Seward Highway in Alaska

An Intro to Alaska's Highways

Alaska's Highways

Throughout the state, over 17,000 miles of public roads connect Alaska’s dramatic landscapes - from the Canadian border to the coastline, the remote reaches of the Arctic Circle to our largest cities, meandering through alpine valleys, tundra, forests, and alongside glaciers and rivers. And while that may seem like a lot of miles, at 365 million acres, most of this great state is still only accessible by water or air. The part of Alaska that is accessible by road is made up of a network of incredibly scenic highways that travel from the northern reaches of Prudhoe Bay in the Arctic, through the Interior and Southcentral regions, and down to the Haines & Klondike Highways in the Inside Passage by way of Canada.

Alaska’s highways are a road tripper’s dream come true, connecting colorful towns to endless adventure – with plenty of opportunities to stop and stretch your legs along the way. Whether you’re driving from Canada to Alaska, Anchorage to Fairbanks, Valdez to Homer, or just looking for a day trip, Alaska’s highways are exceptional and unique. Here’s our list of some of the highways you can explore on your next Alaska road trip:

The Alaska Highway

Begins: Dawson Creek, British Columbia
Ends: Delta Junction, Alaska
Distance: 1,387 miles
Best For: The Ultimate Road Trip

The Alaska Highway is one of the most impressive highways in North America. It’s open year round and is a paved highway running 1,387 miles from Canada to Alaska. It begins at mile 0 in Dawson Creek, British Columbia, Canada and travels north to the Yukon Territory of Canada, and west to Delta Junction, Alaska.

Often called the Alcan, a shortening of Alaska-Canada, it was an engineering feat built after World War II, and one of the largest construction projects since the Panama Canal. It’s one of the most scenic highways in the world, with mountains and stunning scenery welcoming you along each mile (or kilometer). The Alaska Highway covers a wide range of landscapes from national parks, valleys, mountain ranges, rivers, lakes, forests, and tundra, and boasts exceptional views and wildlife sightings. There are viewpoints, rest areas, locations for fishing, hiking, recreational activities, and more along the way. It’s considered a safe and stunning, scenic highway!

Wildlife surrounding the highway abounds, and bison are so common towards the northern stretch of the drive that they may seem as common as cattle by the time you’re through! Travelers should be aware that brown and black bears, caribou, moose, bison, and other wildlife are ever-present in the area. You will likely see them on your drive, so always exercise caution and be alert when not only driving, but also exiting and entering your vehicle.

Mile postings dot the highway, guiding drivers along the road, and the speed limit ranges from 50 mph to 65 mph. The road is paved, but loose rock is common. Food, fuel, and accommodations are available along the highway, with services located every 50-100 miles. While the highway is open year-round, most businesses are seasonal, so be sure to verify that accommodations are available before planning your trip. Because the highway travels across international borders, you will need your passport to travel its full length. Learn more about driving North to Alaska on the Alaska Highway.

Scenic views on the Alaska Highawy
Photo Credit: Joris Beugels

Richardson Highway

Begins: Valdez
Ends: Delta Junction
Distance: 368 miles
Best For: Connecting the Interior to the coast in Southcentral Alaska

The Richardson Highway is a scenic byway that begins in Valdez and ends at the end of the Alaska Highway in Delta Junction. It runs 368 miles, south to north, and is not only the oldest highway in Alaska, but the only highway to access Valdez in Prince William Sound.

The highway parallels the incredible Trans-Alaska Pipeline, and you can enjoy viewpoints of this impressive engineering feat  along the way. The highway also provides access to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park – the largest national park in the United States. Stop by the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park Visitor Center in Copper Center or plan a side trip to spend a few days in McCarthy, located within the park. Incredible scenic experiences await on this drive, including passing through Keystone Canyon, Thompson Pass, and alongside Worthington Glacier near Valdez. The highway doesn’t only offer views in summer – in the winter, it is a popular route to view the northern lights.

Richardson Highway in Alaska

Dalton Highway

Start: Livengood
End: Deadhorse / Prudhoe Bay
Distance: 414 miles
Best For: Off-the-grid guided road trips

Often referred to as the highway on top of the world, the Dalton Highway is a gravel-covered scenic byway spanning 414-miles, beginning 78 miles north of Fairbanks, and ending in Deadhorse. It parallels the northernmost section of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, and even crosses into the Arctic Circle!

