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Everything You Need To Know Before Driving The Alcan Highway

Everything You Need To Know Before Driving The Alcan Highway

Are you planning an Alaska road trip and driving the Alcan Highway? There is only one road to Alaska, the Alcan Highway, which is commonly known as the Alaska Highway.

Once you cross the Alcan Border into Alaska, there are several roads in Alaska, but no matter where your journey starts, you’ll be driving on the Alcan Highway for a portion of your trip. If you are starting to plan your trip, this book is the best resource and a must-have in the car.

RV driving to Alaska pulled over on the Alcan Highway with mountains in the background

Driving The Alcan Highway

Before you hit the road, you want to make sure your vehicle is ready to take on driving to Alaska and that the car is packed with these 12 essential items. We recently embarked on an epic Alaskan road trip, driving from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Alaska in our DIY campervan.

The #1 thing to buy for the trip helps plan & you’ll need it in the car!

Alcan Highway Map

The best Alcan highway map is in the Milepost Book, which we purchased on Amazon before our trip. They update the book every year, and it’s a very detailed book, including every milepost and a foldout map. It’s worth every penny. Get one on Amazon.

If you are planning on doing some camping in Alaska or driving an RV to Alaska, a great resource is the “Traveler’s Guide to Alaskan Camping.” You can get it on Amazon. It’s a great book that features over 500 campgrounds in Alaska and those along the way driving to Alaska—complete campsite details with address, contact phone number, description, and more.

Single car on the road to Alaska showing the road condtitons on the Alcan Highway

Alcan Highway FAQ

What is the Alcan Highway?

The Alcan Highway is the only road to Alaska. We drove up from Wisconsin, but those driving to Alaska from California will also end up on the Alcan Highway too.

How Long is the Alcan Highway?

The Alcan Highway is 1,387 miles long, but the exact length varies year to year on road construction detours.

Entering Alaska Highway sign in Dawson Creek British Columbia Canada

Where Does the Alcan Highway Start and End?

Alaska Highway mile 0 is in Dawson Creek, British Colombia, and the Alcan Highway officially ends at Delta Junction at the historic milepost 1422. However, the unofficial end of the highway is mile 1520 in Fairbanks, Alaska, but the last 96 miles are on the Richardson Highway, not technically the Alcan Highway.

Is the Entire Alaska Highway Paved?

Yes, we drove in July 2017, and the entire road was paved. There are gravel patches where they are doing road construction. Do expect road construction during the summer months.

We found the road was in better condition driving back to Wisconsin from Alaska in July than when we drove to Alaska in June. We think they were filling potholes during our two weeks in Alaska.

Alcan Highway, the road to Alaska, with snow covered mountains in the background

When was the Alcan Highway Built?

Road construction started in March 1942 and was completed in October 1942, but the general public couldn’t drive on it until 1948.

Why was the Alcan Highway Built?

The Alaska Highway was originally built as a supply route during World War II for the US Army.

Alaska Highway in winter snow covered with mountains in the background

Is the Alaska Highway open year-round?

Yes, the highway is open all year, but there are very few services (gas, restaurants, lodging, etc.) open during the winter months.

How long does it take to drive the Alcan Highway?

Driving the Alcan Highway could take only a few days or a few weeks. It took us 4.5 days to drive from Homer Alaska to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but that included LONG drive days, 16+ hours a day with minimal stops.

Where you are coming from also plays a huge factor in how long the drive to Alaska will be. We highly suggest giving yourself at least a week and adding a few days to explore Banff National Park and Jasper National Park while driving through Alberta. One of our highlights was taking a Banff helicopter tour of the park.

We highly suggest giving yourself at least a week and adding a few days to explore Banff National Park and Jasper National Park while driving through Alberta. We spent three nights in the park on our drive up to Alaska.

Alaska Highway Road Trip

Cameprvan on the side of the road on the Icefields Parkway while Driving to Alaska

Alcan Highway Road Conditions

When researching for our Alaska trip, we read article after article saying how terrible the road is. We had prepared not only the car for the worst but also for ourselves mentally.

