Barrow, Alaska – Arriving in America’s Northernmost City

Barrow, Alaska – A glimpse into North America’s Northernmost city in winter and to see what it really looks like.

After four stunning days in Fairbanks, I had had enough of the northern lights and was ready to explore other distinct parts of Alaska. I had discovered on my first trip to Alaska that it is impossible to cross out Barrow, the northernmost city of America, on my destination list, especially when had I come this far. Therefore, when my friends back in Hawaii told me that Barrow was extremely cold and dark in March, it piqued my curiosity of what the winter in Arctic Circle really looks like.

Barrow Alaska

The plane took off at 8:00 am when Fairbanks was still snoozing. It plunged me out from the modern buildings and snow-capped hills and to the arid landscape of snow-covered fields. This monotonous view continued for an hour and a half before I arrived in Barrow. I stepped into the airport, geared up with all my winter clothes to confront with the frigid arctic climate.

I finally caught a glimpse of Barrow outside the airport. It was morning in mid- winter. The city had already made it through its winter solstice and was bright enough to greet its new arrivals. It is a small Eskimo village down in the northernmost corner of America. My first impression of Barrow comes down to a dirt road, several one story buildings and pure white snow.

Barrow
First sight of Barrow, Alaska after stepping out of the airport | Photo Credit: Julie Cao

I gazed over a half a foot snow, and enjoyed watching a snowmobile team ride their snowmobile in this northern territory. This is the land where the snowmobiles ruled the snow as the transportation of choice. Today snowmobiling is a spectacular sport in the polar region, but for me, simply watching the Eskimos conquer the snowy and icy roads with their advanced snowmobiling technique was already thrilling enough.

Barrow, Alaska

The snowmobiles hit the snow and made it turned into a white mist. About half an hour into our tour, the bus pulled over in front of a local store. We hurried into the land of wilderness and saw a mountain of snow in front of a local store. This was a perfect base for playing in the snow. We darting down the icy road and searched for a vintage point for a snowball fight. The tour guide did not rush us into the bus in order to stick with our travel schedule.  Instead, he initiated the fight by tossing a humongous chunk of snow towards us. As we laughed, screamed and ran away from the ball of snow, I thought how wonderful it was to be away from reality.

We made it to Pepe’s North of the Border to stuff our tummy with yummy Mexican food. I had ever imagined that a Mexican restaurant could be that far north, but Pepe serves many types of Mexican food, from fried beans to salsa to fish and so on. For every course we ordered, it came with a plate of nachos and salsa. Although it is a northerly restaurant with a northerly price, the owner and their team made some really scrumptious seafood to satisfy our taste buds.

Barrow, Alaska
Our lunch at Pepe’s North of the Border, Barrow, Alaska

After a restorative lunch, we made it to the Point Barrow, with a landmark (sign) showing “Welcome to Barrow, Top of the World”.  The landmark told us that we had reached the northernmost city of the United States. I meandered around the sign for a small stint and felt the excitement of arriving at Point Barrow. The sign was surrounded by skeleton of a bow-head whale, piles and mounts of white snow and cloud -free skies. The airplane flew overhead; we waved and cheered for the passengers wishing them a blessed trip to the south. The scene was a winter wonderland on earth; a fantasy land of pure white snow made for a blissful winter trip. Far from the pressure of 9 to 5 grind, tuition payments, and daily routines, this place was a refuge for me.

Barrow, Alaska
Ready for snow fight, Barrow, Alaska | Photo Credit: Julie Cao

I spent the remaining afternoon at the northernmost point of North America, trekked through the snow, spotted out wolf tracks, and chatted with the tour guide. It is a disoriented place – secluded, fearsome, and otherworldly – under the gloomy skies, with seemly endless snow and nothing else. I could clearly feel I am on the edge of the world the moment I set my feet on the northernmost point. I took a deep breath and a few steps forward, a walk on the edge of the world is brought into reality. I wonder where I would end up if I continued strolling northwards; maybe to the northernmost point of the world, or maybe I would disappear without trace.

Barrow, Alaska
The Northernmost Point of North America,  Barrow,  Alaska|Photo Credit: Julie Cao

The power of snow finally frightened me. Having no idea of the length and the time that it took to reach the point of extremes, I hesitated to step forward. Looking back to the starting point, my tour guide waved to me and patiently waited for my return.

Irrespective of my unrealistic thoughts, it was a fantastic walk in one of the most remote places that I have ever come across.  I departed Barrow eager to experience the rest of my trip in Alaska and was completely in love with the winter season in this American northernmost city.

Summer in Barrow, Alaska

From May 10 to August 2, it is summer in Barrow; a time when Eskimos carry on major hunting and cultural activities: blanket toss, native dance performances, and polar bear club. There are 24 hours of daylight, as the sun never fully sets. With the continuous daylight, even at midnight, visitors have sufficient time to explore the town and learn the local tradition of this remote Eskimo village.

Planning to visit Barrow, Alaska? Here’s what you need to know prior to your departure.

