Alaska is a famously large state by geographic area with only a small population. The road network in Alaska does not extend into vast swaths of the state - nor does it connect the capital Juneau with the rest of the state and North America. Road tripping in Alaska takes planning and visiting much of the state requires bush and seaplanes.
One of the most epic road trips one can do in this part of the world is to road trip from Seattle to Anchorage. But to get to many of Alaska's most remote attractions - like the far-flung Aleutian Islands, one will need to travel by sea and air.
Road Tripping In Alaska Is Like Nowhere Else
Alaska’s rugged network of highways beckons travelers into its heart. Unlike any road trip in the lower 48 states, you’ll journey into a wilderness that completely surrounds you on all sides.
There are roads that connect the small northern city of Fairbanks and the state can be reached by road by driving through Canada's Yukon Territory. It is important to keep in mind that driving around the Alaskan hinterland is not like driving in other states in America.
- Summer: Construction Season
- Road Conditions: Often Rough
- Towing: Most Rental Car Companies Won't Tow Cars Broken Down On Dirt Roads
- Gas Stations: Some Only Open Seasonally
- Weather: Unpredictable
The climate and geography in Alaska make it difficult to build and maintain roads. The state is characterized by massive mountain ranges, permafrost, tundra, forests, swamps, and vast distances between very small population centers.
Most Of Alaska Is Not Connected By A Road System
There is a railway that connects some of the most important places in Alaska and the coastal cities are served by the sea lanes. But remote communities are often very difficult to reach. Sometimes there are seasonal ATV trails that only open when the weather is cold enough to freeze - in the summertime these tracks can be impassable.
- Juneau: Not Accessible By Road
- Road Access To Alaska: Via Canada
Alaska is considered the least-connected US state when it comes to road transportation. Only a fairly small part of the massive landmass of the state is actually connected by the road system. One of the main ways to reach far-flung communities in Alaska is by small airplane.
Dalton Highway: The Road To The Arctic
While there are no roads connecting Northwestern, Western, and the Aleutian Peninsula of Alaska, there is one road that connects up to the Arctic.
The Dalton Highway starts just north of Fairbanks at Livengood and runs all the way up to the Arctic Sea terminating in Deadhorse by Prudhoe Bay. The road was built to support the North Slope oil fields near the Arctic Ocean during the construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.
- Route: Livengood to Deadhorse
- Distance: 414 miles (666 kilometers)
- Built: 1974
If one would like to travel this route, then be sure to plan ahead. It is extremely remote and there may be little or no services offered along with it. It was even in the first episode of the BBC's World's Most Dangerous Roads.
Air Transport In Alaska
For many remote communities and national parks in Alaska, the only way to reach them is by air transport. Air transport has become essential for the movement to remote places within the state. Some of Alaska's main transport hubs include Bethel, Nome, Kotzebue, and Dillingham - these bases receive large aircraft and also are a hub for many small aircraft to the various communities in the region.
The smallest towns and villages in the remote Alaskan hinterland rely on scheduled or chartered bush planes. Ravn Alaska, PenAir, and Frontier Flying Service are small regional commuter airlines, while the main airline is Alaska Airlines.
- Cheapest: Air Travel Is The Cheapest and Most Efficient Way To Get To and From Alaska
- Lake Hood: World's Busiest Seaplane Base
Lake Hood in Anchorage is the world's busiest seaplane base and handles around 190 daily. It is located next to the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport and has a control tower. In the winter, the lake freezes, and the surface is maintained for ski-equipped airplanes.
Flights from Lake Hood fly to remote villages without an airstrip all around the state. They carry both passengers and cargo.
- Pilots: Around 8,500 Pilots In Alaska
An indication of how important flying is to the state is that it has the highest number of pilots per capita of American states. There are around 8,550 pilots out of a population of only 663,000 residents. That works out to around one person in 78 being a pilot.