When Sandy and I began discussing plans for our Alaska trip next summer, one of the things we really wanted to do was cross the Arctic Circle and make it all the way to the Arctic Ocean. Since we were not able to make this trip during our first Alaska/Canada adventure in 2016, it ranked high on our priority list for 2021.

Dalton Highway
A view of the Dalton Highway

There are two overland routes that reach the Arctic Ocean. The first is via the 740 KM (460-mile) Dempster Highway from Dawson City, Yukon to Inuvik in Canada’s Northwest Territories and then reaching the Arctic Ocean at Tuktoyaktuk via the 147 KM (91-mile) Inuvik – Tuktoyaktuk Highway. The second option is the 414-mile (666 KM) Dalton Highway that was a central character in the TV series Ice Road Truckers. The Dalton runs from just north of Fairbanks to Deadhorse, Alaska, near the Arctic Ocean and the origin of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline at the Prudhoe Bay Oil Fields.

Dempster Highway
The Dempster Highway

Both routes offer beautiful scenery, plentiful wildlife, and wide-open spaces. What they don’t offer are good roads or much in the way of services. Although some folks have done so, large recreational vehicles are not recommended on either of these roads. So, if not in the RV, how do we get there?

Dalton Highway Map

Actually there are several options available to those who want to make this trip.

First, and probably one of the most popular ways is to take a van or bus tour from one of the Alaskan or Canadian outfitters that offers them. Although this is obviously a great option for many people, the idea of sitting for hours in a van, only stopping for scheduled stops, hopping out for quick photo-ops at the Arctic Circle and Arctic Ocean, then doing the same thing all over again in reverse, just didn’t appeal. Besides, Sandy gets carsick.  That’s one of the main reasons we didn’t make this type of trip in 2016.

Another option is to drive your own vehicle and stay in the few lodgings available along either these routes, but the motel stays just don’t appeal to our sense of adventure, our budget or our dog.  We need pet-friendly accommodations.

GoNorth RV Rentals

A more interesting option that we discovered is the possibility of renting a truck camper or small Class C motorhome to make the journey. This did have some appeal to us, but the thought of driving a “strange” vehicle on less than optimum roads was a little worrisome. The cost was another factor, as was the rental term (we would have to rent the vehicle for longer than we would actually need it). However, this option DID get our wheels turning…

If a truck camper is what we need to facilitate us doing a trip or two like this on our schedule, and in our style, we already have half of that equation hooked-up behind our motorhome. Would the cost of outfitting our GMC Canyon with a camper shell, rooftop tent, or slide-in truck camper compare favorably to what we would spend on a rental or tour? AND give us something we could put to good use on a permanent basis?

Our initial research shows that this is a feasible, if bold, idea although it doesn’t seem like something many folks have done. Are we pioneers?

So we started to look at equipment.  There are so many options and just as many price ranges. Did you know that you could get a well-appointed slide-in truck camper for a midsize truck like our GMC Canyon? (I didn’t!) 


Over the next few months we will be exploring those options; visiting dealers, speaking with and even meeting (if the pandemic allows) with manufacturers, overland camping groups, and anyone else who might have pursued a similar project.

We invite you to follow along on our quest to add some adventure to our adventures. 🙂 Please share your tips, advice, resources, etc. Especially if you know of someone as crazy as us doing something similar.

Happy trails!

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