10 Best Road Trips in Alaska
Stunningly scenic, wild and remote, Alaska has drawn visitors for hundreds of years for its natural beauty and unique landscapes. Home to diverse wildlife like grizzly bears, moose, elk, caribou, whales, and wolves, an Alaskan road trip will be unforgettable with majestic mountains, tundra, glaciers, and rivers as the backdrop.
In our list of best road trips in Alaska, you'll find long scenic drives visiting remote towns and far-flung destinations, coastal fishing villages with whale watching and temperate rainforests, and National Parks and big Glacier viewing adventures.
Below, you'll find our traveling tips, exciting insights, and many unexplored gems along the fantastic routes through diverse landscapes. And before you know it, you'll be on the best adventure of your lifetime, soaking in all the beauty and enriching experiences Alaska has to offer.
|1. Juneau to Mendenhall Glacier and Point Briget State Park|
1 hour, 40 miles
|2. Nome to Council|
2 hours 45 minutes, 70 miles
|3. Anchorage to Seward|
3 hours 15 minutes, 150 miles
|4. Tok to Dawson City|
4 hours 20 minutes, 190 miles
|5. Anchorage to Denali|
4 hours, 230 miles
|6. Anchorage to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park|
4 hours 45 minutes, 250 miles
|7. Fairbanks to Anchorage|
6 hours 20 minutes, 360 miles
|8. Fairbanks to Valdez|
6 hours 40 minutes, 360 miles
|9. Fairbanks to Prudhoe Bay|
11 hours, 500 miles
|10. Ultimate Alaska Road Trip|
20 hours 30 minutes, 1,130 miles
1. Juneau to Mendenhall Glacier and Point Bridget State Park
Via Glacier Highway
1 hour (40 miles)
Difficulty level: Easy
Why you should take this trip: The Mendenhall Glacier is one of the most accessible and majestically scenic glaciers in Alaska, just miles from the significant capital Juneau and beyond on the Glacier Highway.
Main stops on this road trip: You'll travel from Juneau to the Mendenhall Glacier, visiting Lena Beach, Glacier Highway, and Point Bridge State Highway.
How to get there: Exit Juneau by heading north on Egan Drive/AK-7, turn onto Mendenhall Loop Rd, and drive amidst lush greenery. Continue the route until you reach Glacier Spur and loop back onto Back Loop Rd/Mendenhall Loop Rd.
Once you reach the traffic circle, take the first exit onto Glacier Hwy. Continue your journey northward on AK-7 all the way to Point Bridge State Park, where you'll find yourself surrounded by mountains and rocky beaches. Breathtaking Ocean views will welcome you.
Our highlights: On the way, stop by the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center and hike the viewpoints on the shore and the observation deck for breathtaking glacier views. Another way to enjoy a spectacular glacier view is by taking a mile-long hike to Nugget Falls.
Not only a road trip with awe-inspiring scenery at the destination, but you will drive on the famous Glacier Highway with glacier and Tongass National Forest views en route.
At the end of the highway, you'll reach Point Bridge State Park, which offers tons of hiking trails if you are feeling adventurous and views of the inner passage.
We suggest you take a picnic and enjoy your meals watching the adorable sea lions. You can also try a hand at salmon fishing here.
Local gems: Because primrose grows so well in Juneau, it is also called “the Primrose City.” To tour a world-class selection of botanicals, visit the Jensen-Olson Arboretum before leaving on this road trip.
If you want to get away from the crowds that are getting in line to admire the scenery of Mendenhall, you can visit Lena Beach and Picnic area for a brief stopover. You can walk the beach area, explore the shoreline, and even go fishing.
If you want to enjoy peace and tranquility, check out the unique catholic chapel and the surrounding trail at the Shrine Chapel.
Our travel tips: If traveling from elsewhere, you can get to Juneau by ferry, so book a rental car for your road trip. Alternatively, you can take tour shuttles and cabs to cover the route, but you'll have to sacrifice the flexibility.
Here is our detailed guide on how to reach Juneau if you'd like to learn more.
