Hike Alaska's Brooks Range
DURATION: 1012 days
THE PLAN: If you want to get off the beaten path, go someplace that doesn't have paths. Or roads. Or practically any people. At 7.5 million acres, Alaska's Gates of the Arctic National Park is ten times the size of Yosemite but has one-three-hundredth the visitors. After flying from Fairbanks to Coldfoot, hire a bush plane ($800; flycoyote.com) to drop you on the north fork of the Koyukuk River, in the shadows of Frigid Crags and Boreal Mountain, the actual Gates of the Arctic. From there, hike 45 miles through fire-colored tundra and grizzly-and-caribou country over Ernie Pass, to the town of Anaktuvuk Pass (pop. 250), which has a ranger station and an airstrip ($1,045 back to Coldfoot). With no trails, how you get there is between you, some arctic grayling, and your map. Depending on the time of year, it's a toss-up whether bear spray and canisters or head-to-toe bug netting is more essential for safety.
ESSENTIALS : No permits are necessary, but these things are: Trails Illustrated's Gates of the Arctic map ($12; rei.com) and either an Iridium satellite phone or VHF line-of-sight radio, which is the best bet for reaching passing pilots.
PREREQUISITES: Solid navigational skills, strong legs, extensive camping experience.
WHEN TO GO : Early August, postbug hell, prewinter chill. The tundra will be changing color, and you might see herds of thousands of caribou.