After driving the Top of the World Highway, we found ourselves in Tok, Alaska. We were planning on camping nearby, but unfortunately, there were several wild fires nearby, and the air was extremely smoky! We decided to power through and try to make it up to Fairbanks.
We arrived in Fairbanks exhausted. We found an RV park in the Milepost and stopped by to check it out. They wanted $40 a night. That might not seem like a lot, but our budget wouldn’t have it. As we drove away from the RV park we spotted a little gravel parking lot, right on the edge of a river. It was owned by a family that ran river boat cruises that served dinner. They allowed us to spend the night.
The next day, we headed to the visitor center to see what we should check out in Fairbanks. Turns out, there wasn’t much that interested us, at least not that we wanted to do in the rain. Fairbanks has a large park named Pioneer Park, that is kind of like an Alaskan version of Disney Land. This would probably be great if we had kids, but we were looking for something more exciting. There were also some hot springs nearby, but we’d just been to Liard Hot Springs and were told it didn’t compare.
We had heard about the Dalton Highway long before we began our trip. This is a treacherous stretch of Highway that connects a massive oil well in Prudhoe Bay (a bay on the Arctic Ocean) to the rest of civilization. About 500 miles long, the highway isn’t paved, and according to the visitor center, there are only about 200 people on it each day. The highway parallels the Alaskan Pipeline.
We were pretty sure we didn’t want to drive the entire Dalton Highway. It would be 1,000 miles round trip, and as mentioned before, the road ends at a massive oil well. You can’t even make it to the Arctic Ocean unless you book a tour with Exxon beforehand.
We learned that in its hay day, the well was making around two million barrels a day, however today it only pumps out only a fraction of that. Maybe at some point in the future it won’t be cost effective to run any longer. What will happen to the Dalton Highway, I wonder? Will it be kept around for adventurers, hunters and tourists? With fuel prices so high, maybe this day is so far in the future we won’t see it.
Well, we weren’t doing anything else, and I really wanted to see a part of the Dalton Highway. About 100 miles in, you reach the Arctic Circle. Even though we’d spent way too many hours in the truck, we decided to go for it. When was the next time we’d only be a hundred miles from the Arctic Circle?
As we walked out of the visitor center, we were surprised to see that Adventures in Skyhorse had parked right next to us! It was fun to meet Hani and Sara in person, and their rig is a pretty amazing sight! I thought we got a lot of attention in the XP, but standing there chatting with them, we were interrupted a number of times by curious people wandering by.
The Dalton Highway felt remote, and it was a beautiful drive up to the Arctic Circle. The highway has some crazy stretches. There are huge hills that the truckers have given names to, like “roller coaster.” As we drove, I couldn’t imagine how nerve racking it must be to drive this highway when it’s covered in snow and you’ve got a massive trailer behind you.
We made it to the Arctic Circle, and found a really nice camp ground that was pretty much deserted. We settled in and started to make dinner, only to find that our diesel stove didn’t want to start. Luckily, we had bought a little propane stove, just for cases like this, so we still had a hot meal.
That night, the sun set, but it never got dark; it felt like there were only several hours of dusk and then the sun rose again.
The next morning it was raining. We packed up and hit the road. Soon, the XPCamper and our truck was covered in mud. As we made our way back towards fairbanks, we passed several motor cyclers (and even a guy riding a mountain bike). Every time you think you are hard core, you never have to look far to find someone who is really hard core!
I loved the stretch of the Dalton Highway that we drove and I highly recommend taking some time to drive this highway if you are in northern Alaska. Lookin gback, I wish we had spent a couple extra days driving just a bit further north, but we found ourselves running up against a timeline. We had scheduled several nights in Denali (the campgrounds get full so you need to book them early), and we needed to make our way back south. I’m sure that Erica and I will return to Alaska in the future, and I hope we will spend even more time exploring this remote part of Alaska.
Here are some more pictures of our trip to the Arctic Circle:
Author: Song of the Road
We left our jobs in San Francisco to drive the Americas from Alaska to Argentina and beyond.