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The Dalton Highway in Alaska: the Ultimate Scenic Road

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On: Mon, Jan 27, 2014 at 2:18PM | By: Bill Wilson

The Dalton Highway in Alaska: the Ultimate Scenic Road

There are plenty of scenic highways that offer spectacular beauty and closeness to nature. Most of them, however, never stray too far from civilization. These routes are fine, but for those who wish to really get away from it all, there’s the Dalton Highway in Alaska. This stretch of road comes as close as modern people can get to seeing America as it once was, before the days of sidewalks and shopping malls.

The highway was carved out in the 1970s by the crews that built the Alaska Pipeline, and the road stays within sight of that structure during most of its length. The route has been featured in numerous TV shows, including Ice Road Truckers, America’s Toughest Jobs, and the BBC program World’s Most Dangerous Roads. It’s a popular destination for those seeking a heartier form of tourism than that offered by cruise ships and Disneyland.

Some make the trip on motorcycles, though the safest way to traverse the distance is in either a large truck or well-equipped SUV.

There are three towns along the highway. The largest is Deadhorse, which boasts a permanent population of 25 people. That number swells as high as 3000, however, when seasonal oil workers are in the area. The smallest community is Coldfoot, which is at the 175 mile marker; 13 brave souls call it home. Both hamlets sell gasoline and basic supplies, but those in search of braised tofu or cinnamon-spiced lattes had best bring their own.

While the drive is far from easy, the amazing sights along the way make the difficulties worth it. These include:

• The Brooks Mountain Range, with snow-capped peaks towering over 7,000 feet high.

• The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, home to 158 species of migratory birds.

• Atigun Pass, elevation 4,739 feet, where prospectors still pan for gold in the nearby public streams.

• Grizzlies, black bears, and herds of caribou that routinely cross the highway during visiting season.

• The largest oil fields in the US, which lie at the end of the highway near the Arctic Ocean, along with camping facilities and some of the finest fishing anywhere in the world.

The highway is under the supervision of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which offers information for prospective visitors at this web site. The BLM strongly recommends that those planning to drive the highway do so during June or July, when the weather and other conditions are most favorable. If you make the trip, then go well-prepared, and be ready for the adventure of a lifetime.

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