Coldfoot, Alaska Visitor Guide
Coldfoot is a small community located in the Brooks Range in northern Alaska, along the Dalton Highway. Once a gold-mining town, Coldfoot now serves as a stopping point for travelers on the highway and a base for exploring the stunning wilderness of the region. This visitor guide provides essential information on how to get to Coldfoot, things to do, the area’s history, RV and camping information, and annual festivals and events.
Coldfoot is located at approximately 67.2500° N latitude and 150.1833° W longitude.
Getting to Coldfoot from Anchorage
Coldfoot is accessible by car from Anchorage, but be prepared for a long and remote drive. The most direct route is approximately 570 miles (917 kilometers) and takes about 12 hours, depending on road conditions and stops along the way.
1. From Anchorage, head north on the Glenn Highway (AK-1) toward Palmer.
2. At Glennallen, continue onto the Richardson Highway (AK-4) heading north.
3. Near Fairbanks, merge onto the Mitchell Expressway (AK-3) and continue north.
4. After about 84 miles (135 kilometers), turn left onto the Elliott Highway (AK-2) and continue northwest.
5. At the junction with the Dalton Highway (AK-11), turn right and head north.
6. Coldfoot is located at milepost 175 on the Dalton Highway.
Please note that the Dalton Highway is a mostly gravel road with limited services and cell reception. The highway is open year-round, but seasonal conditions may vary. Be prepared with a full tank of gas, extra food, water, and emergency supplies.
Things to Do
Coldfoot provides a variety of activities and attractions centered around the area’s natural beauty and remote location. Some popular things to do include:
Arctic Interagency Visitor Center
Stop by the Arctic Interagency Visitor Center to learn about the region’s history, wildlife, and recreational opportunities. The center offers interpretive exhibits, maps, and helpful staff to assist you in planning your adventures in the area.
Hiking and Wildlife Viewing
Coldfoot’s remote location in the Brooks Range offers excellent opportunities for hiking and wildlife viewing. Trails in the area range from short, easy walks to challenging backcountry treks. Look for moose, bears, caribou, Dall sheep, and various bird species as you explore the surrounding wilderness. Be prepared with proper gear, including bear spray, and practice Leave No Trace principles.
Northern Lights Viewing
During the fall and winter months, Coldfoot is an ideal location for viewing the aurora borealis, also known as the northern lights. The town’s remote location away from light pollution provides optimal conditions for observing this natural phenomenon. Warm clothing and patience are essential for a successful aurora-watching experience.
Exploring the Dalton Highway
Coldfoot serves as a stopping point on the Dalton Highway, a remote and scenic road that stretches over 400 miles (644 kilometers) from Livengood to Deadhorse near the Arctic Ocean. The highway offers unique opportunities to experience Alaska’s vast wilderness and view iconic landmarks such as the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and the Arctic Circle sign.
Coldfoot was established during the late 1800s as a gold-mining town. The settlement got its name because early prospectors reportedly got “cold feet” and left the area due to the harsh conditions. Coldfoot’s gold rush was short-lived, and by the early 1900s, the town was largely abandoned.
The construction of the Dalton Highway and the Trans-Alaska Pipeline in the 1970s brought new life to the community. Today, Coldfoot serves primarily as a fuel and service stop for truckers and tourists traveling the highway, with a small year-round population.
RV and Camping Information
Coldfoot has limited RV and camping options available:
Coldfoot Camp offers basic accommodations, including a few RV sites without hookups, and tent camping areas. Amenities include restrooms, showers, and a restaurant. Be aware that the facilities may be limited, especially during the off-season.
Dispersed camping is available on public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in the surrounding area. Be sure to follow Leave No Trace principles, practice proper food storage to minimize wildlife encounters, and respect local regulations.
Annual Festivals and Events
Coldfoot does not have any major annual festivals or events due to its remote location and small population. However, the nearby Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge offer a variety of seasonal events and ranger-led programs, such as guided hikes and interpretive talks. Check with the Arctic Interagency Visitor Center for a schedule of events during your visit.
When visiting Coldfoot, it’s essential to be prepared for the remote nature of the area and the potential for unpredictable Alaskan weather. Carry extra food, water, and warm clothing in case of emergencies, and always let someone know your travel plans. By taking these precautions and respecting the natural environment and local communities, you’ll be able to fully enjoy the unique character, rich history, and beautiful surroundings of Coldfoot, Alaska.
Additional Activities and Attractions
One of the best ways to appreciate the vastness and beauty of the Brooks Range and the Arctic region is by taking a flightseeing tour. Local air charter services offer plane and helicopter tours, providing incredible views of the surrounding mountains, glaciers, and wildlife. These tours can be customized based on your interests and may include stops at remote airstrips or wilderness lakes.
Coldfoot’s location near the Koyukuk River and other pristine waterways provides opportunities for fishing enthusiasts. Arctic grayling, northern pike, and sheefish are some of the fish species that can be targeted in the region. A valid Alaska fishing license is required, and you should familiarize yourself with local regulations, catch limits, and best practices for catch-and-release fishing.
During the winter months, Coldfoot and the surrounding area offer a variety of cold-weather recreational activities such as snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling. Be prepared for extreme cold and limited daylight, and always carry appropriate safety gear and supplies.
Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve
Coldfoot is situated near the southern boundary of Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, one of the most remote and least-visited national parks in the United States. The park encompasses over 8 million acres of pristine wilderness, including jagged peaks, vast valleys, and wild rivers. Access to the park is challenging and usually requires a combination of air travel, backpacking, or river travel. Guided trips and air charters are available through local outfitters.
Visiting Nearby Communities
While Coldfoot is a remote outpost with limited services, other small communities along the Dalton Highway offer unique opportunities for visitors to learn about life in northern Alaska. Wiseman, located about 15 miles (24 kilometers) north of Coldfoot, is a historic gold-mining town with a small year-round population. The community offers lodging, guided tours, and opportunities to learn about the area’s history and local culture.
When planning your visit to Coldfoot, keep in mind that services and amenities may be limited, and advance reservations are highly recommended for accommodations and guided tours. The Arctic environment can be challenging and unpredictable, but for those who are prepared and respectful of the natural surroundings, Coldfoot offers a truly unforgettable Alaskan experience.