Best time to visit: Mendenhall Glacier tends to draw lots of tourists, shuttles, and cruises during summer. For a quieter getaway, take this trip during spring or fall. Though keep in mind that the glacier is most visible in summer due to the presence of more sunlight.
Even though Alaska is known for its cold weather, the weather is relatively mild throughout the year on this route and the drive is fairly straightforward.READ MORE - Can You Drive To Juneau, Alaska?
2. Nome to Council
2 hours 45 minutes (70 miles)
Difficulty level: Moderate
Why you should take this trip: If you find yourself on the western edge of the US, you can take this short scenic yet historic drive. This is a hidden gem of a drive as it is disconnected from the rest of Alaska's roadway system, an epic exploration opportunity for adventurers.
Main stops on this road trip: Once you get to Nome, you'll explore the local history of the place before visiting Last Train to Nowhere, Niukluk River, and Council.
How to get there: Nome is pretty isolated from the rest of Alaska, and you must take a boat or a plane to get there.
Head east on the Nome to Council Road from Nome, enjoying breathtaking ocean views to your right. The drive is short but full of exciting things to see along the way.
Our highlights: In Nome, you can visit museums and Nome Visitor Center. Nome sees many tourists in March because of the Iditarod dog sled race.
Another major attraction that you must check out is the iconic abandoned locomotive car- Last Train to Nowhere. It is preserved by local tourism and is a must-see relic.
The shores of the Niukluk River are breathtaking and famous for their wilderness. You can fish for Arctic Graylings when visiting the river, so don't forget to bring your fishing gear or rent some.
After arriving in Council, an abandoned gold mining town, we suggest you absorb the wonderful outdoors of wilderness and tundra-right after taking photos to immortalize the scenery, of course!
Local gems: From Nome, you can drive to several remote places. And where roads don't reach, you can take charter planes- not just in Alaska but all the way to Russia. Check out our guide about how to travel from Alaska to Russia for more information.
You can take the few roads that lead to abandoned gold panning dredges to try your luck and see if you will find some nuggets.
Also, take advantage of the opportunity to indulge in delicious Norton Sound King Crab right off the boat during your visit.
Our travel tips: As with a lot of Alaskan roads, this road, too, is shut down during winter. If you're planning this road trip, you'll need to book flight tickets to Nome ahead of time.
Best time to visit: To enjoy the route thoroughly, we suggest you take this trip in the summer.
You can also plan in such a way as to catch the Iditarod in March, sled races in April, and the wildflower bloom, fishing, and gold panning in summer.
3. Anchorage to Seward
Via Seward Highway
3 hours 15 minutes (150 miles)
Difficulty level: Easy
Why you should take this trip: This trip will take you south on The Seward Highway till you reach the shoreline of Resurrection Bay and the North Pacific, where you can indulge in the fishing culture and explore the aquatic ecosystems of the Kenai Peninsula.
Main stops on this road trip: This route passes through Alyeska, Tern Lake, Whittier, and Seward.
How to get there: Take AK-1 S out of Anchorage and drive along the Turnagain Arm. Enjoy the breathtaking view of the Chugach State Park to your left and the tranquil water to your right.
At Tern Lake, switch over to State Highway 9 and continue your southward journey. Drive past the Kenai Lake on the Seward Highway, cross pristine water bodies and scenic backdrops before finally arriving in Seward.
Our highlights: Alaska is chockfull of stunning glaciers, and this magnificent Portage Glacier is a sight to behold. Catch a glimpse of the glacier from Portage Lake.
For a historic visit, explore this WWII settlement. Its rustic charm, quaint harbor, and fishing boats will reel you in.
Seward is an excellent place to enjoy the ultimate Alaskan experience. You can find places to indulge in fresh seafood at the local restaurants. If the whole shindig of dining, shopping, and cruising excites you, this is the perfect road trip to set off in Alaska.
You may not be able to spot all of Alaskan marine life in its natural habitat. But you can certainly visit the Alaska SeaLife Center to marvel at the gigantic aquarium and the marine wildlife exhibits.
Local gems: Set against the backdrop of the Turnagain Arm and Mount Alyeska, Alyeska Resort is a great place to hike during summer or ski during winter.
