Valdez to Fairbanks (Richardson Highway)

This drive follows the 368 mile Richardson highway from Valdez to Fairbanks, and takes approximately 7.5 – 8 hours to complete. Even though the travel time is an investment, like most Alaskan highways, the views are incredibly rewarding. In fact, there are two 100 mile sections that have been designated as State Scenic Byways, with views of glaciers, towering mountain ranges, and more. Below are the highlights you can see along the way, and recommended places to visit.

Show Map

Driving Guide

Valdez to Glennallen

The muse­um por­trays the com­mu­ni­ty’s unique and col­or­ful his­to­ry from Euro­pean explo­ration in the 1700s to con­tem­po­rary oil trans­porta­tion. Per­ma­nent exhibits are accent­ed by tem­po­rary exhi­bi­tions of arts and crafts. Major arti­facts include a 19th cen­tu­ry Fres­nel Light­house Lens, a beau­ti­ful­ly restored 1907 Ahrens Con­ti­nen­tal” steam fire engine and a com­pan­ion 1880s Glea­son & Bai­ley hand-pumped fire engine, salt­wa­ter aquar­i­ums with the…  ...more

Season: May 17 - Sept 15 $162+ 6 or 7.5 hrs

This fam­i­ly-run com­pa­ny oper­at­ing out of Valdez will show you the best glac­i­ers, with great cus­tomer ser­vice along the way. On any giv­en day trip you’ll like­ly see huge rafts of sea otters, horned and tuft­ed puffins, cor­morants, hump­back whales, or even bald eagles. Stan Stephens offers two dai­ly tours, one of which fea­tures Colum­bia Glac­i­er, the largest tide­wa­ter glac­i­er in South­cen­tral Alaska.

Oper­at­ed by the U.S. For­est Ser­vice and open only in sum­mer­time, it’s staffed by guides who can help you under­stand the area. There’s also a stream that runs thick with pink and chum salmon when they return each sum­mer to spawn. Thanks to a foot­bridge over the stream and the clear Alaskan water, it’s easy to see the fish. (The best view­ing is from mid-July through Octo­ber.) You may also see black bears, who come to feast on the fish.

This was the orig­i­nal port and city of Valdez. The city was moved to its cur­rent loca­tion 4 miles down the road after it was dev­as­tat­ed by the 1964 Good Fri­day Earthquake.

If you’ve yet to set eyes on an ice­berg, this is your chance: Gor­geous Valdez Glac­i­er Lake is often home to large chunks of float­ing ice that have calved off from the Valdez Glac­i­er. Appre­ci­ate the chunks of ice from shore, or join a guid­ed kayak expe­di­tion to pad­dle around the ice

This pic­turesque fall is fed by snow and ice melt and emp­ties into the Lowe Riv­er after flow­ing under the road. There is a road­side pull­out next to the water­fall that pro­vides easy view­ing of the falls.

Difficulty: Easy

Bridal Veil Falls and the Valdez Goat Trail: This two-mile-long hike is a restored sec­tion of the Trans-Alas­ka Mil­i­tary Pack-train Trail that was the first glac­i­er-free route from Valdez to the inte­ri­or of Alas­ka. There’s a fan­tas­tic over­look about a mile down the trail.

Alpine tun­dra often brings unim­ped­ed views, easy walk­ing, and an inde­scrib­able light­ness of being. It also usu­al­ly requires sev­er­al hours of hik­ing to reach. But what if you could skip the exhaust­ing hike and just dri­ve there? The Thomp­son Pass is a great oppor­tu­ni­ty, rain or shine, to take advan­tage of easy access to this spe­cial envi­ron­ment — make the time for a stop. There are spots to pull over on either side of the road-cut that marks the…  ...more

This one cab­in is all that’s left of the old Tiekal Moun­tain Road­house (not to be con­fused with the Tiekal Lodge a few miles north.)

Pump Sta­tion No. 12. This is the last of 11 pump sta­tions locat­ed along the Trans-Alas­ka Pipeline. There is no Pump Sta­tion No. 11. Only 6 pump sta­tions are used to move oil today. These pumps move the oil through the 800 mile-long pipeline from Prud­hoe Bay to Valdez. Most sta­tions have three gas-tur­bine-dri­ven main­line pumps. Each pump can move 22,000 gal­lons of oil a minute, that’s 754,000 bar­rels a day.

The moun­tain range you see at this point is over 50 miles away. Mt. Drum (12,010 ft.) is the near­est peak; Mt. Wrangell (14,163 ft.) is a semi-active vol­cano to the east; Mt. San­ford (16,237 ft.) is part­ly hid­den and Mt. Black­burn (16,390 ft) is the tallest of the four major peaks. The Wrangell Range is over 5,000 square miles, and has 12 peaks above 10,000 ft. This is a great pho­to oppor­tu­ni­ty on a clear day, the moun­tain range reflects off…  ...more

Trav­el­ing the Richard­son High­way south of Glen­nallen, you will pass Wil­low Lake with spec­tac­u­lar views of the lake and the Wrangell Moun­tain vol­ca­noes in the dis­tance. Read about how ancient Lake Atna once filled the area you’re dri­ving through and shaped the Cop­per Riv­er valley.

