Alaska road trip
Replies: 14 - Last Post: Aug 19, 2010 4:55 AM Last Post By: trekker502
Aug 2, 2010 10:25 AM
Alaska road tripHi all!
I'm doing a roadtrip up to Alaska from Vancouver and was wondering if someone out there has done it and could offer suggestions. We're going at the end of August. Is it fairly easy to find campsites on the way up and in Alaska? We will have a tent and gear but are not much at reserving and planning before hand. Is the weather warm enough for just fall jackets and gear, or should we pack heavier stuff? What is the mosquito situation? I hear they can be terrible. And any suggestions for places to see? Anything not to be missed? Answers to any and all of the above questions would be aprreciated a lot.
Aug 2, 2010 10:48 AM
1I assume you are driving the so-called Alcan-Highway rather than ferrying your vehicle to Haines or Skagway on the Alaska Marine Highway.
You don't say for how long you are travelling, but some tips:
- First, buy Milepost Magazine - the driver's bible for Alaska.
- Kluane Lake and surrounding area is a nice place to explore for a few days.
- Lots of camping along the way
- Mosquitoes and flies should be impressive in August - seen'em come right through the DEET in clouds in the interior - they just don't care.
- Will be warm to even hot in the interior, nights (such as they are) will cool off a bit, but light "fall" jackets should do it.
- Make sure your oil pan is protected against flying gravel (steel plate) and take an extra spare, tire repair kit, and 12 volt pump DC that you can plug into the cigarrette lighter or onto the battery to enflate tires.
Aug 2, 2010 6:06 PM
2I've driven to Alaska and back 5 times (both car and RV) and never made a reservation. You'll be fine - especially in late August. Where are you going in Alaska? Assuming you will drive the Alaska Highway - (you could easily take the Cassiar Highway also) here are a few comments -
The Milepost is good BUT there is plenty of free information if you are willing to stop at Canadian tourist information stops. At Dawson Creek - ask for the little brochure that lists the gas stations by mile marker - it is much easier to use while driving than thumbing through an obsurdly thick Milepost.
Drive the Icefields Parkway through Banff and Jasper National Parks in Canada. The entrance fees are a pain but you should do it once. You can camp a night along the way also. The Canadian Rockies are spectacular. ICEFIELDS PARKWAY
Consider driving "the scenic route to Alaska" - from Jasper - take Hwy 40 that goes through Grande Cache to Grande Prairie - lots of bears and other wildlife along this route. On the Alaska Highway - pay attention after Ft. Nelson - that is pure wilderness and loaded with bears munching along the side of the road and other wildlife.
Stop at Toad River Lodge - if you're hungry get a meal - but at least stop for a coffee and look around - (they have wifi also).
Bring a swimsuit for Liard Hot Springs Provincial Park- there is a campground there so you can - soak - sleep - soak again.
We're going at the end of August and you are returning when? It's going to be cold at elevations and likely to be wet. I wouldn't plan on camping at Stone Mountain Provincial Park (Summit Lake) - it is beautiful but will get cold in September at that elevation (snow flurries possible). Drive carefully along the lakeshore as sheep are often around the turns. I've woken up with several inches of snow on my tent in Dawson Creek in early September and it has rained for a week straight in Whitehorse during that period also. After the 1st week of September campgrounds will begin closing.
Robert Service Campground in Whitehorse is great for tenters - especially if you don't mind walking 100ft from your car to camp along the Yukon river.
Stop worrying about mosquitos. Go hiking!
Aug 2, 2010 8:30 PM
3The drive north on Highway #97 through Cache Creek is very hot in August -- stop for ice cream. I usually stop at a nice Woodall's campground along the lakefront in Lac La Heche. There is free car-camping at the Wal-Mart just south of Prince George -- Wal-Mart bought out the owners of a beautiful real campground.