The Alcan highway road conditions were much better than we had expected. There were definitely areas that were worse than others, but for the most part, it wasn’t that bad at all. There were some stretches where it was pothole after pothole, and you had to pick which one was better to hit than the other.

Once we crossed the border into Alaska, the road was wavey. It felt like we were on a roller coaster for a few hours. Definitely take this stretch slow because you can easily get airborne. Speaking from experience here…

The road conditions vary year to year, and the weather plays a big factor in how it is the next year. Every year, there is road construction along the Alcan Highway to keep it up to the best condition possible.

Woman standing in the middle of the Alcan Highway on a road trip to Alaska

Best Stops on an Alcan Highway Road Trip

It’s best to break up the drive over a few days. There are some great stops along the Alcan Highway worth spending the night in. Most of the towns along the way will just have a gas station and maybe a restaurant.

If you want to load up on groceries and a big dinner, you must map out your stops in advance or push on driving. Here are our favorite stops along the Alaska Highway.

  • Muncho Lake
  • Whitehorse – Here you’ll find a Walmart, full-service grocery stores, Starbucks
  • Sign Post Forest Watson Lake
  • Tetlin Junction Bridge
  • Alaska Canada Border at Milepost 1221
Bridge over a glacier fed river in the yukon on the route to Alaska

Suggested Cities Along the Alaska Highway to Spend the Night

You will go hundreds of miles without going through a town, and when you finally do, you could blink and miss the “town.” There aren’t a ton of lodging options along the way. There are a bunch of pull-off parking lots where you can park for the night. This is perfect for RV’s and campervans.

There are a good amount of RV parks on the Alcan Highway, and several of them have rooms available for rent. Here are a few places to consider spending the night and breaking up the drive to Alaska.

The milepost listed below is coming from Dawson Creek, driving to Alaska.

Alcan Highway Essentials Things To Pack

Campervan with extra spare tire and spare jerry can of gasoline for the drive to Alaska

1. Spare Tire

Driving down the Alcan Highway, there is no shortage of potholes that are sure to eat your tire (or some may swallow your car whole). We suggest traveling with a full-size spare tire. It could easily be several hundred miles from the next town with an auto body shop.

Once in said town, you might have to wait a few days for the shop to get your tire in. We called local junkyards in Milwaukee (our hometown) to find a cheap, full-size spare tire and rim. Our van didn’t have a good place for the tire, so we built our own tire rack that extended off the back.

2. Gas Can

There are stretches along the Alcan Highway where there are no gas stations for 200+ miles. Make sure to have a full gas can for emergencies. We bought this 5-gallon gas can on Amazon, and it fits perfectly in the middle of our spare tire.

We filled up at every gas station we saw and, thankfully, didn’t have to break into our emergency gas. However, some of the gas stations we stopped at did close later in the evening, so had we rolled into town later, we maybe would have had to.

3. Alaska Milepost

Alaskans refer to the Milepost book as “the bible to Alaska.” This book has a ton of Alaska information and Alaska maps. It gives a mile-by-mile description of every highway, including accommodation, camping, gas, restaurants, attractions, viewpoints, etc.

It goes through every driving to Alaska route so you can decide which route you want to take. You can buy one here on Amazon. They update it every year.

4. Power Inverter

Not all electronics can be charged off your car’s 12-volt outlet/cigarette lighter port. Having a power inverter is a must, especially for charging computers and camera batteries.

We have a 1500 watt inverter, which charges a computer and camera battery at the same time. If you plan on charging several larger electronics at once, you’ll want at least this much or higher.

5. Battery Starter car jumper

If your car dies at home, you more than likely will call a friend to come to jump you…well that isn’t an option on the Alcan Highway. You’ll want a battery starter that doesn’t rely on another car.

There are several on the market. We went with this car starter, which also comes with a compressor, which is super useful if you have any low tires.

NOTE: Make sure to charge the battery starter before driving to Alaska.

6. Tire Jack

Most cars come with a tire jack, but before you start your drive to Alaska, make sure yours is still there. Next, make sure it isn’t all rusty and actually works to raise your car high enough to change a tire.

