Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve is a U.S. National Park in Alaska. It is the northernmost national park in the U.S. (the entirety of the park lies north of the Arctic Circle) and the second largest at 8,472,506 acres (3,428,702 ha) (34,287 km²), slightly larger in area than Belgium. The park consists primarily of portions of the Brooks Range of mountains. It was first protected as a U.S. National Monument on December 1, 1978, before becoming a national park and preserve two years later in 1980 upon passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. A large part of the park is protected in the Gates of the Arctic Wilderness which covers 7,167,192 acres (2,900,460 ha).
There are no roads [Or trails! -headszieburrito] in Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve. Owing to its remoteness and lack of supportive infrastructure, the park is the least visited national park in the U.S., and one of the least visited areas in the entire U.S. National Park System, which also includes national monuments, recreation areas, preserves and historic sites. In 2016, the park received just 10,047 visitors, while Grand Canyon National Park received nearly 6 million visitors (about 600 times as many) in the same year.
I'm generally too lazy to plan trips with complicated logistics, so luckily family members wanted to do this, came up with the plan, and did most of the planning! I went with two siblings, my dad, and my wife. We flew up to Prudhoe Bay/Deadhorse from Anchorage, then got a ride south down the Dalton Highway and were dropped off along the road a little south of Atigun Pass. From there we hiked west for eight days and 88 miles to Anaktuvuk Pass. There we caught a plane to Fairbanks, then back to Anchorage. With no trails, travel obviously is all cross country, and going is slow. The tundra is full of tussocks and is generally a saturated mix of moss, grass, low shrubs, etc. It's like walking on a damp to saturated sponge almost the whole time, so your feet are constantly wet and it's hard to go more than one mile an hour. There are frequent stream and river crossings, halfway through day one we gave up on changing into our camp shoes to stay dry and just walked right through everything. In addition to this, we had unusually late winter conditions and were snowed on multiple times, as well as going over snowy/icy passes and ridges. We had a little blue sky on two or three days, but despite 24 hour sunlight up there this time of year, rarely saw the sun itself due to a solid cloud layer. It was also below freezing for several days, including getting down into the teens one night. Luckily we were reasonably prepared for this, but it wasn't ideal or what we were hoping for! Still an awesome trip overall despite some challenges. Awesomely isolated with spectacular peaks and valleys, cool rock formations, and an overall feeling unlike anywhere I've been before. Not a ton of wildlife due to the later winter, but we saw a few small groups of caribou along the highway on our drive south, a single young one a couple days into the hike, a porcupine, two bears luckily from across a valley, and scattered birds. Didn't see a single other person between dropoff and arrival in Anaktuvuk. No trails, no human footprints, no signs of campsites or even cairns. We did pass an old broken down 1960s hunting shack at one pint, the only other things we saw along the way were a couple pieces of discarded gear on two days, then a faint ATV trail to the village at the very end. I'd love to go back for another trip some day!