Alaska, North America

4 Day Dalton Highway Road Trip

At the end of August, we decided to take a 4 day Dalton Highway road trip, because we were right there and why not? Plus, we’ve wanted to do it for years. Have you heard of the Dalton Highway in Alaska? Maybe you’ve heard it called the Haul Road. It’s the road that the show Ice Road Truckers is filmed on.

In case you don’t know, awhile back my husband and I bought nine acres in the woods of Alaska. We are building a cabin on it, one month each summer, so it’s where our vacations are spent. We’re very close to done and since we’ve sold our house in Idaho, it’s the only place we can call home. We love Alaska and are slowly exploring the beautiful state.

Dalton Highway Road Trip

I really love that there are signs like this when you’re driving on the Dalton Highway. They are great photo ops, but they are also a great way to see exactly where you are on the road. Plus, when you’re traveling with a puppy, they are good potty breaks. (Please be sure to clean up after your pet.)

We saw this little development and didn’t know what it was, so I had to investigate. It’s an old oil man camp, where the workers lived while they built the pipeline. We saw quite a few of them on our Dalton Highway road trip. The silver thing behind the buildings is the actual pipeline.

My husband and I. I’m not actually short, 5’5″, but I’m the shortest in my family. When we take selfie pictures together, my chin gets cut off a lot. Oh well, the backdrop is pretty anyway.

 

 

Blueberries, oh the blueberries! We found a few patches on the sides of the road. They were so good. The red berries are lingonberries. If you go berry picking, two pieces of advice. First, make sure there are no bears around. They really love the berries. Second, be sure you know what you’re eating. Some of the berries are not good for you to consume.

Yukon River

We crossed the Yukon River in Canada, but it wasn’t this wide. It was beautiful though. The Yukon River on the Dalton Highway is quite a bit wider and there is a campground on it. We didn’t stop there, I just know it’s there.

In this photo, you can see the actual road. It’s not a paved road, although it is very well maintained on most of the highway. In Alaska, a lot of the highways are not like the highways you are used to. Just take it slow. We didn’t have any trouble with it at all. If you’re renting a vehicle, make sure it’s one you can take on the Dalton Highway. Most places don’t allow it. We had our own vehicle, so it was no problem.

Our 4 day Dalton Highway road trip included a lot of rain and clouds, along with a small amount of snow. It was still gorgeous though. The clouds kind of make it mysterious.

Remember that puppy I was talking about? This is him and how he spent the majority of the trip. Such a weird dude. He was a great traveler though.

The Arctic Circle

We made it to the Arctic Circle! We were pretty excited. This wasn’t the end of our drive though. There were miles to go to get to the end of the road, 495 miles one way.

This is Coldfoot Camp. There isn’t much to it, but there are two gas pumps, a little cafe with good food and a little motel. It was built around 1900 as a gold mining camp. Then it was used when the pipeline was being built. Across the highway is the Arctic Circle Visitors Center and it’s quite interesting.

This might be the most beautiful creek I have ever seen. It’s called Marion Creek and the water is so blue from the glacial runoff. I loved taking photos here. So gorgeous. In my excitement, I did forget to look for bears. Good thing there weren’t any. Don’t do that.

Galbraith Lake Campground

We spent two nights at the Galbraith Lake Campground. It’s really an undeveloped field by a tiny airport, but it had some picnic tables and a primitive outhouse type bathroom. The sunset was beautiful though. Don’t you think?

This was our view when we woke up. There was no snow on the mountains when we got to the campground. It was a pretty cool night though. Isn’t this gorgeous?

4 Day Dalton Highway Road Trip pebble pirouette.com #alaska #daltonhighway #roadtrip #nature

A little ways from our campground, we saw some caribou. These two fellas were nice enough to walk slowly and let me get their photo.

Deadhorse

We reached Deadhorse around lunch time and we were hungry. Although we had food with us, we were up for a break. Our goal was to be able to get to the Arctic Ocean. Unfortunately, this was not to be. We didn’t realize you had to be on a special tour and have a background check to reach the Arctic Ocean here. Dang the luck! We decided to look around some, get some fuel and eat some lunch.

Deadhorse is an oil camp that services Prudhoe Bay, where the oil is brought out. It’s cold up there in the winter, so while there are outdoor spaces, a lot of stuff is indoors. I imagine you have to dress pretty warm in the winter. We were there the end of August and it was already below freezing. Burr.

