Travelers can get a sense of the highway’s history before hitting the road at the Alaska Highway House in Dawson Creek at Mile 0. The local attraction features visitor information on the highway and its origin, with a special focus on the people who worked tirelessly to erect the road, including the 97th Army Corps of Engineers, an African American regiment that toiled in life-threatening conditions to complete the highway. Quotes and audio clips in the exhibits highlight living histories of the highway workers. Visitors can also make video postcards to send to loved ones or leave behind for others to view.
Mile 478 of the Alaska Highway features the ultimate rest stop (emphasis on the rest) at Liard River Hot Springs, the second-largest hot springs system in Canada. Just north of Muncho Lake in British Columbia, the hot springs flow into an intricate swamp system rather than a typical creek or river. Because the inflowing water is so warm, the hot springs don’t freeze during winter months, allowing visitors to enjoy them year round.
The surrounding Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park was originally referred to as Tropical Valley because of its unique climate and exotic plant growth, including 14 different kinds of orchids. The park also supports a diverse community of wildlife, including bears, moose and more than 100 species of birds. Camping at the park is offered year round, with reservations available during busy summer months.
Drive approximately 130 miles west of the hot springs to reach the community of Watson Lake, located just inside the Yukon border at historic milepost 635. Watson Lake is known as the “Gateway to the Yukon” and home to the world-famous Signpost Forest, one of the most notable landmarks along the Alaska Highway. The site originated in 1942 when a homesick U.S. Army soldier posted a sign pointing the way to his hometown of Danville, Ill. Today, more than 70,000 signs and license plates pay tribute to towns all around the world. The nearby Northern Lights Space and Science Center is another unique attraction in Watson Lake, featuring the dancing lights of the aurora borealis through interactive displays and a state-of the-art, full-dome video and surround-sound system.
Yukon’s capital city of Whitehorse is home to the S.S. Klondike National Historical Site, a must-see attraction when passing through town. Whitehorse is located at mile 887 of the highway and features the historic sternwheeler, restored to its 1937-40 appearance. The S.S. Klondike pays homage to the history of riverboat transportation along the Yukon River, once the main mode of travel in the region. For the first half of the 20th century, the British Yukon Navigation Company sternwheeler fleet navigated the Upper Yukon River between Whitehorse and Dawson City. Today visitors can tour the old vessel and stand at the ship’s restored wheelhouse.
The drive north comes reaches its ultimate destination at historic milepost 1221 — the Canada-United States international border crossing to Alaska. Stop at the designated rest area for a few photos before continuing north eight miles to the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center. Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge encompasses more than 680,000 acres of unspoiled wilderness, including snow-caped peaks, tundra and wetlands. The visitor center features informative wildlife exhibits, a bookstore and a large observation deck with several viewing scopes. The refuge is home to more than 42 species of mammals, 15 fish species and nearly 200 species of birds.
The town of Tok is located at mile 1279 and has been a trade and services center since its founding as a construction camp in the 1940s. As the gateway community to the state of Alaska, Tok offers visitors full services and is known as the “Dog Capital of Alaska,” as many of its residents are involved with dogs and dog mushing. Stop by Mukluk Land at mile 1317 for kid-friendly fun from June through August. The attraction features an indoor-outdoor museum, miniature golf, videos, educational displays and more.
The Alaska Highway officially ends at mile 1387 (or physical milepost 1422) in the community of Delta Junction, Alaska, where it intersects with the Richardson Highway, Alaska’s first road. The Richardson Highway was originally a wagon route popular with gold seekers in the early 1900s. Today travelers can visit historic attractions along the route to the Alaska Highway’s unofficial end in the city of Fairbanks. Stop for lunch at Rika’s Roadhouse, located at mile 1396 of the Richardson Highway. The attraction has been a gathering place for travelers since 1904 and was restored in the late 1970s and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.