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 AKYT borderoften mean motorists
have to drive miles of gravel road through construction areas,
bringing into question whether that statement is altogether
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
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.
Todays 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 (its
the law in Canada); keep to the right on hills and corners;
use turnouts; watch for wildlife on the road; andas
you would on any highway anywhere elsedrive 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
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.