This is the Aurora Hotel and while we didn’t stay there, I read some reviews and it seems like a good place to stay. Clean, comfortable and good food. However, be prepared to pay higher prices.

While we were eating our pizza from a food truck, we watched a bear coming in close to town. Then we saw a ranger or police person shooting bean bags at the bear to get him to get away, without hurting the bear. Apparently this is a daily occurrence, so be bear aware.

Going South

My dad always puts his foot into new bodies of water, so I wanted to do it for him. Since we couldn’t get to the Arctic Ocean, the next best thing was to put my foot into a river that feeds into the Arctic Ocean.

This is me, putting my foot into the coldest water I have ever been in. Holy cow!! It took about three hours before I could feel it again. Maybe someday I will get to the actual Arctic Ocean.

Fall was starting to happen when we were on our Dalton Highway road trip. The leaves were starting to change and it was so pretty.

Have you ever seen a muskox? If not, here you go. They are such interesting animals.  If there are predators around, muskox will form a circle around their young, heads out, to protect them. Both male and female muskox have horns, so it’s bound to be intimidating.

The musk ox gets its name from the strong odor it emits during the rut. Apparently the lady musk ox like stinky mates.

4 Day Dalton Highway Road Trip pebble pirouette.com #alaska #daltonhighway #roadtrip #nature

Muskox can weigh up to 900 pounds and live up to 20 years in the wild. They also move quite slow when not threatened, so the photo ops are good when you find them. These babies live in the Arctic Tundra regions of North America, Greenland and Europe.

This beautiful grizzly bear was about 1000 yards out when my husband first spotted him. (My husband has a bionic eye. For real.) We watched him for quite awhile as he moved closer and closer to us, getting as close as about 30 yards. He weighed about 400 pounds and was trying to fatten up for winter. He was very aware of us, but didn’t threaten us or anything. It was so neat to get to watch him for so long. What a beauty.

 

Antigun Pass

Antigun Pass is such a pretty area and since it snowed, it really looks beautiful. Just drive slow and take it in. Some of the road is pretty steep and the turns tight.

4 Day Dalton Highway Road Trip pebble pirouette.com #alaska #daltonhighway #roadtrip #nature

The Antigun Pass in Alaska is the highest driveable place in Alaska. If you look at my balled up fist, you can see I was a little cold. It’s one of the many beautiful places we saw on our road trip. Just gorgeous. My husband took this picture when I got out to take some pictures myself.

Wiseman

I read about Wiseman in the book Milepost 2018 (affiliate link) and wanted to stop there so much. Wiseman is a small mining community along the Middle Fork Koyukuk River in the Brooks Range. It was founded by gold miners around 1908. The population of Wiseman at the last census was 14.

The buildings all look similar to these and I really loved it. I would love to spend a few days here, walking around, talking to people and taking lots of pictures. There are a couple of places to stay in Wiseman. I think I might do that sometime.

The Wiseman post office was in service from 1909 until 1956.

Tips for Your Dalton Highway Road Trip

  • Take plenty of food, water and blankets with you.
  • There aren’t any real towns on the Dalton Highway, so be prepared to camp.
  • Pay close attention to your fuel because gas stations are far apart.
  • Be prepared to pay more than normal for your fuel. The further north you go, the more expensive it gets. We paid close to $7.00 a gallon at Deadhorse.
  • Take an extra 5 gallons of fuel for emergencies.
  • Take a camera. You will want to take lots of photos.
  • Watch for wildlife and don’t approach!
  • Bring toilet paper and wipes. Bathrooms are few and far between. I hope you can squat.
  • Take your time. You don’t want to miss anything.
  • Bring a tent if you don’t want to sleep in your vehicle. However, be aware that there are bears, so don’t put anything with a scent in your tent.
  • Have bear spray and know how to use it. It could save your life.
  • If you have a tablet, upload some movies on it. You can’t drive for every waking hour and will want something easy to do before bed.
  • Be aware that unless you rent an expensive hotel room, you won’t get a shower on your trip. It’s okay. You will survive.
  • Bring a small camp stove to cook simple meals on. We did soups and chili (with no beans). You can cook them right in the can and eat out of the same can, so no dishes!
  • Get yourself a copy of MILEPOST 2018 (or whatever the latest year is). It details your trip, tells you where towns, hotels, rest areas, etc are located. It’s quite helpful. (PS that’s an affiliate link)

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Just like that, our Dalton Highway road trip was over. We had to get back to our cabin and get back to work. We will get it done, but it takes time when you’re building by hand.

