Anchorage to Fairbanks Road Trip Itinerary
Updated August 2022 | Originally written August 2022
This jampacked and adventure-loaded road trip gives a great glimpse of what Alaska has to offer in a short amount of time from high peaks to glaciers, and more.
The following Anchorage to Fairbanks road trip can make for a great add-on option for those that take an Inside Passage cruise from Seattle or Vancouver that end up in Anchorage or for any first-timer to Alaska.
The Best Time to take a Road Trip from Anchorage to Fairbanks
The best time of year to do a road trip in Alaska is the summer months of June, July, and August as the weather is best and it’s warm enough for camping. Unfortunately, this also coincides with the peak travel months in Alaska, so you can expect accommodation and car rental costs to be higher.
A great shoulder season month to consider is September as the tourism season is dwindling down and costs start to drop. Plan to dress a bit warmer to take advantage of the smaller crowds and savings. May is also another good shoulder month to consider in the springtime for the same reasons.
Winter visits between October and April are generally not a good time to take on the road trip between Anchorage and Fairbanks due to ice and snow hazards on the road, dangerously cold temperatures (think breakdowns), and many services being shut down outside major cities and towns (hotels, restaurants, shops, even some fuel stations).
Renting a Car in Alaska for the Anchorage to Fairbank Road Trip
There are heaps of rental car options to choose from for your Anchorage to Fairbanks road trip.
If you are looking to stay in hotels the entire trip you can likely get away with a smaller car (more fuel efficient too!). Those that plan to camp may want to opt for something a bit leger like an SUV.
A great place to start comparing rates is Rentalcars.com.
Anchorage to Fairbanks Road Trip Day 1: Arrive in Anchorage
As many flights arrive in Anchorage in the late night or early morning, so grab your rental car from the airport and head to a hotel in Anchorage to have a rest before using this first day to explore what Alaska’s biggest city has to offer.
Great options for things to do in Anchorage include the Anchorage Museum, hiking up Flattop, walking the Coastal Trail, or just roaming around downtown Anchorage for some shopping and dining. A good thing to do today in addition to sightseeing would be to head to a department store to grab any odds and ends you may need for your road trip.
Where to Stay in Anchorage
Anchorage has the widest array of accommodation options in Alaska. I would recommend selecting a hotel in the downtown area to be close to attractions, although the Spenard area near the airport is also not a bad option. Know that there isn’t a great array of cheap accommodations in Alaska (aside from camping).
Best Restaurants in Anchorage
Anchorage to Fairbanks Road Trip Day 2: Drive to Seward
Grab breakfast before you head out of Anchorage (Bear Tooth Grill or Snowcity are two personal favorites!) and hit the road toward Seward. The journey today will take about 2 hours 30 minutes total driving time for the 130 mile jaunt, but plan for the trip to take several more hours as there are countless scenic stops along the Seward Highway on your way.
Some recommended stops on your drive to Seward today are:
- Beluga Point
- Bird Creek
- Portage and Byron Glaciers
- The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
- Turnagain Pass
- Kenai Lake
- Exit Glacier
Do take caution while driving the Seward Highway as it is one of Alaska’s most notoriously dangerous roads. Note that you must drive with headlights on at all times and much of the route includes double traffic fines.
Plan your route: Anchorage to Seward Map
Where to Stay in Seward
If you’re looking to stay in Seward on the cheap, your best bet is to reserve a camping site (if you’ve packed along camping gear). Seward does have a few hotel options but if planning to visit in the high season months of June-August make sure to book well in advance as accommodations tend to book out.
Best Restaurants in Seward
Seward has heaps of dining options despite the town’s small size. The Cookery, Seabean Cafe, and Seasalt Bar & Grill are all great options. Of course, there are a scattering of shops selling fish and chips around Seward for those wanting to get in on some Alaskan halibut or rockfish.
Anchorage to Fairbanks Road Trip Day 3: Explore Seward
Located on Resurrection Bay, Seward is one of Alaska’s best destinations for sealife viewing and glacier cruises. Take today to explore the best of what Seward has to offer and hop on a full or half-day Kenai Fjords glacier and wildlife cruise.
Don’t fancy cruising the bay? Other great things to do in Seward include the Seward Sealife Center, roam around the Seward Harbor, take a sea kayaking tour of Resurrection Bay, check out the beach at Lowell Point, go on a flightseeing tour, trek up Mount Marathon, or kayak and hike to a WWII army fort at Caine’s Head.
Have extra days to spare and are feeling adventurous? Head out to beautiful Kayaker’s Cove.
Anchorage to Fairbanks Road Trip Day 4: Road Trip to Talkeetna
Today is a long drive day heading back up and past Anchorage to the funky little town of Talkeetna with a drive time of 4 hours and 20 minutes and 240 miles distance.
If there were any stops along the way between Anchorage and Seward you may have skipped on your way down, this would be a perfect time to make stops. Once you hit Anchorage, grab lunch and head north on the Glenn Highway toward the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, and then continue along the Parks Highway from Wasilla onwards.
Once you reach Talkeetna, make sure to explore Talkeetna’s historic core and pay a visit to the Talkeetna Museum. If you have a bit of money to splurge with I would 100% recommend taking a Denali flightseeing tour from Talkeetna as it is always a crowd favorite among visitors and locals alike.
