The Dalton Highway Road Trip
Updated April 2020, One Week in Alaska: The Dalton Highway Road Trip was originally written in July 2017
I’ve now made the journey along the Dalton Highway twice and can still say it’s one of the wildest road trip adventures Alaska has to offer! Starting from Fairbanks and quickly whisking off into the Arctic Circle, and on to the end of the road in Deadhorse, this is Alaska way off the beaten path.
Before you set off on your Dalton Highway adventure, check the Alaska DOT’s 511 for construction updates road condition information. Another trusty source of information is the Alaska Milepost, I highly recommend purchasing one before your Alaska road trip. Cheers to adventuring the last frontier!
Way Off The Beaten Path: The Dalton Highway Road Trip
This is an itinerary for the super adventurous. Not your ordinary road trip and not for the faint of heart. The Dalton Highway road trip will take you from interior Alaska to the top of the continent. Download the free BLM Dalton Highway Roadtrip Guide Here.
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Important Things To Note On This Trip
The Dalton Highway is extremely remote and is in fact the longest stretch of serviceless road in the whole of North America. North of Coldfoot all the way to Deadhorse there are zero services, zip, nada- not a gas station, no stores, no restaurants, nothing. You need to be prepared.
Bring enough food, bring a car repair kit, camping equipment, and enough water (or a way to filter it). Buy anything you may need for the trip before you leave Fairbanks. I 100% recommend the Garmin (formerly Delorme) Inreach Explorer + for this trip since you will be able to send messages via satellite, has GPS, and has an SOS beacon.
Dalton Highway Road Trip Advice: Remember that the Dalton is a haul road designed for trucks bringing supplies up to the oilfields, therefore, they do have right of way. Do not park on the road. When going past a vehicle coming toward you always slow down, this is a dirt road and you will be flinging rocks and no one wants to replace their windshield more often than they have to.
Always drive with your headlights on at all times. The speed limit is 50 MPH. If stopping along the highway for any reason be at least 10 feet off the side of the road. Make sure you are allowed by your rental company to take the vehicle up the Dalton- many do not allow it. A 4X4 is definitely recommended.
Sleeping: You can camp pretty much anywhere along the highway, just make sure you are pulled off well away from the road and camp set up away from the road as well. Do not camp at pump station access points. There are a handful of designated camps along the way.
There Is Almost No Cellphone Service Or Public Internet Outside Fairbanks and Deadhorse.
When To go: May through September is the recommended time to visit on a Dalton Highway road trip, with June, July, and August being the warmest. It’s not recommended to travel the highway between November and April, temperatures can get extremely cold and with services so few and far between dying out there is a reality.
Note: There are only three gas station along the Dalton, and gas is expensive. It is highly advisable to strap a couple gas cans (can easily be bought in Fairbanks) to your car.
- Yukon River crossing at mile 56 and only open mid-May to mid-September.
- Cold foot at mile 175 at the Sourdough Gas Station.
- Deadhorse around mile 414. Deadhorse has three gas stations.
Start planning here: The ultimate Alaska travel guide
Day 0: Arrive in Fairbanks
Pickup rental car and supplies. Many flights from outside Alaska that go to Fairbanks arrive between 8 PM and 2 AM. You may need to wake up the next morning and grab supplies if you arrive in the middle of the night.
Where To Stay In Fairbanks
Billie’s Backpacker Hostel
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Lux Stay Waterfront
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Plan your visit: The Fairbank travel guide
Day 1: Head North! Hess Creek, Pump Station #6, Yukon River, Yukon Flats National Reserve View Point, Finger Mountain Trail, Arctic Circle
Find your way to Fox and get on the Elliot Highway to Livengood, just past Livengood is where the Dalton Highway officially begins. The drive today will take you nearly 200 miles from Fairbanks. Great stops will include: Hess Creek to take in some great views as you begin your journey, Pump Station #6 to see the Alaska pipeline (you’ll have several opportunities to view it along the way), Yukon River is a good place to stop off as it stretches almost 2,000 miles from Canada to the Bering Sea and make sure to check out how the pipeline is suspended above the river.
