Steese Highway

The skies of Interior Alaska are not something to miss, and the Steese Highway is an excellent way to experience them. In the summer, the sun hangs low in the sky for long periods of time and numerous small clouds come and go, creating a moving dance of light and shadow. You can drive to Eagle Summit (3,624 ft.) during summer solstice (June 21st) to see the sun crawl across the horizon. Or you can drive the Steese Highway in the winter and get a chance to view the Northern Lights overhead.

Not all rental vehicles are allowed on the Steese Highway, so check with your rental agency before you travel. Or, rent from Alaska Overlander or Alaska 4x4 Rentals, companies that allow their vehicles on gravel roads.

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Highway Points

Orig­i­nal­ly the Fox Road­house, this old-style build­ing has been ren­o­vat­ed to house a brew­ery and brew pub. Ten miles from Fair­banks, the brew­ery has at least a dozen house-made beers on tap, and a huge selec­tion of bot­tled brews, many of which can’t be found any­where else in town. There’s a large, open beer gar­den out back, ide­al for sum­mer nights. And the food’s great. 

The White Moun­tain Nation­al Recre­ation Area has over 200 miles of win­ter trails that are shared by dog mush­ers, ski­iers, ski­jor­ers, and snow machin­ers and sev­er­al cab­ins have been built along the White Moun­tain win­ter trails to pro­vide vis­i­tors with safe­ty and com­fort dur­ing their adventures.

This sta­tion is one of two in the U.S. respon­si­ble for track­ing and com­mand­ing the nation’s envi­ron­men­tal and weath­er satel­lites. Sev­er­al large anten­nae are used to down­link envi­ron­men­tal data, which pro­vides the nation with infor­ma­tion for its weath­er fore­casts, search & res­cue capa­bil­i­ties and ozone mon­i­tor­ing. UPDATE: This NOAA site will no longer pro­vide GOES-East imagery. 

This mon­u­ment is ded­i­cat­ed to Felix Pedro, a very patient Ital­ian prospec­tor who dis­cov­ered gold here in July 1902. The gold rush that fol­lowed result­ed in the found­ing of Fair­banks, Alaska’s sec­ond largest City.

Difficulty: Moderate

This is a 16 mile trail that is pop­u­lar with both hik­ers and 4‑wheelers. The trail cross­es through spruce-forest­ed val­leys, alpine tun­dra, and cold moun­tain streams. 

Cleary Sum­mit, 2,233 ft. This is an excel­lent spot to watch the sum­mer sol­stice (June 21). Dur­ing this peri­od, the mid­night” sun nev­er sets. On a clear day, you can also catch a good view of Tanana Val­ley and Denali (Mt. McKin­ley) to the south and the White Moun­tains to the north.

Look across the val­ley for a view of the aban­doned build­ings from an ear­ly dredg­ing oper­a­tion at Cleary Creek.

This is the site of the his­toric Fair­banks Explo­ration Com­pa­ny gold min­ing camp, estab­lished in 1925. Here you’ll find the old school house, which has been con­vert­ed into a muse­um. This area is on the Nation­al Reg­is­ter of His­toric Places.

Look to the left side of the high­way and you’ll see what’s left of Gold Dredge Num­ber 3. This dredge was build in 1927 and even­tu­al­ly pro­duced $10 mil­lion in gold.

The first, pos­si­ble, take out is at mile 39 of the Steese for the upper run and this stretch should be doable in a cou­ple of days.

Look for the giant pipe run­ning through the pic­nic area. This pipe was once part of an 83-mile-long sys­tem of pipes and ditch­es, which trans­port­ed over 3 mil­lion gal­lons of water per hour to pow­er the Fair­banks Explo­ration Com­pa­ny’s gold min­ing operations.

These cab­ins may not be very live­ly dur­ing the sum­mer months, but every Feb­ru­ary they are alive with activ­i­ty. This is one of the check­points for the Yukon Quest Inter­na­tion­al Sled Dog Race, a gru­el­ing 1,000-mile race between Fair­banks, Alas­ka and White­horse, Yukon. At check­points like this one, mush­ers can feed and rest their dogs, restock sup­plies and even get vet­eri­nary care for their team.

Difficulty: Easy Distance: 11 miles

This hike is great for the ear­ly-ris­ing fly fish­er­man. The lake is full of grayling and there are often cari­bou, moose and bears along the trail. The hike fol­lows an old min­ing trail that par­al­lels the Susit­na Riv­er to Snod­grass Lake. There are many active mines along this hike and be sure to keep an eye out for grizzleys. 

Eagle Sum­mit. 3,624 ft. This is the high­est of the three sum­mits on the high­way. Around sum­mer sol­stice this peak basks in 24 hours of sun­light. Take a walk down the quar­ter-mile-long loop trail lead­ing to a view­ing deck.

In the inte­ri­or of Alas­ka, in the sum­mer, the sun hangs low in the sky for long peri­ods of time; and numer­ous small clouds come and go, cre­at­ing a mov­ing dance of light and shadow.

Often a fire will burn to the very high­est tree on a moun­tain, as the sur­round­ing fires did here.

Alas­ka has a fas­ci­nat­ing arche­ol­o­gy. The fos­silized remains of many species of pre-glacial Alaskan mam­mals have been dis­cov­ered here. These fos­sils are on dis­play at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Alas­ka Muse­um in Fair­banks as well as the muse­um in Central.

Built as a cab­in in 1896 by prospec­tor Fritz Miller as a stop over on the sled dog trail between Cir­cle City and Fair­banks. After the Steese High­way was com­plet­ed it func­tioned as a road­house until 1970. It has since burned down, how­ev­er, items from the Miller House can be found at the Muse­um in Central.

Min­ing equip­ment, gold dis­play, arti­facts from the local area, restored and ful­ly out­fit­ted min­er’s cab­in, wild­flower display. 

Cen­tral (pop. 95). This small log cab­in com­mu­ni­ty is the cen­ter of the regions min­ing activ­i­ty and is a pop­u­lar check­point for the Yukon Quest Inter­na­tion­al Sled Dog Race. Stop by the Cen­tral Min­ing Dis­trict Muse­um for infor­ma­tion about this region’s min­ing history.

Get an up-close look at one of the world’s sev­en great engi­neer­ing marvels.

Cir­cle (Pop. 94) Before the Klondike Gold Rush, Cir­cle was the largest gold min­ing town on the Yukon Riv­er. Start­ed in 1893 as a sup­ply point for min­ers at Birch Creek, the town soon grew to be a hub for many dif­fer­ent min­ing oper­a­tions in this area. The town got its name because ear­ly set­tlers thought it was locat­ed on the Arc­tic Cir­cle which is actu­al­ly locat­ed 50 miles north of here.