When we decided to drive the Alaska Highway through Canada and then explore Alaska, there were certain places that we wanted to explore. One of those was the Arctic Circle via the Dalton Highway aka the North Slope Haul Road. Alyeska, the owners of the Alaska Pipeline, extended the road in 1974, from the Yukon River to Prudhoe Bay. Originally it was a private road used as a supply route for the oil fields on the Arctic Ocean and to service the Alaska Pipeline that the road follows. In 1981, the entire road was opened to the public with a permit and then in 1994 the permit requirement was removed. The highway is a 414 mile gravel road. However, we were only going to mile marker 115, the Arctic Circle sign.
We were up early and packed the pickup, leaving the campground by 7:30. It was a 370 mile round trip to the Arctic Circle, but it would take us approximately 9 hours. Driving out of Fairbanks you travel 70 miles on the Elliott Highway to the Livengood turnoff. The Elliott highway is paved but very bumpy. However, the fall colors were spectacular.
We had read everything we could to prepare for our trip on the Dalton. We had been told to expect lots of tractor-trailer traffic. bad road conditions, and lots of flying rocks. We took our pictures and headed north.
Once you are on the Dalton, your next “settlement” would be Yukon River crossing at mile post 56. So we had lots of views of the pipeline.
The pipeline starts in Prudhoe Bay and extends 800 miles to Valdez, Alaska.
We could tell it was going to be a rainy afternoon, so we tried to enjoy the scenery while we could.
There were a few sections of the highway that were paved, but it was mostly gravel. We had expected a much worse road. There were a few pot holes, and the truck traffic was very light.
The Dalton Highway crosses over the Yukon River at the 56 mile mark. This is the only crossing in Alaska over the river.
There are floating cabins on the Yukon River near the bridge.
We stopped at the BLM visitor’s center, but they were closed as they were on limited days do to it being at the end of the season. We were a bit disappointed as we would not be able to get our certificates for the Arctic Circle. We walked down to the river and took pictures of the bridge.
There was interesting information of the Yukon River.
We stopped at Yukon River to top off our gas tank and bought Arctic Circle shirts. It is definitely not the nicest building and the gas was $5.62 a gallon, but it is one of only 2 fuel stops on the highway.
The rain we had been anticipated began. It blocked some of the landscape, but we were able to get glimpses here and there, with an occasional sighting of the pipeline.
The Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1980 with over 1.6 million acres, which is approximately the same size as the state of Delaware. The Kanuti River runs through and it is primarily composed of a boreal forest. We were excited to briefly see a Grizzly bear along the road.
The Arctic Circle is located at mile 115 of the Dalton Highway. It marks the latitude at which the sun just fails to rise on the shortest day and just fails to set on the longest day. It was exciting to be standing at the 66th Parallel.
When we first arrived, we were the only people there and we had to get everyone and everything in a picture, our mascots…
The dirty pickup…
We arrived at 1:07 pm with a trip mileage of 4761 miles. It began to rain heavily, so we hurried and fixed lunch. While we ate, we watched several tour groups cross the “red carpet”. We had considered a tour, however the cost is $300-500 per person.
We ate lunch in the pick-up and the rain started to let up. We looked at the displays of life at the Arctic Circle and read the stickers on the back of the Arctic Circle sign.
We have a fast food restaurant in Idaho that is called Arctic Circle. So before we left on our trip, we went there and got cups just for this moment. We put on our newly acquired shirts and relished in the moment.
We very much enjoyed our time at the Arctic Circle, but it was time to head back towards Fairbanks. The rain had settled in for the drive back to the Yukon River.
It was a wet trip back to Fairbanks.
Since the Dalton Highway is mostly dirt and gravel, the pick-up got a bit dirty.
We stopped at the car wash in Fairbanks. It took $20.00 in quarters to wash off the dirt.
It had been a long and exciting day. We still had 125 miles to go, as we needed to be in Denali National Park tonight, as we had a tour at 8:00 the next morning. So little time and so much to see. As we drove south, we watched the last of the sunlight disappear.
Denali here we come!!!