I really want to go back on this same trip in the winter. Then we can drive over to Barrow and see the Arctic Ocean and maybe a polar bear too. Have you been to the Arctic Circle? What did you think?

 

Want more road trip? Check out these posts. 

Denali Highway Road Trip

Denali Highway Road Trip

Alaska Highway Roadtrip #alcanhighway #alaskahighway #roadtrip #canada #alaska #roadtrip pebblepirouette.com

Alaska Highway Road Trip

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30 Comments

  • Reply Julia Lewis November 22, 2018 at 9:09 am

    That was the most amazing blog post I’ve ever read. I followed your posts on Facebook when you were posting, but it was great to read it all in one sitting. I can’t believe you were lucky enough to do that trip. And your cabin is amazing. When will you finish it? Or did you finish it on this trip? When are you headed back to work on it again?

    • Reply ppadmin November 24, 2018 at 3:35 pm

      Wow! Thank you Julia! It was such a great trip. The cabin isn’t finished yet, but we should easily be able to finish the outside next summer and heat source. Then we can do the inside the next summer, while we’re actually staying in it! I’m so excited.

  • Reply Brittany November 23, 2018 at 9:04 pm

    Dalton seems like the perfect trip for nature lovers! Marion Creek is breathtaking! And the weather seemed perfect when you guys went. What an awesome trip!

    • Reply ppadmin November 24, 2018 at 3:33 pm

      It was an awesome trip. We had a mix of weather, sun, rain and snow. So much in a short amount of time. The scenery wasn’t the same coming back as going up because of that.

  • Reply Angelica November 24, 2018 at 10:00 am

    These tips are great- especially the fuel ones! I had no idea they got so pricey, but bringing an extra makes a lot of sense. Thanks for sharing, and I can’t wait to go om this road trip!

    • Reply ppadmin November 24, 2018 at 3:31 pm

      I hope that you’re able to go and love it like I did!

  • Reply Abbie Synan November 24, 2018 at 2:46 pm

    The wildlife sightings are amazing! I’d love to have a view of mountains like those from a campsite, what a great trip! Thanks for sharing all of your tips, road trips like these are so much fun to not only plan, but take!

    • Reply ppadmin November 24, 2018 at 3:30 pm

      It was a pretty fabulous trip. I didn’t really know what to expect, just that I wanted to go. Now I want to go again.

  • Reply Paula November 24, 2018 at 4:50 pm

    Wow that’s so impressive! To see the bear must have been a breathtaking experience! Spotting wildlife is such an amazing thing to do!

    • Reply ppadmin November 25, 2018 at 1:13 pm

      It’s one of my favorite things. My husband is an awesome spotter.

  • Reply Anwesha Guha November 25, 2018 at 4:58 am

    It’s a lovely road trip. I loved that you went for berry picking. They are so much fun! Who took your picture near the Arctic Circle board? It looked like nobody was nearby.

    • Reply ppadmin November 25, 2018 at 1:20 pm

      We’re trying to get berries on our property because we love them so much. I haven’t seen any yet though. My daughter or her fiancé took the photos by the Arctic Circle board. She was with us the whole month and he was with us a week. There were a few people, but not many. Also, most people turn back at that sign. We kept going.

  • Reply Elaine Masters November 27, 2018 at 8:42 pm

    You two are tough! I loved your details. The berries, the signs and seeing the oil camps. It’s a long desolate area but so beautiful. Glad that Grizzly came close and the Musk Ox too. Amazing to think they’re up there right now in subzero! Sure you want to return in winter?!

    • Reply ppadmin November 28, 2018 at 3:30 pm

      Thanks. Returning in winter does give me pause. My husband has assured me we will get me some good boots and clothes. I think it will be gorgeous though.

