plates on a camper in the “lower 48” is a sure conversation starter.
“What is the drive to Alaska like”, or “how is the road” are common questions.
I can say, the drive to Alaska
is an amazing, once in a lifetime experience.
I can also say it is a long distance and requires a lot of
driving – but it is worth every mile traveled!
The highway through
travels past some remote, but gorgeous terrain.
Wildlife is extremely plentiful on
many stretches of this road, especially if you travel very early in the
morning or late in the day, like us photographers do.
I remember one day when I saw moose,
elk, caribou, bison, sheep and 13 black
bears. I have also seen coyote,
fox and wolves
The best resource for
information about the Highway has to be the Milepost.
It is a must have, with mile by mile descriptions of all the
routes to Alaska, along with the road system
within Alaska. You will see a copy
sitting on the dash of most RV’s driving to or from Alaska.
The Alaska Highway provides the most direct route to
, but there are a number of roundabout ways through Canada
to Alaska, and my advice is to take these on your way
up and save the direct
route for the trip home. I
find at the end of a long trip I’m a little road weary and more eager
to return home, and thus, less likely to explore.
One of my favorite
alternative routes is the
Cassiar Highway. For those traveling from
the West Coast the Cassiar is actually a shorter route than the Alaska
Highway, but slower.
The Cassiar is a remote stretch of highway that travels through
some of the most beautiful country anywhere in North America.
Many clear streams, big
trees and wildlife. Be sure
to take the side trip over to the coast at Stewart/Hyder,
a great place for bear viewing,
along with more spectacular scenery.
Much of this country has been used as the backdrop for major
movie productions for good reason. The Cassiar Highway meets up
with the Alaska Highway near Watson Lake.
Alaska Highway a must do side trip, in my opinion, is going over to
on the historic Klondike Highway. Tons of history, not too
mention a beautiful drive. In
fact, anytime you cross over the coastal mountains to the coast it is a
spectacular drive and that includes trips to Stewart/Hyder, Skagway, Haines,
you can catch a short ferry ride to Haines and then drive the Haines
Highway back to the
Alaska Highway, the two highways meet at Haines Junction.
This makes for one fantastic open ended loop.
Junction north is the worst section of highway.
A couple of large highway projects have recently wrapped up so
the summer of 2005 should be better.
But be warned, even paved stretches that are not under
construction have some large frost heaves, you will want to slow way
down. Along the entire
highway there are red flags that signify bad parts of the road, but in British
Columbia and southern
the so called “bumps” are really insignificant.
Don’t be lured asleep by the boy who cried wolf syndrome,
because those red flags really mean something in
Yukon north of Whitehorse!!
On the return trip you can save a lot of time by just sticking
with the Alaska Highway. There does tend to be
more wildlife along the main highway, and still plenty of great sights.
Make sure to allow time to stop at Laird
Hot Springs, the Springs are incredibly invigorating
after a long day on the road. Depending
on your final destination, if at all possible, make sure one of your
legs takes you through the Canadian Rockies including Jasper
National Park. These
Parks are among some of
my favorite places and
shouldn’t be missed.
If you want to avoid the long drive
home there are a couple of
options. The Alaska
State Ferry makes a few Gulf crossings making it possible to catch
the ferry in Seward or Whittier,
and take it all the way down to Prince George. There is daily ferry
service heading south from Haines and Skagway,
another good option.
If you do take the ferry be sure to stop for a day or two as you
Southeastern Alaska. Juneau
are two of my favorites.
You can also ship your RV back on a TOTE
cargo ship. Since few
goods and services are produced in
Alaska the ships usually have a lot of excess capacity on the return trip to
Tacoma. Because of this, Tote
offers reduced pricing to ship your RV south.
website has more information.
All in all, the drive to Alaska
is relatively easy and a lot of fun.
I remember as a kid in Glennallen seeing RV’s passing through
with spare tires and gas cans on the roof, and elaborate fencing across
the front for protection from rocks.
I had some interesting trips down that highway on my way to
college during the mid 80’s. Today,
it is far less difficult and a great
adventure; something everyone should experience at least once in their
Update in 2006.
I drove the Alaska Highway again in October, 2005.
The Highway was in good condition for the most part. From Haines
Junction to the Alaska border is still the worse, and you will want to
take this stretch slower then the rest. Much of the very narrow curvy
stretch of road along Kulane Lake was being replaced. They were working
hard to finish this project when I passed through, it looked close to
being ready for pavement, but it was also snowing at the time, so I’m
not sure if it was completed before winter set in. If not, I’m sure it
will be done in early summer of 2006.