Dalton Highway
Dalton Highway

Dalton Highway

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Fairbanks, AK, USA

The basics

One of the northernmost highways in the world, the Dalton Highway starts 84 miles north of Fairbanks, in the town of Livengood. From there, it bisects boreal forests, high alpine and rolling tundra, and the Brooks Range until it stops 8 miles shy of the Arctic Ocean—private tours from Deadhorse can get you a finger-dip in the chilly waters. Several notable stops line the wild way, including the sign marking the Arctic Circle at 66º north latitude and the Yukon River Bridge.

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Things to know before you go

  • Most visitors take 4-5 days to complete the round-trip adventure from Fairbanks.

  • Not all rental car companies allow travel on gravel roads. Your best bet is to rent with Arctic Outfitters Dalton Highway Car Rentals, Alaska 4X4 Rentals, Alaska Overlander, or Alaska Auto Rental for this adventure.

  • Cell coverage and essential services are limited. This is one road trip that requires advanced planning.

  • Be sure to bring food, water, a paper map, extra gas—and perhaps a spare tire you know how to use—just in case.

  • This isn’t smooth sailing—be prepared for potholes, plenty of gravel, muddy and slick spots, and truckers flinging gravel onto your windshield.

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How to get there

From Fairbanks, head north on the Elliot Highway, which you’ll take for roughly 70 miles past historic gold mine after historic gold mine. You’ll pick up the Dalton Highway in Livengood—from there, it’s up to you whether you make this trip in one lo-o-ong day or five. You’ll find services at the Yukon River Crossing, Coldfoot, Wiseman, and Deadfoot.

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When to get there

In a word: summer. Though the road is open year-round, Alaskan winters aren’t known to be kind. Unless you’re a star on the History Channel’s Ice Road Truckers, stick to when it’s warmer, June to August (though it can rain in August). If you only want to drive to the Arctic Circle crossing, your options include May and September.

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A reality check

If road conditions are good, it’s more than 13 hours from Fairbanks to Deadhorse, not including stops for wildlife-watching, eating, and sightseeing. You’ll likely want to spend at least one night in the Coldfoot area, about 175 miles from the Dalton/Elliot Highway Junction. Accommodations there are probably your best bet, though they can be expensive. Campgrounds along the way provide a more budget-friendly option.

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