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Tips for Driving The Alaska Highway

We receive frequent questions regarding driving the Alaska Highway.  How long will it take?  What route should we take?  What services are available?  These are just some of the most common questions.  Alaska Tour & Travel does not offer any lodging or tours along this highway but we thought we should steer those interested to the best travel guides to help with the trip! The Alaska Highway is commonly called the Alcan Highway as it begins in Canada and ends in Alaska.  It was constructed in 1942 to serve as a link between Alaska and the contiguous United States (known locally as the “Lower 48”).  The highway has seen vast improvements since its construction, not only in road conditions but in services provided for travelers.  Now the highway is somewhat of a tourist destination in and of itself, not just a way of getting to Alaska!  Alaska Highway travelers truly experience the vastness of Alaska and are amazed at the scenery and wildlife offered by the last great frontier.

The Alaska Highway starts in Dawson Creek, British Columbia [1], winds northwest through the Yukon Territory [2] of Canada and 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.   When you leave the Alaska Highway, you have the option of traveling about 100 miles north on the Richardson Highway to get to Fairbanks [3] or head south via the Richardson and Glenn Highways to get to Anchorage [4], a distance of about 335 miles.

For anyone planning on driving to or through Alaska we recommend that your first step is to purchase The Milepost [5].  This is a mile-by-mile guide to the roads and highway in Alaska and includes the Alaska Highway.  It is considered the “bible of North Country travel”!  It is an excellent guide and offers insight to service stations, lodging, restaurants, photo stops and even the history of towns and parks along the way.  I have lived in Alaska for over 30 years and I still use this guide when I travel to areas of Alaska new to me.  The Milepost is updated annually and can be purchased online or may be available in the travel section of your local bookstore.

A drive on the Alaska Highway can take anywhere from 60 hours to seven to ten days depending on what you are looking for.  College students traveling from Alaska to the Lower 48 have multiple drivers and drive straight through the night as the highway is simply the way of getting from point A to point B.  If you plan to really appreciate the Alaska Highway, I suggest taking a week to stop along the way and enjoy the sights.  The Milepost can help you decide on where to stop and help you with lodging options.

Generally, services such as food, lodging and fuel are about fifty miles apart.  Occasionally the distance between services may stretch to over 100 miles but there are signs alerting you to this fact.  Cell phone coverage, both on the Alaska Highway and on highways within Alaska, is spotty.  There will be long stretches where there is no cell phone service.  Cell phone coverage does improve when you are close to cities.  

Road conditions have improved a great deal over the years.  What started as a dirt road is now nearly paved in its entirety.  You will encounter frost heaves – breaks 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 and repair so you may encounter minor delays along the way.  For the Canada portion of the highway visit 511 Yukon [6] for current road conditions.  Once in Alaska, call 511 for up-to-date road conditions and construction information or visit the 511 Alaska [7] site.

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 [8].  This option gives you the opportunity to experience the Inside Passage and Southeast Alaska in addition to the Alaska Highway.  Bellingham, Washington is the southern terminus of the Alaska Marine Highway.   

With proper planning and a sense of adventure, a drive vacation on the Alaska Highway will be the experience of a lifetime!