Wildest Dream Trip: A Megatransect of Alaska and Western Canada

Mike Fay’s favorite places have a few things in common: They’re wild, treacherous to travel, full of big mammals, and devoid of humans. No wonder he wound up in Ketchikan, Alaska, where he has spent the last several years hiking the rugged Tongass National Forest. His dream trip, in fact, is right here.

“One of the most spectacular walks on Earth that’s never been done is the walk from the coast of Alaska all the way to Lake Athabaska,” says Fay. “It’s about 800 miles. It goes through some of the most intact wilderness in all of North America,” including pristine wild areas that are still unprotected.

There are good reasons why no one has ever done this trip before, however. Even in summer the winds top 70 miles an hour and the sky can unleash a dozen days of straight rain. The mountains reach 10,000 feet and are littered with impassable cliffs, and the forest floors are dense with ground-dwelling plants like devil’s claw and blueberries. “You can’t see your feet from the moment you set foot in the forest,” says Fay. “This would go through some of the most difficult terrain on Earth.”

But the walk could also record some of the greatest known concentrations of large mammals in North America—wolves, wolverines, bears, caribou, and goats—and wild places no human has ever seen.