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9 Best Things to Do in Coldfoot, Alaska

9 Best Things to Do in Coldfoot, Alaska

About 60 miles past the entrance to the Arctic Circle, you’ll find Coldfoot, Alaska. It’s at the center of the state without another civilization within hundreds of miles. So it’s pretty clear that it’s off the beaten path. 

Considering the journey you’ll take to get there, plus the unique wilderness experience you’ll have, exploring the town and surrounding area can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. In case you add it to your bucket list, we’re recommending the nine best activities. Keep reading to learn about the town and get our “Morton Road Trip Rating” for each adventure.

Driving the Dalton Highway to the Arctic! Fun in the Midnight Sun & Fairbanks AK | Go North Ep 11
Learn more about driving a truck camper on the Dalton Highway and Coldfoot (around the 9:30 mark) 

Where Is Coldfoot, Alaska?

This small town of only 156 people (U.S. Census 2019) is one of the few communities in the Arctic Circle you can access by road. Dalton Highway, otherwise known as Alaska Route 11, runs through Coldfoot.

In 1974, the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company built the highway to facilitate the construction of the Trans Alaska Pipeline. Therefore, you might also hear it called “Haul Road,” and it’s become famous in recent years on the TV show, “Ice Road Truckers.” 

Driving under the Trans Alaska Pipeline that runs along the Dalton Highway from Fairbanks to Deadhorse, AK.

Most of the road is gravel, and it’s best to have a high-clearance vehicle that can withstand potholes and potential washouts. Paved sections typically have frost heaves, making it a bumpy ride, so low-profile RVs will have a difficult time. 

→ Check out our 7 Tips for Driving the Dalton Highway before attempting this road!

Coldfoot, Alaska is halfway between Fairbanks and Prudhoe Bay, making it a necessary truck stop. Fairbanks is the last major city on the road system before getting to Coldfoot, 250 miles north. And Coldfoot is the last town with provisions before Deadhorse in Prudhoe Bay, another 240 miles north. 

The tiny arctic town got its name in 1900. Travelers searching for gold in the area got cold feet as winter approached and left to go south again. Thus, the settlement was called Coldfoot.

It sits at the foothills of the Brooks Range and is home to a National Park Service visitor center that’s open from June through September. The center provides travel and cultural information on the area and Arctic Circle. It also has backcountry trip info for hikers.  

What Is the Best Time to Visit Coldfoot Alaska?

The best time of year to visit Coldfoot, Alaska, is June through mid-September. Temperatures are typically mild during these months, with highs between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Plus, you have a chance to see the northern lights during September. 

Traveling the Dalton Highway before and after the summer means you run the risk of feeling like you’re in an episode of “Ice Road Truckers.” Temperatures average in the 30s through May, and snow can sometimes hang around until June. It starts to get cold again by the end of September.

Pro Tip: Have the flexibility to go to all the places on your Alaskan bucket list by renting an RV. Don’t know where to begin? Read more with: Your Complete Guide to Alaska RV Rentals

The Mortons on the Move drove the Dalton Highway in late June near the Summer Solstice, so we were experiencing nearly 24 hours of sunlight!

The 9 Best Things to Do in Coldfoot Alaska

Coldfoot, Alaska, might be a small town in the middle of nowhere, but there’s a lot you can do in the area. Here are nine of the best things to do in and around town. 

#1. Explore Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve

Coldfoot, Alaska, is a great base camp for Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve. The primary visitor center for the national park and preserve is there. Here you can get information on backcountry hiking into the park. Coldfoot also has lodging, a gas station, and food for topping off supplies during a visit to the park.

Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve doesn’t have any roads or trails. It’s an ecosystem that’s existed for thousands of years and is largely untouched. The national park and preserve have six rivers and various wildlife within the Brooks Mountain range. Foothills to the south of the range are around 4,000 feet in elevation and then rise to peaks over 7,000 feet moving north. At the Arctic Divide, the elevations reserve and become a tundra that stretches to the Arctic Ocean.

