Know your Alaskan highways | Know the Conditions
6 Things to Know About Roads in Alaska:
- Summer is construction season.
- Weather is unpredictable.
- Roads conditions are rough.
- Most rental car companies won't tow a car if it's broken down on a dirt road.
- Some gas stations only operate seasonally.
- There is a 92 mile stretch with no gas stations between Alaska's two largest cities, Anchorage and Fairbanks.
DALTON HIGHWAY: Great Road of the Arctic
Livengood to Deadhorse
Distance: 414 miles (666 kilometers)
A remote and challenging road, the Dalton Highway connects Fairbanks to Deadhorse, the support center for the North Slope oil fields near the Arctic Ocean. Named for James William Dalton, a North Slope engineer, the Dalton Highway was originally developed as a haul road connecting the Yukon River and Prudhoe Bay during construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.
- Watch for signs of active gold mining near Livengood.
- After first sighting the Yukon River, keep an eye out for the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline crossing the Yukon and Pump station No. 6. The Dalton is the only highway in Alaska that crosses this great river.
- Capture a photo opportunity at the Arctic Circle BLM Wayside in front of the sign displaying N 66° 33' W 150º 48', or in layman's terms, the first place where the sun doesn't set on summer solstice and doesn't rise on the winter solstice!
- North of Wiseman, the highway separates two outstanding parks: Gates of the Arctic National Park and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
- Take advantage of the turnout at the summit of Atigun Pass to enjoy an amazing view. This Brooks Range pass is the highest pass in Alaska, at 4800 feet (1463 meters)!
- Look for Dall sheep on Slope Mountain, gateway to the treeless coastal plain.
DENALI HIGHWAY: Old Road to the Park
Although it was once the original travel route to Denali National Park, the Denali Highway is often overlooked by many tourists. Yet the adventurous traveler will be rewarded by outstanding scenery, good chances to view wildlife, and best of all, glimpses of the true Alaskan wilderness, which can only be seen on off beaten paths, such as the Denali Highway.
- Camp on a BLM managed campsite - they fill on a first-come, first-serve basis, so come early!
- Some spectacular backcountry camping can be discovered along the route, so bring some hiking shoes and don't forget your topographic maps.
- Lake trout and grayling are found in many lakes and streams, making for good fishing. Consult an Alaska Fish and Game office for more information
- Keep an eye out for scenic views of the Alaska Range, boreal vegetation, glacial features, and wildlife.
GLENN HIGHWAY - National Scenic Byway: Formed by Fire & Ice
Anchorage to little Nelchina River
Distance: 139 miles (224 kilometers)
The Glenn Highway National Scenic Byway follows a path carved by ancient glaciers. Following the braided Matanuska River for over half its length, this byway winds through the 139 miles of the most impressive terrain on earth.
- Start your journey in downtown Anchorage, when looking east you can see the Chugach Mountains, parallel the byway along its entire route.
- Visit the Alaska Native Heritage Center off Muldoon Road, which provides the visitor a glimpse at Alaska's seven major Native groups.
- Access the 500,000 acre Chugach State Park and its many trails and attractions from Eagle River Nature Center.
- Discover historic Palmer and its many farms dating back to FDR's 1935 Depression era farming experiment! Palmer comes alive in late August with the annual State Fair.
- You enter the glacier-carved Matanuska River Canyon as you leave Palmer.
- The historic coal mining community of Sutton provides a look at early 1900s in Alaska.
- Drop in at one of the many lodges that dot the byway.
- You will soon see the 18,000-year-old Matanuska Glacier!
- At Eureka Summit, see four of Alaska's major mountain ranges: the Alaska Range, the Chugach Mountains, the Talkeetna Mounains, and the Wrangell Mountains.
HAINES HIGHWAY: Bald Eagle Byway
Alaska Marine Highway Terminal to the US/Canada Border
Distance: 44 miles (71 kilometers)
This byway is encompassed by the lush coastal rain forest as it makes its way up the St. Elias Mountains and into Canada. Here the forest gives way to alpine tundra and the Haines Highway connects with the Alaska Highway at Haines Junction.
- In Haines, stroll along with a walking tour of Fort William H. Seward.
- Capture a great photo opportunity at the Welcome Totems in Haines.
- Established in 1982, the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve is a seasonal home to 3,000 bald eagles! It is common to view hundreds of these regal birds roosting in the cottonwoods along the Haines Highway between October and January.
