Follow Alaska's Trails -- On Your Own -- With Bearfoot Travel Magazines

Bearfoot Guides Go To The Pioneer Hotel: An Old Fairbanks Roadhouse That Offered Whatever You Might Need

Steam heating, dog houses, turkish baths and 1st class cafe
Turkish baths, stables, dog houses -- what else could a traveler in Alaska really need? 

Travel In Alaska A Hundred Years Ago Was By Sleigh & Dog Sled 

People sleighing to Fairbanks were happy to have a safety net when they finally managed to get there. They appreciated a "complete and up to date hotel" offering moderate prices, a 1st class cafe and bar, and those little extras: steam heated stables, dog houses, turkish baths, "plain" baths, and a sleigh corral.

The trail between Fairbanks and the port town of Valdez was long and arduous. In the winter, travelers were tucked into open, horse drawn sleighs. It took days to get there. And, along the way, the roadhouses served as havens.

Alaska is not an easy place to run a business -- even today -- and the Pioneer Hotel was proud of its ability to provide service.

Travelers often wrote in their diaries about how welcomed they felt when they finally reached a roadhouse; even one that was far humbler than the Pioneer.

This was before the days of Trip Advisor -- which encourages travelers to gripe instead of appreciate. In the days when this sign was made, and posted somewhere along the Valdez Trail,  travelers actually understood that Alaska was (and still is) far, far away from the rest of the world, in a subarctic and very different environment than the rest of the United States.

This sign is currently at the Sullivan Roadhouse, in Delta Junction, Alaska.


Instead of driving around Alaska in a fully-enclosed car or RV, travelers used to go up the trails in open sledges, dog sleds or drafty Model-T's. In fact, many people just walked -- hundreds of miles -- across Alaska, from one lodge to another. It was a long and arduous trip, usually in the Alaska wintertime. The bare essentials, such as a place for the dog team to stay, out of the cold, were very much appreciated.

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