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Alaska Highway Facts

The Alaska Highway was built by the U.S. Army in 1942 and opened to civilian traffic in 1948. It is open all year and driven by thousands of motorists in all sorts of vehicles. The Alaska Highway begins at Mile 0 in Dawson Creek, BC, and ends 1,390 miles later at Delta Junction, AK (Historical Mile 1422). Historical Miles reflect historical driving distances along the Alaska Highway: the highway is shorter today than it was in the 1940s, with reconstruction and rerouting shaving off more miles every year.

The first 613 miles/987 km of the Alaska Highway are in British Columbia, where it is designated BC Highway 97. The highway travels in a northwesterly direction from Dawson Creek, BC, to the Yukon Territory border near Watson Lake, YT (Historical Mile 635). From there it continues as Yukon Highway 1, crossing 577 miles/929 km of Yukon Territory to Port Alcan on the Alaska border. The Alaska Highway crosses into Alaska at Historical Mile 1221.8, where it becomes Alaska Route 2. From this international border, it is 200 miles/322 km to Delta Junction, AK, the official end of the Alaska Highway, and 298 miles to Fairbanks, the unofficial end of the highway, at Historical Mile 1520. (The 98-mile stretch of highway between Delta Junction and Fairbanks is part of the Richardson Highway from Valdez, although it is designated Alaska Route 2 and often treated as a natural extension of the Alaska Highway.)

Is the Alaska Highway paved?

All of the Alaska Highway is paved, although highway improvement projects— such as the Shakwak Project between Haines Junction and the AK–YT border—often mean motorists have to drive miles of gravel road through construction areas, bringing into question whether that statement is altogether accurate.

But the Alaska Highway is much improved from what is was even 20 years ago. It was during the 1980s that many of the rerouting and paving projects were completed. By 1992, the 50th anniversary of the Alaska Highway, the last section of original gravel road had been rerouted and paved.

What are road conditions like?

Road conditions on the Alaska Highway are not unlike road conditions on many secondary roads in the Lower 48 and Canada. It is the tremendous length of the highway, combined with its remoteness and the extremes of the Northern climate, that often result in surprises along this highway.

Road conditions are always subject to change on the Alaska Highway. Weather and traffic can cause deterioration of newer pavement, while construction can quickly improve previously damaged sections.

The asphalt surfacing of the Alaska Highway ranges from poor to excellent. Relatively few stretches of road fall into the ‘poor’ category, i.e. chuckholes, gravel breaks, deteriorated shoulders, bumps and frost heaves (a rippling effect in the pavement caused by the freezing and thawing of the ground).

Much of the highway is in fair condition, with older patched pavement and a minimum of gravel breaks and chuckholes. Recently upgraded sections of road offer excellent surfacing.

CAUTION: Loose gravel patches are common on the Alaska Highway and are often signed. Slow down for loose gravel patches and for gravel road in construction areas. Excessive speeds can lead to loss of control of your vehicle.

Driving advice

Today’s Alaska Highway is a 2-lane highway that winds and rolls across the wilderness. The best advice is to take your time; drive with your headlights on at all times (it’s the law in Canada); keep to the right on hills and corners; use turnouts; watch for wildlife on the road; and—as you would on any highway anywhere else—drive defensively.

There are relatively few steep grades or high summits on the Alaska Highway, with most occurring as the Alaska Highway crosses the Rocky Mountains between Fort Nelson, BC, and Watson Lake, YT. The highest summit on the highway is at Summit Lake, elev. 4,250 feet/1,295m. The few steep grades are generally short stretches from 6 to 10 percent.

Always be alert for bumps and holes in the road and for abrupt changes in high-way surfacing. There are stretches of narrow, winding road without shoulders. Also watch for soft shoulders. Dust and mud are generally a problem only in construction areas.

Always watch for construction crews along the Alaska Highway. Extensive road construction may require a detour, or travelers may be delayed while waiting for a pilot car to guide them through the construction. Motorists may encounter rough driving at construction areas, and muddy roadway if there are heavy rains while the roadbed is torn up.

How far apart are services?

Gas, food and lodging are found along the Alaska Highway on an average of every 20 to 50 miles. (The longest stretch without services is about 100 miles.) Not all businesses are open year-round, nor are most services available 24 hours a day. There are dozens of government and private campgrounds along the highway.

Remember that you will be driving in 2 different countries that use 2 different currencies: For the best rate, exchange your money at a bank. There are banks in Dawson Creek, Fort St. John, Fort Nelson, Watson Lake, Whitehorse, Tok, Delta Junction and Fairbanks. Haines Junction has banking service at the general store.

Driving the Alaska Highway in Winter

Highway conditions can be excellent on the Alaska Highway in the winter, with the highway surface smoothed of potholes with graded snow. Highway crews are generally quick to be on the road plowing for snowfalls, and there are a fair number of the big rigs on the road during the winter. Pay extra attention to roads signs: When the sign says slow down for dangerous curves, slow down ! Also watch for wildlife:--moose , caribou, buffalo and sheep--on the highway.

Be sure to travel on the top half of your tank. Lots of places along the highway are only seasonal operations. There are about 120 to 150 miles between open year-round service outlets. If you do hit minus 50 degree temperatures, you'll want to be sure you can handle keeping warm enough should you hit the ditch. Our field editors always carry an extra long set of booster cables, tow rope, snow shovel and lots of warm clothing. It's a good idea to check with the gas station attendant when you are filling up for what the word is about road conditions ahead. Phone ahead to confirm accommodation: you don't want to be counting on staying overnight only to find they've closed for whatever reason. In The MILEPOST®, we indicate those businesses that expect to be open year round, but seasons and hours are always subject to change without notice. Also keep in mind that few businesses in this remote part of the world are open 24 hours a day.

Be aware that there are long stretches of highway that have no cell phone service. Make sure that your vehicle has a block heater installed so it can be plugged in for cold weather starts. It's a lot easier on your vehicle, and may mean the difference between starting or not after an overnight stop. Our field editors make sure they have a paid up CAA/AAA memberships. The savings of one tow call or vehicle boost usually pays for itself.

And don't forget to allow time for a winter dip at Liard Hotsprings Provincial Park. It's a highlight of driving the Alaska Highway in winter.

All About the
Alaska Highway
  · History of the Alaska Highway
  · Driving the Alaska Highway
  · When to Go
  · Crossing the Border
  · Services & Sights
  · Highway Length
  · By Cruise Ship
  · Travel by Ferry
  · Wildlife Viewing
  · Glaciers

Road Reporter
  · Current Weather
  · Exchange Rates
  · Gas Prices
  · Road Conditions
  · Mountie Tom
  · Mammals & Birds of Alaska
  · Motorcycling North
  · Itineraries & Tours
  · Alaska's Highest
Highway Passes
Congratulations Mitch Seavey

Major Attractions
  · Anchorage, AK
  · Dawson City, YT
  · Denali National Park
  · Fairbanks, AK
  · Glaciers
  · Hunting & Fishing
  · Inside Passage
  · Kenai Peninsula
  · Mount McKinley
  · Prince William Sound
  · Trans-Alaska Pipeline
  · Whitehorse, YT
  · Wildlife Viewing

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