Let me start off with a few things. I’ll go into them more later in the post.
Things to prepare for about the Dalton highway
1. Bike some prior of course
2. Do squats- for wild camping bathroom breaks
3. Lift weights- for pushing up your bike up those steep hills
4. Get the Milepost- this is a guide about the North West area and has so much information.
Things to note prior:
1. It sucks
2. Ok it doesn’t suck, it’s just really hard
3. You will experience many different types of weather
Met this gentleman who just finished the Dalton Highway before we left on our journey
Lets put the Dalton in 2 parts.
1. Before Atigun pass
2. After Atigun pass
I would have Coldfoot split it in half, but there is a nice overall downhill from the pass to Coldfoot that makes the miles go by fast.
There are different ways to get to ride the highway:
1. Fly up to Deadhorse and bike down
2. Take the shuttle van or have someone drive you up to Deadhorse
3. Bike straight from Fairbanks
We took option 2.
Deadhorse Camp isn’t at Prudhoe Bay exactly because in between is owned by an oil company so you need a private tour to actually see the water.
I flew into Fairbanks and my dad flew into Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, and biked from there to Fairbanks. We stayed at Sven’s Basecamp Hostel, which is a nice place and very social.
From Fairbanks, we took the Northern Alaska Tour Company Deadhorse Express van. The other passengers were a German guy doing a canoe family trip, we dropped him off at Yukon River Crossing. 2 American dudes who were back country backpacking. They were a bit weird in the sense that they weren’t so social with anyone else. We ended up picking up a San Francisco teacher in Weismann (right after Coldfoot). The driver’s wife also came along and both were informative of the state.
The van only runs Tuesdays and Saturdays.
We arrived in Deadhorse Camp and took pictures with the general store sign, a popular right of passage for adventurers.
We biked to mile post 407 and wild camped. This was the start of the mosquito infestation. It’s like they are on steroids until after the pass.
Sunday day 1:
The rain delayed our start as we wanted to make sure the tent was dry when we put it away.
We biked 21 miles and stopped near the pipeline (carries the oil/gas from Prudhoe south). We pitched the tent again to make sure it was dry and ended up eating lunch then taking a nap.
All of a sudden I hear, “Hello?”
It was a security officer for the pipeline. We talked with him for a bit and he gave us some water bottles as well as a permit to ride near the pipeline. You dont need the permit, but this way we knew for sure we were ok and that the security people knew we were out there in case something happened to us. Him, R, and another officer, B, were amazing to us.
We ended up biking to mile post 354 where there was a rest area with an outhouse. It was still wild camping, but it was nice having some semblance of a pit toilet. The last mile or so was a hill and this was my first legit biking day so I was very tired and cranky.
There was a brief moment of no mosquitos and paved road versus the dirt, but still lots of gravel and construction, which was extremely bumpy. I think the mosquitos knew it was going to rain.
The terrain is quite flat with some grass, but no trees or shrubs. In the distance one can see snow banks in mountains. We used Squeeze water filter for the river water.
Monday day 2:
It rained…for 24 hours…straight.
We decided to stay in the tent the whole day and not bike. Part of it is that the roads were all muddy and also because it was so cold. I had downloaded some Netflix shows so we watched an episode of that and played with our phone cameras.
Tuesday day 3:
B found us filtering water and gave us the official permit and 2 strudels and a variety of snacks. We rode to a steep hill called Ice Cut, which isn’t as bad as what we had later.
We took a second to appreciate the view and the steepness of the hill when B drove by and gave us cherries.
We ended up biking to Milepost 314 where we wild camped again.
Wednesday day 4:
We had a late start due to diarrhea and vomit. Sorry to get graffic, but it was a rough morning for me. I didnt actually get over the diarrhea for a few days. We had imodium, which stops symptoms, but it’s not a cure.
B found us again and gave us chicken wraps and juices with water. I slept some more and got up the energy to bike another 13 miles. I tried nibbling on a few items. R found us along the road and gave us more water.
We wild camped at milepost 301/2. While we were dealing with dinner another biker showed up, C. He was doing the Dalton really fast. Apparently a trucker going the opposite direction saw Dad and thought he needed a brighter top to show he was on the road and stopped C to give him an orange vest to give to Dad. We dont think he was going to stay the night, but after conversing with Dad he decided to set up his tent.
Thursday day 5:
It was another cold and rainy morning and I still wasn’t feeling that great, but C gave Dad some hot coffee and got us motivated.
It was super cold and after being wet from the rain we couldn’t warm up. As we biked along, we saw 2 people on the road. They were getting water and saw us coming so they waited for us. As soon as they saw me they offered us to come back with them. We were close to Glabirth Lake/airport terminal. These two were flying around and got stuck here due to bad weather.
