The Richardson Highway is Alaska’s oldest highway. In 1898 a trail was pushed from Valdez to Eagle in the Interior of Alaska. Residents had requested money from Congress to improve the trail but by the time approval came through, the gold production in the Eagle area had declined. The funds were used instead to improve the Fairbanks portion because of the Felix Pedro find in Fairbanks. Stampeders left the Valdez to Eagle trail near the Gakona River and followed the river to its head waters. Here they joined the Castner trail which paralleled the Gulkana river to its source and then across the Alaska Range. They then traveled down the Delta and Tanana Rivers to Fairbanks. Major Wilds P. Richardson worked to upgrade the trail to a wagon road in 1910 after the Fairbanks gold rush. It was made suitable for vehicles in the 1920s and paved in 1957.
The Richardson connects Valdez (mile 0) and Fairbanks (mile 364). The drive will take you through the spectacular and narrow Keystone Canyon and across the Thompson Pass where you will find Worthington Glacier, one of the few glaciers in the world that you can drive to. From Valdez to Delta Junction there are many opportunities to view the Alaska pipeline, which parallels the highway. Summits along the route are high, with the Thompson Pass peaking at 2,805 ft.
Copper Center is one of the oldest white communities in Alaska’s Interior and served the prospectors on their way to the Gold Rush.
Glennallen is the center of the Copper River Basin, one of Alaska’s best outdoor recreation areas.
Delta Junction is at the junction of the Alaska and Richardson Highways. It is also home to a permanent maintenance station for the Alyeska pipeline.
North Pole is one of Alaska’s most interesting communities. It is best known as the home of Santa Claus House.
Fairbanks has a diversified economy, with the military, tourism and the University of Alaska as key components. There is also oil, gas, gold and coal in the area.
The Wrangell St. Elias National Park is the largest National Park in the U.S. It can be accessed via the Edgerton Highway at mile 83 of the Richardson. The road to McCarthy is rough and challenging. From here you can explore the National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I recommend that you fly in with Wrangell Mountain Air. They offer daily scheduled air service and day tours to McCarthy-Kennicott from Chitna and Glennallen. 800-478-1160
mile 349.5 Badger Road is a 12 mile loop which rejoins the Richardson Highway at mile 357.
Glacier along the Richardson Hwy
Beautiful view along the highway
mile 346.7 Laurance Road. Chena Lake Recreation Area. 86 camp sites with bathrooms and dump station. Boat launch and picnic area, designated swimming area and rental of canoes, kayaks and row boats. Volleyball and basketball courts and playground. Chena Lake is stocked with salmon, rainbow trout, arctic char and grayling. 907-488-1655
mile 346 Chena Flood Channel.
mile 344.7 Moose Creek.
mile 343.5 Moose Creek Road
mile 341 Eielson Air Force Base. Built in 1943. Named for Carl Ben Eielson, famous Alaskan bush pilot.
mile 332.3 The Knotty Shop. A truly unique gift shop and museum.
mile 327.7 Little Salcha River.
mile 325.5 Community of Salcha.
mile 324.8 Munsons Slough and parking at south end of bridge.
mile 324.5 Parking.
mile 323.3 Salcha River State Recreation Site. 130 sites, boat launch, picnic area, toilets and water. Fishing for grayling and king salmon is good in the Salcha River. Fee area.
mile 322.2 Salcha River Lodge.
mile 321.5 Harding Lake State Recreation Area is a highly developed recreation area 45 miles
southeast of Fairbanks (1.5-mile side road to campground on north side of Harding Lake) off the Richardson Highway. Harding Lake, is one of the few natural lakes near Fairbanks that can be reached by road, it is a
favorite spot to swim, boat and fish. There are 90 camp sites for vehicles, a walk-in group camping area, toilets, water and dump station. There is also a large picnic and beach area with dressing rooms, a baseball
field, volleyball court, horseshoe pits and campfire area.