  • Reply Linda December 1, 2018 at 7:20 pm

    It is great to stop to get road signs along the way. Especially if they are decorative like the ones you shared. So cool that you found wild blueberries on the side of the road. Thanks for the tip about making sure that we could take a rental vehicle on the Dalton Highway. I would have been excited too when I crosse the Arctic Circle! My hubby always makes me put my foot in cold water too! I have many of those faces 🙂 Thanks for the long list of tips!

    • Reply ppadmin December 6, 2018 at 7:36 pm

      There is just so much to do and see on the Dalton Highway. That water was so stinking cold. It makes me shiver just thinking about it.

  • Reply Danik December 2, 2018 at 1:37 pm

    I am planning a trip to Alaska as its been on my ‘bucket’ list for a while but never heard of the Dalton Highway. Would love to check the places out you seen. Is 4 days enough or is more needed? Or less? Would love to know your views on this.

    • Reply ppadmin December 6, 2018 at 7:35 pm

      I’m so excited for you! I have a couple other Alaska related posts that might help you and I’m in the process of writing more. We were really pushing it with 4 days. I would like to have had another day to go a little slower. We had a roof to get on our cabin though. We will be going back for sure. We were just hitting the beginning of cold and snow when we went the very end of August. Keep that in mind. I’m not sure when it stops being winter.

  • Reply Christopher Rudder December 2, 2018 at 11:59 pm

    It seems Dalton Highway in Alaska looks like a piece of fairy tale. Wanna see muskox, beer and caribou in real life too! Wish you can tell more about that bear spray. Very interesting!

    • Reply ppadmin December 6, 2018 at 7:31 pm

      It is a piece of a fairy tale for sure. Bear Spray is similar to pepper spray, but the canister is much bigger container, but has a lower concentration of the active ingredient, oleoresin capsicum. Bear spray produced a bigger cloud than pepper spray, due to the size of the canister. The idea is to cause the bear irritation, so they run off, and not to kill them. They are proven to be very successful. Does that help?

  • Reply Carol Colborn December 3, 2018 at 6:03 am

    I was glued to this…reminiscing our own 3-day trip to the Arctic Circle on Canada’s Dempster Highway. Your tips are great but we had our small RV so it was more comfy for us! Love your photos, too!

    • Reply ppadmin December 6, 2018 at 7:24 pm

      I bet that was a lovely trip too. An RV would have made it more comfortable, but we were happy with how we traveled too. We will do it again sometime.

  • Reply Hannah December 3, 2018 at 12:18 pm

    I love seeing the Dalton Highway in August. I’m a huge fan of Iceroad Truckers, so it’s great to see all these places through your eyes. I’m so excited you saw a Grizzly Bear – isn’t he magnificent! I didn’t know what Muskoxes looked like, so it was great to see your pics!

    • Reply ppadmin December 6, 2018 at 7:23 pm

      I would love to go back up there in the winter and see the difference. My husband will have to do the driving though. That bear was like the cherry on top of the sundae. So fantastic!

  • Reply Rosemary December 3, 2018 at 5:19 pm

    Such impressive landscapes. So serene and simply gorgeous. Fascinating to see a Muskox…never seen one before. That bear is impressive, you got so much to discover in your new state. Hope you get your cabin ready for the winter. Jealous of the fresh berries. Enjoy!

    • Reply ppadmin December 6, 2018 at 7:22 pm

      The muskox were a first for me. I was pretty excited to see them. The cabin isn’t ready. Next summer we hope. There will be people living in it next winter, so it has to be done.

  • Reply Lisa December 4, 2018 at 3:11 am

    Aah, I just love those signs along the Dalton Highway! And Marion Creek is absolutely gorgeous 😍 Haha, glad there wasn’t any bears while you were there. Cool picture of the muskox, and that bear! 💛

    • Reply ppadmin December 6, 2018 at 7:21 pm

      It was really so wonderful. I’m glad the bears didn’t visit us while camping either. That wouldn’t have been fun at all.

  • Reply Astrid Vinje December 4, 2018 at 11:37 pm

    What a cool road trip experience! I’ve always wanted to road trip through Alaska. Galbraith Lake Campground looks beautiful. And I think it would be so cool to see wild animals, but from the safety of my car, of course!

    • Reply ppadmin December 6, 2018 at 7:12 pm

      It was really a fantastic trip. I loved every minute of it. The wildlife was of course, my favorite part. It’s all just gorgeous.

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