Backpacking the Ring of Fire
Aniakchak National Monument

Backpacking the Ring of Fire - Aniakchak National Monument

This all-inclusive 12-day backpacking trip begins and ends in Anchorage, and should be on every backpacker's life list.

We'll travel southwest to King Salmon, Aniakchak's gateway community, before boarding our bush flight bound for the Bering Sea coast town of Port Heiden, Alaska - population 120.  This is where the adventure truly begins!  We'll spend our days backpacking and hiking around the mighty Aniakchak Caldera.  We'll climb up Vent Mountain, visit the site of the 1930 eruption, explore the caldera floor & hike its rugged rim, and totally immerse ourselves within this dynamically unsettled landscape.

As we scour the hillsides for the coastal grizzly's that call Aniakchak home, we'll slowly acknowledge our inevitable return to civilization.  Our route back to civilization will parallel Reindeer Creek as we make our way west along the Bering Sea coastline and our return to Port Heiden.  By expedition's end, your sense of wilderness and wildness will forever be altered by the experience of spending 10-nights in a landscape that defines it.  Perhaps Chris sums it up best.

"Mostly what I remember, though, is the feeling of a different rhythm taking hold, not of the wristwatch but of natural places. Each day as we hike, the sun sets a little sooner. We see salmon gather in the bays, sniffing for their home rivers—and see bears come down to the shore, ready to flick their sushi onto the sand. My fancy GPS watch dies; I don’t much care. I go days without thinking of e-mail or my iPhone. This is what we want from our Aniakchaks, isn’t it? Places that help us shake off the dross and find a surer and more ancient pulse."  Christopher Solomon - Outside Magazine, May 2014.

Images courtesy of Gabe Rogel and Rogel Media.

*While Alaska Alpine Adventures endeavors to follow our itineraries as written, odds are in fact slim that you actually will.  The expeditionary factors at play quite often compel our guides to deviate from the written itinerary.  Guide considerations could include weather conditions, group preference, individual ability, specific safety considerations, or unforeseeable circumstances; collectively what many have called “The Alaska Factor.”  Therefore we strongly suggest that you approach any adventure in Alaska with an open mind.

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Trip Details

DURATION 12 days
LENGTH 50+ miles
INTENSITY Level 3
SEASON Summer
MIN AGE 16
BEGINS IN Anchorage
ENDS IN Anchorage
AIRPORT Anchorage International Airport (ANC)
WILDLIFE/
SCENERY
Bears, eagles, caribou, fox, wolves
Price$4,650
Youth Price$4,650
Great ForExplorers Couples Individuals

In 2013, owner Dan Oberlatz guided writer Christopher Solomon & photographer Gabe Rogel across the Alaska Peninsula and through the wild and remote Aniakchak National Monument & Preserve. They backpacked from the village of Port Heiden, located on the windswept Bering Sea coastline, up and over the caldera rim, and into the surreal confines of the largest volcanic caldera of its kind in Alaska.  They camped along the shores of Surprise Lake, hiked the caldera rim, and basked in the solitude granted to the rare few who step foot in the least visited National Park unit in the nation. Their trip was featured in the May 2014 issue of Outside Magazine, and subsequently Christopher was interviewed on NPR and on Rick Steves’ nationally syndicated radio show in June of 2014.   While we have been guiding river trips in Aniakchak since 2007, Dan's adventure with Chris & Gabe inspired our newest backpacking trip.  So join us for this one-of-a-kind 12-Day Backpacking Adventure into the heart of Alaska's Ring of Fire.

What's Included

  • All group gear: Expedition quality tents, all cooking equipment & eating utensils
  • Safety equipment: Satellite phone, maps, GPS, and medical kit
  • Trekking poles
  • Complementary airport transfers
  • Roundtrip air transportation from Anchorage to King Salmon
  • Roundtrip air transportation from King Salmon to Port Heiden
  • Lodging on night one in Anchorage
  • Professional guide service at a maximum 4:1 client to guide ratio
  • All meals from dinner on day one through lunch on the final day of the itinerary
Day
1

Your trip begins today in Anchorage, Alaska.  You can arrive at any time enjoy our complimentary airport transfer to the bed & breakfast.  You’ll be staying at the Susitna Place or the Copper Whale Inn, which are both located close to the airport and adjacent to downtown Anchorage.  Depending on your arrival time, the remainder of the day is yours to relax after your flight or to explore some of the city’s notable sites including the Anchorage Museum of History & Art or the city Park Strip.  This evening, you’ll meet your guide at 4pm and head to the Alaska Alpine Adventures shop for a pizza dinner with local craft brews and group orientation.  The orientation will include a discussion of the route, an introduction to our unique style of Alaska wilderness travel, a familiarization of the principles of Leave No Trace, and a conversation about traveling safely in bear country.  Dinner & accommodations included.

