For the last six years I have been on a constant road trip across the United States. This summer I want to spend life driving in Alaska. But what about driving to Alaska on the Alaska Highway? These days, the highway itself can be a tourist destination, not just a way of getting to Alaska and a grand road trip adventure too. The best time to go to Alaska is mid-June to mid-August; the summer season in the “Land of the Midnight Sun” is short but totally worth a long scenic drive to get there.
Built in 1942, the Alaska Highway, commonly called the Alcan Highway, has it’s begins in Canada and ends in Alaska serving as the only highway between Alaska and the contiguous United States (known in Alaska as the “Lower 48”). The Alaska Highway starts in Dawson Creek, British Columbia, winds northwest through the Yukon Territory of Canada, then officially ends in Delta Junction, Alaska 1,422 miles from Dawson Creek.
Delta Junction is at the junction of the Alaska Highway and the Richardson Highway near Fairbanks, Alaska. When you leave the Alaska Highway, you have the option of traveling about 100 miles north on the Richardson Highway to get to Fairbanks OR head south via the Richardson and Glenn Highways to get to Anchorage, a distance of about 335 miles.
A drive on the Alaska Highway can take anywhere from 60 hours of continuous driving–to seven to ten days depending on what your plans are. If you plan to really appreciate the Alaska Highway, take at least five days to stop along the way and enjoy the sights. Not wanting to drive by myself during the spring thaw and run-off in May, I will have to fly this year, but would like to share some of my photos of the highway from my last road trip here.
Tip #1- The first step for anyone planning to drive to or through Alaska is to purchase The Milepost. This is a mile-by-mile guide to the roads and highway in Alaska and an excellent guide that offers insights into service stations, lodging, restaurants, photo stops and history of towns and parks along the way.
Road conditions have improved a great deal over the years since the highway started as a dirt road – now it is nearly all paved. Still a challenging drive, you will encounter frost heaves – holes in the road caused by the freezing and thawing of the soil under the road – but USUALLY there are flags or warning signs. Summer is the season for road construction repair so you may encounter minor delays along the way.
For the Canada portion of the highway visit 511 Yukon for current road conditions. Once in Alaska, call 511 for up-to-date road conditions and construction information or visit the 511 Alaska site. Be aware that your cell phone has extra charges in Canada and will not get reception in many areas.
Tip #2 – A great option for travelers who will be traveling both to and from Alaska by car is to drive the complete Alaska Highway one way and to travel by ferry the other. The ferry is operated by the Alaska Marine Highway System. This option gives you the opportunity to experience the Inside Passage and Southeast Alaska in addition to the Alaska Highway. The southern terminus of the Alaska Marine Highway is in Bellingham, Washington.
For updates on traveling and sights in Alaska, subscribe to this blog above and I will see you down the road–watch out for wildlife.