Destruction Bay: The Worst Part of the Alaska Highway

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Cars backed up on the Alaska Highway during the Destruction Bay portion of the drive.

The rough and rugged drive on the Alaska Highway isn’t exactly a Sunday drive. Few spots along the way reveal this quite like Destruction Bay does.

This is one of the hardest parts of the entire trip. However, you didn’t come all this way to turn around now. Right?

Today, we’re discussing Destruction Bay and sharing some tips to help you along the way. Buckle up; it’s going to be a bumpy ride!

Let’s hit the road!

What Is Destruction Bay?

Destruction Bay is a remote stop along mile 1046.7 of the Alaska Highway. It sits in the southwest corner of the Yukon Territory, approximately 143 miles southwest of Whitehorse.

Travelers love the area’s natural beauty, the opportunity to spot wildlife, and access to Kluane National Park and Reserve. 

For many, it’s one of the final stops before reaching Alaska. However, the area is known for its terrible roads and the damage it can cause to vehicles. Frost heaves are common along paved road sections, which can become gravel with little notice. 

When RVers are referring to the rough roads on this portion of the Alaska Highway, they specifically mean between Destruction Bay, Yukon, Canada, and Tok, Alaska. This section of road has large portions that are unpaved, constant road work, and long stretches without fuel.

We were pretty nervous to tackle this part of the drive when we visited Alaska in the summer of 2023. We heard so many horrible stories from other RVers. After driving it ourselves, we can safely say it is definitely a bad road, however, it wasn’t much worse than the rest of the roads in the Yukon and Alaska.

Let’s dive into the history of Destruction Bay and share our tips on how to safely tackle driving from Destruction Bay to Tok!

View of Destruction Bay from the Alaska Highway.

Why Do They Call It Destruction Bay?

Despite what many think, the town doesn’t get its name from the destruction it can cause to your vehicle. It’s the result of the damage caused by a severe windstorm in the 1940s.

The destruction was so bad that it wiped out an entire camp that housed individuals constructing and maintaining the Alaska Highway.

As mentioned, the road conditions quickly change once you leave Destruction Bay. They’ve earned a reputation amongst travelers as being the worst part of the Alaska Highway. If you choose to make the trip, don’t say we didn’t warn you!

History of Destruction Bay

During World War II, the government saw the need for a more direct route from the United States to Alaska. This resulted in a partnership between the United States and Canadian governments to create the Alaska Highway.

As they made progress, they created a construction camp on the shores of Kluane Lake. It made for a convenient spot to house workers as they worked on this specific section.

Unfortunately, the previously mentioned windstorm severely damaged structures, equipment, and belongings. Workers jokingly nicknamed the area “Destruction Bay.”

Following World War II and the completion of the route, officials disbanded the camp. Some workers opted to stay, and the nickname became the official name. The name serves as a reminder of the residents’ strength and resilience to extreme and challenging conditions.

Today, this small community relies heavily on travelers and tourists passing through on their way to and from Alaska. Consider stopping here if a trip along the road is in your plans.

What Is the Alaska Highway?

The Alaska Highway runs 1,390 miles through British Columbia, the Yukon Territory, and into Alaska. You pass through incredible wilderness areas filled with mountains, forests, and other unforgettable views.

If you dream of driving to Alaska, it will likely require you to travel this treacherous road, including Destruction Bay.

It passes through numerous communities where you can stop, restock on supplies, and rest. If you want to take your time, there’s plenty to see and do. Just about everywhere you look, there will be something beautiful to see. Don’t be afraid to take it all in and fully appreciate the entire experience. 

View of the Alaska Highway.

Tips for Driving From Destruction Bay to Tok, Alaska

The trip from Destruction Bay to Tok, Alaska, can be overwhelming. In addition, it can test you in many ways. Here are our best tips from our trip on this intimidating road!

Leave Early

This was a long haul, and we knew that it would take longer than the 4 hours and 26 minutes Google estimated. Get plenty of rest the night before and hit the road early.

This can allow you plenty of time to snap a few pictures while you enjoy the view, grab a bite to eat, and navigate the rough road conditions.

Additionally, you will have an International Border Crossing during this drive. It’s always a good idea to pad extra time in to your driving day as you never know how busy the station might be.

