Travel Tips & Adventures

Real People. Real Travel.

Travel the Dalton Highway, Alaska

By Guest Author Peggy Bradshaw, Photos by George Bradshaw

Eighty-four miles north of Fairbanks, Alaska begins the primitive road known as The Dalton Highway, or the Haul Road. It was first called the Haul Road because almost everything supporting the oilfields of the North Slope of Alaska was transported across this road on tractor-trailer rigs. It ends 414 miles later in Deadhorse, the industrial camp at Prudhoe Bay. A primitive road from its beginning to its end, there are very few stretches of pavement. It is the farthest north road and involves risks and challenges, but at the same time gives the opportunity to traverse a remote, unpopulated part of Alaska to the very top of the continent.

Highway through Atigun Pass

Highway through Atigun Pass

Before you decide to heed the call to adventure down the Dalton, there are some things you need to know. There is no public access to the Artic Ocean from Deadhorse. You must be on an authorized tour. The Arctic Caribou Inn offers authorized tours (call toll free 866-659-2368).

Second, there are no medical facilities between Fairbanks and Deadhorse, a distance of 498 miles.

Third, food, gas, and vehicle repair service are extremely limited. There are no public services at Department of Transportation maintenance stations or Alyeska Pipeline Service pump stations. There are gas stations at Yukon Crossing, Coldfoot and Deadhorse. There are no grocery stores along the highway. Snack food and cafes are located at several locations, such as Yukon Crossing and Coldfoot. There are no banks. ATM machines are available in Deadhorse. Most services accept major credit cards and traveler’s checks. There is no cell phone coverage from milepost 28 until just outside of Deadhorse, about 456 highway miles.

Short stretch of the famous Alaskan Pipeline

Short stretch of the famous Alaskan Pipeline

The road is narrow, has soft shoulders, high embankments and steep hills. Big trucks always have the right of way. Slow down when passing other vehicles to avoid damaging them with flying rocks. Always drive with your lights on so others can see you and always keep them clean, along with tail lights, so they are visible. If you spot wild life, pull over to a safe location before stopping. 

We were on an authorized tour and our tour guide knew the best places to stop to view wildlife. We saw herds of migrating caribou, plus musk ox and arctic fox, and plenty of Dall sheep. The North Slope is a wide-open landscape and you can see animals from great distances. Always have your binoculars handy. As you travel along, take the time to scan open areas along mountain slopes, riverbanks, lakes and meadows as this is where you are likely to see the abundant wildlife that live on the tundra of the North Slope of Alaska. The Dalton follows the pipeline for much of the way south and in places it zig-zags through the area as a means to avoid the frozen areas of the tundra and to keep the oil flowing. In some places the pipeline is buried underground and other places it runs above the ground. This is due to the condition of the tundra and whether the area is of permafrost or not. Where there is permafrost, the pipeline runs above the ground so that the hot oil will not melt it.

Places of interest along the Dalton are the Yukon River Crossing (MP 56) and its unique wooden bridge; Finger Mountain Wayside (MP 98) with its formation sticking into the air, pointing the way to Fairbanks for the bush pilots to see; and the Sukakpak Mountain (MP 203), a massive wall rising 4,459 feet that glows in the afternoon sun.

A trip down the Dalton Highway can be made in 13-14 hours but to really enjoy the sights and take in the wildlife, it is recommended that the trip take more than one day. There is so much to see and do, and you should do your homework as to the best places to stop, camp or stay. The Bureau of Land Management can provide you with a visitor guide to the Dalton Highway.

The Dalton Highway has recently been featured on “Ice Road Truckers” on the History Channel.

Visit their web site at

Tomorrow… Come back for a visit to microbreweries in Oregon –beer!

Tags: , ,

One Response to “Travel the Dalton Highway, Alaska”

  1. Shirley Wagner Says:

    Very good article, was interesting and enjoyable reading.

Leave a Reply