I recommend that you take the Cassiar Highway #37 northward, and the Alcan on return south. "The Milepost" has a good map of the Cassiar Highway and other alternate highways that you can take. The Cassiar is a shortcut -- cutting 400 miles; however, in the winter the gas stations only have fuel for diesel trucks/cars and it is definitely a truckers' route. It is completely paved and now favored as a alternate by RVers. The gas stations are far apart, so take extra gas in spare cans. To get to the Cassiar, turn west onto the Yellowhead Highway #16 in Prince George, then stop at the visitors center in Hazelton for a detailed map and updated info. Fill up on gas at the junction with the Cassiar Highway and top off again at Bell II Heli-ski resort. The next gas stations will be at Indian/First Nation villages. I camp at Meziadin Lake provincial campground. The turnoff to Stewart/Hyder/Misty Fjords National Park is just north and an excellent side adventure -- there are also campgrounds in Stewart, BC and Hyder, Alaska. They are located alongside the Inside Passage coastline and are fishing villages.
You will enjoy the rugged beauty of the Cassiar Mountain Range and you can also see the Pacific Coast Mountains. Lots of wildlife. Lots of fishing camps. After crossing the Stikine River, the half-way point, there was a gas station at Tatogga Resort, but there is now a new owner, so I don't know if it is still operating. There was also an excellent restaurant there. There are provincial campgrounds and free camping at Jade City, near the jade mines. Highway #37 intersects the Alcan between Watson Lake and Tezlin. There is free camping at Mukluk Annie's on Lake Tezlin and excellent salmon bake or steak dinner and/or breakfast -- it is a Christian organization, so they sometimes play religious music -- it is very popular and a morning tourist bus stop.
Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, on the Yukon River, is your next stop. Be sure to stop at their visitors center. Check out the Yukon River. There is free camping at the Wal-Mart Supercenter on the bank of the Yukon. If you car needs oil change or tune-up or parts, this is the place -- several major dealers.
Just outside of Whitehorse, is the junction with the Klondike Highway #2 North to Dawson City -- take it. This is gold rush country and also the route of the annual Yukon Quest sleddog race in February. Stop at the Braeburn Lodge to top off your gas tank and sample one of their HUGE cinnamon buns or large-portion meals. You will hear the owner's Scottish burr. You will be traveling through a low river valley and crossing many large rivers that eventually merge into the Yukon River, so the temperatures are hot in August. There was a lookout over the Tintina Trench faultline that is a major migratory pathway for sandhill cranes, geese, and birds flying between Watson Lake and Dawson City, then over the Yukon River northward into Alaska. However, on my last drive in July 2008, there was a detour and I don't know if that has become the actual route now. The earthquake fautline is where gold and silver was discovered and is still mined.
In Dawson City, I always stay at the Gold Rush Campground on 5th and York, at the far north end of the city and within walking distance of everything. I always eat breakfast at Klondke Kate's restaurant. I have been there about 5 times. After Dawson City, you will cross the Yukon River on a small ferry onto the Top of the World Highway, then cross the border to Alaska (customs) and be on the Taylor Highway, which finally intersects with the Alcan about 40 miles south of Tok, Alaska. The 40-Mile-River area between Chicken and Eagle, along the Taylor Highway, just had severe rains and flooding two weeks ago. I don't know if the part that you would be driving was affected -- check at the visitors center in Whitehorse. Chicken, Alaska, is still mining for gold and you can go gold panning there. The road between Dawson City and the Alcan is paved in some parts and also gravel or seal-coated -- many RVs and diesel trucks drive over the narrow, mountain highway during the summer; it is closed in winter.
In Tok, Alaska, you have the choice of either driving north to Fairbanks and Prudhoe Bay, or west to Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula. You can also drive a loop. Check the maps at the visitors' center in Tok.
Aug 2, 2010 8:46 PM
4Lots of good suggestions above. Just wanted to follow up on Trekker's comments re the Taylor Hwy which links Eagle, Alaska to the Alaska Hwy. It is currently open only to Mile 95, which means it does still connect to the Top of the World Hwy from/to Dawson, Yukon. Unfortunately, Eagle remains cut off from the road system until they open the rest from Mile 95 to 160. By the time you get here it may change. You can view up-to-date road condition info for AK at the AK Dept of Transportation website: http://511.alaska.gov/alaska511/mappingcomponent/
Aug 2, 2010 11:13 PM
5So the OP is leaving Vancouver at the end of August? If so, they can stop worrying about mosquitoes: they'll be minimal. But they might as well start worrying about cold, wet and possible snow in the passes and interior. If the OP spends two weeks heading north, he/she will arrive just as everything is closing down for the winter--with good reason. Another two weeks heading south and there's likely to be snow in the Canadian Rockies and perhaps elsewhere.
