Alaska’s Interior region was predominantly inhabited by Athabascan peoples prior to the Alaska Gold Rush in the late 19th century. In Fairbanks, known as the Golden Heart City, you can tour gold mines and learn to pan for your own treasure. After the Gold Rush, the region was sustained by military bases and then the oil boom. Now tourism is an important industry in this Alaska region as visitors travel to experience the Interior’s rich history, spanning from prehistoric to modern times.
Fairbanks is located under the “Aurora Belt,” making it one of the best locations in the world to see the Northern Lights. On average, the Northern Lights are visible 243 days per year, although an Aurora Borealis vacation is best planned for dark nights from October to early April. The outdoor mineral springs at Chena Hot Springs Resort make it another “hot” winter destination.
Nature hiking in the Interior is another great activity and Denali National Park is the most popular destination in the region. Denali, the tallest mountain in North America, is the centerpiece of the park at 20,320 feet tall. Visitors to Denali National Park are also in search of Alaska’s Big Five – grizzly bears, moose, caribou, Dall sheep, and wolves. Most travelers stay at the entrance to the park, but there are also lodges deep inside Denali for more adventurous hikers.
The Interior of Alaska is accessible by train, motor coach, car, and airplane. The Alaska Railroad serves Denali and Fairbanks daily in the summer and weekly in the winter. Motor coaches bring many visitors to Denali National Park from Seward, Anchorage, and Whittier. Fairbanks has Alaska’s second largest airport with daily jet service to Anchorage and the Lower 48 states year-round.
The main highways in the region are the Parks Highway, which runs from Fairbanks south by Denali to Wasilla, the Richardson Highway from Fairbanks south to Valdez, and the Alaska Highway from Fairbanks southeast to the Canadian border (also known as the Alcan Highway). The Elliott, Steese, and Dalton Highways run north from Fairbanks but are unpaved and not suited for rental cars. The Denali Highway, which cuts west from Paxson to Denali National Park, is also unpaved. Few car rental agencies will allow their vehicles on these dirt roads. The Top of the World Highway takes you northeast from Tok to the Canadian border and Dawson City. While portions of this scenic and historic route are unpaved, we have obtained rental car waivers for our clients to experience this special part of Alaska’s Interior.