When all was said and done, it took us around six hours. There were few pullouts, and travelers frequently used the ones available. So make sure you plan accordingly so the drive doesn’t feel longer because you get hangry. 

Cars approaching an International Border Crossing along the Alaska Highway.

Take Your Time 

While you may be hurrying to get the challenging part of the drive over, take your time. Driving through Destruction Bay is a part of the adventure.

Resisting the urge to be in a hurry can help alleviate stress and worries. With proper planning, you’ll know you have plenty of time to get to your destination.

Keep in Mind: We don’t recommend driving your RV at night, but sometimes you have to. Before getting behind the wheel, read these Safety Tips for Driving an RV at Night.

Drive Defensively

This long stretch of road is full of potholes, frost heaves, and construction work. To minimize damage to your vehicle, you must use your defensive driving skills.

It only takes one big pothole to cause severe damage that can land you on the side of the road. Conquer this section of the road as a team. Encourage everyone in the vehicle to watch for any signs of bad road conditions.

Expect a Wait

We came across a portion of the drive that was under serious construction. This resulted in us coming to a complete stop and waiting for a pilot vehicle to guide us through. It may be different by the time you make the trip, as the construction changes every year.

However, building time into your schedule can help if you encounter something similar.

Again, if you need another reason to leave as early as possible, now you have it. In addition to construction delays, wildlife can cross the road. This often causes cars to slow down to a crawl to capture pictures.

Cars backed up on the Alaska Highway at the Destruction Bay section.

Fuel Up Before

This stretch of highway was one of the reasons we upgraded to a 60-gallon fuel tank. That’s because there are few between here and Beaver Creek, Yukon Territory.

If you don’t fill up before making the haul, there’s a good chance you won’t make it. It’s a good idea to carry a can of emergency fuel.

Pro Tip: Stopping for fuel shouldn’t be a headache. See How to Easily Find RV Friendly Gas Stations!

Stop to Check Your Vehicle and RV Occasionally

During our travels, we’ve learned that walking around and checking on your RV is essential. Thankfully, we walked around our rig when we stopped at a pullout to make lunch. Surprisingly, we noticed a small amount of water dripping from the underbelly.

We began investigating the source of the water and discovered a loose connection under our sink. Somewhere along the rough roads or through Destruction Bay, it had worked itself loose. We were able to tighten it up and get back on the road.

This could have become a much bigger problem had we not noticed it! Not only should you create the habit of checking your vehicle in Alaska, you should do this every time you travel.

An RV with a truck camper pulled off on the side of the Alaska Highway.

Take on the Alaska Highway and Win 

The Alaska Highway may be challenging, but it’s worth it. It’s an experience you’ll cherish for the rest of your life. Don’t let fear stop you from encountering the beauty of this area and its wildlife.

We had high expectations for this route, and it didn’t disappoint. Was it easy? Absolutely not. However, we conquered it, and so can you!

Have you driven through Destruction Bay? What was your experience like?

  1. I agree that it is wonderful adventure. I would also like to emphasize the need to take your time. The road heaves are practically invisible until you are on top of them. We ended up bending an axle and blowing a tire when we hit one too fast. Luckily the trailer was drivable with no bearing damage and all we did was wear out a tire or two over the course of our trip. With all that said it was worth every minute of the trip. At times it felt pretty lonely out there but the scenery was amazing. It also gives you a sense of pride to know you have traveled, with a RV, one of the toughest highways in North America.

  2. I traveled the Alaska Highway in 1959, the year Alaska became a state. There were animals everywhere and many ferry crossings. The roads were barely gravel and you stopped at every gas station available. It was a wild experience. We completely lost the brakes on our truck for over 100 miles. Went through 5 tires and a windshield. The rv actually partially separated from the frame. Never forgot the memories.

  3. One question for those that have traveled through Alaska – friend recommended attaching a sheet of plywood or a sheet of metal onto the front bumper to reduce/ eliminate damage to the front of the vehicle because he told me that the roads were so bad that gravel, shale and small rocks are being thrown into the air from the trucks and other vehicles. Based on your experiences is that true or just an exaggeration ? Thanks so much

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