If you thought my stay at Boreal Lodging in Wiseman, Alaska was off the beaten path…just wait for this. After our stay in Wiseman, we set off for the second half of our journey up Alaska’s Dalton Highway. The end of the road brings you to Deadhorse, also known as Prudhoe Bay. The rugged oil town actually does have a handful of lodging options for tourists. None, however, cater to the traditional points and miles crowd. Deadhorse Camp in Deadhorse, Alaska is perhaps the best known, and offered very basic accoomodations – but surprisingly good service here at the literal end of the Earth.
Note: this post is part of a larger trip report series about my trip to Alaska in August, 2020. Click here for the introductory post.
Deadhorse Camp, Deadhorse, Alaska
- Mile 412.8, Dalton Highway, Deadhorse, Alaska
- Website: http://www.deadhorsecamp.com/
- Amenities: well, none really, though there is a gym, and your room rate includes meals
Deadhorse Camp is about 2 miles south of Deadhorse itself, right off the Dalton Highway. There is only one type of room: two twin beds, at $219 per night. The camp allows a third person for a $40 charge, but there are no cots/rollaway beds. You either have to squeeze onto a bed, or bring a sleeping bag for the floor. Sorry, but you can’t use your World of Hyatt, Bonvoy, or Hilton points here.
Deadhorse Camp doesn’t support online bookings; instead, use the contact form on the website to send a reservation request. Someone from Northern Alaska Tour Company, which owns the camp, will contact you to confirm your booking. And a very important thing to remember – the nearest grocery store is 495 miles away. While there is a general store in Deadhorse, they don’t carry groceries. If you need something like bread, milk, etc. to keep with you, buy it in Fairbanks before heading up here.
Date of stay: August 4, 2020.
Check-In and Common Areas
We actually arrived in Deadhorse a little before 7. However, a paving project on the Dalton Highway meant one lane traffic, and the need to follow a pilot car. Unfortunately for us, I missed the turn to Deadhorse Camp, and then had to continue to town to turn around. This meant a 45-minute wait for the next pilot car. Womp-womp. We did eventually make it, though, and headed through the front door to check in. Deadhorse Camp consists of several modular buildings containing the rooms, with the office in the first building closest to the highway. You really can’t miss the “Deadhorse Camp” sign on the first building.
Walk in through one of the side doors and head down the hall, and you’ll eventually reach the office. Only one problem – we couldn’t actually find any staff on duty. Eventually, though, we found the manager doing double duty washing dishes in the kitchen. Apparently, we were the only crazy tourists staying the night, so he knew who we were. The manager then escorted us to our room in the building immediately behind the office.
As mentioned, guest rooms are in a series of modular buildings behind the main building. Some blue, some yellow, some red, but in general, they all look the same.
If the look seems industrial, that’s because it is, and intentionally so. The vast majority of guests are people working at the Prudhoe Bay oilfields. Indeed, the hotel even describes itself as “consistent with the industrial heritage of the region”. You’ll only occasionally find crazy tourists (like us) spending the night before turning around and heading back to Fairbanks. So just set your expectations accordingly; it’s a work camp, not a luxury hotel.
Deadhorse Camp, Deadhorse, Alaska – Guest Rooms/Amenities
As you enter the building housing your assigned room, you’ll notice something a little unique. That’s a storage rack to swap your shoes for booties. The parking lot tends to turn into mud, and most guests work in the oilfields where work boots pick up all sorts of junk; therefore, the hotel requests that you leave your shoes at the door.
All of the buildings feature the same general “L-shaped” layout. It’s one long corridor, followed by a left turn to another long corridor.
Near the entrance to each building is a small community room with a TV and DVD player.
At the end of the first corridor is a small gym (really more of a weight room) to the right.
After turning left, the second corridor contains the shared restroom facilities to the left. These are very simple facilities, but were clean, and most importantly, the hot water flowed freely and the heaters worked. Considering that it was 42 degrees with a windchill in the 20s on August 4th, that was much appreciated.
As for the rooms themselves? Simple, and small, but clean. All rooms feature exactly the same layout. Two twin beds, a bookshelf on each side, a small desk and chair, and a small wardrobe closet. Additionally, there is a double outlet at the front of each bed to charge your electronics. As mentioned earlier, you can add a third person to a room for $40, but they’re on their own for bedding.
