Fairbanks to Dawson City Road Trip Guide – Top of the World Highway

Driving from Fairbanks to Dawson City is one of my favorite road trips ever. It’s incredibly scenic and remote with lots of big open vistas and very few travelers.

I’ve done this drive many times and even updated this section of highway for the Milepost. I’ll share some things to know to prepare for the drive, determine if it’s right for you and my favorite stops along the way.

Is it worth it to drive from Fairbanks to Dawson City?

If you love epic road trips through wide open spaces and you’re fairly self sufficient then you’ll love this road trip and it’s absolutely worth it.

It’s a particularly great way to bring some variety into your road trip adventure driving to Alaska and back. If you have enough time (at least a couple of extra days) you can drive one way on this route through Dawson City and down the North Klondike Highway to meet up with the Alaska Highway again in Whitehorse.

If epic, remote road trips are not your scene, or you like to have plenty of cell service while doing them, this is probably not going to be the right trip for you.

This is a highway that most rental car companies will not let you drive on, so you’ll need to find a rental vehicle from a local company in Alaska or the Yukon that let’s you drive on Top of the World Highway (the part between Chicken, Alaska and Dawson City Yukon).

How long is the drive from Fairbanks to Dawson City?

Definitely plan on it taking all day. It’s 390 miles but the miles once you leave the Alaska Highway and go onto the Taylor Highway and Top of the World Highway are slow.

You also need to pay attention the border crossing times and the time change (more on this below). The border crossing typically closes at 6pm Alaska time/7pm Yukon time. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to make the border crossing or you’ll be spending the night there waiting for it to open!

When you get to the intersection of the Taylor Highway and the Alaska Highway at Tetlin Junction near Tok, you’re about halfway as far as the time goes.

Is the Highway from Fairbanks to Dawson City paved?

The Alaska Highway is paved and the Taylor Highway is paved as far as Chicken. The road is then gravel between Chicken and the border, then there’s a random paved section for no obvious reason, then gravel again or mostly gravel to Dawson.

The paved sections on the Taylor Highway and Top of the World Highway can be rough, and any section of the road can have signifcant potholes and broken pavement. It’s also narrow and winding so keep it mellow with your speed on this drive!

Crossing the Border between the US and Canada

When is the best time to drive from Fairbanks to Dawson City?

You can only drive from Fairbanks to Dawson City when the border crossing is open, which is usually June 1 – September 1 (check with customs to verify). Anytime when it’s open should be snow free and a good time to travel. Late summer is wetter than early summer, but has less mosquitoes.

What is there to do between Fairbanks and Dawson City?

The big attraction along this road trip from Fairbanks to Dawson City is the incredible scenery, especially on Top of the World Highway.

That said, here are my favorite places to stop along the way. These are all wonderful places to take in a bit of Alaska and Yukon culture and local flavor or beautiful views of wide open places.

A muddy river braided around gravel bars on a partly cloudy day with mountains in the background and forest on the river bank.
The Gerstle River along the Richardson Highway between Fairbanks and Tok.

#1 – Santa Claus House – North Pole

If you love Christmas, or unusual roadside attractions, the Santa Claus House in North Pole is for you. Visit with Santa all year long, find Christmas things and enjoy some great candy.

If you send a letter to Santa and address it to the North Pole, this is where it comes!

North Pole is also the location of Pagoda, the Chinese restaurant that was featured on Diners, Drive ins and Dives.

#2 – Knotty Shop – Salcha

The Knotty Shop is one of my favorite places to buy gifts and souvenirs in Alaska. It’s really unique and has lots of wonderful things. They also have great ice cream.

The exterior of a log building with picnic tables and a car parked in front

#3 – Harding Lake

Super popular with Fairbanks residents, Harding Lake is a great stop for visitors too. You can walk on the trails, have a picnic, camp or go fishing or swimming.

#4 – Tanana River Viewpoints

A wide glacially fed river, the Tanana River in interior Alaska on a cloudy day
The Tanana River from one of the pullouts along the Richardson Highway

Between Salcha and Delta Junction, you’ll be along the mighty Tanana River, with frequent views of it along the highway. There are several pullouts to stop at and spend a few moments appreciating this vast Alaskan river.

