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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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)
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.