Built in the 1970s to service the trans-Alaska pipeline, the mostly gravel Dalton Highway, or Haul Road, runs from Fairbanks five hundred miles to the oil facility of Prudhoe Bay on Alaska’s north coast, some three hundred miles beyond the Arctic Circle. It is a long, bumpy and demanding drive, so take spare tyres, gas, provisions and, ideally, a sturdy four-wheel-drive vehicle: most regular rentals aren’t permitted up here. Not far from Fairbanks you start to parallel the pipeline, snaking up hills and in and out of the ground. At 188 miles, a sign announces that you’ve just crossed the Arctic Circle. The Northern Alaska Tour Company (t 1-800/474-1986, w www.northernalaska.com) will drive you up in a minibus and either drive you back to Fairbanks ($189; a long arduous day) or fly you back ($359).
The highway plugs on north through increasingly barren territory, finally dispensing with trees as you climb through the wilderness of the Brooks Range, a 9000ft chain mostly held within the Gates of the Arctic National Park. From Atigun Pass you descend through two hundred miles of grand glaciated valleys and blasted Arctic plains to the end of the road at dead-boring Deadhorse. You can’t stroll by the ocean or camp here, so your choices are confined to staying in one of the $190-per-night hotels and taking a $39 tour past the adjacent – and off-limits – Prudhoe Bay oil facility to dip a toe (or your full body) into the Arctic Ocean. By far the best way to do it is with Northern Alaska, who run a three-day fly/drive tour to Prudhoe Bay for $989.