The highway is unpaved and considered to be a challenging highway to travel. While it certainly boasts some of the most beautiful and scenic views in the state, the road is primarily used by large trucks and is not recommended to travel for leisure for most visitors. Services along the highway are few and if mechanical issues arise, help can be hard to find. In fact, many rental car companies in Alaska prohibit the use of the Dalton Highway for this reason. There are, however, tour companies that lead trips along the highway and offer proper equipment and access to services, making stops at the top sights along the way.

Dalton Highway
Photo Credit: Travel Alaska, Michael DeYoung

Seward Highway

Start: Anchorage
End: Seward
Distance: 127 miles
Best For: Day trips with stunning views and plenty of services

Running north to south and connecting Anchorage to Seward, the Seward Highway is a true scenic gem. Boasting plenty of spectacular roadside views, the 127 mile-long highway is an official USDA Forest Service Scenic Byway, Alaska Scenic Byway, and All American Road.

It begins in Anchorage, heading south, where views of the Chugach Mountains and Turnagain Arm shoreline grant travelers the opportunity to see beluga whales, waterfalls, eagles, moose, Dall sheep, and more. There are multiple turnout options, giving you a chance to stop and take photos of the majestic coastal views. Potter Marsh Wildlife Viewing Boardwalk, Beluga Point, Bird Point, and multiple hiking trails create an irresistible experience for visitors.

As you head south, you’ll see mountain ranges, alpine glaciers, lakes, rivers, and forests. You’ll have a chance to visit Girdwood, the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, Turnagain Pass, and Kenai Lake, and take side trips to the Portage Glacier Area, Whittier, and Hope – or connect to the Sterling Highway for more Kenai Peninsula adventures. The highway ends in Seward, a friendly community known as the gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park, giving you the opportunity to glacier trek, take a day cruise, walk along the shoreline, hike, and more.

Year round, these areas have something to offer visitors. Whether it’s skiing and snowboarding at Alyeska Resort in Girdwood or snowshoeing in the Portage Glacier area in winter, or fishing, berry picking, and epic hiking throughout the summer months, there is so much to enjoy near this highway. This area is teeming with wildlife, so be sure to stay aware on your drive and take it slow to enjoy the views and the entire experience safely. Moose often graze on foliage near the road year-round, so be sure to keep an eye out!

Seward Highway
Photo Credit: Travel Alaska, Michael DeYoung

Sterling Highway

Begins: near Cooper Landing
Ends: Homer
Distance: 138 miles
Best For: Fishing

The Sterling Highway travels southwest to the Kenai Peninsula, connecting to the Seward Highway just 37 miles north of Seward, near Cooper Landing. Popular fishing locations along this route include sport fishing on the Kenai River and Russian River, where you’ll be able to try your hand at catching a variety of fish including king salmon, depending on the season.

The highway travels through the towns of Cooper Landing, Soldotna, Kenai, Ninilchik, Anchor Point, and ends in Homer, and features breathtaking views of view of Cook Inlet and the volcanoes on the west side of the inlet. Accommodations, recreational activities, food, and other experiences are available all along the way, with opportunities to visit Kenai Lake, Tustumena Lake, Skilak Lake, the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, and Kachemak Bay.

Sterling Highway
Photo Credit: Travel Alaska, Michael DeYoung

Glenn Highway & Tok Cutoff

Starts: Anchorage
Ends: Tok
Distance: 328 Miles
Best For: Visiting the Mat-Su and Copper River Valleys, connecting the Alaska Highway with Southcentral Alaska

This 328 mile-long scenic byway connects to the Alaska Highway, running west from Tok to Anchorage and Southcentral Alaska. It boasts gorgeous views of the Chugach, Wrangell, Talkeetna, and Mentasta Mountain ranges, and passes through Tahneta Pass into Palmer – which hosts the Alaska State Fair in late summer.

Wildlife viewing on this drive is plentiful. Moose, caribou, tundra swans, Canada geese, and ducks travel near the highway during different times of the year. Matanuska Glacier is located at mile 102 on the highway and is accessible by car, with guided glacier trekking tours along with campsites and lodging in the area.