Day
2

After and early breakfast, you will be transferred to the airport for the 1+ hour flight to King Salmon, where you’ll next board a bush flight destined for Port Heiden on the Bering Sea coast.   As we unload our gear and shoulder our backpacks,  you'll begin to feel the eager anticipation associated with a big backpacking expedition in Alaska.  From the village center, we'll begin our journey toward the caldera by following Birthday Creek.  With each step, the outside world will grow more distant and detached, and you'll begin to detect the tantalizing pangs of solitude as Port Heiden disappears behind us.  All meals included.  Distance: 6 miles, Elevation Gain: 1000’-1500’

Days
3-4

We'll spend the next two days climbing the north flank of the ancient volcano on our way to a gun-sight pass that allows access into the caldera.  We'll hike through verdant tundra, camp along crystal clear creeks, and trek up ash flows from past eruptions, making our own path to the rim, 3000' above Port Heiden.   By the afternoon of day 4, we'll be plunging 2000' into the gut of the Aniakchak Caldera bound for the absolutely surreal Surprise Lake, where we'll set up camp for the next 3 nights.  All meals included. Distance: 16 miles, Elevation Gain: 3000'

Days
5-8

We'll take the next three full days to explore the inner sanctum of the Caldera. With light packs containing only the essentials, we'll strike out daily in search of adventure. Whether climbing to the caldera’s rim, scanning for wildlife along the lake's edge, or climbing Vent Mountain,  our days will be dictated by the serendipity of a flexible itinerary and the incomprehensible amount of perfect hiking terrain near Surprise Lake!  All meals included.   Average Daily Distance: 7-12 miles, Average Daily Elevation Gain: 1000’ - 3000'

Days
9-11

After breaking camp on the morning of day 9, we'll head south toward the “Gates” of the Pacific bound Aniakchak River.  Aptly named, the Gates mark the sole cleft in the wall of the caldera where the lake that once partially filled it spontaneously drained in a catastrophic flood.  Surprise Lake is the small remnant of a lake that once spanned the 6-mile breadth of crater floor, and now provides the headwaters of the 35-mile-long Aniakchak River.  After crossing the river near the Gates, we'll continue wrapping around the flanks of the volcano heading north toward the Bering Sea.  By the afternoon of our eleventh day in the wilderness, we'll be camped on the beach enjoying a bonfire and a celebration of miles past and adventures shared.  All meals included.   Average Daily Distance: 8-10 miles, Average Daily Elevation Gain: 500-2000'

Day
12

Breakfast and hot beverages will help us greet our final day in the wilderness of the Alaska peninsula.  By noon we'll be back at the airstrip and ready for the skilled bush pilots to whisk us back to King Salmon.  Again, Christopher Solomon sums it up best describing Aniakchak on the flight out. "I press my forehead to the window and stare for a long time as the ramp finally climbs higher and higher, until it vanishes in a smother of white clouds. I look up. Gabe and Dan are smiling. For a moment we grin like idiots at one another. Then we press our foreheads against the cold of the Cessna’s tiny portholes. Seeing all this, some of our fellow passengers look out their windows, perplexed. If you hadn’t been there, it would be easy to think there was nothing worth seeing at all."  From King Salmon, we’ll conclude our adventure with a flight back to Anchorage.  Please make certain that you schedule all homebound flights from Anchorage for after 11:00pm.  Better still, we suggest staying in Anchorage this night.  Breakfast & lunch included.

*While Alaska Alpine Adventures endeavors to follow our itineraries as written, odds are in fact slim that you actually will.  The expeditionary factors at play quite often compel our guides to deviate from the written itinerary.  Guide considerations could include weather conditions, group preference, individual ability, specific safety considerations, or unforeseeable circumstances; collectively what many have called “The Alaska Factor.”  Therefore we strongly suggest that you approach any adventure in Alaska with an open mind.

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