Many visitors to interior Alaska also make stops in the neighboring Canadian territory of Yukon, given the two regions’ closeness and intimately connected history. The prime Yukon destination for tourists is Dawson City, the second-largest city in the territory and a historic center of the Klondike Gold Rush. Given Dawson City’s proximity to Fairbanks, one of the largest cities in Alaska, many tourists are curious how they can easily travel between the two cities.
Traveling from Fairbanks to Dawson City is somewhat difficult due to underdeveloped infrastructure and extreme climate, but it is possible much of the year. Here’s how you can easily travel to Dawson City from Fairbanks.
How Can I Get to Dawson City from Fairbanks?
Despite Fairbanks and Dawson City being relatively close together, the two cities do not have many infrastructure links. This is due to Dawson City’s relatively small size and isolated location. For example, the two cities do not have a rail link, unlike how Fairbanks and Anchorage are connected via the Alaska Railroad. Regularly scheduled flights between the two cities are also not available, though there are seasonal charter planes during the summer months.
The easiest way to reach Dawson City from Fairbanks without going out of the way is via the Taylor Highway and the Top of the World Highway. The Taylor Highway is a 160-mile road that runs from Tetlin Junction, southeast of Fairbanks, to Eagle, a small town near the Canadian border. It intersects the Top of the World Highway at Jack Wade, and that highway allows access to West Dawson, Yukon, just outside of Dawson City. The Taylor Highway opened for public use in 1953, while the Top of the World Highway has been in operation since 1955; the latter’s name is derived from its high elevation, allowing motorists to view valleys and mountains.
The Taylor Highway can be reached via the Alaska Highway from Fairbanks. Much of the Taylor Highway is gravel, with only the first 60 miles of the highway being paved; this is due to climate and cost concerns. Small portions of the American portion of the Top of the World Highway are paved, but the Canadian portion of the road is largely gravel.
Due to weather concerns, both the Taylor Highway and Top of the World Highway are closed to motorists during the winter. While snowmobilers use the Taylor Highway during the winter months, it is impossible to cross it with a car or bus during those times. The Top of the World Highway is closed to all traffic, including snowmobiles, during the winter because the lack of trees along the route make it unsafe to travel during inclement weather.
The Top of the World Highway provides access to a car ferry in West Dawson that is used by motorists to reach Dawson City via the Yukon River. This ferry is also closed during the winter, but local motorists use ice bridges to travel between the two cities during those months. While the Yukon territorial government plans to construct a bridge connecting West Dawson and Dawson City, construction has stalled due to local opposition.
Border formalities along the Top of the World Highway are carried out at the Poker Creek-Little Gold Creek Border Crossing, which is notable for featuring one of the only joint-use border crossing facilities along the U.S.-Canadian border. There is a one hour time zone difference between Alaska and Yukon, with the latter being one hour ahead of the former. The border crossing station is only open between the hours of 8am to 8pm (Alaska Time) and, like the rest of the Top of the World Highway, is only open during the summer.
The Taylor Highway and Top of the World Highway can be easily traveled by motorists during the summer, but if you’d rather leave the driving to someone else, many tour operators offer shuttle services between the two cities. Many of these tour operators offer guided tours as well, allowing you to learn about Alaskan and Yukon history while you soak in some of the most memorable views in the world.
Dawson City is one of the top tourist draws in the far north, and many Alaskan tourists stop by it as part of their trip. Due to poorly-developed transportation links, Dawson City is not as accessible from Fairbanks as other cities in Alaska, but you can still reach it by car or bus during the summer months. Whether you rent a car to travel the roads yourself or ride on a tour bus, the Taylor Highway and Top of the World Highways offer some of the most spectacular views in Alaska and Canada. If you’re curious about getting to Dawson City from Fairbanks, explore your travel options and prepare to go on a road trip that you will remember for years to come.