People seek a remote, backcountry experience in the national park. Backpackers and river runners explore the park from mid-June through September. However, temperatures can get down to -20 to -50 degrees Fahrenheit from November to March, keeping humans away. There are no services in the park, so any visitor must be self-sufficient. 

So how do you get into a place with no roads or trails? By foot or via airplane. There are several small airlines in Fairbanks that provide transportation to the park.

Morton Road Trip Rating: 10/10

#2. Catch Some Fish at the Local Creeks

Fishing in Coldfoot, Alaska, is popular among residents and visitors alike. If you ask a local where to fish, they might direct you to the best spot. People who fish in the creeks regularly know where to go, so you don’t come home empty-handed.

Grayling is the most common species in local creeks and hike-in lakes around Coldfoot. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game also provides a detailed list and map of creeks and rivers along the Dalton Highway. This will come in handy in Coldfoot and on your drive to or from the town.

First, you need to obtain a fishing license. You can buy a permit online or at any store with outdoor supplies, such as Walmart or Fred Meyers. Also, dress for standing outside for an extended period, and bring waders. Creeks in Northern Alaska aren’t warm if you fall in, so bring towels and a change of warm clothes just in case.

Morton Road Trip Rating: 8/10

RVing in Coldfoot Alaska. Go fishing in Coldfoot Alaska. Get a fishing permit.
Go fishing in Coldfoot, Alaska, but don’t forget to get a permit!

#3. See the Northern Lights

You can see the northern lights, also known as the aurora borealis, between August and April. Coldfoot, Alaska, is an excellent place to be, as the further north you are, the greater chance you have to witness the wonder. Of course, we can’t guarantee you’ll see them, but given the right conditions, you just might!

So what are the northern lights? They’re an astronomical phenomenon called polar lights. The scientific name is aurora borealis. It creates shafts or curtains of colored light that become visible in the night sky. As ions or atoms energize when they collide with the atmosphere, they create a magnetic force, which displays the bright colors and shapes of the northern lights.   

The main auroral band usually crosses in an arc north of the Alaska Range or north of Fairbanks. For this reason, you could have an even greater chance of seeing the northern lights in Coldfoot.

Morton Road Trip Rating: 10/10

Northern Lights In Alaska, Chena Hot Springs & Ice Museums | Go North Ep 17
Watch our northern lights experience on our Coldfoot Alaska flight/bus tour

#4. Refuel at the Coldfoot Truck Stop

The Coldfoot Truck Stop is iconic. Iditarod dog musher Dick Mackey and his wife Kathy opened the truck stop in 1981. Today, it also has a cafe and a post office. It’s still cool to send a postcard with a stamp from within the Arctic Circle. 

Along with enjoying some fun history at the truck stop, you’ll find it’s also practical and necessary to fuel up! Located at mile 175 on the Dalton Highway, it’s a welcome relief for travelers. While fuel is expensive this far up the highway, it’s the last option for 240 miles if you’re traveling north to Deadhorse.

Morton Road Trip Rating: 7/10

parked at coldfoot alaska store
Parked at the Coldfoot Truck Stop.

#5. Enjoy Some Exhibits at the Visitor’s Center

The Arctic Interagency Visitor’s Center is a partnership between the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Together they host fascinating and educational exhibits. You can learn about the Arctic Circle, the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, wildlife, and more. The center also offers films, interpretative presentations, and guided walks.  

It’s at the visitor’s center that you can obtain backcountry orientation for Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve and bear barrel rentals. They also provide hunting and fishing information and trip planning assistance. In addition, there’s a bookstore in the center with various Alaska content. Entrance is free, and the visitor’s center is open from July 1 to mid-September. 