- Watch for fish wheels being used on the Chilkat River in June to catch a years supply of salmon for local Alaska Natives.
- To the west is Canada's Tatshenshini-Alsek Park, home to grizzlies, Dall sheep, rare glacier bears and birds. Many Haines operators offer adventures in this park, including hiking, fishing, river rafting, and wildlife viewing.
PARKS HIGHWAY: Gateway to Denali
Denali State Park border to Healy
Distance: 116 miles (187 kilometers)
Completed in 1971, the Parks highway shares some of Alaska's most memorable and spectacular scenery with travelers. Access to Denali National Park and Preserve is via the Parks Highway, two major side roads include the Denali Highway and the Denali Park Road.
- Hike the 48 miles (77 kilometers) of trails in Denali State Park.
- Just past scenic Byers Lake, pause at the Alaska Veterans Memorial for a moment to commemorate Alaska's soldiers.
- Take advantage of s photographer's dream photo at the south end of Hurricane Gulch Bridge, and don't forget to pick some berries along the way!
- Imagine summiting the majestic Mount McKinley (at 20,320 feet - 6194 meters) while you admire the mountain at Broad pass, a 2400 foot (732 meter) pass featuring divers growth and a unique perspective! There's also an incredible photo opportunity of the whole Alaska Range.
- Visit Denali National Park, home to Mount McKinley, North America's tallest peak.
- Whitewater rafting is popular in the turbulent Nenana River.
- Stop in Healy and learn more about Alaska's largest coal-mining operation.
RICHARDSON HIGHWAY: North Segment
Fairbanks to Ft. Greely
Distance: 101 miles (163 kilometers)
The northern Richardson Highway route is part of Alaska's oldest transportation corridor and coincides with the historic trail systems that allowed the Native groups, such as the Ahtna, Chugach, Tlingit, and Eyak to conduct trade for thousands of years. General Wilds Preston Richardson upgraded the corridor to a wagon road in 1910 after the Fairbanks gold strike. It was made suitable for automobiles in the 1920's and finally paved in 1957.
- Come see the Santa Claus House in North-Pole, home of a 42-foot-tall, 900 pound Santa Claus dating back to the early 1960s.
- The Birch Lake State Recreation Area is excellent for fishing for rainbow trout, king salmon, grayling, and arctic char.
- Take a step back in time when you visit the big Delta State Historical Park! The park features turn-of-the-century features including the beautifully restored Rika's Roadhouse, the military telegraph station, and original highway work camps.
RICHARDSON HIGHWAY: South Segment
Valdez to Glennallen
Distance: 115 miles (185 kilometers)
The southern Richardson Highway passes through the Thompson Pass and the scenic Chugach Mountains from Valdez to Glennallen. The Chugach Mountains, which receive 600-900 inches of fresh snow each year, provide for world-class ice climbing and extreme skiing opportunities in the winter months. Summer activities include unforgettable fishing, hiking, biking, glacier trekking, and rappelling opportunities.
- Worthington Glacier is the most visited stop on the highway and is a great place to learn more about these rivers of ice.
- At the visitor's center, near Copper Center, plan an adventure to America's largest national park, Wrangell-St. Elias. The park lies to the east of the Richardson and was designated a World Heritage Site in
SEWARD HIGHWAY: An All-American Road
Anchorage to Seward
Distance: 127 miles (204 kilometers)
Connecting Anchorage to Seward, the Seward Highway is Alaska's first All-American Road and one of the most scenic drives in the US. The first 50 miles (80 kilometers) skirts the base of the Chugach Mountains and the shores of Turnagain Arm, where it's common to see beluga whales, Dall's sheep, waterfalls, and eagles. The remainder of the drive winds through the mountains of the Chugach National Forest, offering dramatic views of Alaska's wilderness.
- Learn about moose eating habits and look for spawning salmon and migrating birds at Potter Marsh Wildlife Viewpoint.
- Look for bore tides and note the effects of the 1964 Good Friday 9.2 earthquake along the road.
- Check out the picturesque town of Girdwood or pan for gold at Crow Creek Mine.
- Do ice worms really exist? Find out at the Chugach National Forest Begich-Boggs Visitor Center!
- Hike a portion of the 23 mile (37 kilometer) Johnson Pass Trail, which follows the path of the historic Iditarod Trail.