If you are looking to spend some time outdoors, Sunny Cove, Driftwood Bay, and Safety Cove are perfect for kayaking and boating through the area to enjoy water views and spectacular glimpses of seals and whales.
Outside Seward, you can drive to Lowell Creek Waterfall to picnic in the wonderfully scenic outdoors.
Our travel tips: Don't forget to book your accommodation in advance as the town is small with limited hotels.
If you are wondering whether the drive from Anchorage to Seward might be dangerous, here is our detailed guide to put your mind at ease.
Best time to visit: If you're visiting for whale watching, we suggest you plan the trip sometime between May and June. For a quieter vacation, drive to Seward during the shoulder seasons.
For a hassle-free trip, travel during daylight hours only. Also, Seward sees a lot of traffic during weekends. If you are not a fan of crowds, you might want to visit during the weekdays.READ MORE - Road trip from Anchorage to Seward
4. Tok to Dawson City
Via Top of the World Highway
4 hours 20 minutes (190 miles)
Difficulty level: Ambitious
Why you should take this trip: Although the drive can be challenging, it is worth going on the Top of the World Highway to explore the sprawling tundra-like hills.
What we love the most about this trip is that it feels like you are on top of the world, with nothing above (located further north) than you. Only a few people can claim that!
Main stops on this road trip: You'll visit the commercial Tok, the gold mines at Chicken, and the eclectic Dawson City.
How to get there: Stock up on food and travel supplies and leave Tok by heading east on AK-2. At Tetlin Junction, take a left on State Hwy 5 to head north.
Cross the US-Canada border on YT-9 S road. The road is incredibly scenic and dotted with beautiful landscapes. Then, take a ferry to cross the Yukon River and reach Dawson City.
Our highlights: Possibly the only populated town on this route, Chicken gets its quirky name because the settlers did not know how to spell Ptarmigan (a local bird). Besides being an old gold mining town, it has a local population of about ten people.
Before you continue on your solitary trip into the wilderness, stop at the Chicken Creek Café for cinnamon buns and other local shops to stock up on things.
The ferry ride from the highway across the Yukon valley will lead you to Dawson City, another late 19th-century gold rush town. Here, you'll get to see Klondike-era architecture first-hand and visit local museums, themed attractions, and gift shops. Don't forget to get your loved ones a souvenir to commemorate your epic adventure!
Local gems: You can try gold panning on this road trip as well. If you want to try your hand at this unique activity, which might make you feel like you have traveled back in time, make sure to bring your own gold pan as you won't be able to buy one near the West Fork River.
You can also explore the Fortymile River system and The Fortymile National Wild and Scenic River for its rich natural diversity and wildlife.
Our travel tips: Because this road trip follows a gravel road, we suggest you drive a 4x4 vehicle with all-terrain tires.
Fuel up your tank and supplies since no maintenance services or gas stations are along the route.
Best time to visit: The road is open only during summer, leaving you with little choice in time to visit between May and October. Also, note that the road is remote, and any severe warning could delay travel.
5. Anchorage to Denali
Via George Parks Highway
4 hours (230 miles)
Difficulty level: Easy
Why you should take this trip: This short and adventurous trip through Alaska's heart will take you to the tallest peak in North America. Denali National Park and Preserve is stunning and is the reason a lot of travelers visit Alaska alone.
Main stops on this road trip: On this dream drive, you'll get an unparalleled view of Denali Mountain from Mile 63, a scenic view from the Hurricane Gulch, a break at breweries at Healy, and a final halt at Denali Park before taking a bus to the National Park.
How to get there: The road from Anchorage to Denali is straightforward. Take AK-1 out of the city and continue the road till you cross the Knik River.
Take a left, hop on AK-3 N, and drive through small towns and beautiful rivers. Keep sneaking glances at the mountain until you finally reach Denali.
Our highlights: The entire George Parks Highway is dotted with awe-inspiring scenery and spectacular views but the main star of the trip is undoubtedly Denali National Park and Preserve. You have two options to reach there: you can take a bus from the canyon or take Park Road to Denali Park.