The rooms also have some rather interesting signage – a picture of a…dead horse…with the room number.
Most importantly, the heat works very well. While there is no WiFi, Prudhoe Bay does have good cell service through both AT&T and T-Mobile. Remember to get whatever you need from the internet before checking out; there’s no more cell service until you reach Coldfoot, 240 miles away.
As far as food and beverage goes, the room rate does include all meals. When we visited in August, 2020, the cafeteria was closed, but you could take to go meals back to your room. Serving hours, however, are quite limited. Dinner service ran from 5-7 pm, with breakfast from 6-8 am. Thanks to the Dalton Highway construction, we didn’t check in until nearly 8. Even though dinner ended nearly an hour before, the manager asked if we wanted something. He then mentioned the dinner on offer was Mexican food.
Ok, Mexican food about as far as you can get from the Rio Grande sounded…unpromising. Hey, I’m a Tex-Mex snob that won’t eat it in Oklahoma, much less Alaska. But we were all starving, and the food was free, so we said sure. The manager then graciously offered to round up whatever leftovers he could and bring them to our rooms. (Something I greatly appreciated; he could have told us tough luck for arriving too late.) Anyway, he came by about 20 minutes later with a couple of boxes of beef and chicken fajitas.
And I must say…this wasn’t bad at all. There were actually some halfway decent flavors in the fajita meat and salsa. The refried beans were the low point, decidedly overseasoned with a poor choice of taco seasoning. But for an outpost nearly 4,300 miles from Dallas by road, I was shocked to find even semi-passable Mexican food.
In normal years, the main attraction at Deadhorse Camp is the Arctic Ocean Shuttle. It’s the only official way to actually reach the Arctic Ocean when visiting Deadhorse. That’s because the shore itself is located on private oil company property. For $69, though, you can take a van ride through the oilfields to a small beach where you can dip your toes in the Arctic. Sadly, the shuttle didn’t run in the summer of 2020 due to coronavirus-related restrictions.
The Midnight Sun In the Arctic Wonderland
Of course, the other attraction this far north is the chance to see the Midnight Sun. It’s actually a lot more difficult than you’d think; the North Slope frequently features low clouds and fog that block the sun. But the day of our visit, the clouds partially cleared just in time for the 12:05 am sunset. And so my mother and I braved the upper 20s wind chills to marvel at that famed Midnight Sun.
Meanwhile, across the street, a few caribou were finishing up dinner along the Sag River. And probably wondering what these crazy humans from Texas were doing all the way up here. I’ll offer another shoutout to the manager; he suggested when he dropped off dinner looking in this area for wildlife, and sure enough, we found some.
We were hoping to see some musk oxen, but the caribou made for a fine consolation prize.
The next morning, I headed to the Prudhoe Bay General Store to try and find a can of soup for my son. Sadly, he picked up the tummy troubles in Fairbanks, and we ran out of chicken soup the night before. I struck out on the soup, but did pick up a couple of shirts and a few snacks. And got a picture of the famous sign out back. (You can add your own sticker if you want.)
Note that the “End of Dalton Highway” sign is technically inaccurate. The Dalton Highway doesn’t end at the Prudhoe Bay General Store. It ends about 2 miles away, at a T-intersection with Lake Colleen Drive on the shores of Lake Colleen.
Before heading to town, though, I had to wait for the pilot car, and enjoyed watching the sun occasionally pop out from behind the clouds. Maybe it’s because you’re so far north, but the sun seems very different up here; the light almost seems like it’s dancing in the sky.
Deadhorse Camp, Deadhorse, Alaska – Final Thoughts
Luxury villas these aren’t, but Deadhorse Camp does provide basic, functional lodging for tourists. And it’s kind of an interesting look into the “work camp” history of the area. It’s also by far the most convenient option when taking the Arctic Ocean Shuttle, since you’re right there. Some of the newer camps in Deadhorse do look nicer and more modern, but I wouldn’t hesitate to stay here for a night. And besides, if you’re nuts enough to drive to Deadhorse, roughing it for a night just seems like the appropriate thing to do…