North of Fairbanks Travel Guide
  • Photo: Cecoffman |

North of Fairbanks

When you drive north of Fairbanks you enter territory where people are few and far between. Away from the thin line of the highways spread hundreds of thousands of square miles with few signs of human habitation. Accordingly, driving in the north country involves both nail-biting and jaw-dropping experiences. You might pick up hitchhikers carrying a moose and the smell of having camped for a month. You might see the swirl of musk oxen running from the noise of your car. And you might—probably will—set a personal record for how many dings your windshield receives in a single day from all the gravel kicked up by passing vehicles (something to consider if you are renting a car).

On the roads heading east, northeast, and northwest of Fairbanks, the going gets tougher the farther you drive. However, the gravel and other assorted surfaces are worth the trouble of navigating; these roads open up long slivers of the Alaskan wilderness. And since Alaska is so big, the more country you cover, the better your understanding of the place—and the better your chances of understanding the history of each unique road from the stories shared by the people you meet. Road conditions can be rough, and if you break down, help may be a long way off, so be sure to check your fuel and spare tire before you go. And if you're driving your own car, windshield replacement insurance is the smartest money you'll spend on the trip. The likelihood of your filing a claim is very high.

Follow the manageable Chena Hot Springs Road to its end and you'll find a natural hot spring that is a local favorite spot for aurora viewing. The Steese Highway connects to historic goldfields in Central and Circle, and the Elliott Highway leads northwest and, before shifting to the southwest, connects to the roughly north–south Dalton Highway (built to assist construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System). All three roads provide access to countless starting points for hiking, skiing, camping, fishing, canoeing, and other outdoor-oriented adventures.

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