Morton Road Trip Rating: 9/10

#6. Hike the Coldfoot-Chandalar Trail

Shaped in the gold rush era, the entire Coldfoot-Chandalar Lake Trail is 60 miles long. Miners followed the trail to get from their camp in Coldfoot, Alaska, to new diggings along Slate Creek. You’ll get to take in the inspiring landscapes inside the Arctic Circle on the trail while thinking of trekkers hoping to find gold. 

It’s an excellent option for backpacking and camping along the way if you want to complete the whole thing. Otherwise, you could do a few miles of the trail in one day.

Morton Road Trip Rating: 8/10

RVing in Coldfoot Alaska Coldfoot-Chandalar Lake Trail hiking in Alaska
The Coldfoot-Chandalar Lake Trail is perfect for hiking and camping while in Coldfoot, Alaska.

#7. Float the Koyukuk River

Go for a float on the Koyukuk River and increase your chances of seeing wildlife and birds on the shore, all while taking in the Brooks Mountain range and the Gates of the Arctic. The clear river flows south through a glacially carved valley. 

The only way to access the start of the float is by flying in. Alaska Ultra Sport offers a river trip down the North Fork of the Koyukuk, where you can float on a raft or double folding kayak if you’re an experienced paddler. They transport you from Coldfoot via bush plane to the put-in point. The entire excursion, which is available June-August,  is eight days long and approximately 90 miles at $3500 per person. 

Morton Road Trip Rating: 9/10

RVing in Coldfoot Alaska. Take a bush plan. The Anaktuvuk Pass to see Nunamiut Alaskan Native community
See Alaska from the skies when you take a bush plane to a remote Alaskan settlement.

#8. Take a Bush Plane to a Remote Alaskan Settlement

One of the most memorable ways to see Alaska is by bush plane. You get views for miles, and the thrill of being where so few have gone is fantastic. Coldfoot Camp offers excursions to a remote Alaskan settlement via bush plane. 

The Anaktuvuk Pass adventure takes you to some of the most remote portions of the Arctic Circle. Anaktuvuk is an Alaskan Native community that you can only access by plane. The residents of Anaktuvuk Pass are almost all Nunamiut, the mountain Eskimos who used to journey every season from the Brooks Mountains to the Arctic coastline. Their diet revolved around the migrating herds of caribou.

Upon arrival to the village from Coldfoot, a local host provides a one-hour walking tour of the area. You’ll learn about the history and local culture for $299 per person. You can book flights from June through August.

Morton Road Trip Rating: 10/10

Anaktuvuk Pass to Coldfoot Alaska over the Brooks Range

#9. Rent a Fat Bike and Explore

You can explore on a bike in Coldfoot, Alaska, although a bicycle with regular tires might not do the trick on the rough terrain. Consider renting a fat tire bike to sightsee without worrying about a flat. 

We recommend renting a bike in Fairbanks, which has several rental shops. Goldstream Sports has fat tire bike rentals and e-bike rentals. They typically offer summer deals, and you can find them at 711 Sheep Creek Road, Fairbanks, AK 99709.

Morton Road Trip Rating: 7/10

Should You Visit Coldfoot Alaska?

We highly recommend visiting Coldfoot, Alaska. The journey there is just as good as the town itself. If you want to experience the Dalton Highway and view the Brooks Mountains, Coldwater is a perfect stop along the way. Plus, you get to say you were in the Arctic Circle!  

Will you be RVing in Alaska soon? If so, we hope you make your way up to this destination. We can pretty much guarantee that it will be memorable–bumpy roads and all! 

Alaska offers many different landscapes and ecosystems. With so much to see, sometimes it’s the most remote places that capture a traveler. Coldfoot has that kind of vibe, and we can’t wait to hear about your experiences!

What do you want to do first in Alaska? Drop a comment below.

northern lights behind alaska pipeline

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About Mortons on the Move

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of The RVers, producers of “Go North” on Amazon Prime, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for Hwy.co and an Arizona travel guide.

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