Not that this is a bad thing, necessarily. I try to leave the Pacific Northwest in late July when I go to Alaska, and I like to leave Alaska heading south in mid-September. Arriving earlier means fighting tooth and claw with the fleets of lumbering RV's. Leaving later than this and it's definitely getting winter-ish in a lot of areas.
But Alaska's huge and varied, and we've got no idea where in all that huge-ness the OP intends to go, or what they hope to do or see. In fact, we don't know what they like or dislike--except mosquitoes and advance planning. Maybe they've got no idea themselves. What could possibly be worth recommending under the circumstances except "come back when you've done some more research and have some specific questions?"
Aug 3, 2010 5:31 AM
6During my last trip to Anchorage, when I cleaned out my storage locker and shipped my things South, it was snowing at the tops of the Chugach Mountains the first week of August! After living in Alaska for 15 years, I was prepared for all types of weather conditions. I am hoping that people from Vancouver are accustomed to heavy rain and snow and will drive and prepare accordingly!! I did forget to mention that the campgrounds do start closing down after Labor Day weekend (beginning of September, including Canada), but I did find highway rest stops where other RVers camped. I recommend spending the night at Beaver Creek's motel campground (I don't remember the name, but its obvious), in Canada next to the Alaska border.
Aug 3, 2010 7:46 PM
7It does not take 2 weeks (14 days) to drive from Vancouver to Anchorage!! It is a freeway the entire way, almost. It also depends on how much time you want to spend sightseeing en route and which route you take. You could drive from Vancouver to Dawson Creek in two days, straight up Highway #97. It takes one day to drive from Prince George to Meziadin Campground on the Cassiar Highway #37. If you check out Stewart and Hyder, then plan to spend one more night after crossing the Stikine River at a provincial campground or in Jade City before the junction with the Alcan. Whitehorse is a long drive from the Highway #37 junction. You can drive to Dawson City in one day from Whitehorse, and from Dawson City to Tok, Alaska, in one day. So, that is a total of 6 days!! One day from Tok to Fairbanks. Two days from Tok to Anchorage. If you are trading drivers, some people drive it in even less time -- those are the Snowbirds who leave before the snow flies and rush back to Tucson for the winter.
Aug 3, 2010 8:43 PM
8Of course you can easily drive it in a week. But....don't you suppose the OP wants to stop and see stuff here and there? Maybe go for a walk? Soak in a hotsprings, take the Denali bus, go for a cruise? Even (shudder) take a day off and laze around the pool (figuratively speaking)?
What's more, Alaska is not Anchorage and Fairbanks; it's also McCarthy, Kenai, Valdez, Circle.... Get the idea? It all takes time.
(who once hitched a ride from Tok to Prince George with a commercial fisherman who made the drive in a day, nonstop--and this was before any but the first little bit of the Stuart Cassiar was paved)
Aug 4, 2010 4:16 AM
9The drive up Highway #97 through British Columbia is through open countryside on a freeway, where trucks go about 75 mph. Fort Nelson to Watson Lake is very scenic and it is worthwhile to stop for a couple of nights, including at Liard Hotsprings campground. From Watson Lake to Beaver Creek is another freeway (4 lanes in some places). Whitehorse and Kluane Lake deserve some time. Of course Skagway or Haines are also excellent side trips if there is time. I did suggest taking the time to see Dawson City. After Beaver Creek, crossing the Alaska border, it becomes scenic passing through a wetland area that attracts thousands of migrating waterfowl and hunters. I like the scenery through the pass in the Wrangell Mountains from Tok to Glennallen, along the headwaters of the Copper River. This is all Alaska, which is the object of the long drive. I love the view of the Tazlina Glacier and Chugach Mountains from the Glenn Highway. I stop at Sheep Mountain Lodge restaurant near Mile 100. Migrating birds may be seen in that vicinity as they fly from interior Alaska to Prince William Sound and south. The autumn colors on the hillsides are beautiful -- I have driven through there in October after returning from the ferry port in Haines. It will be cold in September on the OP's return, if that is when he returns. The autumn colors on the Kenai Peninsula are also beautiful. The Denali bus stops in September.
I also have driven the Cassiar before it was paved -- I stopped at the gas station to check weather/mud conditions, but when I saw a low-slung sports roadster take off, I followed. It was beautiful.
