The Alcan Highway
Road of Adventures

If you drive the Alcan Highway (Alaska Canadian Highway), the minimum mileage to Alaska will be more than 2000 miles (3218.7km), measured from anywhere along the border of the 48 States, through Canada, to either Anchorage or Fairbanks.

Exact distances from major points along the Alcan to major points within Alaska can be found on this mileage chart.

Canadian Highway

The Alcan Alaska Highway is a hard-surfaced two-lane road. It has gas stations that are open, every 20 to 50 miles most of the way, if you're driving in the summer.

Since traveling the Alcan Highway has become more popular, you'll probably meet a number of cars passing you, unlike winter driving.

And DO watch out for wildlife, especially moose or deer that might step out in front of your car on your Alaska highway trip. It is not unusual for them to be walking alongside the road and step out in front of an oncoming car. They can do an awful lot of damage if you hit one!

wildlife on highway

On my last Alcan highway trip, I left Alaska on Valentine's day which is definitely still winter. Everything was frozen solid. The ground had plenty of snow piled up and the highways were somewhat icy, but had been plowed and sanded.

In winter, they do keep the snow plowed off the highway, both in Alaska and Canada. And the hills are often sanded.

If you drive the Alcan Highway in winter, take an extra 5-gallon gas can with you. You can fill it up at the last gas station that's open for quite a stretch of highway in the northern part of Canada. Don't worry, you won't miss it—there's a big sign on the road that tells you to do that.

I drove a Volkswagen Rabbit with a diesel engine and the car was running on fumes when I arrived at the next open gas station. I hadn't used any of the extra gas because I wanted to see if it was actually possible to reach the next gas station! And it was. But if I'd had any car problems...I would have been in trouble without that extra gas.

DRIVING TIP: If you're not from a northern climate, here are a few things you need to know, to prepare your vehicle for winter weather. And a few hints about summer driving in Alaska also:

  • It's best to put studded tires, or at least snow tires, on your vehicle. Studded tires are not allowed on roads after spring thaw or prior to freezing weather in the fall. In Alaska, this means they cannot be put on vehicles until October or November and have to be removed sometime in April or May. These dates change with the weather and how far north you go, so if you want to use studded tires, check with the State Troopers in local areas. Tok State Troopers - 907-883-5111.

    If you don't want to use studded tires, you can always use tire chains. You can put those on and take them off as needed, but they are a bit of work.

  • You should have some kind of engine heater to keep it warm at night in case the weather gets extremely cold. There are several different types that can be purchased in northern areas—some are installed and some aren't. At night, you plug them into an electrical outlet. If you don't purchase an engine heater, then use synthetic oil since it won't get stiff in the cold.
  • Be sure you have your antifreeze mixed for the coldest temperatures possible, so you don't take a chance on your engine freezing up and cracking. That is, 50% water and 50% antifreeze.

    And that's why a circulating heater installed on your vehicle is a good idea. Even an oil dipstick heater or some such method of keeping it warm at night is good. I even know someone who laid a heating pad on their engine at night to keep it warm.

  • If the engine starts to run rough, it's usually from water condensation in the fuel. It's wise to put a can of 'Heet' or other brand of de-icer in your gas tank every few times you fill up.
  • EXTRA Supplies for Summer or Winter Driving:

  • For travel on the Alcan and in Alaska, ALWAYS have a spare tire, jack, tire pump, patch kit or similar items—and know how to use them! It's also good to have jumper cables, extra gas, oil, water and antifreeze. Remote areas often don't have gas stations or garages that are open in the winter and in many areas they are even scarce in the summer.

  • Alaska Canadian Highway

    Though cell phones are great to have, Alcan Highway cell phone coverage is non-existent (except for local companies) in northern British Columbia, the Yukon Territory and into Alaska. You will not get definite coverage again with any major companies until get well into Alaska. So make sure you are prepared for any emergency!

    Photo of the Alcan Highway

    Alcan Highway road conditions have improved over the years. It was first constructed in 1942 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, obviously built for jeeps and such vehicles. The Alaska portion has been straightened out and paved for some years now. The Canadian Highway portion has been straightened and shortened in some places and more improvements are underway. However, the one thing Canadians don't seem to mind is a steep grade!

    I was pulling a trailer with my Volkswagen and though the roads were kept cleared of snow, my little car just couldn't make it up one hill—I think it went UP for about 3 or 4 miles (exaggeration?).... so I pulled over to the side when my wheels spun to a stop. I checked the nearest sand barrel placed along the roadside for just such situations...but the sand was frozen into a solid mass! After about 15 minutes of contemplating my predicament, a very nice fellow driving a semi-truck stopped and offered to pull me over the top of the hill! What a relief!

    This is not rare, by the way. The Canadians are fantastically friendly people, just like the old-time Alaskans!

    HELPFUL HINT: If you want a guidebook that gives you a list of all the Alcan Highway campgrounds, gas stations, hotels and highway stops, purchase a copy of the Milepost Magazine.

    It has been a trusted guide for traveling to Alaska since its first publication in 1949.

    You can also get information on campgrounds IN Alaska on my Alaska campgrounds page.

    Winter Driving on the Alcan
    Photo of Alaska Highway Near Tok Junction

    If you do decide to drive the Alcan Highway, I would love to hear about your trip and see your photos. Feel free to join in and tell the folks that come here all about it. They want to know what it takes to make this trip!

    Driving the Alcan can be enjoyable IF you are prepared for it. So get prepared, enjoy the scenery, wildlife, AND your trip on the Alcan Highway! But after looking over this page, if you've decided to find out more about how to get to Alaska, maybe you'd like to try the Alaska Ferry...

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