A father and his two teenagers have moved to the village from Chicago after Mom died. The father (Jake Barnes) was an airline pilot flying 747s. Now he is part of a small air service, a bush pilot with a small Piper float plane. Both he and his daughter (Jessie) have adapted well to the outdoor life. However, son (Sean) is still in culture shock and is angry at this father for taking them so far from home. He is increasingly rebellious and even gets in minor trouble with the law. Jake is very concerned and is trying to be a good father. In an emotional outburst, the son says to his father, “I wish you had died, not her.”
Jake was called to make an emergency medicine run, during which his plane's engines stalls, causing him to lose control and crash in the Alaska wilderness. Frustrated when the police end the search, Sean and Jessie go out to find their father on their own.
Kayaking through the chilly waters of the Gulf of Alaska, they stop to rest on a beach. They soon realize that the shore is home to a poachers’ camp. They discover a live polar bear cub that has been locked in a cage. They set the polar bear cub free, hoping that it will save itself. The poacher (Colin) believes that the children stole the bear from his camp.
The next day, Jessie and Sean continue their search for their missing father. They leave their kayak and begin searching on foot. They soon discover that the polar bear cub has once again followed them. The poachers have followed the kids and this time they destroy the oars in their kayak and hide the kayak in the woods, just as Charlie arrives in a helicopter in search of Jessie and Sean. Colin shows Charlie a piece of the oar and tells him that he found it 25 miles north of their current position. Charlie departs in his helicopter in hopes of finding the children, who he believes to be in grave danger.
The kids encounter a long, steep mountain they must descend to reach the bottom and continue the search. Jessie safely reaches the bottom, but Sean slips and tumbles down the mountain, hitting his head on a rock. They find a log cabin in the woods. While in the cabin, Sean notices a canoe hanging from the ceiling. Jessie and Sean take the canoe and patch it up, then continue their search for their father. While they are canoeing down a river, the kids encounter vicious rapids that send them and their canoe down a waterfall. Jessie escapes the raging river but, once again, Sean’s lack of experience in the wilderness causes him to struggle. He is pushed down the river, where he is pulled out by Jessie’s friend, Chip and his grandfather. The kids proceed on their quest with their befriended polar bear, whom they have named Cubby, by their side.
Cubby leads them until he is shot with a tranquilizer dart by Colin. He then takes Cubby away in his helicopter, but his partner (Koontz) didn’t load the darts with enough tranquilizer, so Cubby awakens in the helicopter and tries to fight his way free. As the poachers lower the helicopter, Cubby escapes and bites Colin's right knee, causing Colin to shoot Koontz with a tranquilizer dart and damage the helicopter as well.
The children continue the search for their missing father when they stumble upon some wreckage from his plane crash and begin yelling for him to respond. Unable to yell, their father shoots a flare which the children see and run to his rescue. They find the plane hanging on the edge of a cliff, and Jessie lowers Sean down the side of the mountain to reach their father. Just as it looks like Jessie is going to lose control of the rope, Cubby appears and helps Jessie pull the rope. With Cubby's help, Jessie and Sean raise their father up the side of the mountain. Just as the family is reunited, Charlie shows up in his helicopter to take them home and complete the rescue.