Richardson Highway

The Richardson Highway is Alaska’s oldest highway and is the only highway that connects Fairbanks to Valdez. Valdez  is mile 0 of the Richardson Highway and Fairbanks is 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.

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 gold discovery in Fairbanks. 

Richardson Highway History

Stampeders left the Valdez to Eagle trail near the Gakona River and followed the river to its headwaters. 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.

For a complete list of Things to do in Alaska, visit our Things To Do section. For information on RV & tent camping, visit our section on camping in Alaska. To determine when you should plan your trip to Alaska, visit our page on the best time to visit Alaska. Finally, many visitors to the north want to experience the Northern Lights, so we’ve put together  a page of detailed information on how and when to see the Northern Lights in Alaska.

Richardson Highway Highlights

Drive the Richardson Highway
Richardson Highway in Alaska

Valdez

Valdez Alaska sits nestled on the shores of Prince William Sound. It is famous for being the terminus of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. However, Valdez is much more than an industrial town. It is one of the most beautifully scenic towns in all of Alaska. Visitors will find incredible opportunities for sea kayaking, hiking, fishing and camping.

Accommodations & Camping in Valdez

Things To Do in Valdez

Kennicott and McCarthy in Wrangell St-Elias National Park

At mile 83 of the Richardson Highway you can turn on the Edgerton Highway to Chitna at the edge of the Wrangell St-Elias National Park. You can drive from Chitna to Kennicott and McCarthy, but the road is rough, and it’s not recommended. We suggest taking a flight from Chitna or Glennallen into McCarthy with Wrangell Mountain Air.

Copper Center

Copper Center is famous for it’s fishing. It’s a small community with plenty of visitors each summer who come to fish for massive King Salmon.

Glennallen

Glennallen, at mile 115 is the junction with the Glenn Highway to Anchorage. Anchorage is 187 miles from the the junction with the Richardson Highway. Glennallen saw an influx of gold seekers headed for the Klondike Gold Fields in 1898. This alternate route to the Klondike was chosen to avoid tariffs that were being charged by the Canadian Government, but it failed as the gold seekers still had to enter Canada to get to Dawson City.

Tok Cut-off Highway

The Tok Cut-off is at mile 129 of the Richardson Highway. This 125 mile road connects to Tok, Alaska and the Alaska Highway.

Denali Highway

The Denali Highway starts at Paxson, mile 186 of the Richardson Highway. The 135 mile Denali Highway connects to the Parks Highway, 28 miles south of Denali National Park. This highway is mostly gravel and many rental car agencies do not allow their vehicles to drive on the highway.

Delta Junction

Delta Junction is famous as being the end of the Alaska Highway. it is located at mile 266 of the Richardson Highway and mile 1422 of the Alaska Highway. Delta Junction was formerly known as Buffalo Center because it was selected as the governments buffalo importation program. Now there is a 90,000 acre plot of land with over 500 free roaming buffalo.

Mile 346.7

North Pole Alaska

At mile 349 Richardson Highway is one of Alaska’s most unique communities: North Pole. Named to honor the home of Santa Claus, this small town embraces the Christmas spirit year round. Be sure to top and visit Santa Claus House and meet his Reindeer.

Fairbanks

Fairbanks is the second largest city in Alaska. It has a lot of amazing attractions for visitors and is not only a destination in the summer but the winter as well. Winter visitors mainly come to see the Northern Lights. Being situated just south of the Arctic Circle, Fairbanks is home to many Northern Lights tours and activities.

Accommodations & Camping in Fairbanks

Things to Do in Fairbanks

Richardson Highway FAQS

Is the Richardson Highway Paved?

Yes the Richardson Highway is paved for the entire drive from Valdez to Fairbanks.

What is there to see between Fairbanks and Valdez?

There is plenty to see and do on this scenic drive on the Richardson Highway. 

  • Stop at Santa Clause House in North Pole, Alaska.
  • Visit the end of the Alaska Highway marker in Delta Junction.
  • Explore Wrangell St-Elias National Park and visit Kennicott and McCarthy ghost towns.
  • Go fishing for massive King Salmon in Copper Center.

What mile of the Richardson Highway is Delta Junction?

Delta Junction is at mile 266 of the Richardson Highway.

How long is the Richardson Highway?

The Richardson Highway is 364 miles long.

When was the Richardson Highway Built?

The Richardson Highway began as a pack trail in the late 1800’s for gold seekers. It was upgraded to a wagon road in 1910 and made suitable for vehicles in 1920. It was finally paved in 1957. The Richardson Highway is known as Alaska’s first highway.

Who is the Richardson Highway Named after?

The Richardson Highway was named after Major Wilds P. Richardson, who was the Alaska Roads Commissioner

What are the Richardson Highway Road conditions?

The Richardson Highway is generally in good condition, but it still has bumps and rough patches, so drive cautiously. For the most current road conditions, visit: https://511.alaska.gov/

Map of The Richardson Highway in Alaska

The Richardson Highway maps below show the highway in 2 sections. The first map shows the beginning of the highway at Valdez (mile 0) up to Paxson, which is the start of the Denali Highway

The second map of the Richardson shows from Paxson to Delta Junction and on to Fairbanks. Delta Junction is the end of the Alaska Highway. From Delta Junction to Fairbanks, the Highway number changes from Highway #4 to Highway #2.

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