Epic Alaska 2013
Replies: 16 - Last Post: Aug 26, 2012 6:38 PM Last Post By: Matson5
Aug 18, 2012 9:24 PM
Epic Alaska 2013Hello all,
We are family of 5, our 3 boys will be 9, 7, and 6 next summer. We'd like to do a 2 month trip. We live in San Antonio, Texas. What are your best suggestions to the following:
1. Drive the entire distance making senic stops along the way.
2. Fly to Anchorage and rent a house for the 2 months and make it our home base or perhaps rent a house in one city for a month and another house in another city for a month, again with excursions from there.
I feel I need to answer this question first and plan from there. Budget is12k, excluding flight.
If we drive, we thought about either buying a converted van or perhaps an rv with the intention of selling it on the return ( obviously, our budget would change under this plan). Or, we could drive our suburban but I am not sure if our kids could tolerate each other for that long.
Aug 18, 2012 9:53 PM
1It's about 7,000km each way ... a lot of it through mind-numbingly unchanging terrain it seems. Even if it were just me, or just with my partner, I would fly - with three boys that age, I think you'd be nuts to do anything other than fly. And an alternative to renting a house + a car in Anchorage (or elsewhere) would be to rent a local RV for the two months while in Alaska ... seems the optimal solution to me (not that I've been there - and it would depend on the economics of it).
Aug 18, 2012 10:09 PM
2Thanks. Originally we thought it would be more fun to rent a house and spend more time with the locals. Then, we saw how much here was to see on the drive from Seattle that it has us rethinking the entire trip. I need to look into the cost of rv rental in AK.
Aug 18, 2012 10:16 PM
3If Alaska is your main goal, driving from Texas may not be the best way to go (and I love a good cross country drive). Let's say you drive from San Antonio to Bellingham, Washington and board the Alaska State Ferry there to start your trip to Alaska. That drive alone is about 2400 miles one way and if you have kids etc you have to allow for stops and can't just drive for 8 hrs a day. If you were to drive that portion at 300 miles a day (averaging 60mph = about 5 hrs/day of solid driving) that would already eat up a minimum of 8 days and you're still only in Washington state - more if you actually stop and see places along they way (which is great but eats into your time up north). The full distance between Anchorage and San Antonio is about 4300 miles. An RV would be slow going and pricey I would think. Fuel costs are high, even higher in Canada. A suburban paired with hotels or camping would be more cost effective, though the space constraint issues for the kids may be a factor as you mention.
If you choose to fly, you could rent a mini van once in Alaska and tour around in that, staying in hotels or cabins or tent camping if that is something your family enjoys. My brother's family did that this summer and it worked out well.
If you chose to do the trip with bases, plan on several, such as Anchorage, Seward, Fairbanks and maybe somewhere to the east, well, I can't imagine renting a place in Glenallen or Tok (not sure it's even possible). Driving distances can be long, especially in summer where there is a lot of traffic and road construction in some areas. For example, if you want to spend time on the Kenai Peninsula, pick a base down that way - don't plan to drive back and forth from Anchorage each day - way too much driving and wasted time in the car. If you plan ahead, it's possible to rent State owned cabins that are drive up (you can check out these at the official site: http://dnr.alaska.gov/parks/cabins/access.htm).
What activities does your family enjoy? Any particular places you hope to see or things you'd like to do while here? Do you want to visit the Yukon Territory as well? Are you limited to the road system or willing to fly or boat to places?
Aug 18, 2012 10:25 PM
4You have some great ideas. Thanks! We are pretty active and want to see as much and do as much as we can (Denali, kayak, animal watching, etc.). What do you think about buying a used vehicle there and selling it at the end? The car rental rates for two months seem excessive. I love your suggestin about the state cabins.
Aug 18, 2012 10:30 PM
5There's plenty to see between interior Alaska and Seattle: mountains, coast, glaciers, wildlife, glacial rivers, forests, First Nation reserves, museums, tacky gift shops, sub-arctic light..... Maybe I misunderstand your post but if you don't like these things, what are you hoping to find in Alaska itself? Equally, there's plenty to see between Seattle and Texas, but there's so much advice on this forum about the lower 48 that I'm thinking you probably don't need more.
Standard boilerplate advice: Alaska Marine Highway all or part way north; Cassiar Highway south. In some places there are three, four or five alternate routes (lower B.C., for example, where you can drive Vancouver Island, take the Hurley Pass route, 99, the TransCanada, or a variety of other back roads), in others just one or two (from Haines or Skagway north). You can take side trips to the Canadian Rockies on the way back if you're bored, or head for Deadhorse or Inuvik if the kids want bragging rights.
All up to you, of course. Some families would do better with a rented house in Anchorage. Hope you'll report back here when you're done (or even enroute), and hope the above is helpful.
Aug 18, 2012 10:37 PM
6Out of curiosity I started looking up RV rental prices and was, myself, shocked. It could be that renting a mini van for some portions of you trip, such as the Kenai and Anchorage area, would be just fine. You could opt to rent an RV for only a week or two here and there when your travels make the most use of it.
i don't know how the used car market is around here to be able to tell you whether that would be a decent option.
Aug 18, 2012 10:42 PM
7Mark - you hit the nail on the head which is why we are no leaning toward driving the entire route but the Texas component complicates it a bit. Honestly, I am not sure we can lose given each has ups and downs. That's why I appreciate all the advice on this forum. I want it to be a killer trip for my boys. And, I'll post about it as the trip unfolds.
