Interior and Arctic Alaska, beginning 2 miles west of Livengood (north of Fairbanks) and continuing north for 417 miles to the Deadhorse Airport, a few miles from Prudhoe Bay.
The Dalton Highway, built to haul supplies to the Trans Alaska Pipeline System and the Prudhoe Bay oil fields, provides access to the scenic Arctic. Traversing tundra and mountaintops, the highway cuts a transect north across Alaska, crossing the Yukon River, the Arctic Circle, and the Brooks Range, before almost reaching the Arctic Ocean. Along this route, visitors can observe caribou herds migrating across the tundra, butterflies massing in the chilly air, and grizzlies at rest in the sun. Musk oxen browse sunlit slopes, a tableau little changed in thousands of years. Wildflower enthusiasts will appreciate the tiny, profuse flowers on the tundra, some easily recognized as dwarf versions of familiar species. Even on the summer solstice—when the sun literally never sets —snowfalls are frequent in the rugged environment served by the Dalton Highway.
From Fairbanks, drive north about 10 miles on the Steese Highway (State Highway 6) to Fox, then drive north about 73 miles on the Elliott Highway (State Highway 2) to its intersection with the Dalton Highway, 2 miles west of the turnoff to Livengood. From there, it is 56 miles northwest on the Dalton Highway to Yukon Crossing, an additional 119 miles north to Coldfoot, and 295 miles further to the Deadhorse Airport near Prudhoe Bay.
Birdwatching, picnicking, hiking, scenic drives, big-game hunting, fishing, rafting, canoeing, wildlife viewing, plant viewing, biking, and geologic sightseeing.
One of the best places to see Dall sheep is on the rocky slopes of Atigun Pass (Mile 240, elevation 4,739 feet). This is the highest point within the Alaskan road system. The sheep may also be seen between Atigun Pass and Galbraith Lake (Mile 275), as well as on Slope Mountain (Miles 297–301). Canoeing is possible on Jim River, which crosses the highway in several locations.
Permits, Fees, Limitations
No fees are required for non-commercial visits. Much of the land within the Dalton Highway corridor is tundra or permafrost and, as such, is highly vulnerable to damage, and is closed to recreational off-highway driving. Scars such as tire tracks and even footprints can last for decades; visitors should “tread lightly.”
Some facilities are accessible.
Camping and Lodging
Lodging is available along the Dalton Highway at Yukon River Crossing (Mile 56), Coldfoot (Mile 175), and Deadhorse (Mile 414). The entire Dalton Highway corridor is open to camping. A privately-managed campground is at Coldfoot. There is a public campground (managed by BLM, with no hookups) at Marion Creek, 5 miles north of Coldfoot.
Food and Supplies
Supplies are available in Fairbanks; limited supplies are available in Coldfoot and Deadhorse.
The highway corridor is extremely isolated, and visitors must be self-sufficient. There are no public or emergency medical facilities along the Dalton Highway. The nearest hospital is in Fairbanks.
The best time to drive the highway is late May–mid-September. Visitors should travel with safety in mind in this remote region; travelers are on their own. Highway services are limited to Yukon Crossing, Coldfoot, and Deadhorse, so vehicles should be in good working order before being used on this trip. Visitors are advised to carry two regular spare tires, emergency flares, extra gas and windshield wiper fluid, bug repellent, rain gear, a first aid kit, emergency food and water, and camping gear. Travelers should turn on their lights and slow down when other vehicles are approaching and avoid stopping on the road.
The Dalton Highway is primarily a gravel-surfaced, industrial highway; drivers should slow down and pull over to allow high-speed trucks to pass and to minimize the chances of windshield damage from flying rocks. As there are no services from Coldfoot until the end of the highway at Deadhorse, a distance of 242 miles, travelers should check their gas and other supplies before proceeding north. Because of oil-company security measures, private vehicles may not access the Arctic Ocean but van tours may be arranged through hotels in Deadhorse.
An excellent opportunity to learn about the plants and animals of the Alpine Tundra is available at the Finger Mountain Interpretive Trail (Mile 98). The BLM visitor contact station at Yukon Crossing (Mile 56) and the Arctic Interagency Visitor Center at Coldfoot (Mile 175) are open every day throughout the summer. Staff are available to answer questions and provide information on road conditions and wildlife sightings.
Travelers may obtain additional information at the BLM visitor information stations at Yukon Crossing and Coldfoot and obtain a copy of Birds Along the Dalton Highway or Riches from the Earth: A Geologic Tour Along the Dalton Highway.
BLM - Central Yukon Field Office
1150 University Avenue
Fairbanks, AK 99709
Tel: (907) 474-2200
Arctic Interagency Visitor Center (June–August only)
Tel: (907) 678-5209