- Drive to the small mining town of Hope, a beautiful 18 mile (29 kilometer) side trip from Canyon Creek Bridge.
- Summit Lake gives you a taste of alpine Alaska where swans rest both on their spring and fall migrations.
- Moose Pass and Trail Lake offer recreation and flight-seeing opportunities. Visit the hatchery at Trail Lake.
- Don't miss the port town of Seward - where you can go fishing, participate in the 4th of July Mount Marathon Run festivities, take a walking tour, and visit the Alaska Sea Life Center!
STEESE HIGHWAY: Nature's Ultimate Road Trip
Fox to Circle
Distance: 151 miles
The Steese Highway carries travelers north from Fairbanks to within 50 miles of the Arctic Circle. Unforgettable sights, vistas, and natural wonders abound along this highway. Natural phenomena include the midnight sun, Circle Hot Springs and opportunities to see the Northern lights. The White Mountains National Recreational Area and Birch Creek National Wild and Scenic River are also accessible from the Steese.
- Tour the 5-deck, 250 foot (76 meter) long Gold Dredge Number 8 at the National Historic Site where more than 75 million ounces of gold were produced!
- View the midnight sun on summer solstice (June 21) at Eagle Summit.
- View pre-glacial Alaskan mammal remains found in Mammoth Creek at one of the most active mining districts in the state. The museum also offers a history of mining in the area.
- Take a side trip to Circle Hot Springs for a dip!
- Circle City (now just Circle) was the largest settlement on the Yukon River before the Klondike Gold rush. Miners thought the town was on the Arctic Circle, but it is actually about 50 miles south of that mark.
STERLING HIGHWAY - North Segment: Angler's Paradise
From the Seward Highway All-American Road, follow the Sterling Highway as it plays tag with the Kenai River. The north section of the Sterling Highway affords drivers beautiful, natural scenery as well as unlimited recreation and world-class fishing opportunities on the Kenai and Russian rivers.
- Drive along the clear blue-green Kenai Lake until you get to Cooper Landing. Here you can buy your fishing license and try your hand for record size red salmon in the nearby Russian River.
- The Kenai River boasts of major runs of four Pacific salmon species - king, red, silver, and pink - in addition to trophy-sized rainbow trout and Dolly Varden. Kenai River kings or chinook salmon, are among the largest North Pacific salmon, often weighing from 50 to 85 pounds!
- Floating the Kenai River or walking through the Chugach National Forest are great wys to get out and enjoy Alaska's wilderness.
- Skilak Lake Road is an 18-mile scenic alternative route that winds through the Skilak Lake Special Management Area, providing camping, canoing and fishing opportunities.
STERLING HIGHWAY - South Segment: Land's End
Tetlin Junction to Boundary
Distance: 105 Miles (169 kilometers)
This section of the Sterling Highway begins north of the Anchor Point on the bluffs overlooks the Cook Inlet and terminats at the "End of the Road" on Homer Spit. Along this Alaska byway you will find outstanding views of Cook Inlet, Kachemak Bay, and the surrounding volcanoes of the Aleutian Range. Travelers flock to this byway for its spectacular views, recreation, and, in particular, its salt water fishing.
- Visit the Homer Spit, the second largest natural spit in the world!
- Catch a bird or boat festival in Kachemak Bay.
- Admire breathtaking views of the volcanoes across Cook Inlet and maybe even get to see a steam plume sometimes present.
- Try your hand at clamming on the premier clam beds in Clam Gulch and savor the rewards of fresh razor and littleneck clams.
TAYLOR & TOP OF THE WORLD HIGHWAYS: The High Plateau
Tetlin Junction to Boundary
Distance: 105 miles (169 kilometers)
The Taylor Highway provides access to the historic Fortymile gold fields, made famous by Jack London novels. It's a beautiful road that joins the Top of the World Hghway, which leads to Dawson City in the Yukon Territory.
- Keep your camera ready for spectacular views of the Alaska Range and the Menasta Mountains as you head out of Tetlin Junction.
- Ride down the roaring white water of the scenic Fortymile River System.
- Visit Chicken, a town named by early settlers unable to spell Ptarmigan.
- June brings brilliant displays of poppies and lupine along much of the route.
- The Top of the World Highway joins the Taylor at Jack Jade Junction.
- Continue on to the US/Canada border at Boundary, then to Dawson City, 78 miles (126 kilometers) farther. Look for old mine workings along the way.