Plan your route: Seward to Talkeetna map
Where to Stay in Talkeetna
Talkeetna is a popular place to visit for both tourists and locals alike, so much like Seward, make sure and book accommodations well in advance if visiting in the summer.
Best Restaurants in Talkeetna
Anchorage to Fairbanks Road Trip Day 5-6: Explore Denali National Park
Today, on day 5 of your Anchorage to Fairbanks road trip, continue another 2 hours 30 minutes, and 150 miles to reach the home to North America’s tallest peak, Denali National Park. I would recommend an early start from Talkeetna to get the most out of your time in and around Denali.
Plan your route: Talkeetna to Denali map
Day 6 on the road trip is also set aside for exploring Denali as well, giving you two almost full days to see the best of what the national park has to offer.
Note that you cannot drive personal vehicles on the Denali National Park Road beyond Savage Creek at mile 15 (aside from during the Denali Road Lottery, if you’ve won a have a ticket), so the best way of seeing the park is to hop on one of the park buses.
There is a $15 per person entrance fee to Denali National Park, good for 7 consecutive days
Things to do in Denali National Park: Bus Tours
Both narrated and non-narrated buses ply the national park road. Narrated bus tours are a great option for first-timers to Alaska as the bus will make scenic stops along the way and the drivers are usually pretty great about knowing where to spot wildlife. Narrated bus tickets range from $80-194 per person depending on how far into the park you go.
The non-narrated shuttle buses serve more like shuttles and are a bit cheaper, so if you have a day hike you’d like to do and are a more independent traveler then this may be a good option for you.
Do note that in 2022 the Denali National Park Road remains closed beyond mile 43 due to the Pretty Rocks Landslide
Other Things to do in and around Denali
Aside from the buses, there are still heaps of things to do in and around Denali, here are just a few suggestions:
- Mount Healy Overlook hike
- Denali Kennel and dog sled
- Whitewater rafting on the Nenana River
- Stoney Hill Overlook
- Triple Lakes hike
Where to Stay in Denali
There are no hotels within Denali National Park, so if you are wanting to sleep in the park you will need to camp. Otherwise, you can stay in the little tourist town of Denali Park just outside the national park. You could also opt to stay in nearby Cantwell or Healy which are both short drives from the park entrance.
- Camping (it’s advisable to book campsites within the park in advance)
- McKinley Creekside Cabins
- Denali Cabins
- Grande Denali Lodge
Best Restaurants in Denali
In Denali Park mentioned above in the hotels’ section, there are a scattering of restaurants, though do note that many of them close down for winter after Labor Day Weekend and do not re-open until Memorial Day Weekend. 229 Parks Restaurant & Tavern, Prospector’s Pizza, the Salmon Bake, and the Overlook are all great options right in town within walking distance of most of the accommodation options.
If you end up staying over in Healy, don’t miss the original 49th State Brewery.
Anchorage to Fairbanks Road Trip Day 7: Drive to and Explore Fairbanks
The total drive time for the last leg from Anchorage to Fairbanks will take you about 2 hours and 15 minutes to cover the last 130 miles between Denali and Fairbanks. Shortly after departing Denali, you’ll pass through the small town of Healy- if you happen to get a late start from Denali I would recommend popping into 49th State Brewery for lunch.
Another popular stop en route to Fairbanks is the town of Nenana. It’s most well-known among Alaskans for the yearly Nenana Ice Classic in which people buy tickets to guess when a tower on the Tanana River will sink each spring. For visitors the Alaska Railroad Museum and Nenana Visitor Center.
After you depart Nenana and near Fairbanks, the Parks Highway will start ascending into the hills. Here you will find several scenic pull-offs great for photo ops as you inch closer to Fairbanks.
Once in Fairbanks take some time to explore around town if you have time to get a jump start on all the things there are to do there. If you happen to visit between late August and late April, you may want to try to head outside Fairbanks tonight to try your luck at seeing the northern lights.
Plan your route: Denali to Fairbanks map
Where to Stay in Fairbanks
Fairbanks offers up quite a few accommodation options, though it’s slim picking in the budget category.
Best Restaurants in Fairbanks
Anchorage to Fairbanks Road Trip Day 8: Explore Fairbanks
Take today to check out what all the Golden Heart City has to offer. Some great things to do and see in Fairbanks include the downtown area, the Chena Riverwalk, if visiting with kids paying a visit to Pioneer Park, or check out one of Fairbanks many museums including the Fountainhead Auto Museum, the Museum of the North, or the Morris Thompson Cultural Center.
If you’d like to get outside of Fairbanks there is the Santa Claus House in nearby North Pole or take a soak in Chena Hotsprings.
Anchorage to Fairbanks Road Trip Day 9: Return to Anchorage
While it is possible to fly into Anchorage and home from Fairbanks (or vice-versa) what I have found is that rental car companies charge an extortionate rate in Alaska to pick and drop off cars in different cities, which is why I have included a return drive to Anchorage on this itinerary.
If driving directly back to Anchorage from Fairbanks you can plan for a roughly 6 hours 10 minute long drive to cover the 360 mile distance coming back the exact way you came up from Fairbanks.
Optionally, if you’d like to take a different route back to Anchorage for the option of different views, you may want to take the Richardson Highway out of Fairbanks and down to Delta Junction and then continue along the Glenn Highway back to Anchorage. This option takes about 7 hours 30 minutes and is 430 miles in distance.