Lastly, learn how to use it, check the owner’s manual, and find out where you should place the jack safely so you don’t damage anything. If your jack is missing, you really do need one, or if you don’t like the cheap little one that’s in your trunk, find a small, lightweight tire jack on Amazon that is rated for your car’s weight.

Also, don’t forget to check for a lug wrench or tire iron, as they are commonly called to loosen and tighten the bolts on your tires. Knowing these skills can save you an expensive roadside service bill and lots of time if you happen to get a flat tire on the Alcan Highway.

7. Satellite Phone

If you are driving to Alaska alone or have a loved one that is, and you want some peace of mind, you might want to consider getting a satellite phone. Satellite phones have been cheaper over the years and wouldn’t be a bad idea to have.

8. Multiple USB Car Charger

Drive days are long, and passengers in the car are most likely going to be on some sort of electronic. Make sure to pick up a multi-port USB car charger so your multiple things can charge at once.

We have a 5-port USB car charger because we often need to charge GoPro’s phones and power banks all at the same time.

9. Road Atlas Map

A good map is a must. Don’t plan on having data on a majority of the Alcan Highway except in cities. We love our Rand McNally road atlas. It has great detailed maps and points out campgrounds, which are great for finding a place to pull over for the night.

The Canada section in the road atlas is okay, but if you’d like more Canada details, you really need to pick up this map, which includes a map of every Canadian province.

10. Music

Make sure you have Sirus XM radio or a long playlist. No joke, there were days when there wasn’t a single radio station available. Our 2006 Honda Odyssey wasn’t set up for Sirus XM, so we had to buy this XM car kit. We got a good deal online for $30 for six months of Sirus XM online. We had coverage for 75% of the time on the Alcan Highway.

11. Snacks

I still remember the day I asked a shop owner where the nearest fast food place was, and he told me 10 hours that way (pointing to Alaska) or 4 hours that way (where I just came from)…So yeah, make sure you have plenty of snacks in the car. There are sit-down restaurants along the way, but if you are like us and you want the drive to Alaska to be over, then sitting down for an hour’s meal isn’t an option.

We typically drove 12-16 hour days on the Alcan highway and went through fast-food drive-thru’s when we saw them and then had plenty of snacks in the car until then. We had a ton of RXBARS with us, or those days with few options.

12. Water

It’s always good to have a few gallons of water just in case your car breaks down. Very few of the designated campsites had water pumps, and the ones that we did use, we used for cooking & dishes but didn’t drink them.

13. Toilet Paper/Baby wipes

If there are no gas stations for 200+ miles, that also means no bathrooms…so it’s best to have a roll of toilet paper or baby wipes in the car. There are plenty of areas to pull over and do what you want to do, but DON’T litter. Make sure to bring your tissue with you and throw it away at the next available garbage can.

empty Alaska highway with flowers blooming and mountains in the background

Driving the Alcan Highway is the road trip of a lifetime. Not many can say they have done it. If you make sure to have the above 12 items packed, you’ll get to Alaska without an issue. 


Monday 10th of April 2023

Make sure to bring PLENTY of cooking oil with you. The locals along the route are unable to obtain quality oils due to a sanction / embargo resulting from territorial disputes between provinces / municipalities / indigenous inhabitant groups.

Bring individually contained oils (in bulk from 1 gal / 5 gallon) for best trading options. Locals will trade just about anything from exotic animal skins to tankfuls of gas. Just make sure you bring quality. Best demand is for virgin olive oils. I traded 6 gallons on each way of the trip and for ONE gallon of oil, I was able to fill my Ram Promaster's tank from empty! This was in early 2023. I imagine the warmer it is, the easier it would be to trade.


