There are an almost infinite number of great places to stop along the Alaska Highway. For those of you planning on traveling the Alaska Highway someday – or even if you’re just imagining a trip up the road – here are 6 of the sights you shouldn’t miss along the way!
[And remember, if you want to learn more about the Alaska Highway, we suggest you pick up our book, 101 Travel Bits: The Alaska Highway.]
1. Kiskatinaw Bridge
The Kiskatinaw Bridge is considered the last original Alaska Highway Bridge. The bridge was not built by the Army – who originally built the highway – but the civilian contractors who followed the Army to replace the military’s hastily-built bridges with more-permanent bridges. Although you can still drive across the Kiskatinaw Bridge, the Alaska Highway has been routed around it. Thus, getting to the Kiskatinaw Bridge requires a short detour from the road, but one which is well worth the few extra minutes it will add to your trip.
2. Sikanni Chief River Bridge
The Sikanni Chief River Bridge at Mile 159 of the Alaska Highway was the first permanent structure the U.S. Army built along the road. Like much of the Alaska Highway, the bridge was constructed by an African-American engineering battalion. In an era where the armed services remained segregated, much of the often unpleasant and unwanted task of building the Alaska Highway fell to African-American battalions. Throughout the building of the Alaska Highway, these soldiers proved more than worthy of the task given them, and are responsible for construction of major portions, if not a majority, of the highway. The soldiers who built the Sikanni Chief River Bridge completed their work in an amazingly short 72 hours.
Although the Alaska Highway had been routed around the Sikanni Chief River Bridge before the end of World War II, the original bridge stood unused for decades after that. During the summer of 1992, arsonists destroyed the historic, wooden bridge. Today, all that remains of the historic bridge are the metal stanchions that once held up its timber frame.
3. Muncho Lake
At Mile 436 (Historic Mile 456), one of the more unexpected sights along the Alaska Highway greets travelers: Muncho Lake. Despite being 2,700 feet above sea level, the lake is the same aqua color of the Caribbean Sea, and appears out-of-place in a part of the world where snow is a possibility any month of the year.
The portion of the Alaska Highway that passes Muncho Lake was one of the most difficult and expensive parts of the road to build during World War II, because its construction required significant excavation of the cliffs surrounding the lake. In addition to the cost for the road itself, additional costs were incurred because it became almost common for vehicles to tumble from the cliffs around the lake into the deep waters below.
4. Liard River Hot Springs
At Mile 478 (Historic Mile 496) of the Alaska Highway, the Liard River Hot Springs are a chance for weary travelers to get off of the road and soak in their natural, warm waters. Nicknamed the Liard Tropical Valley, some of the first records of the hot springs stated that the area was home not only to monkeys and parrots, but to dinosaurs. Although you won’t actually find monkeys, parrots, or dinosaurs there, the hot springs do host a large amount of flora and fauna more typical to climates much further south. Heated by the hot spring water, the warmer air near the warm spring-fed ponds allows plants to grow here that would never otherwise be able to stand the cold, winter temperatures.
[More info on the Liard River Hot Springs]
5. The Signpost Forest
On the outskirts of the town of Watson Lake at Mile 613 (Historic Mile 635) sits one of the most famous sights along the Alaska Highway: the Signpost Forest. During World War II, a lonely soldier repairing signs created a sign on a signpost pointing the way to his home back in the Lower 48. Other soldiers added signs to his signpost, pointing the way to their own hometowns. When tourists hit the Alaska Highway after the end of the war, they continued the tradition. Today, approximately 75,000 signs sit on signposts along this stretch of the Alaska Highway, directing travelers to places across the world.
[More info on the Signpost Forest]
6. Canada-Alaska Border
Marked by several signs and monuments at Mile 1186 (Historic Mile 1221) sits the border between Canada and Alaska. Along the border, a twenty-foot wide swath has been cut through the forest, with ten feet of the cleared land in Canada and ten feet in the United States. This cut dates to 1918, when crews marked the border like this not just along the Canada-Alaska border, but along the border of Canada and the Lower 48 as well. With 1,350 miles of the 5,525 mile long borders being forested, this was not a small task. The border crossing on the Alaska Highway provides one of the best places to see this cut through the wilderness not just along the border of Canada and Alaska, but anywhere along the entire long length of the Canada-United States border.
[Did you like these sights? Find many more sights to visit along the Alaska Highway in 101 Travel Bits: The Alaska Highway]