#5 – Rika’s Roadhouse

Rika’s Roadhouse is a historic building from 1910 and part of the Big Delta State Historical Park. You’ll find it after the unique bridge with the pipeline bridge next to it just before arriving in Delta Junction.

Long before the modern highway, the roadhouse served travelers along the route from Fairbanks to Valdez. In the museum you’ll learn all about the history of travel and communications in this remote area throughout the 20th century. There’s also a cafe and gift shop.

#6 – Delta Junction

A pick up truck and truck camper in a parking lot with the end of the Alaska Highway sign in the background

When you’re in Delta Junction, definitely stop at the visitor center and official end of the Alaska Highway Landmark, pictured above.

If it’s time for a meal, head to the delicious Draft House, a true hidden gem in Alaska with amazing food and their own craft beer, as well as craft beer from around Alaska. This is one of the handful of places in Alaska with really excellent salads! Their pizza and sandwiches are also incredible.

#7 – Tok

A giant red book under a blue arch with a sign that says Mukluk land in the forest

Tok is an important stop along the Alaska Highway and has groceries and the iconic Fast Eddy’s Restaurant you don’t want to miss. It’s a good place to get gas and food along your drive and is about the halfway point as far as time between Fairbanks and Dawson City.

If you’re into interesting and quirky roadside attractions, check out Muklukland, a low key attraction of sorts that is only open for a couple months in mid summer and some years it doesn’t open at all. The giant red mukluk (pictured above) is always there though.

#8 – Chicken

A four wheeler in a gravel parking lot with a picnic table in front of a set of four businesses in a low log cabin, the Chicken mercantile emporium, the Chicken liquor store the Chicken Creek saloon and the Chicken Creek Cafe
This is pretty much the whole town of Chicken – except for the dredge and the chicken sculpture

Chicken is a super quirky town that is tiny and very memorable! Don’t miss the unbelievable pastries in the Chicken Cafe and the enormous metal chicken sculpture. There are pit toilets in Chicken but no flushing toilets and no cell service. Absolutely a must stop on this road trip from Fairbanks to Dawson City!

#9 – Top of the World Highway Viewpoints

A series of rolling hills and mountains of tundra with a few trees on an overcast day
Endless views on Top of the World Highway

The part of the highway between Chicken and the Yukon Overlook, which includes the border crossing is nothing short of stunning.

There are many pullouts in this area and you’ll probably want to pull over at all of them! Epic views of the mountains in all directions and you’ll really feel like you are on top of the world. It’s easy to see where this road gets its name.

#10 – Yukon River Overlook

Willow bushes in the foreground and forested hills in the distance with the Yukon River flowing far below.
The Yukon River far below Top of the World Highway

Although this overlook has become a little overgrown, its still worth finding the trail and walking a short distance to a platform where you can see down to the Yukon River far below.

Look for the big pullout with the wooden “Dawson City” sign and then you’ll find the trail off to your right in the bushes (follow what looks like a small road and you’ll find the overlook).

#11 – George Black Ferry

A tiny open air ferry that is white and orange with cars entering at the edge of the river on a gravel access ramp.
The George Black Ferry Landing

You won’t miss the George Black Ferry as it will be the final stage of your road trip from Fairbanks to Dawson City across the Yukon River.

You can easily walk to it on the Dawson side so if you don’t get the photos you want it’s easy to come back for more photos.

It’s a quick crossing which is good because it is also slightly unnerving between the swift current in the Yukon River and the makeshift ferry landing made of gravel that is constantly being rebuilt as the ferry is operating.

Connecting Fairbanks to Dawson City to a longer Alaska and Yukon Itinerary

If you’re driving to Alaska from the Lower 48 and you’re up for the gravel road, this gives you a nice detour that adds some time but also variety to the very long drive!

Dawson City is a great starting point for adventures on the Dempster Highway and elsewhere in the Yukon Territory and Northwest Territories in Canada.

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Jennie Flaming
Hi! I'm Jennie. I’m a fourth generation Seattleite. I lived in Alaska for many years and I still spend lots of time there every year visiting friends and working as a tour director. I've been a guide for many years in both Alaska and Washington, am a field editor for the Milepost and host the Alaska Uncovered Podcast about Alaska Travel as well as the Washington State Hiking Podcast. I love to share the places I love with visitors, newcomers and my fellow locals. I’m so glad to have you here!