His­toric Cop­per Cen­ter is one of the old­est non-native com­mu­ni­ties in Alaska’s Inte­ri­or. Found­ed as a gov­ern­ment agri­cul­tur­al exper­i­men­tal sta­tion, it lat­er served as a trans­porta­tion cen­ter for gold rush prospec­tors. Also find the inter­pre­tive sign where you’ll learn about the local fish species that make their home in dif­fer­ent habi­tat nich­es of Cop­per Riv­er water­shed creeks and rivers.

Season: Mid-May to Mid-Sept $199+ per night

This inti­mate, 85-room lodge with amaz­ing views is the per­fect place to stay on the way to Amer­i­ca’s largest nation­al park, Wrangell-St. Elias. Look out your win­dow to the junc­tion of the Kluti­na and Cop­per Rivers, 200 acres of wilder­ness, and the park’s awe-inspir­ing mountains.

Just out­side Glen­nallen you’ll find some great views of the Cop­per Riv­er and the Wrangell Moun­tains, as well as the chance to take some pho­tos that don’t include any roads or build­ings. Mt. Drum will be straight in front of you, with Mt. San­ford on the left side, and Mt. Wrangell— a mas­sive shield vol­cano — on the right. Cloud cov­er is the only way you’ll miss this dra­mat­ic scene. And these moun­tains are def­i­nite­ly dra­mat­ic. The western…  ...more

It’s dis­ori­ent­ing to dri­ve through mile after mile of wilder­ness only to sud­den­ly arrive in a small town. You might ask, Why in the world would any­one live out here?“Glennallen may seem like it’s in the mid­dle of nowhere, but its ori­gins make sense. And about 500 peo­ple call it home. They work in sev­er­al indus­tries, main­ly tourism, gov­ern­ment ser­vices, edu­ca­tion, and health­care. There are also a few small farms in the area.

Season: Year Round Flightseeing $350+ | Air Taxi $450+ One Way 1+ hrs

Year-round air ser­vice from Glen­nallen, Alas­ka. Short on time? Check Alaska’s largest nation­al park off your list with a flight­see­ing tour that includes a land­ing in the wilder­ness of the park. Trav­el­ing to McCarthy / Ken­ni­cott? Trav­el like the locals and hop on a mail plane flight. See how back­coun­try mail is deliv­ered and enjoy speedy trans­porta­tion to McCarthy. Or, opt for their sched­uled air ser­vice. Both have depar­tures from Anchor­age and  ...more

The Cop­per Riv­er Val­ley offers some of the best king salmon fish­ing in all of Alas­ka. In fact, each salmon up here aver­ages a whop­ping 40 pounds! Don’t miss your chance to fish these waters for salmon and oth­er species on a float trip with AK Fish Charters.

Set at the end of the Alas­ka High­way in Delta Junc­tion, the Tro­phy Lodge is the per­fect place to stay if you’re dri­ving between Alas­ka and Cana­da. Since it’s the only place in town that’s a hotel, restau­rant, and bar all in one, Tro­phy Lodge is ide­al for relax­ing after a long day on the road, offer­ing val­ue and com­fort in addi­tion to convenience.

Glennallen to Fairbanks

Look for the old out­build­ings of the Sour­dough Road­house on the banks of Sour­dough creek.

BLM camp­ground at mile 175 of the Richard­son Hwy. Lake fish­ing avail­able for rain­bow trout, grayling, bur­bot and whitefish. 

Pax­son Junc­tion (pop. 28) This small com­mu­ni­ty began when Alvin Pax­son opened the Tim­ber­line Road­house at mile 192 in 1906. His cook, Charles Meier, lat­er opened a road­house at mile 170. Pax­son built a larg­er road­house at mile 191 adding a barn with two sleep­ing rooms and a bath. Soon, a post office, store, wood­house and small ice room were added.

This high­way is named for the for­mer Alas­ka road com­mis­sion direc­tor, Cap­tain Wilds P. Richard­son. In 1903 Richard­son pre­sent­ed the need for Alas­ka roads. He impressed Con­gress with his knowl­edge of Alas­ka and his abil­i­ties as an engi­neer. The mon­u­ment here hon­ors Richard­son’s con­tri­bu­tion as the Alaska’s first great road builder.

Dall sheep are easy to see on this post­card-wor­thy ridge that par­al­lels the Richard­son High­way about 150 miles south of Fair­banks. With bands of rust-col­ored rock alter­nat­ing with talus fin­gers and tun­dra, the ter­rain is almost per­fect for show­ing off the white dots of graz­ing sheep.

Denali Fault/​Pipeline view. Notice how the Trans-Alas­ka Pipeline is built in a zigzag pat­tern? This allows the pipeline to expand and con­tract due to extreme tem­per­a­ture change or earth­quakes. The pipeline has an earth­quake detec­tion sys­tem that mea­sures ground move­ment. Com­put­ers can iden­ti­fy areas that should be checked after a large earthquake.

