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Driving the Dalton Highway in a minivan

Sioux Falls
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Driving the Dalton Highway in a minivan

We will be driving our minivan from South Dakota to Alaska next summer and would like to drive the Dalton to Deadhorse. Any advice would be appreciated. Do you need a 4 wheel drive vehicle? Do people make the trip in cars and vans?

Las Vegas, Nevada
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1. Re: Driving the Dalton Highway in a minivan

We made a feeble attempt at the Dalton Hwy last yr, and no we didn't see many cars, just a few pickups. Mostly we saw large commercial trucks.

It is a drive that you need to be well prepared for due to the isolation and road conditions, ie if you get a flat tire, the typical spare donut won't last long so you need at least 1 full size spare, and there's no cell coverage so you need a CB. I've attached a link to Arctic Outfitters (they rent vehicles for this drive) and you can see what they include.

www.arctic-outfitters.com/auto-rentals.htm

This link starts off with a basic description of the drive.

fairbanks-alaska.com/dalton-highway.htm

Once you're on the road you quickly realize why people are so concerned about this drive. We only lasted about 30 miles after the black top ended (and it took over an hr to drive those 30 mi). It was quite intimidating and uncomfortable due to the washboard surface. The truckers flew by, kicking up dust and rocks. We knew we were unprepared so we turned back. i've also attached a link to Susan's blog when they drove to Prudhoe Bay. (she posts to TA occassionally). The pictures entice you to make the trip, but notice how they prepared for the drive, and what they endured as far as mosquitos and mud and generally roughing it. It's no picnic.

susanstevenson.com/blog/…more-114

For us it was a waste of a gorgeous sunny day! It took almost 2 hrs to get to the Dalton Hwy from Fairbanks, then we spent 1 hr on the Dalton only to turn back. Having said all that, I would definitely like to try it again. But well prepared ! and when I have enough time that I can afford the 3 days that it takes. I would also rent from a company that prepares you well.

Hopefully someone who's made the drive successfully will post with more info. carol

Edited: 26 September 2010, 20:41
Seward,Alaska
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2. Re: Driving the Dalton Highway in a minivan

During the summer you probably wouldn't need 4 wheel drive as there are motorcycles that have done the trip. I drove a Chev Astro with no problems other than flat tires...3 of em and we started out with 4 brand new ones...highly recommend getting 10ply tires! I went during June while it was dry, hot, and VERY DUSTY till we got to Deadhorse and were greeted with light snow, wind and cold. The van was never the same with dust/dirt in every little spot possible. Let me know if you want more details.

Anchorage, Alaska
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3. Re: Driving the Dalton Highway in a minivan

We drove to Deadhorse (freaking amazing drive) in late June 2006. We used our 2003 Honda CR-V (front-wheel drive). There were 4 adults a Thule car top storage unit and a full cargo area.

The road was good and challenging. We did not need 4 wheel drive. One does need to drive carefully/cautiously/smart. We were fortunate and had no flats, leaks or windshield issues (we had good tires and carried 2 good spares).

If you love nature, this is a great drive. We do love nature and driving one-way was spectacular (round trip was a little long!)

I've included the links we used to research the drive below.

Good luck,

Scott

favorite link:

alaskageographic.org/uploads/pdf/dalton-vg20…

other useful links:

…state.ak.us/stwdplng/…byways-dalton.shtml

fairbanks-alaska.com/dalton-highway.htm

www.bellsalaska.com/myalaska/daltonhw.html

blm.gov/ak/…dalton_hwy.html

http://www.alaskageographic.org/

Wheatland, Wyoming
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4. Re: Driving the Dalton Highway in a minivan

People do drive cars up the Dalton, but you won't see many. The primary reason is that people don't drive up to Alaska in cars to often. Your summer traffic is RV's and pickups pulling travel trailers. You do not need 4 wheel drive but the road(dirt portions) can get very slick with rain. The folks who only made it 30 miles should have held out just a little longer. Once you hit the Yukon River the road is basically paved to Coldfoot at mile 175. I have driven up the road beyond the river in a Kia Spectra with no problem at all. There has been ongoing road work so the way to the river should be quite good. PAY ATTENTION to the road, if you avoid the obvious rocks and potholes your tires should do well. To save your windshield, slow down as on coming vehicles get close. If you are both doing 45 that is a 90mph impact, if you can come to a complete stop you have reduced it to a 45mph impact. There is a much better chance of avoiding the rock in the first place and much better chance of not having major damage. Never had a tire or glass problem, even in a sub compact car.

