The Alaska Highway is more than just an overland link connecting the lower 48 to Alaska. The Alcan (Alaska-Canadian) Highway, as it was formerly known, is 1,500 miles of history and an engineering marvel. It wasn’t until the bombing of Pearl Harbor that building the highway was seriously considered. Only then was the construction of the highway thought to be a military necessity – a supply road to defend North America from Japan. On February 11, 1942, President Roosevelt authorized the construction of the Alaska Highway.
Today, travelers can stop at any of the 25+ mile markers to appreciate the feat that took 11,000 American troops and 16,000 civilian workmen from Canada and the U.S. to build in just eight short months. These are some of our favorite highlights along this historic route.
Mile 0: Dawson Creek
The Mile “0” cairn and milepost resides in Dawson Creek, British Columbia, marking the official start of the Alaska Highway. The city was a major terminus for troops, equipment and supplies that arrived from Edmonton and were heading north.
Mile 21: Kiskatinaw Bridge
The Kiskatinaw Bridge is a 531-foot curved bridge and a first of its kind in Canada. This is the only original timber bridge built along the Alaska Highway that’s still in use today.
Mile 36: Taylor and the Peace River Bridge
Before the Peace River Bridge was built in 1942, a ferry was the connecting link across the Peace River to Taylor. The first suspension bridge collapsed by 1957, and this beautifully designed overpass was later rebuilt. The bridge is still the longest on the highway today.
Mile 52: Charlie Lake
Not only do you get refreshing lake views at this stop but you can see a fascinating memorial. It was erected at Charlie Lake to commemorate 12 American soldiers who drowned in the lake in 1942 while crossing to board pontoon barges.
Mile 162: Sikanni Chief River Bridge
This 300-foot-wide bridge was one of the first to be completed along the Alaska Highway. While you’re driving over, enjoy views of the Sikanni Chief River below.
Mile 392: Summit
This mile marks the highest point along the Alaska Highway at 4,250 feet. The view is spectacular!
Mile 496: Liard River Hot Springs
A major construction camp was located at Liard River Hot Springs during the construction of the highway. Troops used the natural hot springs daily but would leave it for the women of the camp to use once a week. Nowadays, Liard River campground and hot springs are both open year-round for travelers.
Mile 635: Watson Lake
The Sign Post Forest in Watson Lake, Yukon is a tradition that a homesick US Army soldier, who worked on the highway, started back in 1942. Today it’s one of the most popular landmarks along the highway where travelers can stop to add their own signs to the collection.
Mile 1016: Haines Junction
Haines Road starts at mile marker 1016 of the Alaska Highway, connecting Haines Junction, Yukon with Haines, Alaska. The town of Haines Junction is also the gateway to the spectacular Kluane National Park.
Mile 1083: Destruction Bay
Relay stations were established in 100-mile intervals along the Alaska Highway because driving the early version of the highway was dangerous. Destruction Bay was one of the spots where drivers could take a break and repair their vehicles. The small community beside Kluane Lake is still an ideal place to stop and enjoy waterside camping. We recommend pulling up to a lakefront site at Cottonwood RV Park.
Mile 1392: Black Veteran Memorial Bridge
Black Veteran Memorial Bridge honors three U.S. Army regimental units of black soldiers, 3,695 in total, who worked on the Alaska Highway. The design is just brilliant!
Have you ever driven the Alaska Highway? What was your experience like? Let us know in the comments below.
While you’re in Canada, make a side trip to Whitehorse, Yukon and visit these 9 places.
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