The Alaska Highway is the road connecting Alaska with the rest of North America. It runs primarily through Canada. This itinerary will cover the 2,232 km (1,387 mi) trip from Dawson Creek, British Columbia via the Yukon to Delta Junction, Alaska. This is not a Sunday drive.
This highway was built during World War II to help the American military transport equipment to and from Alaska.
Get a copy of The Milepost, either in print or eBook form. (Print would be a better idea once you hit the road.) Billing itself as "the Bible of north country travel," this guide book covers the entire northwestern corner of North America in rich detail.
Give your car a thorough mechanical evaluation before you attempt this trip. For winter driving, get winter or all-weather tires and low-weight oil (5W30 or as recommended by your manufacturer). Sign up for roadside service such as AAA/CAA, but verify that they will cover the entire cost of towing you long distances. Many services will cover only a few hundred dollars, which is not sufficient.
Cell phone coverage is very sparse. Although every Yukon community along the highway has cell service in the vicinity, do not count on using your cell phone in an emergency. You should carry enough emergency supplies to last yourself one or two nights. The nearest tow truck can be 1000 km (650 mi) away. It is even more important to carry emergency supplies in winter to avoid hypothermia and death. At the very least, bring food, water, blankets, a first-aid kit, and spare tires. Wintertime temperatures can dive as low as −40 °C / −40 °F. Bug repellent may be very nice to have in the summer.
Be sure to verify that you have the appropriate entry documents for Canada or the United States, depending on your direction. Canadian immigration can request that you show proof of enough funds to cover your trip and an emergency. A bank/ATM receipt, a few credit cards, traveler's checks, or cash will suffice. They will refuse entry to Canada if you do not demonstrate enough funding for your trip.
Gas (petrol) stations in this part of Canada are frequently not open 24 hours, especially in winter, and most of them do not have a pay-at-the-pump mechanism. Many stations have very long distances between them. You should keep your tank as full as you can and be prepared to wait for a station to open if you arrive in the middle of the night.
The highway may be in various states of repair. Be prepared to wait a while as road crews continue to maintain the road. Winter frost is extremely hard on the roads. Do not be surprised to see deep fissures across the highway.
Getting to the Alaska Highway is no small feat in itself. It starts in Dawson Creek in northern British Columbia. You can get to Dawson Creek either by driving north from southern British Columbia through Prince George or by driving northwest from Edmonton, Alberta.
Whitehorse is the largest city along the highway, until you reach Fairbanks at the end. The Whitehorse airport YXY IATA is served by Air Canada, Air North, and Westjet. Nearly all of the flights are to or from Vancouver, with some schedules to Calgary and Edmonton. There is also summertime nonstop or one-stop service to Frankfurt, Germany, via Condor airlines.
Dawson Creek, Fort Nelson, and Fort St. John have airports with schedule commercial flights, though Fort St. John has the most flights of those by far. A renting car could be used for the drive, but renting RV would be more comfortable and convenient. An RV is usually quite expensive and after the cost of gas, probably more expensive than staying in a hotel every night, but there a few hotels along the route between the few cities.
Portions of the Alaska Highway west of Tok and southeast of Fort Nelson have intercity bus services, but the remainder of the Alaska Highway, including the Yukon have no such services.
- BC Bus North, ☏ +1-844-564-7494. Provides bus service on the following routes:
- Between Prince George and Fort St. John twice per week with stops in Mackenzie, Chetwynd, Dawson Creek, and Taylor. Only the portion of the route between Dawson Creek and Fort St. John is on the Alaska Highway.
- Between Dawson Creek and Fort Nelson once per week with stops in Taylor and Fort St. John.
- Cold Shot, ☏ +1 587-557-7719, [email protected]. Bus service from Monday to Friday between Fort St. John and Grande Prairie with stops in Dawson Creek, Hythe, and Beaverlodge. Only the portion of the route between Dawson Creek and Fort St. John is on the Alaska Highway.
- Interior Alaska Bus Line, ☏ +1-800-770-6652, [email protected]. Year round service on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Friday between Anchorage and Fairbanks, as well as points along these routes. Travel between those two larger communities involves taking the bus to the town of Tok, then making a same day transfer to the destination. Be sure to reserve in advance and allow some flexibility in your schedule as buses may be rescheduled based on demand.
The only real possible way of doing this trip is driving. Many travellers do this trip with a recreational vehicle (RV).
Although Canada generally uses metric, most points along the Alaska Highway are identified by mileage:
- 1 Dawson Creek - Mile 0
- 2 Fort St. John - Mile 47
- 3 Wonowon - Mile 101
- 4 Fort Nelson - Mile 283
- 5 Muncho Lake Provincial Park - Mile 437
- 6 Watson Lake - Mile 613
- 7 Whitehorse - Mile 887
- 8 Haines Junction - Mile 985
- 9 Tok - Mile 1314
- 10 Delta Junction - Mile 1422
Remember that you will have more than 20 hours of sunlight during the summer months and less than 5 hours of sunlight in the middle of winter.
There is mobile wireless service between Dawson Creek and 85 km west past Fort Nelson. There is then no wireless service for around 400 km, until Watson Lake. After Watson Lake, there is no wireless service for 200 km, until Teslin. From Teslin, there is coverage along the majority of the way until near Burwash Creek (about 140 km from the Yukon-Alaska border), at which point there is no coverage until reaching the border community of Beaver Creek. In Alaska, there is mobile wireless coverage along the route except for the 70 km nearest to the Yukon-Alaska border.
Rather than going west from Whitehorse, you can go north along the Klondike Highway to the Historic Gold Rush town of Dawson City, take the Top of the World Highway to the Alaska border at Poker Creek and then take the Taylor Highway back to the Alaska Highway.
The 720 km long Highway 37 (Stewart-Cassiar Highway), runs from Highway 16 (Yellowhead Highway) at Kitwanga, British Columbia to the Alaska Highway. Highway 37 intersects with the Alaska Highway about 3 km north of the British Columbia-Yukon Border and 22 km west of Watson Lake, Yukon. This route can save about 210 km (130 mi) for travellers coming from southern British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest of the contiguous United States, but due to the sparse population along the route, there is no mobile wireless service along Highway 37, except at either end of the highway.
At about Mile 837, you can turn south to Carcross and go to Skagway, famous as the gateway to the 1896-1899 Klondike Gold Rush. In summer, the Historic Whitepass & Yukon Route Railway is operational as a historical tourist attraction, connecting Carcross and Skagway.
Another sidetrip that leaves the Alaska highway at the same point is a trip to Atlin. Atlin is a small town in British Columbia that is only accessible from the Yukon.
Follow all advice in the Prepare section.
- The Alaska Marine Highway has service from the Anchorage area, south of Fairbanks.
- About 105 km (66 miles) west of Alaska Highway's west terminus is the city of Fairbanks, the closest larger city near that end the highway.