The terminal was nice and warm. Another plane got stranded there and this crew and the two were so kind to us giving us tea and ramen, etc. We stayed there for 3 hours before pushing off again.
We managed to get to right below the pass I mentioned earlier, which would be milepost 250.
Ontop of internal problems, my knee was acting up due to a low seat. We played with it and by the end of the Dalton my knee was fine, but this day was brutal.
At this milepost there is a huge gravel yard with an abandoned firehouse. We decided to stay inside, which was very cold. Could see breath inside building rather than outside. We stayed inside due to less wind and a bit more privacy, but maybe outside is better.
Friday day 6:
It was hard getting going this morning due to the cold. I also had a relasp of sickness.
When we did pack up and leave we were discussing something outside the building and all of a sudden we hear a squawk. We look up and a raven pokes his head over the roof. Then a second one. It was quite funny.
My knee was really bad so we decided to find me a ride to Coldfoot. But there is such limited tourist traffic as well as traffic with the space for a bike. Since the pass is a steep grade we just walked up the 2 miles. And looked around for a ride at the top.
There was an older man who was really weird about the situation and then a group of young men from Israel who were very kind and tried helping, but they didnt have the space.
Since it was a long downhill, we rode down. My knee was only hurting while pedaling. At a good stopping point we raised my seat.
It was slow going as we stopped and chatted with 2 motorbikes who were having a beer break and then stopped when we say a backpacker trying to find a ride back to town.
We stopped for lunch and R came and gave us fruit and snacks. The last we will see of these nice security guards.
R told us that there was construction on the road and there was a pilot car for part of it. I really wanted this ride.
We got the last pilot car for the evening. Dad sat in the bed of the truck with the bikes while I sat inside with the driver’s adorable dog.
We got to milepost 204 at a rest area with allowed camping. Many areas on the highway are informal or primitive camping. Basically, safe enough areas for wild camping with maybe a pit toilet.
We met a construction zone guy there and he gave us some food. He said he would leave us more in the morning, but we didnt find anything. We saw him later in Coldfoot and he apologized (which didnt bother us).
We had a laugh that we must be very sad looking as so many people are giving us things even other bikers (C). We can’t thank these people enough for their kindness.
Saturday day 7:
We finally made it to Coldfoot!
It was a beautiful day!
We only had 30 miles to Coldfoot and it went pretty fast. We had paved roads so that was a nice change. When we finally reached Coldfoot, we ate burgers at the restauranr and had so much soda while Dad had beer.
After a week of no showering….I took a shower!!! We decided to get a room because Dad really wanted a bed and we could spread our stuff out for a bit. The room is 219 USD. I made sure to shower once more before checking out.
Because our bikes were so dirty, we washed them in the stream and did some other bike adjustments.
We talked to several people. Chatted with firefighter and worker guy who let us use his phone to call my grandma and gave us snacks later.
We also met a Russian biker who was going up to Prudhoe. Dad talked with Argentine guys and a Danish guy on motorbikes. And we tried talming with Brazilians (that came from Usuahia) in Spanish since their English wasn’t very good.
Coldfoot restaurant is also known for their buffet. They have a dinner and a breakfast. 5 to 9 am andPM. They have a regular menu in between.
Sunday day 8:
Official rest day
We ate the buffet breakfast with the Russian and wished her well.
We moved from the room to a tent. Camping is free on the lawn.
Since reception is bad and or expensive you need to pay for Wifi. Neither one of us had cell service. We paid for Wifi (only one device). Sometimes you pay and the Wifi doesnt work.
There were a group of Mexicans on motorbikes and I talked with them for a bit, one specifically. His cousin walked in and he says, in Spanish,
“This is my cousin Victor.”
“What’s your name?” I asked him.
I paused, well it turns out his dad is also called Victor- definitely a family name. It was funny.
We camped next to a motorbike from San Francisco who was going to Deadhorse. We ended up seeing him again in Yukon River Crossing 2 days later.
We also came across another biker couple that was going all the way to Anchorage. They were biking at night to beat the heat. We saw them one more time at Yukon later.
Monday day 9:
We shoved off early. Eating the breakfast buffet and leaving at 7 am.
We rode 60 miles to Arctic Circle, milepost 115. It wasn’t that easy of a ride now.
The second half of the highway is a lot of ups and downs and several steep hills that we pushed our bikes up. The only signs I saw were near the end for 7% grade and 8% grades. But we were told and read in our guide that they were 9%-14% the other hills.
This day we had a big climb called Gobbler’s Knobb (we ate lunch and took a nap beforehand haha). We had some thunder and a brief sprinkling. We also pushed up Connection Rock.
At Arctic Circle, there is a specific area to camp, but we were so tired that we set up in the day use area. Which was hard for the spikes for the tent.