Aug 4, 2010 1:18 PM
Aug 4, 2010 1:34 PM
11Cassiar highway has been closed for a week due to forest fires - stay updated at - DRIVE BC
Aug 4, 2010 5:18 PM
Aug 18, 2010 5:09 PM
13Should be a fun trip -- I've done this myself from Seattle although my destination was the Yukon rather than Alaska.
You have three routes to choose from -- ferry from Rupert, the Cassiar, and the Alcan. I've done all 3 and they are all wonderful. Best thing is to pick two, one up and one down.
Ferry: coastal scenery, less time in the car, orcas and whales. Perfectly comfortable to sleep on deck or in one of the public areas, no real need for a cabin. Cons: taking a car is pricey, and stops are usually too short to see much -- best thing would be to break the trip up a bit with stops in one or two towns along the way. The road up from Haines is especially nice and gets you into Kluane quickly.
Cassiar: great scenery but can feel like a bit of a slog. Not much to do outside your car on the route. Stopping in Stewart/Hyder and driving out to the end of the glacier road (and seeing the bears at Hyder) was a highlight of my last trip -- but it's at least a full day detour.
Alcan (East Access from Prince George): a fast road. The stretch through the Northern Rockies is spectacular, and it's probably impossible not to see abundant wildlife.
The Nisga'a Lava Beds, in northern B.C. near the Cassiar junction, are another worthwhile detour.
If your trip includes the Top of the World Highway (access to Alaska via Dawson City), Dawson City itself is very cool, and will be even cooler if you take Pierre Breton's book about the Klondike goldrush with you. There's an excellent Yukon provincial campground on the Yukon River right next to the town. Tombstone Park, up the Dempster Highway, would probably be a detour for you but is one of the planet's most beautiful places.
Kluane offers lots of hiking and stunning scenery.
Atlin, off the Alcan, is a long detour and, in my opinion, not worth the trip unless you're planning on spending several days going further into the wildnerness.
Finding campsites won't be a problem outside of B.C. I do find that B.C. campgrounds DO fill up, even some that seem pretty remote. Yukon camgrounds are first come first served, usually with large, attractive sites. You'll have to treat your own water at them, so don't forget to take a filter. (Note: the Yukon campground nearest Kluane Lake is the one loser in the bunch -- only a handful of lakefront sites and a bunch without views back in the woods.). In my experience, the Yukon camgrounds mostly end up about 1/3 to half full each night.
Mosquitoes should be largely gone by the end of August. On my trips (in July), they've actually been far worse in B.C. But even there, there were never enough to be that much of a bother. Take whatever repellant you prefer (I like Skin So Soft from Avon) and perhaps a mosquito cap.
Here are some campgrounds I liked:
(1) Tombstone Yukon provincial
(2) Dawson City Yukon provincial
(3) Wolf Creek Yukon provincial outside Whitehorse (much nicer than the Robert Service campground in town, and also nicer than the hot springs campground north of town)
(4) Pine Lake Yukon provincial, near Haines Junction (for Kluane) -- a better choice than Kathleen Lake (Canada Parks)
(5) There's an RV campground on Kluane Lake, I've forgotten the name but it's easy to find as you drive the road, that is perfectly fine for tenting -- big sites spread along the shore. A really nice place.
(6) Stewart's municipal campground has a section for tents and is generally quiet and restful.
(7) The campground at the K'San center in Northern B.C. (near the entrance to the Cassiar) is quiet and calm, with nice mountain views.
Along the Cassiar, there's a little $10 Lion's Club campground about halfway up that I have a soft spot for. It's scenic enough (along a river) but not the most scenic along the highway. It seems to show up right as I'm too tired to drive any more.
Aug 19, 2010 4:55 AM
14I have stayed at the first three plus the one at Kathleen Lake and one at the Lake (Meziadin?) on the Cassiar Hwy just south of the Stewart/Hyder junction and another provincial campground south of Jade City; there is free camping in Jade City, where I have stayed twice. The provincial campgrounds are all well-maintained and clean, but there is no plumbing in most. They cost only about $10/night. I stay at Gold Rush Campground on the north side of Dawson City for their laundry and hot showers -- I car-camp there; no tent sites.
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