Anyone expecting to see much of Alaska on the Alaska Highway may be a little disappointed. Anyone else wanting a magnificent road trip through epic northern scenery would not.

The thing is, you see, that more than two-thirds of the Alaska Highway actually runs through Canada. And it’s not any the worse for it since the wilderness landscape of Yukon and BC offers a fantastic experience of its own.

Planning to drive the Alaska Highway yourself soon? Read on for a brief history of the Alcan, the places you must stop to see en-route and some road trip essentials! 

Driving the Alaska Highway - The starting line in Dawson Creek, BC
The starting line of the Alaska Highway in Dawson Creek, BC
Incredible mountain views on the Alaska Highway
Incredible mountain views on the Alaska Highway

75 years of discovery

The Alaska Highway celebrated its 75th birthday in 2017. The aim of this epic 2,700km wartime construction was to build a secure transportation link between the lower 48 states and Alaska.

The journey was notorious for being a rough drive, something that is (usually) the opposite these days. The length is also a little shorter now, being ‘only’ 2,200km after some straightening over the years.

Despite the ease of driving, the Alaska Highway still symbolises adventure and excitement. And there are quite a few reasons why…

Northern Rocky Mountains near the Alaska Highway
Northern Rocky Mountains near the Alaska Highway

Moose crossing the ALaska HighwayLake and mountain views from the Alaska Highway

Driving the Alaska Highway north

The town of Dawson Creek, BC, is Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway and it was here that work started in May 1942. The road heads north from Dawson, travelling through the oil and gas-rich Peace Region. For a short time, we actually lived one street off the Alaska Highway in the ‘energetic’ (meaning industrial) city of Fort St John.

Past another ‘Fort’ town (this time, Fort Nelson) and many, many remote work camps, the Alaska Highway starts to take on more character.

Turning west into the Rocky Mountains, the roads finally meets wilderness. With a few exceptions, the road to Yukon is surrounded by rugged mountains, azure lakes, raging rivers and limestone gorges. Moose, bear, bison, stone sheep and caribou sightings are common. After leaving BC, things only get better.

Reaching Yukon Territory already feels like an achievement (970km out of 1255km done!) but there is still so much more to come. Driving is easy with long, flat sections that edge beside might lakes and rivers.

The views seem to open up more here, with peaks of huge mountains easily spotted in the distance. Delta Junction is the end of the Alaska Highway, just over 300km from the Canadian/USA border.

Driving the Alaska Highway - view of the road from our van

The long Teslin Bridge crossing the calm Teslin River, Yukon Territory - part of the Alaska Highway
Teslin Bridge, Yukon Territory – part of the Alaska Highway

Three caribou running along the Alaska Highway, British Columbia

Highlights of the drive

We were visitors to the Alaska Highway quite a few times during our five-month road trip around Western Canada and Alaska. Here are our favourite spots:

Kiskatinaw Bridge

A slight detour from the current road, the Kiskatinaw Bridge is the only original timber built bridge along the Alaska Highway still in use.

Part of a Provincial Park today, the 162m long curved structure is well worth the very short side trip to see.

Muncho Lake

The name of this lake means “big lake” in the local Kaska language. This brilliantly blue-green lake is one of the largest natural lakes in the Rockies.

There are lots of pull-outs and campgrounds from which to admire the bright water of the lake as well as the surrounding mountains.

Walking the Kiskatinaw Bridge, a landmark on the Alaska Highway
The Kiskatinaw Bridge
The aquamarine waters of Muncho Lake on the Alaska Highway
Muncho Lake on the Alaska Highway

Liard Hotsprings

Despite the crazy popularity of Liard (this place was the busiest of anywhere we visited on the whole Alaska Highway), it is still possible to get enjoy some relaxation time at these hot springs.

The large natural pool is located in a lush forest, accessible via a short swamp boardwalk. Open all year round, Liard Hotsprings is a must-stop on the Alaska Highway.

