Bounded by the Waring Mountains in the South and the Baird Mountains in the North, it is the center of a vast ecosystem between Selawik National Wildlife Refuge and the Noatak National Preserve. It is over by river to the Chukchi Sea. The Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve lie to the west. The most visible animals are the 400,000 caribou of the Western Arctic herd. The herd migrates annually between their winter breeding grounds, south of the Waring Mountains, and their summer calving grounds, north of the Baird Mountains. The herd's annual crossing of the Kobuk River is central to the Inupiaq people's subsistence hunting.
No roads lead to the park. It is reachable by foot, dogsled, snowmobile, and chartered air taxis from Nome and Kotzebue year-round. The park is one of the least visited in the National Park System, ranking as the least visited national park in the country in 2006 with just 3,005 visitors. Incredibly, this dropped to just 847 visitors in 2007.