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Dalton Highway

Frequently Asked Questions about the Dalton Highway

How long does it take to make the trip?

Much depends on weather, road conditions, road construction and your own interests. The round trip to Prudhoe Bay and back demands at least 4 days. Under good conditions, here are straight driving times from Fairbanks to:

Yukon River: 3 hours
Arctic Circle: 4–5 hours
Coldfoot: 6 hours
Atigun Pass: 8 hours
Deadhorse 14+ hours

Factor in an additional 1–2 hours for rest stops, wildlife viewing, construction delays and bad weather.

Can I drive, walk or cycle to the Arctic Ocean?

No! Public access ends at Deadhorse, about 8 miles (13 km) from the ocean. Security gates on the access roads are guarded 24 hours a day, and permits for individuals to travel on their own are not available. To book an authorized tour in 2012 call 907-474-3565 in Fairbanks.

Is it the Dalton Highway or the Haul Road?

During its early years, most Alaskans referred to the highway simply as the "Haul Road," because of its heavy use by tractor-trailer rigs hauling supplies and equipment to the North Slope for oil development. In 1981 the highway was named after engineer James B. Dalton, who was involved in early oil exploration efforts on the North Slope. Public access remained limited until 1994, when it became possible to drive all the way to Deadhorse.

Are the bugs really that bad?

Yes! Hordes of mosquitoes emerge in mid-June and last into August. Biting flies and gnats last into September. Insects are worse on calm days and in low, wetland areas. Hike and camp on ridges or wide gravel bars along the rivers where a breeze may provide relief. Insect repellents containing DEET are most effective. A head net and bug jacket are essential if you plan on any outdoor activities.

When is the best time to visit?

A late May trip offers a chance to see thousands of migrating birds, but snow may still cover the ground. From June until mid-July wildflowers brighten the tundra and caribou congregate along the coastal plain. Mid-August brings rain, cool days, frosty nights and northern lights. Brilliant colors peak around mid-August on the North Slope, late August in the Brooks Range, and early September south of the Yukon River. Snow begins to fly by late August or early September.

Does the highway close in the winter?

No. The road remains open year-round for trucks hauling supplies to the oilfields and camps. Winter driving conditions are challenging, so for a current road report visit the Department of Transportation Web site (511.alaska.gov) before attempting to drive between September and May.

When is the earliest or latest time I can visit?

Although the highway is maintained year-round, visitor services are reduced between September and May. Prepare for extreme weather and check commercial businesses at Yukon River, Coldfoot and Wiseman before leaving Fairbanks to make sure they're open. Travel between late October and late April is not advised.

Can I drive a rental car up the highway?

Many rental car agreements prohibit driving on the Dalton Highway and other gravel roads. Violating the rental car agreement can be very expensive, especially in the event of a malfunction or accident. Check with rental companies in advance to see if their vehicles can be used for Dalton Highway travel.

Where is the best place to view the midnight sun?

The midnight sun circles the northern horizon and hides behind the Brooks Range. The best view is from the top of Gobblers Knob, 17 miles (27km) north of the Arctic Circle and 43 miles (69 km) south of Coldfoot, or north of Atigun Pass where you can experience a full 24 hours of sunlight.

How cold does it get in the winter?

The coldest temperature ever recorded in the United States was -80° F(-62° C) at Prospect Camp, 39 miles (62 km) south of Coldfoot in 1971. Winter temperatures in Interior and Arctic Alaska commonly range between -20° F (-29° C) and -40° F (-40° C), or colder.

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