho­tos cour­tesy of Bryan Friedrichs

Not for the Faint of Heart

Shot Tow­er is one of the most famous spires in the park. First climbed by David Roberts in 1971, the 6,069-foot peak fea­tures a 16-pitch arête that soars up the West Ridge to a near ver­ti­cal finish.

Inspired by his mentor’s exploits, Jon Krakauer set off to ascend the 7,100-foot West Face of Xanadu, a mas­sive fin that involves an upward tra­verse across scree to reach an impos­ing arête that gains over 1,000-vertical feet of climb­ing. While Xanadu has had routes set on both sides, its mam­moth West Face, alleged­ly an unfin­ished dream by Mugs Stump, has nev­er been finished.

Cre­ativ­i­ty in the Wilderness

Even by the stan­dards of mod­ern climb­ing, the routes are still explorato­ry and require a cre­ative approach. In 2011, when climbers Tom­my Cald­well, Hay­den Kennedy and Corey Rich attempt­ed, in the midst of win­ter,  a new line on Xanadu, they found them­selves swing­ing between pitch­es to reach the next crack sys­tem. The pitch­es were long and run out, which, accord­ing to Kennedy, required at times plac­ing the first piece of gear 50-feet above the anchor. They grad­ed their line, “Deep In The Alaskan Bush,” a 5.11 X M2.

Cur­rent guides to the Range are extreme­ly vague. When climbers arrived in the Kobuk Val­ley, they left lit­tle indi­ca­tion of their climbs where­abouts, not­ing in their jour­nals: “prow-like for­ma­tion” and “for­ma­tion sim­i­lar to the Dia­mond on Longs Peak.” Giv­en the remote­ness of the for­ma­tions, the del­i­cate­ness of the tun­dra and the explorato­ry style of climb­ing, there isn’t much to go off of, save for per­son­al jour­nals, dat­ed web­sites and the occa­sion­al expe­di­tion that pro­vides updates on the cur­rent state of the peaks.

Well above the Arc­tic Cir­cle are the last great alpine wilder­ness­es. The Arrigetch rep­re­sents a lit­tle-explored and still pris­tine climb­ing envi­ron­ment. For those who are will­ing to invest in the trip of a life­time, the peaks rep­re­sent some of the world’s next great alpine objectives.

 

 

Brooks Falls in Alaska’s Kat­mai Nation­al Park is one of the best places in the world to watch wild griz­zlies. Now, thanks to EXPLORE.org, you can now do it from the com­fort of home.

They’ve set up remote-con­trol cam­eras to cap­ture one of North Amer­i­ca’s great­est wildlife spec­ta­cles. Each year, up to 100 griz­zlies gath­er at Brooks Falls to feast on Sock­eye Salmon.

Keep the feed open all day. It takes patience or luck to watch one nab a leap­ing salmon.

 

 

If you’ve ever want­ed to chill close up with a griz­zly — here’s your chance. Watch Drew Hamil­ton of the Alas­ka Fish & Game Depart­ment get up close and per­son­al with a mighty bru­in at the McNeil State Game Sanctuary.

You might know the McNeil Riv­er for its famous web­cam that has giv­en the world inti­mate access to the feed­ing habits of griz­zlies dur­ing the annu­al sum­mer salmon run. You can watch some great footage from the web­cam here.

The bear in this video and in the web­cam appear absolute­ly docile, but don’t let that trick you, and don’t ever try to get this close to a bear. They are calm, intel­li­gent ani­mals that have incred­i­ble strength. An encounter this close is dan­ger­ous even for a pro­fes­sion­al who knows how to read the body lan­guage of a bear, and griz­zlies are often not this com­fort­able around peo­ple. What makes this video so incred­i­ble is that it’s a tru­ly rare moment where it seems that man and bear cohab­i­tate the river­bank in appar­ent peace.

Thanks to Steve Casimiro at the Adven­ture Jour­nal for find­ing this gem.

By Tim Gib­bins

Want to know what it feels like to charge down the face of some of the biggest lines in the world at Mach speeds?

Head to Alas­ka with pro­fes­sion­al ski­er Todd Lig­are and pre­pare your­self for some seri­ous Neg­a­tive-Gs. Teton Grav­i­ty Research’s insane footage com­bined with some sick met­al tunes will have you sali­vat­ing all over your keyboard.

Win­ter is coming,

Way of Life Trailer

The newest Teton Grav­i­ty Research film “Way of Life” has all of the top skiers: Sage Cat­tabri­ga-Alosa, Tim Durschi, Sam­my Carl­son. All of the top loca­tions: Jack­son Hole, British Colum­bia back­coun­try, Alas­ka, and more.

It’s epic. It’s gnarly. But what makes Way of Life so intrigu­ing is that it delves into the mind­sets of the top skiers, includ­ing those on the U.S. Freeski­ing Team as they pur­sue Olympic Gold.

This new film from the undis­put­ed heavy­weight is due out this fall. 

Brooks Falls in Kat­mai Nation­al Park is a kayaker’s worst night­mare. Below the falls, on top of the falls, and all along the banks are dozens of hun­gry griz­zly bears. They’re feed­ing on spawn­ing salmon mak­ing this rapid at least a Class VI. Even tak­ing pho­tos from the bank would be dan­ger­ous. It’s one of those scenes that a Plan­et Earth film crew would sit for days to get the per­fect jaws-agape-as-a-salmon-leaps-into-fangs kind of footage. Now you can watch it from the com­fort of your liv­ing room.

Explore.org first estab­lished the stream­ing HD footage of these feed­ing griz­zlies for a two-week test peri­od in 2012. Web traf­fic showed a healthy appetite for watch­ing hun­gry bears. Mil­lions of peo­ple tuned in. The bears became an inter­na­tion­al­ly trend­ing Twit­ter top­ic, which made them the biggest griz­zly celebri­ties in the his­to­ry of the world.

Now they’re back. The 2012 suc­cess has lead explore.org to launch six more cam­eras that are oper­at­ed by remote con­trol from near­by Brooks Camp Alas­ka, a local bear view­ing sta­tion. There’s an under­wa­ter cam­era and an eye lev­el cam, and they both pro­vide access to what was once a very rare view­point of the feed­ing frenzy.

Watch­ing it though, your first thought might be “When are they going to catch one?” Some of the bears seem to enjoy the mas­sage of the rapids like they’re sit­ting on the jets of a Jacuzzi more than active­ly feed­ing on salmon. But that’s why watch­ing is so mesmerizing.

These bears are unedit­ed. We’re not shown all fang and claw. These cams pro­vide the less­er-seen por­tray­al of docile griz­zlies. Some of the bears seem like under­dogs. They’re woe­ful­ly inef­fec­tive in their claw swats for fish. Oth­ers choose expert posi­tions, and you can see them schem­ing in their attempts. It’s sur­pris­ing­ly enter­tain­ing. With all of the gawk-cen­tric, heav­i­ly edit­ed footage fea­tured in the media, films, and on the Inter­net, this live feed is a strange reminder of the rhythm and pace of the nat­ur­al world.