From Fairbanks, hop on the Elliot Highway for approximately 70 miles driving past some of the region's historic gold mines until Livengood, where you'll pick up the start of the Dalton Highway. It's a far cry from the original gravel access road built during the construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, but you'll still want to take it slow over the remaining gravel sections, frost heaves, and potholes. Fortunately, there are plenty of places to pull over to admire sweeping views of wild and scenic landscapes or camp overnight. Stop for selfies at the Start of the Dalton Highway sign, grab a bite to eat and refill your gas tank at the Yukon River Bridge, and cross the line between the Arctic and the Northern Temperate Zone at the sign marking the Arctic Circle at 66⁰ north latitude. Or take a hike at Finger Mountain to explore the granite tors – eroded rocky outcroppings millions of years old that rise from the surrounding tundra. There are BLM campgrounds along the way, so you can take your time, or head straight to Coldfoot and Wiseman for your first overnight.
Use Coldfoot as a hub for exploring some of the millions of acres of public land, including Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge, Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge, Gates of the Arctic National Park, and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Arctic Interagency Visitor Center in Coldfoot is a great place to pick up useful information about area trails and local history. The historic mining town of Wiseman is about 14 miles from Coldfoot, where you can stop before driving a little further north to the highest highway pass in Alaska, Atigun Pass. You can either camp at Galbraith Lake just north of the pass or you can return to Coldfoot for the night before embarking on the drive back to Fairbanks the following day.
Take your time driving south back to Fairbanks. The drive is roughly six hours, and you can use the day to take in the sights and explore other trails and pullouts that you may not have had time to stop at on the drive north.
Have more time? Check out the five-day version of this itinerary here. Rather fly to Coldfoot and jump on a guided ground tour back to Fairbanks? Check out this itinerary.