Lake Louise State Recreation Area is located off the Glenn Highway and is popular with locals and tourists alike! It boasts a breathtaking campground on the shores of Lake Louise, with campsites, two lodges, boat launch, and stunning views. As you continue on, you’ll pass through Glennallen and then travel north alongside the mighty Copper River, with views of the towering peaks of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park to the east.  

Glenn Highway
Photo Credit: Travel Alaska, Michael DeYoung

Parks Highway

Starts: Anchorage
Ends: Fairbanks
Distance: 358 miles
Best For: Accessing Denali National Park

This scenic byway was completed in 1971 and connects Alaska’s two largest cities, Anchorage and Fairbanks. The road is fully paved and open year-round! Those traveling during summer months can enjoy basking in the midnight sun with spectacular sunlit views. During the autumn months, incredible autumnal foliage rivals even New England’s scene, as alpine landscapes light up with yellow, orange, and red tundra and trees. It’s a popular route for those seeking out the northern lights in the winter months, as well. If traveling during the winter, be sure to check local weather conditions and bring emergency gear.

Traveling north through Willow and Talkeetna will give you the opportunity to try out a dog sledding tour - any time of year. Many Iditarod competitors have kennels in this area and offer kennel and dog sledding tours in their off-season. Talkeetna offers accommodations, food, and other recreational activities and is a great place to spend the night along your travels. Heading north, you’ll pass by the one and only Denali National Park and Preserve. You’ll be able to enjoy views of the tallest mountain in North America, Denali, long before arriving at the park, and will have direct access to the entrance to Denali National Park from the highway.

You’ll see some of the most beautiful views in the state along this road and can enjoy hiking trails, whitewater rafting on the Nenana River, wildlife viewing, and more. The Parks Highway ends in Fairbanks - home to the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus and several excellent museums highlighting Alaska Native culture and state history. Northern lights viewing, dog sledding tours, snowmachine tours, Chena Hot Springs, and sightseeing tours are also popular in the area.

Parks Highway

Haines & Klondike Highways

Starts: Haines, Alaska
Ends: Haines Junction, Yukon Territory, Canada
Distance: 146 miles

Starts: Skagway, Alaska
Ends: Dawson City, Yukon Territory, Canada
Distance: 544 Miles

Distance: 350 Miles
Best For: Inside Passage road trip

The Haines and Klondike Highways are the only Alaska highways in the Inside Passage that connect to the Alaska road system (by way of Canada). The Haines Highway begins in Haines, running 146 miles northwest to Haines Junction, Yukon Territory on the Alaska Highway. For those interested in the Golden Circle Road Trip route, you’ll head east on the Alaska Highway about 105 miles through Whitehorse to Carcross Cutoff, where you’ll connect with the Klondike Highway. Once on the Klondike Highway, you’ll head south about 100 miles to Skagway. From there, you can take the Alaska Marine Highway Ferry back to Haines or any of the other communities along the ferry route. You'll cross the Alaska/Canada border twice on this road trip - once while heading north on the Haines Highway, and again heading south on the Klondike Highway. 

Once used for trading posts and gold rush traveling points, the highways offer a chance for you to step into history with many historical gold rush sites along the way. Traveling for an hour on the Alaska Marine Highway will give you stunning views of the coastline, while crossing international borders through Canada will bring you to scenic, mountainous views and even take you by the Carcross Desert sand dunes. Many lakes and rivers can be seen along the route, including Emerald Lake, where you can stop for a photo opportunity of the lake’s beautiful turquoise waters.

Haines Highway, Alaska
Haines Highway. Photo Credit: Travel Alaska, Mark Kelley

Highways and Scenic Byways to Remember

These highways offer you incredible access to some the most stunning scenery the state has to offer. If you are planning an Alaska road trip, we recommend getting a copy of The Milepost, a comprehensive, mile-by-mile guide to Alaska’s highways, including maps and detailed information on services and attractions along the way. While there are many ways to journey through our landscape, taking a road trip on Alaska’s highways is an excellent way to experience Alaska up close on your own schedule!

Learn more about driving in Alaska.

Northern lights viewing on the Parks Highway
Northern lights viewing on the Parks Highway. Photo Credit: Niaz Uddin



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