Constructed during World War II, the Alaska Highway with a length of 2,174km (1,523 mile) is world renown and is a smooth, scenic route into the North which stretches from Watson Lake near the British Columbia border to Beaver Creek at the Alaska border.
Portions of the road may be temporarily closed due to road work or inclement weather. This 1,523 mile Canadian-Alaskan highway was roughed out by American Army engineers in just seven months from Dawson Creek, British Columbia, to the already completed Richardson Highway at Delta Junction, Alaska. There are always areas of construction or repaving with loose, dusty gravel. Prepare for lots of dust. Major rerouting projects frequently tie up traffic and break windshields, sometimes lasting for years, especially on the Canadian portion. Heavy or prolonged rain can cause local flash floods that cover the road with water or wash out culverts or bridges.
Proposals for a highway to Alaska originated in the 1920s.The road (also known as the Alaskan Highway, Alaska-Canadian Highway, or ALCAN Highway) was built as a supply route to military forces in Alaska during World War II. The men worked tirelessly in lengthy shifts, sometimes in temperatures of -40° F. A record temperature of -79° F was set during construction. This major effort helped open Alaska to the rest of the world. It was completed on October 28, 1942.
Due its unique location and the climb in elevation over thousands of feet, and passing through remote areas, it is important when driving in these conditions to be prepared. You should carry enough emergency supplies to last yourself one or two nights. Most of the highway has NO mobile telephone service. The nearest tow truck can be 1000 km (621 mi) away. It is even more important to carry emergency supplies in winter to avoid hypothermia and death. At the very least, bring food, water, blankets, a first-aid kit, and spare tires. Wintertime temperatures can dive as low as -40 C / -40 F. Bug repellent may be very nice to have in the summer. Ever since the Alaska Highway was completed in the 1940’s, a continuous program of upgrading, widening and straightening has been underway. Virtually 100% of the Alaska Highway is now paved. The Alaska Highway, once an emergency wartime road, has developed into a vital link between the giant industrial regions of the U.S. and Canada and the natural resources of the Alaska and Yukon. But, aside from the economic aspects of the highway, it also represents a permanent monument to the resilient and enduring friendship between two great nations.
This road has been heralded as one of the most spectaculars roads in the world by the dangerousroads.org users. Gas (petrol) stations in this part of Canada are frequently not 24 h, especially in winter, and most of them do not have a pay-at-the-pump mechanism. Many stations have very long distances between them. You should keep your tank as full as you can and be prepared to wait for a station to open if you arrive in the middle of the night. Cellphone coverage is very sparse, although every Yukon community along the highway has cell service in the vicinity. Do not count on using your cellphone in an emergency. The highway may be in various states of repair. Be prepared to wait long periods as road crews continue to maintain the road. Winter frost is extremely hard on the roads. Do not be surprised to see deep fissures across the highway.
The conditions of the road were improved the last years. Now, almost all of the two-lane highway is surfaced with asphalt. In Canada, Alaska Highway is paved or packed gravel with a tar base. In Alaska, the road is entirely paved. Summer is the only opportunity to repair the road, so construction crews really go to it; depend on lengthy delays and some very rugged detours. While availability of gasoline isn't the problem that it once was, there are a couple of things to remember. Gas prices can be substantially higher than in, say, Edmonton or Calgary. Although there's gas at most of the communities that appear on the road map, most close up early in the evening. You'll find 24-hour gas stations and plenty of motel rooms in the towns of Dawson City, Fort St. John, Fort Nelson, Watson Lake, and Whitehorse.
The best times to drive the highway is June through August, and early September, when traffic is lighter. Try to be patient when driving the Alaska Highway. In high season, the entire route, from Edmonton to Fairbanks, is one long caravan of RVs. Many people have their car in tow, a boat on the roof, and several bicycles chained to the spare tire. Thus encumbered, they lumber up the highway; loath (or unable) to pass one another. These convoys of RVs stretch on forever, the slowest of the party setting the pace for all.