Fairbanks, Alaska is the second-largest city in Alaska and a hub for mining, oil extraction, and tourism. Thousands of visitors come to Fairbanks every year both to see its tourist attractions and as a jumping-off point for other sights in the region, such as Chena Hot Springs, the Dalton Highway, and the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System. If you are planning on visiting the Alaskan Interior, you will almost certainly be arriving via Fairbanks.
Despite its isolation, Fairbanks is relatively easy to visit thanks to modern technological and infrastructure improvements. Here’s how you can easily get to Fairbanks, Alaska.
Perhaps the easiest way to visit Fairbanks is by air. Fairbanks is home to Fairbanks International Airport, which offers daily connections not only to other major Alaskan cities, but many smaller ones such as Utqiagvik, Eagle, and Tanana. It also boasts air connections to Seattle, Chicago, Minneapolis, and other mainland U.S. cities.
A less common but more scenic means of visiting Fairbanks is by car. Fairbanks is connected to the lower 48 states via the Alaska Highway, which runs from Dawson Creek, British Columbia to Delta Junction, which is just short of 100 miles south of Fairbanks. Built during World War II as a military supply route, the Alaska Highway is the only road connecting Alaska’s major cities to the contiguous U.S., and remains popular among truckers and tourists.
The Alaska Highway is noted for its scenic views of northern Canada and Alaska but is also acknowledged as being difficult to travel due to poor weather conditions and the road’s isolation. Travelers along the Alaska Highway are urged to bring survival gear so they can be prepared in the event of disaster. Many towns along the Alaska Highway have become tourist destinations in their own right, meaning you’ll have plenty to do along your journey.
Fairbanks is also connected to Anchorage via the George Parks Highway, which runs from Fairbanks itself to the town of Gateway, just north of Anchorage. Anchorage is the largest city in Alaska and a common destination for many tourists due to its wealth of tourist attractions and proximity to cruise ship ports in Seward and Whittier. The Parks Highway is also the primary road that allows access to Denali (Mount McKinley), the tallest mountain in North America and a major tourist attraction.
While more heavily populated than the Alaska or Dalton Highways, the Parks Highway carries its own risks. As with those highways, motorists are encouraged to bring survival gear in the event they run into inclement weather. Additionally, motorists are urged to drive safely and to avoid speeding or taking unnecessary risks. Many tour companies offer shuttles between Fairbanks and Anchorage, allowing tourists to enjoy a safe ride while soaking in the various sights along the way.
Finally, one common means of visiting Fairbanks is the Alaska Railroad. Connecting Seward, Whittier, Anchorage, and Fairbanks, the Alaska Railroad was once the most common means of visiting Fairbanks and remains an important transportation artery for many rural Alaskans. The Alaska Railroad is a popular tourist attraction and is also connected to Canada and the lower 48 states via rail barges that run along Alaska’s southern coast.
The Alaska Railroad runs two services between Anchorage and Fairbanks: the Denali Star and the Aurora Winter Train. The Denali Star offers daily trips between the two cities with an average transit time of 12 hours; this is due to the winding paths the rail lines take. The Denali Star is only operated between May 15 and September 15. The Aurora Winter Train operates the rest of the year on a weekend-only schedule following the same route as the Denali Star. Two shorter routes, the Coastal Classic and Glacier Discovery, provide service from Anchorage to Seward and Whittier, respectively.
The Alaska Railroad is noted for operating cars with wide windows, allowing passengers to see spectacular views of the scenery as it passes by. Many private tour operators and cruise lines operate their own cars along the railroad, offering additional services such as meals and souvenir shops. If you are planning to visit Alaska via a cruise line, check to make sure what kinds of amenities your cruise line offers.
Visiting Fairbanks, Alaska, once a journey fraught with danger and risk, is now relatively easy thanks to a bevy of transportation options. Whether you’re planning to fly to Fairbanks directly, take a road trip along the Alaska Highway, or ride the scenic Alaska Railroad from Anchorage, you’ll have no problem getting to Fairbanks. If you’re looking for things to do in and around Fairbanks, why not book a tour to Chena Hot Springs or the Arctic Circle? Fairbanks and the surrounding area has many things to offer tourists, and your trip to Alaska will be one of the most memorable moments of your life.
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