Q: We have been watching Ice Road Truckers on TV and wondered if we can drive the Dalton Highway in a standard SUV. We would plan on doing the trip in June. It looks really cool on TV, but is it worth the trip? Will it be as cool without all the ice? Do they still run trucks in the summer, or is it only in winter? Can we get accommodations on route and at Prudhoe Bay? —Sean
A: Yes, it's definitely worth doing! It will give you an appreciation for the scale of Alaska, and its changing topography: forest, hills, mountains and then the vast expanse of emptiness at Deadhorse, right by Prudhoe Bay.
When I first drove the Dalton Highway back in 1988, I did it in a Subaru station wagon—and the road's improved a lot since then. So no doubt you can drive it in a standard SUV. June will be a great month, too—lots of daylight, and clear roads (though some snow in the high country) A few tips, though:
• If you’re renting an SUV, make sure the Dalton is allowed. Most rental agencies in Alaska won’t let you take their cars on gravel roads, or go all the way to Deadhorse. Two that do are Arctic Outfitters, and GoNorth Alaska Travel Center.
• Where to Stay. At Coldfoot, which is 250 miles from Fairbanks, you can stay at the local hotel/restaurant/post office Coldfoot Camp, or go 14 miles north to Wiseman to Boreal Lodging or the B&B-style Arctic Getaway.
After that, there’s nowhere else to stay until Deadhorse, which has a campground and one hotel, the Arctic Caribou Inn
• Two last safety issues. Pack a tool kit—simple spare parts, a jack and two spare tires— since service stations are scarce and cater mostly to trucks. Also, don’t forget to drive slowly—50 is the top speed out here, and for many turns, you don’t want to go over 15 mph. All the better for enjoying the drive, too.
For details on the lodging, and suggestions about where to get out and hike along the way check out our Dalton Highway info on Alaska.org.