From the crossroad with the Steese Hwy at Fox, just north of Fairbanks, the Elliot Hwy extends 154 miles north and then west to Manley Hot Springs, a small settlement near the Tanana River. Along the way are a number of free campgrounds as well as public-use cabins (per cabin $25) that need to be reserved through the BLM in Fairbanks.
The first half of the highway is paved, the rest is gravel, and there’s no gas and few services until you reach the end. Diversions along the way are comparatively few, but the leisurely, scenic drive, coupled with the disarming charms of Manley Hot Springs, makes it a worthwhile one- or two-day road trip.
At Mile 11 is the Lower Chatanika River State Recreation Area, a 400-acre unmaintained park offering fishing, boating and informal camping opportunities along the Chatanika River.
At Mile 28, look for the Wickersham Dome trailhead parking lot and an information box. From here, trails lead to two public-use cabins. Lee’s Cabin is a 7-mile hike in and overlooks the White Mountains. Borealis-Le Fevre Cabin is a 20-mile hike over the White Mountains Summit Trail.
At Mile 49.5, you'll enter (probably without realizing it) the 'settlement' of Joy (population 30), named for Joy Griffin, an original homesteader. Stop at the tumbledown wooden shop/cafe known variously as Wildwood General Store, or Arctic Circle Trading Post, which sells Arctic-themed souvenirs, coffee and rather nice muffins. Stock up as there aren't many more places like this further north.
Ten miles before the junction with the Dalton Hwy, at Mile 62, a 500yd spur road on the right leads to the public-use Fred Blixt Cabin.
Livengood (lye-ven-good), 2 miles east of the highway at Mile 71, has no services and is little more than a maintenance station with a scattering of log shanties. Here, the Elliot Hwy swings west and in 2 miles, at the junction of the Dalton Hwy, the pavement ends and the road becomes a rutted, rocky lane. Traffic evaporates and until Manley Hot Springs you may not see another vehicle.
The rustic, privately managed Tolovana Hot Springs can be accessed on a taxing 11-mile overland hike south from Mile 93. Facilities consist of outdoor wood tubs bubbling with 125°F (51°C) to 145°F (62°C) water, outhouses, a drinking-water barrel and three cabins that must be reserved in advance. The trailhead isn’t signposted, so contact the managers for directions.
At Mile 110, a paved side road runs 11 miles to the small Athabascan village of Minto (population 180), which isn’t known for welcoming strangers.
Beyond Minto, the Elliot Hwy briefly becomes winding and hilly, and then suddenly, at Mile 120, there’s chip-sealing for the next 17 miles. Hutlinana Creek is reached at Mile 129, and a quarter-mile east of the bridge (on the right) is the start of an 8-mile creekside trail to Hutlinana Warm Springs, an undeveloped thermal area with a rock-wall pool. The springs are visited mainly in winter; in summer, the buggy bushwhack seems uninviting.
From the bridge it’s another 23 miles southwest to Manley Hot Springs.