  • Dress warmly and in layers. The weather can be unpredictable and extraordinarily cold and windy even during the summer season, but it will be warm indoors.
  • Barrow is an extremely expensive place to visit. The round-trip airfare from Fairbanks usually costs $575 per person. The only hotel in Barrow, Top of the World Hotel, is more than $200 nightly.
  • If you are flexible on time but tight on budget, drive to the Arctic Circle via Dalton Highway, the northernmost highway in the United States; it can give you a taste of the frozen tundra, Arctic Ocean, and various wildlife: bears, Dall sheep, and caribous. Be sure you have your own car insurance covered for the entire road trip, as the Dalton Highway is a restricted area for all the car-rental companies in Alaska.
  • Cell-phone services will likely not be available in Barrow, so prepare accordingly. Leave a message to your family and dear friends letting them know your itinerary in the Arctic Circle for safety purposes.
  • The weather impacts your itinerary, so be prepared for delays, changes, and cancellations of your flights because of the inclement weather.
  • Wear sunglasses to prevent symptoms of snow blindness.

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Barrow, Alaska

If you enjoyed reading this article, why not get a free copy of The Ultimate Guide to Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska (the most popular post of all time ).

 

 

Julie Cao

Julie Cao is a travel blogger, travel writer, and global citizen currently living in Toronto Ontario.

19 thoughts on “Barrow, Alaska – Arriving in America’s Northernmost City

  • January 4, 2013 at 7:39 am
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    Hi Julie,

    I’m glad to see that you enjoyed your visit to Barrow. I do believe there are a couple bed&breakfasts that people can stay at, and people can sometimes stay at the college dorms (depending on availability).

    Reply
    • January 8, 2013 at 7:43 am
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      Hi Daniel,

      Thank you for enjoying my story, Surely, tt was an experience I shall never forget. I hope to come back in summer one day,

      There are two other places, Barrow Airport Inn and King Eider Inn for visitors to stay. Eskimos there are extremely hospitable, they sometimes even welcome travelers to stay at their home.

      Reply
  • March 14, 2013 at 12:49 am
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    Wow, you are one adventurous lady… I love the Barro’s picture with miles of snow… it’s like looking down from the plane seeing an ocean of cloud! I would only go Alaska via cruiseship, need good deal though!

    Reply
    • March 17, 2013 at 1:46 pm
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      Alaska cruiseship will take you through Alaska Inside Passage, which ranked as one of the most prettiest area in the whole state. Bon Voyage!

      Reply
  • January 2, 2017 at 5:12 pm
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    I read this blog with a smile on my face. Alaska in on my mind ever since I read the book ‘In To The Wild’. That book has a massive following. I want to take the trail which Christopher Mc candles took decades ago.

    Reply
    • January 2, 2017 at 5:33 pm
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      I only read part of the book but I remember the Into the Wild movie opening scene with Alaska’s blue sky and the train, and dreamed of going there one day as well. Alaska is too beautiful.

      Reply
  • January 2, 2017 at 5:24 pm
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    I’m always fascinated about visiting the north/east/west/southernmost point of a certain country. That’s why I found your article really interesting. But Barrow seems to be quite an expensive area. Do you think it’s a good place for a solo traveller?

    Reply
    • January 2, 2017 at 5:31 pm
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      I did not travel solo to Barrow, but you can try. I do think it is an interesting place to solo travel in summer with all the interesting activities, and the locals are really warm and welcoming. Yes it is expensive to get there and travel around, but it is very rewarding to see the point of extremes and get to know the different life style there.

      Reply
  • January 2, 2017 at 7:28 pm
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    Wow. This looks like such an incredible experience, I’m very jealous! Alaska is definitely on my bucket list and now Barrow in Alaska is too! Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    • January 12, 2017 at 12:53 am
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      Barrow is an unique trip and it makes you hardly believe are in the USA. So remote but so beautiful. Thanks for reading!

      Reply
  • January 3, 2017 at 3:39 am
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    Up north is snow and cold. It’s all white and grey. But I guess that’s the bit of a scary beauty of it that you really want to enjoy too just out of curiosity. I’m sure I’d want to go there and shout at least once… “I’m on top of the world” 😀

    Great tips. Had and idea that a trip to such a place could be very costly but wouldn’t have guessed it would be priced so much.

    – Pixellicious

    Reply
    • January 12, 2017 at 12:57 am
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      Too bad we did not shout, but I should haha. I love how you describe the north slope has something represents the scary beauty, yes I was a tad frightened when I walked on the northernmost point of the continent but I want to keep walking but scared…

      Reply
  • January 3, 2017 at 5:40 pm
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    Alaska is on my hit list! We don’t get much snow in the South of England so would be amazing to experience a place like this!

    Reply
    • January 12, 2017 at 12:58 am
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      Would love to visit South of England someday. We get too much snow in Barrow and here in Canada.

      Reply
  • January 6, 2017 at 5:06 pm
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    Alaska has always fascinated me and this post surely makes me wanna visit it. I work as a travel PT and I wouldn’t mind taking a 3-month contract in AK. Thanks for the post.

    Reply
    • January 12, 2017 at 1:02 am
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      I would love to live in AK for three month. Hope you will get to visit in the future. It is really the most beautiful place in the USA in terms of nature beauty.

      Reply
  • May 1, 2017 at 10:09 pm
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    Who was your tour through? My husband, myself and another couple are going there for a one day trip in June and would really like to understand the area so much better.

    Reply
    • May 2, 2017 at 2:56 pm
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      Hi Cassandra, my friend found the tour guide and we just went with her. I just asked my friend for the contact info of our tour guide and I will let you know once she respond. For now, you can refer to http://www.alaska.org/detail/tundra-tours-inc, they also offer guided tour to Barrow and other parts of Alaska. I am not affiliate with them and you can contact them straight to get more info about the Barrow tour. If you have more questions, please ask away. Thanks!

      Reply

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