Sub-Arctic Bikepacking in Alaska’s White Mountains
A photo essay from a sub-arctic snow bike trip through Alaska’s White Mountains.
By Matt & Agnes Hage
Even though fat-tire snow bikes have become increasingly popular in Alaska, their cartoonish proportions still garner quizzical looks from the locals. The six of us had created an impressive yard sale while gearing up for a week-long tour at the Wickersham Dome Trailhead. A handful of Carhartt-clad dog mushers watched in amusement as they hooked up their teams. The pups where also distracted as we put together the puzzle of frame, seat and handle bar bags that would carry our supplies (four bottles spirits and a box of wine) on our ride. With everyone eventually in the saddle, we rolled onto the skinny trail that headed into the scraggly forest of black spruce. Before us was a white ribbon of packed firm snow, three-feet wide, that cut across the rolling hills to the horizon. Before week’s end, we would close a hundred-mile loop back to this spot. Rather than the primo singletrack we all seek out, this was primo crisp snow track.
Located 30-miles north of Fairbanks, Alaska on the Elliott Highway, the one million-acre White Mountains National Recreation Area is a multi-use nirvana. The Bureau of Land Management maintains over 200-miles of winter trails that are open to sled dogs, snowmobiles, bikers and skiers. The trail network also connects a dozen log cabins available to the public on a reservation system. Having these wood-heated huts is key to doing multi-day trips in Alaska’s interior where it routinely gets forty below, or colder, at night. Our tour utilized five of the cabins, going as far out as the Windy Gap Cabin, about 50-miles from our starting point.
There’s little to no artificial light pollution in the Whites and the extreme cold makes the night air razor sharp. This makes it one of the best spots in AK to sip whiskey and watch the Northern Lights dance across the sky. It’s also one of the best places on the planet to snow bike.
Based in Anchorage, Alaska, Matt & Agnes Hage shoot for a variety of outdoor brands around the world. They’d like to thank Speedway Cycles, Revelate Designs and Adventure Appetites for making this adventure in the Arctic possible.
White Mountains National Recreation Area is run by the US Bureau of Land Management and best traveled during the winter months. The BLM maintains three trailheads to provide access to 12 public recreation cabins that are connected by extensive trail systems. Trailheads for the Wickersham Creek Trail and the Colorado Creek Trail are provided at milepost 28 and 57 Steese Highway, respectively, and more remotely, the McKay Creek Trail is access from milepost 42.5 Steese Highway. The average distance between cabins is approximately 10 miles. Permits range from $20 to $25 per night and are required in advance. Please check on cabin availability as the White Mountains area has suffered from wildfires over the past years resulting in the loss of cabins. To find more about permits, cabin locations, and trail conditions visit the BLM’s website: blm.gov/ak/whitemountains/