Northern Rockies

Like the southern section of the Canadian Rockies, the northern part also has awe-inspiring mountains, an abundance of wildlife and beautiful lakes aplenty. The biggest difference?

The Northern Rockies does not have the crowds that Banff, Jasper and the Icefields Parkway has. We loved hiking to see hoodoos (rock pillars caused by erosion) and spotting SO MANY animals.

The communal pools of Liard Hotsprings, British Columbia
Liard Hotsprings is a definite highlight of driving the Alaska Highway

JR looking out to views of the Northern Rockies

Signpost Forest

One of the more unusual attractions on the Alaska Highway is Watson Lake’s Signpost Forest. Started by one of the US soldiers working on the highway’s construction, there are now more than 75,000 signs in the ‘forest.’

Kluane National Park and reserve

For a long stretch, the Alaska Highway runs through, or alongside, Kluane National Park and Reserve. Those huge mountains I mentioned earlier?

They’re in Kluane National PArk (including Mt Logan, Canada’s highest mountain at an incredible 5959m), which is actually part of one of the world’s largest protected areas. Soldier’s Summit offers a great viewpoint of the shockingly bright Kluane Lake.

Gemma with some of the many signs in the Signpost Forest
Watson Lake’s Signpost Forest

The Alaska Highway winds around the shores of brightly coloured Kluane Lake

Alaska Highway Road Trip Essentials

When driving the Alaska Highway, there are a few things you should not leave home without!

There are affiliate links below – if you make a qualifying purchase through these links, I may receive a small percentage at no extra cost you. 

The Milepost

Simply put, this is the bible of Alaska Highway travel. The Milepost is a mile-by-mile guide to the Alaska Highway as well as all of the major roads leading to it. Every single thing on the road is mentioned, from gas stations and campgrounds to pullouts, viewpoints and even signposts.

The Milepost literally covers everything you could ever need to know about the Alaska Highway while driving it, in epic detail. The price is higher than your average guidebook, but this is the only one you need. 

Bug spray

The bugs are a little bit thirsty up north to say the least. Be sure to take some form of bug protection, especially if camping along the way. Trust me, you’ll thank us for this one after your own trip driving the Alaska Highway!

Vehicle safety kit

The Alaska Highway takes in some long distances and there are few fully supplied towns along the route. Be prepared for every eventuality and carry a vehicle safety kit. There is regular traffic along the highway in summer but it’s never a good idea to count on others to have things like boosting cables.

Plenty of time!

Don’t rush. Yes, you could drive from Dawson Creek to Whitehorse in two long summer days, but why do that? Driving the Alaska Highway road trip is all about the experience; stopping for snacks at the roadhouses, relaxing in Liard hot springs, visiting every viewpoint on the way.

If you don’t see the Alaska Highway from anything other than your vehicle’s windshield, you may be doing it wrong.

Spotting bison from the Alaska Highway in British Columbia

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Did you know that more than two-thirds of the magnificent Alaska Highway actually runs through Canada, rather than Alaska? And it's not any the worse for it since the wilderness landscape of Yukon and BC offers a fantastic experience of its own. Planning to drive the Alaska Highway soon? Click here for an overview of the Alcan, the best places to see and some essential tips and advice for driving this epic road trip! #roadtrip #canada #yukon #britishcolumbia #alaskahighway #travel Driving the Alaska Highway is an epic adventure through wilderness and wonder. But did you know that most of it actually travels through the province of British Columbia and Yukon Territory in Canada? Here are the highlights! offtracktravel.ca

The Alaska Highway is an epic northern drive through wilderness and wonder. But did you know that most of it actually travels through Canada's BC and Yukon regions? Here are the highlights and some essential tips for your adventure! offtracktravel.ca

Author

One half of a Canadian/British couple currently based in British Columbia, Canada. Gemma is happiest when hiking on the trail or planning the next big travel adventure.

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