Aug 18, 2012 10:43 PM
8There's plenty to see between interior Alaska and Seattle ...
I'm certain there is (and I would love to do it myself), but it seems to me there are also hundreds of kms of unchanging terrain between scenic destinations ... and with three curious kids under 10, then that would be a less than perfect way to travel in this case.
Aug 18, 2012 10:48 PM
9A note on the state cabins - you can book online starting 7 months in advance and I'd recommend planning for some as early as possible because they do book up, even the more remote ones. Years ago friends and I rented a cabin at Jack Bay, out of Valdez. We chartered a boat to take us out with kayaks and stayed for a few days to fish and kayak. It was great. Very rustic but great fun and we managed to catch a few silver salmon to boot.
Aug 18, 2012 10:48 PM
Aug 18, 2012 10:54 PM
11"it seems to me there are also hundreds of kms of unchanging terrain between scenic destinations."
Yeah, but most of that stuff is in Texas--it's part of the price you pay. The rest of the trip is mostly quite nice, particularly if you choose your route carefully.
Aug 18, 2012 10:55 PM
12You could probably find a used car to get you through and then be able to sell it. However, there's a chance it would throw a rod or something or you could have a hard time selling it.
There's a few local car rental companies in Anchorage that may be willing to give you a better rate than the big chains. Denali is the name of one.
Aug 18, 2012 11:05 PM
Aug 19, 2012 7:45 AM
14I recommend that you purchase a copy of The Milepost http://www.themilepost.com which gives highly-detailed information plus maps of several routes through Canada to Alaska. It includes campgrounds, provincial parks, gas stations, motels, hotels, grocery stores, mileage between villages, etc.
There are many Alaskans who have retired to New Mexico and Arizona for the winters, but drive roundtrip back to Alaska every spring and summer to visit the grandkids and to fish. My favorite route from New Mexico is north on Interstate-25 along the frontrange of the Colorado and Wyoming Rocky Mountains. Just before Billings, Montana, stop at the Indian trading post near General Custer's Last Stand Battlefield -- very interesting. From Billings, drive across Montana on Highway #87 north through Lewiston to Great Falls, then across the Canadian border. Near the border in Alberta, there are tours of dinosaur digs by archaeologists and a great museum showing a dinosaur egg.
Calgary is the next stop, and if you are there during the Stampede Rodeo, by all means stop. Proceed west into the Rocky Mountains to Banff National Park. There are campgrounds. Especially tour the historic old hotel. Take the frontage road north to Lake Louise and you will see more wildlife. Lake Louise is beautiful. There is a campground, but when I camped there there were bear warnings and tent campers were not allowed.
Take the Icefields Highway north to Jasper National Park past glaciers. Stop at Athabasca Glacier and maybe go on a snowmobile tour of the glacier. Continue to Athabasca Falls and stop. Continue to Jasper NP. There are campgrounds.
Drive west on the Yellowhead Highway #16 to Prince George. You have two choices. Either continue west on the Yellowhead Highway to the junction with the Cassiar Highway #37 (shortcut saving 400 miles off of Alcan) or drive straight north to Dawson Creek and the beginning of the Alaska-Canada Highway (Alcan).
The Cassiar Highway is through the rugged, forested Cassiar Mountains with rivers and lakes, past Indian villages and Jade City sells jewelry from nearby jade mines. The highway is now paved completely. The snow-capped Coastal Mountain Range is on the west. There is wildlife and berry bushes alongside the road. There are provincial park campgrounds.
The Alcan does have lots of large mammals and it is not recommended to drive at night because you will not see the moose, elk, mountain goats, sheep, and bison that sleep in and beside the roadway. Stop at Laird Hot Springs Campground. I love Whitehorse, the Capital of Yukon Territory. Highway #37 junction with the Alcan is just before Whitehorse. Tour the large Visitors' Center and park your car there while you walk along the main street and over to see the replica steamboat on the Yukon River. The Yukon flows alongside the city. There are car dealerships -- I had to get my Nissan repaired slightly. There is a Wal-Mart and discount grocery store. Chocolate fudge shop on main street is my favorite. Outdoor gear shops. Probably first sighting of a Canadian Mountie will be in Whitehorse.
I recommend taking the Klondike Highway north from the Alcan to Dawson City. Stop at the Scottish cafe for a huge cinnamon bun and large portions of meals. Drive through historic mining country and alongside the Yukon River. Stop at overlook of Tintina(?) Trench, the huge earthquake faultline that opened up all of the mineral deposits all of the way to Dawson City. It is a major bird migration route from Watson Lake to Dawson City and north over the Yukon River to Alaska.
There is a campground across the Yukon River from Dawson City (take the tiny ferry across). There is also a hostel up on the hillside opposite the campground. I love Dawson City and have been there 4 times. All of the original buildings have been preserved and the streets are not paved -- be prepared for mud if it rains. You may take a cruise up the Yukon River. Robert Service's and Jack London's homes are there and an actor reads Robert Service's poetry.
Across the Yukon River is the Top of the World Highway to the Alaska border, then it is the Taylor Highway -- most of it is paved. Stop for the night in Chicken, a gold mining village and very historic. The miners could not spell "ptarmigan quail", so they called it Chicken instead. Chicken is 75 miles from the junction with the Alcan Highway in Alaska. Turn north and you will soon be in Tok, a crossroads for either continuing north to Fairbanks or turning west to Anchorage. You have made it! Follow the guidebook.
Edited by: trekker502
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