Resident ranger. Pike and lake trout. Harding Lake was a brief stopover for Will Rogers & Wiley Post on their ill-fated flight to Barrow, Alaska. Be sure to bring along your mosquito repellent!
mile 313 Parking.
mile 310 Parking.
mile 306 Rest area beside Birch Lake. Toilets.
mile 305.2 Birch Lake State Recreation Site is reached by
turning north onto the gravel road for 1/4 mile. 17 camp sites, picnic area, toilets, swimming. Boat launch, excellent rainbow and trout fishing (boat recommended).
mile 304.3 Parking.
mile 298.2 Parking.
mile 297.6 Scenic view, parking on west side of highway. Access road to Tanana River.
mile 296.5 Parking with view of Tanana River.
mile 295.3 Banner Creek, historic placer gold stream.
mile 294 Parking.
mile 289.7 Parking.
mile 288 Scenic view.
mile 286.7 Shaw Creek.
Large parking area and boat launch
good early spring and fall grayling fishing. Picnic table. View of Mt. Deborah (12,339 ft.) to the west, Mt. Hayes (13,832 ft.) to the southwest and Mt. Hess (11,940 ft.) between the two former peaks. All are a part of the Alaska Range which spans southcentral Alaska in a sweeping 600-mile arc.
mile 280.4 Parking.
mile 277.8 Quartz Lake State Recreation Area, access via 3-mile side road. 87 camp sites, Facilities include two boat launches, a handicap accessible fishing dock, picnic sites, a picnic shelter, swimming area, beach volleyball court, water, and toilets.. Stocked with rainbow, trout and cohoe. Boat recommended. Fee area. There are 12 camp sites at Lost Lake. Facilities include picnic area, water and toilets. Lost Lake
is not stocked but its small picnic area is a favorite spot for those who want to enjoy the area's scenery and wildlife.
mile 275.4 Big Delta Bridge and Trans-Alaska Pipeline
Bridge elevated 40 ft. above the Tanana River, this 1200-ft. bridge is the second
longest on the route. (The longest crosses the Yukon River north of Fairbanks). Good view of the Alaska Range to the south. Large parking area at east end of bridge.
mile 275 Tanana Trading Post and Big Delta State Historical Park.
Rika’s Roadhouse at Big Delta State Historical Park. The Valdez-to-Fairbanks trail brought travelers to the banks of the Tanana River, where they crossed by ferry. John Hajdukovich, a Yugoslavian entrepreneur, bought the land along with a fur trading post in 1909 making the Roadhouse over 100 years old.
The two-story roadhouse, built of logs became a year-round oasis for hunters, trappers, prospectors and travelers as well as local Athabascans and homesteaders. However, John had many other interests, including the responsibility of US Game Commissioner. Sitting still and running a roadhouse did not appeal to him so he simply asked guests to make themselves at home and leave some money on the table. He ran it in this way until 1918, when finally a dependable, hard-working Swede named Rika Wallen was hired to take over.
Learn more of this fascinating story by visiting the Roadhouse, refresh yourself at the Restaurant and enjoy the gift shop. Open from mid May to mid September 10am - 5pm offering homemade soups, hot and cold sandwiches, salads, fruits, pie and ice cream. The gift shop specializes in local, Alaskan made items, including jewelry, knives, ulus, pens, hats and mittens, photography, historical local books and post cards, furs, food and snacks, and souvenirs and much more. Free admission to the park! 907-895-4201
mile 270.3 Alaska 7 Motel Comfort at a comfortable price; large clean rooms, private baths, satellite TV, refrigerator, courtesy coffee. 907-895-4848
ile 268.3 Clearwater State Recreation Site on Jack Warren Road, 11 miles km on
good road. Campground has 17 camp sites, picnic area, tables, toilets, water and boat launch. You can continue on this road 8.5 miles to the Alaska Highway mile 1415/km 2277.