After flying for hours over the remote mountains and tundra in the Alaskan Brooks Range, few places are as welcoming as Bettles Airport (PABT). Thirty-five miles north of the Arctic Circle and 155 nautical miles north of Fairbanks, Bettles is a common stop—for fuel, a place to stay, a hearty meal, or an ice cream fix—for pilots and tourists.
The quiet airport’s 5,190-by-150-foot gravel runway can turn into a bustle of activity. Brooks Range Aviation operates a Cessna 185 and 206, and a Helio Courier, at the gravel strip, and de Havilland Beavers, an Otter, and a Cessna 185 on floats from a nearby seaplane base for aerial adventures and transportation to drop-off points for hiking, canoeing, and rafting. Bettles Air Service offers flights in a de Havilland Beaver and Cessna 185 on floats, and a Cessna 206 and Piper Navajo, from Fairbanks to Bettles and points in the Brooks Range.
The James W. Dalton Highway and Trans-Alaska Pipeline run near the direct course from Fairbanks to Bettles, giving pilots who aren’t as familiar with the area but want to fly themselves a little peace of mind for emergency landing options. Everything is more expensive in the bush—fuel prices at the field are approaching $9 a gallon.
Bettles Lodge, located on the airport, offers a screened-in porch to keep visitors from getting eaten by mosquitos during the summer months (consider donning a mosquito head net before exiting the aircraft). Antlers and hanging baskets with brightly colored flowers give the wooden lodge a rustic, homey feel. Meals are pricey, but after camping, rafting, or flying over these vast remote areas, any hearty meal is worth the price, as is running water and a modern restroom.
This summer, a group of pilots from the Lower 48—New York, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Michigan, Maryland, Washington, and Kentucky—who had been helping with a rustic bible camp converged on Bettles Lodge for breakfast at the same time as a tourist group that included a couple from Australia. Ham, eggs, pancakes, and perhaps most importantly, an assortment of hot beverages, offer the comforts of home in the Arctic.
The lodge, which is included in the National Register of Historic Places, is open year-round with activities for pilots and tourists. In the winter, the lodge touts packages to see the Northern Lights, go dog sledding or snowmobiling, and more.
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Fly-outs made possible by Enterprise Rent-A-Car
Bettles Airport (PABT)
Located north of the city
Bettles Lodge 907-692-5111