Driving to Alaska is high on the list of many adventurers. The trip is legendary for its beauty. Once a bumpy dirt road, the Alaska Highway is now a modern, well maintained highway. Construction occurs seasonally and may cause delays in small sections, but otherwise, it’s smooth driving! Particularly in summer, visitor amenities, including gasoline, food and motels, are abundant along the entire 1,500-mile Alaska Highway.
The Alaska Highway officially begins in Dawson Creek, British Columbia. To reach “Mile Zero,” you can drive north on Highway 97 or the Cassiar Highway through British Columbia, or cruise through Alberta’s high prairie westward to Dawson Creek.
Driving to Alaska in a private car or RV offers the opportunity to linger along the way. Some of the world’s wildest and most beautiful national and state parks are along this route. Cultural attractions, adventure tours, incredible scenery and unforgettable experiences make this option popular with independent travelers.
Driving to Alaska from Seattle, WA
Driving to Alaska takes you through beautiful and remote landscapes in British Columbia and the Yukon Territory before crossing the border into Interior Alaska. Most visitors cross the border north of Seattle, WA, though there are other routes further east through Calgary and the Canadian Rockies for those who are starting from the eastern United States.
There are two route options for getting from Seattle to the Alaska Highway. Both routes head north from Seattle to the town of Prince George, British Columbia. From Prince George you can head to Highway 97 to connect to the Alaska Highway at Dawson Creek or take the more remote Cassiar Highway to connect near Watson Lake.
The Highway 97/Alaska Highway route is 100 miles longer than the Cassiar Highway but it’s typically the faster route. It is less remote and has more amenities along the way, and allows you to experience the entire Alaska Highway from Mile 0. If you have a little more time and are looking for a more remote experience, the Cassiar Highway offers less traffic and better wildlife viewing opportunities. In many sections the Cassiar Highway is a 2 lane road and speed limits are slower. Both options will take you through beautiful scenery in British Columbia before joining up near Watson Lake in the Yukon Territory. From there, you’ll travel along the Alaska Highway through Whitehorse and then on to the border crossing, where your Alaska adventure will officially begin.
The driving distance from Seattle to the Yukon Territory/Alaska border crossing is about 1,800 – 1,900 miles, depending on which route you take. From there you’ll head on to the town of Tok and can then continue your journey north towards Fairbanks or south towards Anchorage. While you can make the drive in as little as 3 days, we recommend planning for a week of driving so you can take your time and fully experience the stunning scenery, campgrounds, lodges, and wildlife along the way.
Driving to Alaska through Canada
If you’re driving to Alaska by road you’ll pass through Canada, which means you have to make some extra preparations for international travel and Canadian regulations. You’ll need your passport or Nexus card to cross the border. Visit cbp.gov for the most recent ID requirements.
Traveling with your pet? You’ll need proof of current rabies vaccinations to cross the border into Canada. If you’re traveling to Canada with a firearm you are required to fill out a declaration form prior to crossing the border. You cannot cross the border if you have a criminal record, including a DUI. Visit cbp.gov for the latest updates as these rules can change.
Remember that speed limits and distances are posted in kilometers per hour. The national currency is Canadian Dollars, so it’s a good idea to get some Canadian currency before or during your drive.
Driving the Alaska Highway in Winter
The best driving conditions, most hours of daylight, and most visitor services can be found on the Alaska Highway from May through September. However, visitors can have a fun and safe drive along the Alaska Highway year-round with a little extra caution and advance planning.
While roads are less busy in winter, conditions can be icy and snowy along the route, especially in the Yukon and Interior Alaska. Be sure to give yourself extra time for weather and icy road conditions. Studded tires are recommended and winter tires are required in British Columbia from October 1 – March 31.
Some visitor services like lodges, stores, and activities are not open in winter. Before your trip, be sure to check which services are open year-round and have a back-up plan for accommodations if you have to wait out bad weather. Extreme cold temperatures are common in winter so be prepared with emergency cold weather gear in case you encounter any car troubles. Fuel up on gas as often as possible as some gas stations have limited hours in winter.
For more information on specific driving routes, visit North to Alaska online.