Coldfoot is one of the few Alaska communities north of the Arctic Circle accessible by road. The town serves as a stopping place for those driving the Dalton Highway on their own or as part of a tour.
It is said that Coldfoot got its name in 1900, when gold seekers made it that far, got cold feet, and turned around. Today it serves as the farthest-north truck stop in the United States.
Coldfoot is located roughly 174 miles into the 414-mile Dalton Highway. The Dalton Highway is often called the “Haul Road” because it’s mostly used by truckers en route from the oil fields of Prudhoe Bay to Fairbanks and points farther south. It has been made famous by the TV show “Ice Road Truckers,” and more people than ever are discovering its scenic beauty, wildlife, and recreational opportunities. The Dalton Highway is also one of Alaska’s most remote and challenging roads and it is mostly gravel.
Things to do
Nestled in the southern foothills of the Brooks Range, Coldfoot is the perfect base camp for exploring the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve or the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Both parks are vast wilderness areas with no roads or established trails, offering endless opportunities for backcountry adventures including hiking, backpacking, wildlife viewing, photography, and rafting. Due to the remote nature of these areas, exploring these parks requires advance planning and backcountry experience. Or, join a guided trip to let experienced guides lead the way.
The National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service operate a visitor center in Coldfoot called the Arctic Interagency Visitor Center, offering travel information, backcountry trip planning, and nightly presentations on the natural and cultural history of the Arctic. The center is open from June 1 through mid-September.
Locals report great fishing for grayling at nearby creeks and several hike-in lakes. The Trans-Alaska Pipeline runs adjacent to the highway, restricting some hunting activities in the area. As always check with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to stay in compliance with local regulations.
Visitor services include an inn with rustic accommodations, a café, gas station, airport, and tours including flightseeing, northern lights viewing, hiking, biking, and dogsledding.
Tour operators provide the opportunity to experience the Dalton Highway and Coldfoot without driving yourself – and in fact most car rental companies in Alaska won’t let you take their vehicles on the Dalton Highway anyway. Trips vary but often include a one-way drive and return flight, starting and ending in Fairbanks, that highlight the area’s rugged, remote beauty and wildlife.