Sunday 5th of May 2024

@D.D., I am making the trip in July of 2024. Do you know where I can get more information about the embargo and whether or not that it still exists? I have tried to find something on the internet, but I guess my keywords are not working. Thanks in Advance.

universal soldier

Wednesday 6th of April 2022

Great article with smart tips! We drove down to Homer from Anchorage and then on to New Jersey in '09. I highly recommend including Jasper and Banff in route because they are easily the most beautiful parks to drive through (although my heart belongs to Wrangell-St. Elias and Homer is a close breathtaking second). We also powered through, and I especially enjoyed nighttime driving through much of barren plains of BC, but I stopped everywhere I could for gas. We did pull over one night to get a few hours of shuteye in the car, but I highly discourage that since the larger critters can be pretty crafty at getting into vehicles with food. We used audiobooks to make the trip go faster, so no issues with radio signals (Sirius was just becoming a thing then). Also, make friends with your fellow travelers. My mom did the trip solo on the way up, but she found a good support system with a mother-son team also making the trip north (and helped when she was worried about gas). One more tip: Carry Canadian cash. We had a few stations rip us off when we used American dollars, and they weren't even ashamed when we called them out. Glad we're not the only crazy people who made this trip and loved it!


Sunday 5th of May 2024

@universal soldier,

Thanks for the tip about Canadian Cash.

Tim F

Monday 17th of January 2022

We are tentatively planning to make the trip from Michigan to Fairbanks for grad school. It will be me, my wife, and three kids as well as a very friendly Blue Tick Coon Hound! Because we are moving we will be taking both of our vehicles a Kia and a Dodge Grand Caravan. I read a previous post that questioned if a Discover card is able to be used along the highway. This is a good question because our primary credit card is a discover, but we do have a MC debit card as well. We plan on traveling in July are there any special considerations? My wife is very nervous about the remote nature of much of the region but I assured her that families make the trip all the time.


Monday 17th of January 2022

It's a great trip and families do it all the time. It's a great adventure - but totally doable. However, the combination of a Discover card and a debit card of any kind isn't the best plan. Discover isn't the most accepted, you'll probably find enough places that do, but it would be a safer bet with a Visa or Master Card. Debit cards can be finicky in Canada, ours were hit or miss. Bring enough cash with you for the basics gas/food/lodging for a few days to be safe. Have an amazing drive on the Alcan Highway!

David James

Thursday 12th of August 2021

Great article! My wife and I made the trip from Anchorage to Ok City in 2013 driving our 2002 Ram PU pulling a 14 ft cargo trailer jam full. 4500 mi. We were able to take our time so saw lots of beautiful stuff on the way. It was late September and I wouldn’t go any later in the year. I did carry extra gas cans which came in handy as the truck had poor gas milage and we had to use them once to make it to the next station. I also carried a 2 ton jack which I had to use in Montana for a blowout on the trailer. An updated Milepost is a must. We carried an ATT Myfi which helped keep us connected to the internet when we had cell coverage but no wifi. But lots of areas had no cell coverage. We are going again in about 2 weeks and will use our phone as hot spots when there is cell service. As we didn’t know how far we could get in the first trip each day we had to get hotel reservations on the way but much better if you can do that in advance. If you go alone a sat phone would be a must. Last trip there was lots of frost heave along the more northern roads but was mostly paved except for construction areas. One spare tire is a must, 2 is better. Don’t miss Jasper, Ice field Parkway and lakes Moraine and Louise. We loved the trip! Great advice in your article.

Josie Osborne

Saturday 7th of August 2021

Hi There, We are planning to do the drive from Milwaukee to Fairbanks in our newly converted camper van, this summer for my family reunion in Fairbanks. I haven't been back to Alaska in years but drove the Alcan once, back in 1982. So I am excited to do it again, better prepared this time and also to have a chance to share it with my wife who has never been there. Your website and advice is incredibly helpful and very generous. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience! I have my guidepost, but will be looking into the battery/car starter and Traveller's Guide to Alaskan Camping. Are you still in Milwaukee? As fellow Milwaukeeans, we thank you for sharing!

Hannah Lukaszewicz

Saturday 21st of August 2021

Glad we could help plan your drive to Alaska! We still call Milwaukee home, Go Bucks! Safe drive to Alaska and hope you have a great time at your family reunion.