James Dalton Highway (aka the "Haul Road"), stretching from Fairbanks to the Arctic Ocean, is 414 miles of unpaved, gravel and muddy roads.
It is the northern terminus of the US highway system and about 2/3 of the road lies in the Arctic Circle.
A trip there takes you to experience fascinating arctic landscapes and wilderness, with the constant changing of geology zones from alpine meadows, permafrost, ocean to boreal forests. This once in a lifetime adventure reveals the unspoiled natural beauty of the last frontier.
However, Dalton Highway has also been regarded as one of the world’s most dangerous highways. It's for the adventurers and adrenaline junkies...
Here is some useful information and tips for crossing this risky but stunning highway
How remote is the Dalton Highway?
The Dalton Highway is extremely remote. There are no restaurants, accommodations, or gas stations for hundreds of miles. You will occasionally see trucks and vehicles passing on the road, but most of the time you will own this highway.
The following shows the milepost of each service station from Fairbanks:
- Mile 55 - Yukon River Camp
- Mile 175 - Coldfoot Visitor Center
- Mile 414 – Deadhorse (Prudhoe Bay)
There are no services available between Coldfoot and Deadhorse, except for the occasional service in Wiseman. Therefore, under no condition should travelers pass Coldfoot without gearing up for the rest of their journey. Also, do not depart Deadhorse until all your supplies are refreshed and your vehicle is in good shape.
Things you need to know
The first thing to note is that Dalton Highway is a restricted area for most car rental companies in Alaska. You either need to have your own vehicle or make sure to have your own insurance when driving in a rented car.
Your cell phone will not be receiving any signal on Dalton Highway. Remember to equip your car with a satellite phone or CB radio, spare tires with rims or chains, windshield wipers, extra gas, and daily necessities.
Expect to pay 1 to 2 dollars more per gallon than pumps elsewhere in the country. Alaska is an oil-rich state, but that does not mean its gas will be cheap.
Bring enough cash. There are no ATMs on the way from Fairbanks to Deadhorse.
You will not have concrete-wall accommodations for days, so bring your camping gear, food, and water. Many visitors camp along the way or sleep in their vehicles.
The entire highway can be easily traveled in 16 hours depending on road conditions and weather. Usually, travelers break their journey into three or four days (roundtrip) with an overnight camp out in Yukon River, Coldfoot, and(or) Brooks Mountain Range.
Be cautious when driving. The road is steep, windy, and unpaved. It can be extremely slippery and difficult to travel during the rainfall. It is recommended that people travel in groups as an added precaution. Each traveler can take turns in driving to reduce exhaustion from the road trip.
Bring your first-aid kit. There will be no medical service on the road.
If you are stranded, do not expect trucks to stop for you. Those trucks are on duty to transport supplies to the oilfield. Providing assistance will waste them a substantial amount of time and fuel. They are not permitted to take hitchhikers as well.
Bring a bear spray and mosquito repellent as bears and mosquitoes frequent some terrains of Dalton.
You may notice that traveling on the Dalton Highway is hardcore and that it may involve potential risks. However, do not be deterred by them.
The landscape there is second to none
While traveling through the Dalton Highway, you will find yourself surrounded by North America's most dramatic vista. From the mighty Yukon River, Brooks Mountain Range, the Arctic tundra, the taiga, boreal forest, wild flowers, to the sweeping Arctic Ocean, your breath will be taken away by the otherworldly landscapes that only the Dalton Highway is able to offer. The people you meet on the road will also warm your heart with their sincerity and adventurous spirit.
All you need is determination, courage, good preparation, and back-up plans.
For those who do not want to drive themselves, several commercial tour companies are available for Dalton Highway expeditions.
It is advised that travelers book their tours at least two weeks in advance in case of a change in schedule, delay or cancellation of the tour.
Places to see and Things to do
- Camping at Yukon River
- Backcountry hiking
- Bird and wildlife photography
- Visit oilfields in Prodhoe Bay
- Diving into the rigid Arctic Ocean
- Learn the history of aboriginal people of Alaska in Coldfoot
- Gold mining in Antigun Pass
- Celebrating your victory at the Arctic Circle milepost. You should be proud of yourself on accomplishing a life-time adventure.
Travel tip shared by Always on the Way