Season: Year Round $340+

Just 2.5 Hours from Fair­banks on the Richard­son High­way, The Lodge at Black Rapids is an undis­cov­ered gem.The peaks of the Alas­ka Range, trout-filled lakes, swift rivers, and alpine tun­dra sur­round the lodge, which is named for the Black Rapids glac­i­er. The own­ers built the Lodge over near­ly 10 years, design­ing it to fit into the land­scape. There are six rooms in addi­tion to the bunkhouse, with queen beds and pri­vate baths. Large windows  ...more

Set at the end of the Alas­ka High­way in Delta Junc­tion, the Tro­phy Lodge is the per­fect place to stay if you’re dri­ving between Alas­ka and Cana­da. Since it’s the only place in town that’s a hotel, restau­rant, and bar all in one, Tro­phy Lodge is ide­al for relax­ing after a long day on the road, offer­ing val­ue and com­fort in addi­tion to convenience.

This is one of the states most scenic camp­grounds offer­ing views of some of the tallest peaks in the Alas­ka Range. Twelve camp­sites are sit­u­at­ed along a loop road; the grounds are equipped with water, toi­lets, fire pits and hik­ing trail. The Delta bison herd can often be seen from the camp­ground and near­by viewpoints. 

The Sul­li­van Road­house His­tor­i­cal Muse­um is housed in the old­est road­house in the inte­ri­or of Alas­ka and is locat­ed in the heart of Delta Junc­tion at the End of the Alas­ka High­way. Built in 1905 by John and Flo­rence Sul­li­van, the log lodge now hous­es a muse­um that focus­es on the Valdez-Fair­banks Trail and the road­hous­es that oper­at­ed along its route. Beau­ti­ful­ly recre­at­ed rooms, as well as inter­pre­tive exhibits give our vis­i­tors a real feel…  ...more

Season: Year Round 1+ hours

Expe­ri­ence the thrill of flight­see­ing in areas that most tours can’t reach. Go with Gold­en Eagle Out­fit­ters and enjoy ful­ly cus­tomized flight­see­ing tours from Kotze­bue or Delta Junc­tion — or take advan­tage of their air-taxi drop-off and pick­up ser­vice to access some of the most beau­ti­ful and remote parts of Alaska.

Home of the Delta His­tor­i­cal Soci­ety Muse­um, Rika’s Road­house at Big Delta State His­tor­i­cal Park is in a ten-acre state park on the shores of the Tanana Riv­er. The Valdez-to-Fair­banks Trail ran through here and con­tin­ued across the riv­er, aid­ed by a fer­ry. The road­house was built to accom­mo­date the trav­el­ers and is a Nation­al His­toric Site. The muse­um is a sep­a­rate build­ing behind the road­house and has dis­plays of arti­facts from the Alaskan  ...more

Pop­u­lar camp­ing, fish­ing, and out­door recre­ation spot just an hour south of Fair­banks along the Richard­son High­way. There are 19 camp­sites and 5 walk-in sites. In sum­mer, the area is pop­u­lar with boaters, fish­er­men, and jet-skiers / water skiers. The lake is stocked with Rain­bow trout, grayling, and Arc­tic char, as well as salmon. It’s also a pop­u­lar ice fish­ing spot in win­ter. You can even reserve an ice fish­ing hut!

Pop­u­lar fish­ing and camp­ing spot halfway between Fair­banks and Delta Junc­tion (about an hour in either direc­tion). There’s a boat launch, and fish­er­man can fish for trout, arc­tic char, and burbot.

Take a break here, and you’ll be reward­ed with an amaz­ing panoram­ic view of the Delta Riv­er, the Alas­ka Range, and if you’re sharp eyed, moose and bear and cari­bou and buf­fa­lo down on the riverbed.

It’s Christ­mas year-round in North Pole, Alas­ka at the San­ta Claus House, just 20 min­utes from Fair­banks. The San­ta Claus House is a fron­tier gen­er­al store and post office turned hol­i­day shop. The postal tra­di­tion lives on — offi­cial let­ters from San­ta are post­marked from the North Pole and stamped with an offi­cial San­ta seal. The store also has live rein­deer, a cof­fee shop, hol­i­day gift items, the world’s largest San­ta stat­ue and, in summer  ...more

Season: May 15–September 15 Call for rates

If you’re a camper, you’re famil­iar with the famous KOA brand. And the Fairbanks/​Chena Riv­er KOA — America’s north­ern­most KOA camp­ground — offers a great oppor­tu­ni­ty to camp along the shim­mer­ing Chena Riv­er, sur­round­ed by the lush Alaskan land­scape. Choose from 150 full hookup RV sites and 4 tent sites.

Season: Year Round $18

Alaska’s road to mod­ern­iza­tion a cen­tu­ry ago was a dra­mat­ic jour­ney, and the Foun­tain­head Antique Auto Muse­um explores that jour­ney in fun, vivid detail. On the grounds of Wedge­wood Resort — a mem­ber of the city’s pre­mier, local­ly owned hotel group — the muse­um show­cas­es dozens of his­tor­i­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant pre-World War II auto­mo­biles, and offers vis­i­tors a trip back to Alaska’s rugged and excit­ing for­ma­tive years.

Expert Advice