There is a restaurant here along the Yukon River. At mile 86 there is a mining road that heads west off the Dalton, follow it to see amazing views into the Yukon Flats National Reserve. Mile 98 offers a pullout for Finger Mountain with a short 1/2 mile trail. At mile 115 you’ve reached the Arctic Circle! Of course, make sure to get your tourist photos with the sign. There are camping spots available up the hill from the picnic area.
Day 2: Mile 132 Brooks Range viewpoint, Pump Station #5, Grayling Lake, Coldfoot. Camp at Marion Creek
Stop at Mile 132 pullout for grand views of the Brooks Range. Continue north to Pump Station #5- this a unique station as it is a pressure relief station from the oil descending down from the Brooks Range.
Stop for Grayling Lake and keep an eye out for moose, as they like to come here for a drink. Coldfoot is your last taste of civilization, with campsites, an inn, post office, gas station, restaurant, tire service, and even a visitor center. Plan to camp here or just a few more miles north at Marion Creek with 27 sites available for a fee between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Near Coldfoot, there is a 2 mile hike to a waterfall.
You can opt to hike into Gates of the Arctic Nation Park from just north of the Coldfoot area as the Dalton Highway sits only 5 miles from the park boundaries. There is no fee to enter the park, but the park is very remote. Stop by the visitor center in Coldfoot for more information. (Can opt to take an extra day to backpack into the park as well).
Traveling Alaska on the cheap? Check out my budget Alaska travel guide
Day 3: Wiseman, Mile 203 Mt. Sukakpak Viewpoint, Atigun Pass, Pump Station #4, Galbraith Lake
Wiseman is an old mining town 3 miles west of the Dalton Highway. At mile 203 pullout you can stop for views of Sukakpak Mountain.
Further north, Atigun Pass is a great area for trying to spot dall sheep, is the highest point on the Dalton Highway, and is the continental divide. Pump Station #4 is the highest pump station on the pipeline. Plan to camp at
Galbraith Lake as there are camping sites with an outhouse about 2.5 miles off-road near an airstrip.
You can hike into Arctic National Wildlife Reserve from here to Atigun Gorge, Atigun Lake, and the Brooks Range. (This is another spot you could opt for more time to explore more of the park).
Plan your own day hike into ANWR on your Dalton Highway adventure
Day 4: Pump Station #3, Mile 348 (short trail), Pump Station #2, Mile 383, arrive in Deadhorse
Mile 348 has a short trail with signs about the area and chances to spot the Peregrine Falcon. Mile 383 is a great area to try to spot caribou with a backdrop of beautiful iron-rich cliffs. Arrive in Deadhorse- celebrate! You’ve made it about as north as you can get on the road system in the entire United States, but you’re only about halfway done with your Dalton Highway road trip.
Day 5: Join a tour (can be arranged through a hotel) to the Arctic Ocean
The roads between Deadhorse and the Arctic Ocean are privately owned and restricted making the only way to visit the Arctic Ocean by tour only. If you’ve made it this far you may as well go all the way, right?
NOTE: Days 5-6 (after the visit to the Arctic Ocean) can be used as you see fit to accommodate more time for sightseeing, etc….
Can be used to allot for an extra hiking around Gates of the Arctic, another option could be to split the long drive back to Fairbanks. You decide.
Day 7: Drive back to Fairbanks- be prepared, it’s a 13 hour drive. Fly home
You can always opt to use the days prior to journey back to Fairbanks to break up the long trip, and spend your final day exploring Fairbanks to end your Dalton Highway roadtrip.
*You’ll probably notice that this trip includes excess days. This gives more time to explore in areas of your choosing or extra time just in case you have a problem. This trip can be done roundtrip in 3 days, although it doesn’t yield you much time for stopping and exploring. This trip could also be extended over a much longer period for those looking to hike and backpack.
Looking for more ideas? Check out the 34 best things to do in Alaska
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Want More Ideas For One Week In Alaska Itineraries?
Check out the following posts in the ‘One Week In Alaska’ series:
- Hit The Highlights- Anchorage to Fairbanks
- North To The Future: The Dalton Highway
- Glaciers, Fjords, & South Central Alaska
- The Big Loop: Anchorage to Fairbanks & Back
- The Denali Highway Road Trip
- The Best of Wrangell St. Elias and Prince William Sound