Hear about driving the Dalton Highway from Fairbanks to the Arctic Ocean as the Amateur Traveler talks to Erik Smith about his journey.
Erik says, “I got obsessed with the Dalton Highway back when I was younger. We would go on these long summer road trips and I had the old paper Rand McNally Atlas. I would flip through the atlas looking at all these cool, amazing places to go. And the very small map they included of Alaska had this road that ran out of Fairbanks that was in light almost like pencil-like writing and it said, Dalton Highway (close to the public). They had opened up this road in 1994, for private travel. I became obsessed with eventually doing it. And in 2019, I figured it was time to do it.”
Fans of the show Ice Road trucker will recognize the Dalton Highway. This highway was built to service the Alaskan Pipeline. If you look for information on the Dalton highway the first posts are going to talk about safety. Erik and a friend rented a car in Fairbanks with the high clearance you would want on this highway which is a combination of pavement and gravel. It is easy to get a cracked windshield or to lose a tire to a pothole so this road does need to be driven with care.
Erik spent a couple of days in Fairbanks and recommends some activities you might want to explore before your trip. Of course, if you have time you should get to Denali National Park, but Erik also recommends the University of Alaska Museum of the North, the City of Northpole Alaska, Chena Hot Springs Resort, and the open-air museum at Pioneer Park. There is also the Alaska State Railroad Museum in Nenana. The Riverboat Discover paddle wheeler navigates the river in Fairbanks.
You can do flying tours out of Fairbanks including the Gates of the Arctic National Park. The Dalton Highway runs right past the borders of the park but only the visitor center is accessible by road.
The Dalton Highway is a 4 days drive. It takes 2 days to drive to Deadhorse and another 2 to drive the same road back. Lodging, gas, rental cars, and food will all be pricey on the adventure but Erik says this was one of his favorite vacations because of the beauty of the Arctic. The first half of the drive is in forest and the last half is in tundra and mountains.
Get your copy of The Milepost which will tell you where to stop mile by mile along the road. It will tell you where to pull out for a toilet, meal, or a view. There are places to stay around Coldfoot Camp including a couple of AirBnbs near there where Erik stayed: Arctic Getaway Bed and Breakfast and Boreal Lodge.
North of Coldfoot Camp you will cross the Atigun Pass through the Brooks Range with some of the most beautiful views on the entire trip.
Along the route, they saw arctic foxes, muskox, and moose. You probably won’t see polar bears.
Deadhorse is really more of a company camp for the oil company than a town. Erik and his friend booked their stay there along with a trip to dip their toes in the Arctic Ocean with the Northern Alaska Tour Company. The buildings are all raised up above the ground because of the permafrost.
On their trip home they were fortunate enough to see the northern lights.
Some highways just need to be driven. For Erik, the Dalton Highway was one of those highways.
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right click here to download (mp3)
Preparing for the Dalton Highway
Fairbanks to Coldfoot
University of Alaska Museum of the North
Alaska State Railroad Museum (Nenana)
City of Northpole Alaska
Chena Hot Springs Resort
Flight Tours from Fairbanks
Guide to the Dalton Highway
BLM Dalton Highway Guide
Travel to Remote Alaska – Episode 496
Alaska National Parks – Episode 652
Yukon River Camp
Marion Creek Campground
Arctic Getaway Bed and Breakfast
Northern Alaska Tour Company – Arctic Circle Adventures
Arctic Ocean Shuttle — Deadhorse Camp
Wes on Travel to Central Oregon – Episode 744
Couple of suggestions from my 3 weeks in Oregon in 2019.
The Kam Wah Chung Chinese Heritage site in John Day, Oregon, is a perfectly preserved Chinese general store discovered undisturbed since its last use in 1948. Talk about a throwback to the 40s and Chinese-American culture from that era. It’s a fantastic use of one hour of your time.
Also headed toward the John Day region and for the intrepid traveler…the Spoke’n Hostel converted hostel/Sunday church is a great layover for bike travels and those headed into the accommodation-sparce John Day region. The pastor couple running the hostel are exceptionally friendly. It’s in the little town of Mitchell, a “stagecoach stop” that probably hasn’t changed since it’s last stagecoach left. On my two night stay, I got invited to the town’s lively “hoedown” featuring the local talent and enjoyed some local town fare.
I also highly recommend the @HighDesertMuse for a day!
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