However, keep in mind that you cannot take your car beyond Mile 15. A park bus shuttle, a tour bus, or a transit bus will take you ahead, and you can drop off at different points and explore the Park, which is very convenient.
For a slice of local culture, head to Talkeetna, a small town where you can enjoy trails, lakes, and an educational museum, which is the perfect way to spend the day if you are looking to stay warm indoors.
Murie Science and Learning Center will another indoor option if you are visiting during the colder months.
Local gems: Just along the highway, you'll see a relatively flat, non-mountain terrain for hiking and wandering. Nancy Lake State Recreation area is located next to a scenic lake near Willow.
A gorgeous but often overlooked area, K'esugi Ken Denali State Park offers camping grounds, beautiful hiking trails, great mountain views, and a peek into the local culture. If you are looking to reconnect to nature without being surrounded by crowds, you will love this state park.
Our travel tips: Summer is a busy season in Denali National Park and Preserve, so we recommend booking lodges and bus tours in advance for a hassle-free trip.
The area is prone to landslides. So, as a caution, make sure to check the website for park closures before taking this trip.
Best time to visit: The park is open all year round, however, it would be wise to avoid winter if you aren't an experienced driver.
Summer brings lots of events and festivals that you may want to participate in such as the Denali Film Festival. But be warned that it rains during summer, and bugs and flies can be problematic when hiking.READ MORE - Road trip from Anchorage to Denali
6. Anchorage to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
4 hours 45 minutes (250 miles)
Difficulty level: Ambitious
Why you should take this trip: Explore the stunning wilderness of rugged peaks, glaciers, tundra, and tons of wildlife from Anchorage to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. Away from human interference, this is your chance to feel like you are in a Jack London book.
Main stops on this road trip: On this eastward trip around the south of Alaska, you'll visit the small town of Glenallen, the small and historic Chitina, and finally, the famed Wrangell-St Elias National Park.
How to get there: Head outside Anchorage on AK-1N and get to Palmer. From there, continue on Glenn Highway, driving along the Matanuska River and enjoying the stunning glacier views.
At Glenallen, take AK-4S southward. Cross the river towns on the way and take a left on AK-10/ Edgerton after passing Willow Creek to reach Chitina.
Our highlights: Wrangell-St. Elias National Park might be a little remote, but this trip will be the journey of a lifetime with its unique landscapes. There are a couple of ways to get to the park: you could either take tours to the park from Chitina or drive all the way to McCarthy.
Root Glacier is our favorite among the many glaciers and hikes you can take. You can visit Root Lake, and River, explore the rafting tours and hike the McCarthy Trail or Fireweed Mountain.
If you are taking a tour from Chitina, make sure to set aside some extra time to explore this charming town dating back to the railroad boom. Outside Chitina, you can enjoy the waterfall and the camping area at the Liberty Falls State Recreation Site.
You can also take the aerial route to explore the area by flying in a small plane or helicopter out of McCarthy.
Local gems: If time permits, you can break at the Matanuska Glacier to admire the scenery.
If you drive to McCarthy, you can visit the abandoned Kennecott Mine in Alaska.
Our travel tips: Once it starts to snow during September-October, the park is closed down. If you drive to McCarthy, note that the road is remote and made of gravel. So, ensure you take spare tires, car repair kits, GPS, satellite communication devices, and your camping and food supplies.
Best time to visit: Although summer is the peak touristy season, this park is not as popular as Denali. So, you can visit during the warm spring and fall seasons too.
7. Fairbanks to Anchorage
Via Parks Highway
6 hours 20 minutes (360 miles)
Difficulty level: Moderate
Why you should take this trip: From the midnight sun city to the heart of Alaska, this trip will take you through the Parks Highway for sweeping views of Denali National and State Park.
Main stops on this road trip: On this scenic road trip, you'll visit charming Healy, the beautiful Denali Parks, and the quaint city of Wasilla.
How to get there: To head out of Anchorage, take the airport road and jump on AK-3S. Also known as the Parks Highway, you'll drive through Alaska's most beautiful landscapes.
