The “Wild Frontier”, what are the roads in Alaska like?
Alaska’s highways are modern, well maintained, and yes one can even say the roads in Alaska are pretty damn good, considering what you may have heard. Over the last 25 to 30 years the Alaska government has reworked, rebuilt and paved most of the major roads in the state. And being motorcyclist’s we thank you. One would also want to thank the territorial government of the Yukon, Canada and also Canada’s most westerly province of British Columbia as they both play an integral part of the roadway system that allow you to ride up to Alaska. The only other options would be by flight or by ferry. And if you are like us, riding up to the wild frontier is the only option.
The Alaska Highway or ALCAN highway as it is known…
The Alcan highway begins in Dawson Creek, British Columbia and runs 2,232km (1,387 miles) through to Delta Junction Alaska which is 95 miles south of Fairbanks. It was originally opened to the public in 1948 and was considered a rough challenging graveled road. It is now paved over its entire length, with the exception of yearly maintenance. You will encounter some gravel sections for ongoing road repairs, some old asphalt patch areas where the road is just fair and you will ride over lots of frost heaves but not as much to make you feel like your riding on a roller coaster.
The other notable highway / roads in Alaska by name or number
Believe it or not there are only 12 numbered highways in the state, 1-11 and then… 98..huh?! Most highways are more commonly referred to by names. The more notable ones that you will probably find yourself riding on are:
- The Tok or Glenn highway (highway #1) Runs from Tok to Homer
- The Alcan highway (highway #2) Runs from the Yukon Border through Fairbanks to the Dalton highway
- The George Parks highway (highway #3) Runs from Fairbanks to Wasilla
- The Richardson Highway (highway #4) Runs from Glennallen to Valdez
- The Taylor highway (highway #5) Runs from Tetlin Junction to Eagle
- The Steese Highway (highway #6) that runs from Fox to Circle
- The Haines or Glacier highway (highway #7) a discontinuous highway ;Haines to the Canadian border with segments in Juneau, Petersburg and Ketchikan.
- The Denali Highway (highway #8) that runs from Cantwell to Paxson
- The Seaward Highway (highway #9) that runs from Tern Lake to Seaward
- The Copper River highway (highway #10) a discontinuous highway; Chitina to Cordova and million dollar bridge.
- The Dalton highway (highway #11) Runs from North of Fairbanks via Elliot highway to Deadhorse.
- The Top of the world highway (forms part of highway 98) runs from Dawson City Yukon to just east of Tok via Chicken AK, highways incorporated are number 9 and number 5
How do we get there?
What are those roads like?
As you will find out, the roads and highways to Alaska are limited. You will have to transverse through Canada, unless you opt for the much less fun highway, the marine system that runs along the west coast. Now half of the fun of riding to Alaska is getting there and Canada’s two western provinces British Columbia and Alberta will add much to your trip of a lifetime.
If riding through British Columbia you will inevitably end up on Highway 97 or Highway 16 on your way to or from Alaska. These highways offer good modern roads that are well kept and maintained. They intersect in the approx center of the province and allow you two options on you way to the last frontier. Highway 16 heading north west will take you to Highway 37 or as it is commonly called the Stewart-Cassiar Highway. This highway takes you up through Dease Lake and intersects with the Yukon Highway 1 or more commonly called Alcan Highway. This is a two lane highway with small shoulders and lots of frostheaves but beautiful just the same. The other option is to take Highway 97 to the start of the Alcan and Dawson Creek. From here Highway 97 weaves its way north through the beauty of Northern BC, Laird Hot Springs and continuion on through White Horse Yukon, either highway will offer an unbelievable riding experience.
Gravel, yes you will ride on some
Gravel, gravel and more gravel. Don’t let this detour you from planning a motorcycle ride to Alaska. Besides the Top of the World Highway which is almost all gravel, albeit most was hard packed with some soft areas we rode this must do scenic highway on big cruiser V-twins with out problems..just slower. And of course the Dalton Highway which we would only do on properly set up adventure-tourers. The rest of Alaska provides good highways with some stretches of gravel for highway maintenance and repairs. In most cases when there is construction, ride your bike right up to the flag person as they want motorcyclists to go first. This is for our own safety, they realize the dust and debris blown up in the air by other vechicles ahead of you can be hazardous and dangerous and at the very least you get to socialize with a usually happy construction worker who wished they were on a bike instead of working.
Big Trucks, RV’s, and lots of vehicles
Be prepared for a lot of RV traffic while riding in Alaska, you will see why some of the roads need to be repaired, it can be very busy in the summer months. So relax, take your time and enjoy the fresh air and wilderness..
Need more information about Alaska?
Not just interesting facts like back in 1915 the record high temperature in Alaska was 100 degrees Fahrenheit at Fort Yukon; the record low temperature was -80 degrees Fahrenheit at Prospect Creek Camp in 1971. Or the Trans-Alaska Pipeline moves up to 88,000 barrels of oil per hour on its 800 mile journey to Valdez.
Click the button below for more info
Alaska: What You Need to Know
Curious how many daylight hours Alaska has during the summer?
Click the button below for more info