As we’ve shared the news about our latest Pan-American road trip adventure from Alaska to Argentina, we’re getting a lot of questions. One of the top questions that we are fielding is, can you drive to Alaska from the United States?
The answer is quite simple: you can drive to Alaska from every U.S. state except Hawaii. We have just completed the entire drive to and from and thought it might be helpful to share some of our experience and answer questions for those who are considering this epic journey.
How to Get to Alaska?
There are several different routes to Alaska from the lower United States via Canada. Depending on your starting point, there are really four main routes. All will feed into the Alaska Highway, which is the only road into the state.
If you’re heading up from the West Coast on the Pacific side, you will be crossing the Canadian border at Sumas in Washington state and following the BC-97 north to connect onto the Alaska Highway. If you have a little extra time, cut off BC-97 in Prince George to BC-16 into the Yukon and then to the Alaskan.
Going north from the Mountain time zone, you’ll end up crossing the border at Sweet Grass or Piegan into Alberta onto CA-2 through Calgary. You’ll connect to the CA-43 in Edmonton, then to Watson Lake and the Yukon 1 to the Highway.
Most of the traffic heading up to Alaska from the United States will cross over in North Dakota at North Portal or Fortuna crossings. You’ll then pass through Saskatchewan and end up in Edmonton, connecting on the CA-43.
The majority of travelers from the Northeastern United States will drive through Ontario on the Trans-Canada Highway to Edmonton at CA-43, then north to the Alaska Highway.
How Long Does it Take to Drive to Alaska?
This depends on your starting point, but from the Sumas Canadian border on the Pacific side, you’re looking at 1,761 miles and about 32 hours of drive time. If you drive 8 hours a day, plan on 4 full days to reach the Alaska border.
If you take the Mountain time zone route, crossing at Sweet Grass, the total miles to the Alaskan border are 1,913, and the drive time is 33 hours. This is the option that we took.
From the North Dakota Portal crossing, 2,171 miles and 37 hours of driving will get you there.
Lastly, coming from the Northeast US from Maine on the Trans Canada Highway, you’re looking at a whopping 3,916 miles and 66 hours of drive time.
These time estimates do not account for any stoppage for fuel, food, or sightseeing. I would roughly plan on about a week at least to complete your drive to Alaska.
Here is a quick reference guide showing how long it takes to drive to Alaska from cities in the United States.
Is it Worth it to drive to Alaska?
It depends on your purpose. If the purpose is to save money and time, then the answer is a hard no. When you figure in the cost of gas, lodging, food, and four-plus full days of driving, then a plane ticket from anywhere in the U.S. is hands down the better way to go.
However, if your goal is to experience a once-in-a-lifetime road trip with stunning scenery and unique stops along the way, then yes, it is absolutely worth it. From breathtaking mountain ranges to charming small towns and plenty of wildlife sightings, driving to Alaska offers an unforgettable adventure that you can’t get from a plane ride.
Is there a Road that Connects the US to Alaska?
As previously mentioned, there are several different roads leading out of the US north toward Alaska, but they all lead into one, the Alaska highway. This legendary road was built during World War II to connect the contiguous United States, passing through the heart of Canada’s wilderness.
The Alaskan Highway is the only paved, drivable road connecting the US/Canada to Alaska. It starts at mile 0 in Dawson Creek, British Columbia, and runs 1,387 miles to Delta Junction, Alaska.
How Far North Can You Drive?
The northernmost point of Alaska and the North American continent, to which you can drive, is Prudhoe Bay, also known as Deadhorse. It’s located on the Arctic Ocean at the end of the Dalton Highway, which begins at mile 73 of the Alaska Highway.
The total distance from Dawson Creek to Prudhoe Bay is approximately 1,523 miles, and it takes about 24 hours of driving time. This remote and rugged journey is not for the faint of heart and requires careful planning,
As a side note, Prudhoe Bay is also the beginning or the end of the Pan-American Highway, which stretches all the way down to Ushuaia, Argentina.
How Much Does it Cost to Drive to Alaska?
The unavoidable cost of driving from the lower 48 to Alaska is gas. Unless, of course, you drive one of the more efficient electric vehicles. But, the majority of us will be driving either diesel or gas-fueled vehicles.
The bulk of the drive will be through Canada. Gas is expensive in Canada, especially at the time of this writing.
We just completed our drive from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, and the average cost per gallon of gas for us was $4.73.
Our Ram Promaster 3500 campervan averaged about 17 miles to the gallon, so if you do the math, the total cost of gas to get to the Alaskan border was $722.86.
Do You Need 4×4 to Drive to Alaska?
No, you do not need a 4×4 vehicle to drive to Alaska. The road is paved, though rough in some places, the entire way.