Drive through the countryside of Healy, exploring the rustic outdoors before arriving at Denali Park. Follow the road to Denali State Park, Talkeetna, and Wasilla.
After Wasilla, merge into AK-1S and head to Anchorage, driving along the Knik Arm.
Our highlights: The first major attraction on this Alaskan road trip is Denali where you will get to admire sprawling mountain views and the beauty of the surrounding rugged mountain range.
If you are feeling less adventurous or are not a fan of heights, Denali State Park has accessible trekking spots and lower altitudes.
For dog lovers like us, we recommend checking out dog sledding and breeding homesteads in Denali. You can even take a dog sled tour into the gorgeous Alaskan wilderness.
Local gems: Healy is an excellent pit stop to take a quick food and drink break. You can enjoy local food, coffee, and perhaps a pint of beer at the breweries.
Wasilla is home to the Iditarod Headquarters, where you can visit the museum and go dog sledding.
Want to get hands-on with the history of gold mining in the area? Then you can take a worthy detour to the Independence Mine State Historical Park.
Best time to visit: The tourism on this route is highly seasonal, and most things are open only from spring to fall.
To enjoy the outdoors, the weather must be warm and dry. So, plan this trip from spring through fall. Also, this is a better driving season than the snowy times of the year.
But there are perks of traveling during the winter is that you can enjoy snow dog sledding only in winter. During summer, you can still visit the dogs and do track sledding.
If you'd like to learn about the best way to drive back to Fairbanks, here is our ultimate road trip guide:READ MORE - Road trip from Anchorage to Fairbanks
8. Fairbanks to Valdez
Via Richardson Highway
6 hours 40 minutes (360 miles)
Difficulty level: Ambitious
Why you should take this trip: Drive nearly half the state's length on Alaska's oldest highway from Fairbanks to the quaint fishing village of Valdez, where you can explore the glistening waters by kayak or boat.
Main stops on this road trip: The journey is truly the destination of this fantastic trip. A few main stops on the way are Paxton, Copper Center, Worthington Glacier, and Valdez.
How to get there: There's only one highway you need to follow from Fairbanks to Valdez. Hop on the AK-4 S, also known as the Richardson Highway, and keep driving till you reach Valdez.
Our highlights: Worthington Glacier has a beautiful visiting area from where you can get an up-close view of the magnificent ice formation.
Another highlight that we cannot get enough of is the Copper Center. Pair with a local guide for setting up your fishing spot and catch some king salmon Alaska is so famous for.
If you are a water sports enthusiast, you can kayak, boat, and fish at Valdez. Who knows, you might even spot a whale or two!
Some lesser treaded spots include the scenic Paxson Lake. A getaway by itself, you can visit dog kennels, mushers, and fishing cabins.
Explore the waterways of Alaska by canoeing on the Delta River National Wild and Scenic River, starting at Tangle Lakes Campground and ending along the Richardson Highway. We recommend you take this canoe route only if you're an expert paddler.
You can get the fittingly named Bridal Veil Falls on the way to Valdez in Keystone Canyon. The place offers a stunning waterfall view and a hiking area. During winter, it turns into a giant tower of ice which is a unique sight to behold.
Our travel tips: Because it is a popular fishing spot and a relatively small town, you must book fishing charters and accommodation well in advance.
Best time to visit: Fairbanks sees a lot of snow during winter. The drive can be tricky, given the icy conditions of the road.
Summer is also a great season to visit to catch events, such as Valdez Fish Derbies in May-September and the king salmon season in July and August.
9. Fairbanks to Prudhoe Bay
Via Dalton Highway
11 hours (500 miles)
Difficulty level: Very Ambitious
Why you should take this trip: This trip from the center of Alaska to the way into the arctic circle traveling on the most northern highway will make you feel like you are driving to visit Santa at the North Pole!
Main stops on this road trip: As you traverse the breadth of northern Alaska, you'll visit Livengood, Yukon River Bridge, Arctic Circle 66°N, Finger Mountain, Coldfoot, Wiseman, Atigun Pass, and Deadhorse.
How to get there: Exit Fairbanks by taking AK-2 and head north. At Liven good, switch to AK-11N and continue on the road till you make it to Prudhoe Bay.
