Central Yukon Field Office

Crossing the Arctic Circle

The Arctic Circle...the very name, like the Equator or the Tropic of Cancer, sounds exotic and mysterious. 

This imaginary line circling the Earth held an equal fascination for goldseekers in the early 20th century. The village of Circle, at the end of the Steese Highway, received its name because the miners who founded it mistakenly believed that it lay on the Arctic Circle. They were only off by 50 miles.

Only two highways cross the Arctic Circle in North America. One is Alaska Highway 11, more commonly known as the Dalton Highway. Originally built to haul oilfield and pipeline supplies -- and still called the "Haul Road" by some long-term Alaska residents -- the Dalton Highway stretches 414 miles from the former mining town of Livengood nearly to the Arctic Ocean.

With today's improved navigational capabilities, Dalton Highway travelers have a far easier time finding the Arctic Circle than did the Gold Rush miners. But to make sure you don't miss it, the BLM offers a special wayside where you can stop for lunch or get your photo taken in front of the Arctic Circle sign.

 A man and a woman shake hands in front of the Arctic Circle sign on the Dalton Highway. 
Dalton Highway visitors shake hands across the Arctic Circle at the BLM wayside. 
Reaching the Arctic Circle from Fairbanks via the Elliott and Dalton highways requires 4 to 5 hours of driving when road conditions are good. Much of the way is now paved, but lengthy gravel sections remain. If you don't have your own vehicle, several tour companies offer one-day trips to the Arctic Circle from Fairbanks.

More information on preparing for a safe and enjoyable Dalton Highway tour may be found on BLM's Dalton Highway Web site.

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What is the Arctic Circle?

The Arctic Circle is an imaginary line around the Earth at latitude 66 degrees 33 minutes. Along this line the sun stays above the horizon for 24 continuous hours at the summer solstice (June 21) and stays below the horizon for 24 continuous hours at the winter solstice (December 21). The region known as the Arctic begins north of this line.