We hadn’t seen much wildlife. But at this site there was a lot of squirrels and they were searching our stuff and sniffing around. Plus screeching at us. It was funny, but annoying.
We had a picture when we went up with the the van and then pictured when we biked.
Tuesday day 10:
Another early start to do 60 miles to Yukon river crossing.
It rained in the beginning, but since it warmed up in the day we got dry pretty fast. Except there was some mud on the roads.
There were several steep hills with bike pushing. However, we managed to get a pilot car for Finger Top mountain so that was a nice break and saved us an hour or so of pushing.
However, one major hill we pushed up was Beaver slide. Crazy.
While we were going, Dad got a flat tire. I was way ahead of him at the time and 2 motorcyclists stopped to ask if he needed help. Turns out they were from Argentina (not the same 2 as before).
He asked them to tell me the situation. So they drove up. By this time, I had stopped to wait for Dad. I see them slowly drive to me and stop.
In Spanish (because Dad told them I could speak it),
“Hello, we are Argentines.”
It was a strange start to this road side conversation and I was super confused. Apparently, Dad had told them I really love Argentina and that was their way of breaking the ice?
“You speak Spanish right?”
They told me what happened and I thanked them and they drove off. Also, by the way they said they were Argentines, I thought they were from before.
Well, fast forward, I’m pedaling up a small hill and I see a man pulled over looking down the hill waiting. I thought he was waiting for someone to come get him due to a broken down car. When I got to the top I asked if everything was ok.
“Yeah. Is that your Dad? Did he bike from Whitehorse?”
Again, this conversation started strange due to this random knowledge, in my opinion of my Dad. Turns out they met several weeks earlier and he wanted to say hello.
But both times was a strange moment for me.
We finally made it to Yukon River Crossing.
Unfortunately, the restaurant is more Chinese based. They cater to all the Chinese tourists who come to see the lights. There are even signs in the restrooms on how to sit properly on the toilet (because in China they squat, please see my posts on China).
We got dinner and a room. It’s the same owners as Coldfoot so the room and Wifi cost the same. Except the restrooms and showers are shared in the middle of the hall. I took 2 showers again.
Wednesday day 11:
We had a really late start. But we had a nice breakfast and did Internet things.
Annoyingly enough the restaurant wouldn’t make us to go sandwiches (tours only) so we ordered another breakfast for lunch and made sandwiches (which was probably cheaper anyways).
Before leaving we talked with a woman who had a doberman. He smelled my bike and was fine. But after smelling Dad’s bike he peed on the tire to mark his territory. It was funny.
We wanted to do another 60 miles to finish the Dalton, but there were so many hills that Dad had a nervous break down and we stopped at milepost 12, 44 miles. We ended up climbing more feet in a shorter about of time than the day before.
We wild camped near a culvert with a running creek so we were also able to get more water.
Thursday day 12:
We finished the Dalton!
The sign was a bit anticlimactic as we just kind of rode up to it. We thought it was going to be in a different spot.
There was a trucker there and so we talked to him about biking. He said he remembered seeing us leaving Yukon River Crossing and since it took us almost 2 weeks, he said he probably saw us 8 times.
Another nice security guard gave us water and we talked with an older couple traveling around.
Upon leaving the Dalton we finally reached all pavement roads! Minus a few bumpy spots. But the Dalton is mainly dirt and gravel so, pavement is definitely easier to bike.
We stopped at Wild Wood general store (its closed due to renovations, but should be open August 2018) for a rest and some workers gave us soda.
Before the store, we passed a random house that sells food, but they also had signs saying how they were gun insured and no trespassing. It was weird. They were closed.
We had 2 big climbs like 3 miles long each. On the last one, that elderly couple we met stopped and gave us water and coconut water.
We were told about this water pipe on the route that locals drink from. So we filled our water there even though there was a sign that says it’s not safe to drink, but it was fine.
Finally, we stopped at Wickersham trailhead, milepost 29 on the Elliot highway.
Friday day 13:
We finally made it to Fairbanks!
40 miles. We had a second breakfast at Hilltop Cafe. It was really good.
It was mainly downhill, which was nice from all those climbs.
We stayed back at Sven’s and met several great people. A couple from Czechia and Lithuania, a man from France, and more.
We spent 2 rest days here because of chores we needed to do.
Some more photos of the Dalton:
We thought to do it in 8 days, but with the weather, sickness, and hills, 12/13 days was fine. The older man we met at the beginning did it in 14. Some do it in 6 days, but that’s really pushing it in my opinion.
Side note: taking the van up allowed us to drop some food at Coldfoot’s visitor center. They have lockers available. This way we didnt need to carry all our food from the beginning.
I hope this gives you an idea of the route and helps in your planning.
More photos, trying daily, but cell service isn’t that great- Instagram myopenpassport