Our highlights: On this trip, you get to drive on the scenic Dalton Highway or the AK-11N that was built as the only access to the Trans Alaska oil pipeline.
Many national refuges and parks on this route have preserved the endangered tundra habitat over the years. We suggest you check out some of them, like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Gates of the Arctic National Park, Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge, and Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge.
This trip will take you to the highest highway pass in Alaska, the Atigun Pass, before leading to the destination.
There are two main highlights in Deadhorse and Prudhoe Bay; the mesmerizing Northern Lights and dipping feet in the arctic ocean.
If you are looking to spend some time outdoors during the warmer months, one of the excellent places to hike is Finger Mountain or Finger Rock, where you can see the granite protrusion or tors.
Our travel tips: One place you can rely on for stocking up for the drive midway is Coldfoot. Fill up on gas, refreshments, and other supplies.
We advise you to book well in advance for camping or lodging along the road.
This is a gravel road, and not all rentals will authorize this drive. You'll need to take extra resources, car repair kits, and emergency and communication devices.
Remember to book a specific shuttle tour to visit the Arctic Ocean in advance, as the public cannot access the area through the security of the oil fields.
Best time to visit: This drive is safest during summer, especially in July and August when the temperature is warm. Interestingly, it is also the time of road repairs, so be prepared to drive on a single lane.
10. The Ultimate Alaska road trip
20 hours 30 min (1,130 miles)
Difficulty level: Ambitious
Why you should take this trip: You'll experience the best of Alaska's many landscapes on this trip of a lifetime. Drive to ocean shorelines, scenic and rugged mountains, famed glaciers, and the massive tundra for an unforgettable and unique adventure.
Main stops on this road trip: You'll visit the quaint town of Tok, located right on the Alaska Highway, experience the rich cultural history in Fairbanks, explore the scenic Denali National Park, enjoy Alaskan city life in Anchorage, and see the lovely coastal town of Seward.
How to get there: Take AK-2 to head north from Tok all the way to Fairbanks. To head to Denali National Park, take AK-3S south. Rejoin AK-1 to Anchorage and then jump on Seward Highway (State Highway 9). Then take AK-1 back to Tok.
Our highlights: A detour from the main highway to Denali National Park is a must on this road trip. Two main attractions at the park include the Gorge Parks Highway, mile 163 views of Denali Mountain and the Hurricane Gulch Bridge. You can hike, take a bus, or even a helicopter to get to the park.
When you make it to the northernmost point of the trip, Fairbanks, you can camp out and see the Northern Lights from August to April.
Among many fun things to do in Fairbanks, our favorite is taking a snowmobile tour. You can also go snowshoeing and explore the arctic tundra on dog sleds. Take a river cruise trip up the Chena River for a luxurious getaway along a tributary of the massive Tanana River.
Take the scenic drive from Anchorage to Seward via Seward Highway. Filled with many stopover options, you can stretch your legs in Whittier, Portage, for a quick glacier view and a boat tour.
You can also venture out to Kenai Fjords National Park from Seward to do some whale watching, which would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see these fascinating creatures up close.
Nature and wildlife enthusiasts can head to the Alaska SeaLife Center, a fishing and waterfront park, to learn more about the diverse aquatic life of the region.
If you are traveling with family, or simply want to let your inner child out, you can visit Mukluk Land amusement park in Tok for its quirky and eclectic museum and attractions.
Well, many do not make it to the actual North Pole, but you can visit one near Fairbanks for everything that screams Christmas.
Our travel tips: You can go to Fairbanks any time of the year, but driving during winter can get tricky. Be prepared for driving in fog and ice/snow conditions.
Also, Denali gets super crowded during the northern lights season, so book your accommodation well in advance.
Best time to visit: The best time to take this trip is spring to fall when it stops raining and gets warmer. Although highways operate all year round, and winter is less crowded, you may want to avoid driving when it snows.
Summer is the best to enjoy all the attractions, parks, fishing, and peak salmon season.
If you want to catch the midnight sun, you can plan this trip sometime between May and July.