If you are in the Fairbanks area and can spare a whole day/night for a great tour, you need to sign up for this one. Its something you should see and experience at least once. This tour was worth every cent and every minute of travel time. This was the "winter tour program" Arctic Circle/Dalton hwy/aurora viewing tour and the tour time was from 2:00 pm to about 4:00 am.
Note: I would not recommend driving on the Dalton Hwy yourself under any circumstances during winter for the following reasons A.) its a dangerous road made of gravel and ice, B.) no rental car company will allow you to drive on the Dalton (and probably the Eliot Hwy too) with a normal style rental car, C.) there is no cell phone coverage out there and you must rely on CB radios and SAT phones if you need to call out in an emergency, D.) There are almost no facilities of any kind along most of the road, E.) a tow from even the first few miles into the Dalton start at about $1K and can go up to $2 - 3K quickly from there. Its best to just take a tour with an experienced driver in a big vehicle that has emergency supplies and a CB radio and SAT phone. Leave the driving to them and just relax and enjoy!!!!
Jim was our driver that day and after pickup at the cultural center, we were well on our way by 2:00 pm. (Note: they do serve you a nice sandwich and snacks later that night, but I recommend that you eat a good lunch before the tour just to hold you until then). Jim was really entertaining and educated us about a lot of Dalton Hwy and Alaska facts. The time went by really quickly as we were having fun and watching some nice winter scenery from the van. We made a few stops at some scenic points along the way while it was daylight. It was strange to see truckers passing us like we were driving slow! Those guys go crazy fast and don't slow down for anything.
Much of the scenery was like a winter wonderland and it looked really nice as the sun was setting. The sun was almost down by the time we reached the Yukon river. Then after a while we reached the Arctic Circle and everyone took lots of pictures of the sign including some funny ones. Jim also gave us our Arctic Circle certificates so that made us feel like legitimate explorers! He also broke out the hot tea, coffee and hot chocolate for anyone that needed a little something warm to drink. By that time it was getting pretty cold and Jim estimated it to be about -20 to -25 F.
We then started the journey back and at about 10:45 pm Jim noticed the beginnings of an aurora band. We pulled over at the Yukon river stop and saw the band expand across the sky and then intensify, then streamers popping out and dancing every now and then ...very exiting!!!! We stayed there for a while then kept driving to the next pull off area down the road. The aurora was getting more intense and we got some nice views and pictures at that stop as well. This was the highlight of the trip for us. Even though the aurora activity was actually low that night with Kp = 0, we were still able to get a great show because we were were so far North of Fairbanks and the auroras were basically overhead. The people at our lodge back in Fairbanks did see a faint show that night but not nearly as good as we saw. Being this far North really helps your chances to see the auroras even when there is low activity, so if you want to see the lights and have a just a few days in Fairbanks, this tour is a great way to increase your odds of a successful viewing!
You need to do this tour!