If you want to break up the drive there are some campgrounds, one is located right at the arctic circle way point. Another just north of Coldfoot. At either practice good bear awareness and food storage. The campground at the circle actually had a lady stuck in an outhouse until the wolf outside left!

If you want a nice room at Wiseman we enjoyed the Boreal Lodge.

http://www.boreallodge.com/

Definitely stop at Coldfoot, the visitor center will have the latest road information.

On your trip up, if you plan on driving both ways I would highly recommend you make one of the directions the Cassiar Highway. The scenery is awesome and if you are returning straight home you can drive through the Canadian Rockies seeing Banff and Lake Louise before dropping down to Calgary.

Taking the top of the world loop through Dawson City in the Yukon is a great drive and dawson is a really neat little town. HOWEVER, before going on the loop check road conditions. Heavy rains this summer have wreaked havoc on the Taylor Highway once you get into Alaska.

If you haven't already, you may want to get the Milepost sent to you, if not available at a local book store. It has info on all the routes to and from Alaska and every road in the state. It will give you locations of all services on the roads and info on the vayious places you are traveling through. It can make you aware of interesting places that you probably never heard of.

Happy trails!

Fairbanks, Alaska
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5. Re: Driving the Dalton Highway in a minivan

You could play it safe and get one of those bus tours up there. Like www.daltonhighwayexpress.com/default.htm although a can't vouch for them as I have no need to travel up the haul road.

Anchorage, Alaska
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6. Re: Driving the Dalton Highway in a minivan

Steve of Fairbanks gave a very good description of how we chose to drive to Prudhoe Bay.

If I recall correctly, about 1/3 of the driving time was done at about 10mph (washboards & very rocky road, rocks about the size of my fist), another 1/3 was between 30 and 45 mph (included old pavement that is very full of potholes - don't drive on this & think you're on a paved highway), the other 1/3 of the driving time was on fantastic hardpacks where you could drive as fast as you want.

Fill the car with gas every chance you get.

We also had plenty of time; we camped and hiked for the 10 days we took to do this roundtrip. We had temperatures in the 90s, a dusting of snow at Deadhorse and a 28F swim at the top is a must.

Respect this road/trip.

Edited: 29 September 2010, 21:58
Sioux Falls
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7. Re: Driving the Dalton Highway in a minivan

Thank you to everyone for the reviews and advice. Since we will be buying a new vehicle before the trip to Alaska, we have decided to buy a 4 wheel drive SUV that is large enough for us to sleep in. We are very excited about this adventure!

HowieSF

Anchorage, Alaska
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8. Re: Driving the Dalton Highway in a minivan

I'm confused; are you saying you're taking a new vehicle on the "Haul Road"?

I would not dream of taking a new vehicle on that road. It'll take a year or two of life off that vehicle in week!

Drive your new car to AK; but for the Dalton Hwy there are some rental companies that will rent you a vehicle:

http://www.gonorth-alaska.com/contact.html or

http://www.arctic-outfitters.com/index.htm

Good luck

Sioux Falls
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9. Re: Driving the Dalton Highway in a minivan

Thanks sdpryde.

We just purchased a new pickup that we will take on the trip. We have been doing quite a bit of research on driving the Dalton. Some say it's not as bad as many make it out to be while others say some people have just been lucky with their drive. We are very excited about finally being able to drive to Alaska and hopefully have the Dalton as part of our trip. Are we naive/acting crazy? Possibly, but it sure is exciting!

Anchorage, Alaska
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10. Re: Driving the Dalton Highway in a minivan

Good for you. It's a trip of a lifetime. My wife and I are envious of everyone who does it. We drove from FL to AK summer of 2005 and we drove out (to NM) March/2009. It's amazing.

If you like hot springs; there's a lot of them along the drive. You can spend at least every other night soaking at a different spring to take the edge off of those hard/"unbroken in" seats of your new truck!

Good luck & enjoy,

Scott