However, I would check on the road conditions before and during your journey. Any amount of snow can be a cause for a long and difficult drive.
We drove our 4×2 campervan up the Alaskan Highway in early June, and although we encountered some gravel roads due to construction, it was not an issue.
Can You Drive to Alaska in the Winter?
The road to Alaska, including the Alaskan Highway, is well-traveled and treated as a priority to be kept clear for the many semi-trucks carrying goods to and from Alaska.
However, the road conditions can still be challenging and dangerous in the winter. It’s best to avoid driving to Alaska during the coldest months when snow and ice are more prevalent.
That being said, many people do choose to drive to Alaska in the winter to experience the stunning frozen landscapes and Northern Lights. If you do decide to make this journey, be sure to have a reliable 4×4 vehicle, proper winter tires, and plenty of supplies. Always check the road conditions before setting off on your adventure.
You’ll want to make sure to add a little time cushion into your itinerary to account for storms and/or dangerous road conditions.
What is there to See Along the Way?
There are endless sights to see along the way while driving to Alaska. From stunning national parks like Banff and Jasper to charming small towns like Dawson City and Skagway to wildlife sightings of bears, moose, and bald eagles.
Unique roadside attractions include the Sign Post Forest in Watson Lake or the Liard River Hot Springs. We particularly loved Miles Canyon in Whitehorse, Yukon, and if you’re driving up the West Coast, check out the Meziadin Fish Ladder in British Columbia.
Do You Need a Passport to Drive to Alaska?
You will need a passport to drive to Alaska from the US since you will be crossing the border into Canada and then back into the United States once you reach Alaska.
Also note that as a United States citizen, you do not need a visa since Canada allows for transit through the country and/or a six-month stay limit. However, if you are not a US citizen with a passport, make sure to check the requirements for your country.
Can You Drive to Alaska Without Driving Through Canada?
Nope, it’s not possible to drive to Alaska without passing through Canada. There are no roads that directly connect the US to Alaska.
You can, however, take a ferry from Bellingham Washington if you’d rather skip the driving and sit back for the scenic two-day voyage.
Is it Dangerous to Drive to Alaska?
The biggest dangers of driving the long road to Alaska are falling asleep at the wheel, hitting wildlife, driving through sketchy road conditions, and being fatigued.
It’s essential to take breaks, stay alert, and not speed. Animals often cross the road in more remote areas, so it’s vital to stay aware of your surroundings and only drive during the day if possible.
With careful planning, a reliable vehicle, proper tires, and a cautious mindset, driving to Alaska can be a safe adventure.
Best Time of Year to Drive to Alaska
The best time of year to drive to Alaska depends on personal preference and what you want to experience. Summer months are ideal if you’re hoping for warmer weather, flowers in bloom, and more road accessibility.
For winter enthusiasts looking for a unique and challenging journey, driving in the colder months can provide stunning frozen landscapes and potential Northern Lights sightings. Just be sure to have a reliable vehicle and plan for potential road closures.
We drove up at the beginning of September and reached Alaska as the fall colors were coming on. We started our return trip in early October and were able to follow the beautiful fall colors all the way down. I highly recommend it!
Things You Should Know About Driving to Alaska from the United States
- Make sure to have your passport and any necessary travel documents.
- Plan on about a week to drive to Alaska. So if you’re going up and back, that’s two weeks of travel time.
- Carry a map or have your GPS route downloaded in case you don’t have cell service available.
- Make sure that your car is serviced with all the fluids topped off and has a functioning spare tire.
- Gas stations are available along the way, so you don’t need a spare gas can. Just make sure to top off before long stretches when service stations are unavailable.
- Check road conditions before setting off on your journey.
- Have a reliable vehicle with proper winter tires if driving in the winter.
- Plan for potential road closures or delays due to weather.
- Have plenty of food and water with you in your car in case of a breakdown or unexpected weather.
- Keep an eye out for wildlife along the way.
- Take advantage of unique roadside attractions and national parks along the route.
- Consider the best time of year for your trip based on personal preferences and desired experiences.
- And most importantly, enjoy the journey! Driving to Alaska is definitely not just about reaching the destination, but all the wonderful moments and memories made along the way.
Ready to Hit the Road to Alaska?
Now that you have a better understanding of what it takes to drive to Alaska from the lower 48 states, it’s time to hit the road!
Whether you’re embarking on a summer road trip or braving the winter weather, be sure to plan accordingly and make the most of your journey.
Driving to Alaska is an experience to remember, with stunning landscapes, charming towns, and plenty of adventure waiting along the way.
Want more details about Alaska and our Pan-American adventure? Make sure to follow us on Instagram @therunawayfamily