FAIRBANKS, 360 miles north of Anchorage and at the end of the Alaska Highway from Canada, is somewhat bland but makes a great base for exploring a hinterland of gold mines, hot springs and limitless wilderness, and for journeys along the Dalton Highway to the Arctic Ocean oilfield of Prudhoe Bay.

Fairbanks suffers remarkable extremes of climate, with winter temperatures dropping to -70ºF and summer highs topping 90ºF. Proximity to the Arctic Circle means more than 21 hours of sunlight in midsummer, when midnight baseball games take place under natural light, and 2am bar evacuees are confronted by bright sunshine.

Brief history

Alaska’s second largest town was founded accidentally, in 1901, when a steamship carrying trader E.T. Barnette ran aground in the shallows of the Chena River, a tributary of the Yukon. Unable to move his supplies any further, he set up shop in the wilderness, catering to the few trappers and prospectors in the area. The following year gold was found, a tent city sprang up and Barnette made a mint. In 1908, at the height of the rush, Fairbanks had a population of 18,500, but by 1920 it had dwindled to just 1100. During World War II several huge military bases were built and the population rebounded, getting a further boost in the mid-1970s when it became the construction centre for the trans-Alaska pipeline.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

USA features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Why California should be your next family holiday

Why California should be your next family holiday

When it comes to kids, the Golden State certainly lives up to its name – California is one paradise of a playground. Go now and you’ll find the sights quie…

19 Feb 2018 • Keith Drew insert_drive_file Article
Los Angeles or San Francisco: which should you visit first?

Los Angeles or San Francisco: which should you visit first?

They’re two of the biggest cities in the United States. They’re two of the most famous cities in the world. Los Angeles and San Francisco have been written…

29 Jan 2018 • Keith Drew insert_drive_file Article
The best national parks in California

The best national parks in California

California has more national parks than anywhere else in the United States; together they protect an area the size of West Virginia. And with such a wealth of …

25 Jan 2018 • Keith Drew insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right