There’s no denying it, driving to Alaska is the ultimate when it comes to North American road trips.
Tell anyone you’re planning to make the drive to Alaska, and you’re bound to get inundated with a thousand opinions all dramatically different from the rest.
While planning our trip we heard it all from, “Driving to Alaska will kill you”, “Your entire RV is going to fall apart”, to the milder, “It’s not so bad, just make sure you buy gas”.
Now that we’ve made the trip, we’re the ones getting all the questions- and while we’re always happy to answer all the questions- yep we said all of them- sometimes it’s easier to just show you…
Our Route To Alaska:
For a trip that incites so many valid, and serious questions, a road trip to Alaska is shockingly simple when it comes to route planning.
For travelers heading north to Alaska with a vehicle (meaning not by air or cruise ship), there a 3 options, and only 3 options:
- The Alaska Highway – also known as the Alcan ( Alaska- Canada Highway)
- The Cassiar Highway
- The Alaska Marine Highway Ferry System
If you’ve already watched Part 1 Of Our Journey North, then you know that for our trip North we chose to take the Alaska Highway. We had a couple of reasons for hopping on this route on our trip North:
- The Marine Highway Ferry System, while beautiful was simply out of our budget. (Passenger and vehicle fees are reasonable, but add in towing a fifth-wheel to that mix and the prices skyrocket).
- We wanted to drive the Top Of The World Highway, which is an offshoot of the Klondike Highway, the best and most direct way to get there is via the Alcan.
- We wanted the chance to experience as many of the different routes in and out of Alaska as possible. We knew we would be taking the Cassiar Hwy, on our route South in the fall.
- Our plans for Alaska included us starting in the city of Fairbanks, so to keep from having to backtrack at any point on our route, taking the Alaska Highway made the most sense.
The Biggest Mistakes We Made Driving The Alaska Highway
Tricked By The Sun- This will probably seem a little silly, but our first day driving the Alcan was really our first real introduction to the “sun that never sets”. Our brains were on autopilot, the sun was up so, so were we. On our first day on the Alcan we made it all the way to Liard Hot Springs 477 miles. At the rate we were going we could have finished the whole drive in 3 days. Not advisable.
Pre-plan Stops- When we took a good look at the map and list of available camping (campgrounds & boondocking sites) we fluffed off the idea of predesignating a stopping point. Our plan was to start looking for a spot as soon as we got tired of driving, which under normal circumstances would have been a fantastic idea, except, well the sun never set, and we never got tired.
The Cinnamon Bun Catastrophe- Talk to any Alcan traveler and they will tell you the one “must” do while traveling this historic highway is to eat a cinnamon bun, and apparently, the Testa River Campground has the best on the whole drive. Unfortunately by the time we made it to Testa River, it was late in the day, and the cinnamon buns were already sold out! Bummer of all bummers… but we did manage to snag one of these tasty treats at Johnson Crossing.
10 Of The Most Common Questions About Driving The Alaska Highway
If there’s one thing we’ve learned putting over 30,000 miles of road under our tires it’s that not all roads are created equal.
Since our trip to Alaska we’ve gotten lots and lots of emails, and messages on Instagram and Facebook, from followers planning their own trips to Alaska. Like us when we first started planning this adventure, you all have a lot of questions. To keep things simple, we thought we’d answer the most common ones here.
Is The Alaska Highway Paved?
Yes! Although this wasn’t always the case, the road remained unfinished and unpaved in several sections until the 1960’s. Today travelers can expect to encounter sections of unpaved highway where road work is being undertaken in order to repair frost heaves and other issues created by the extreme winter weather of the far North. Road repairs generally take place during the months of May-September.
How Many Days Does It Take To Drive The Alaska Highway?
The average driver takes 6-10 days to drive the total length of the Alaska Highway. But the amount of time it will take you to drive it will really depend on you. How often do you want to stop, are you in a hurry to get where you’re going or do you really want to take your time.
From Dawson Creek, BC to Whitehorse, Yukon where we broke off in Whitehorse and headed North on the Klondike Highway. It took us 4 days of driving, 5 days total if you count the extra day we spent at Liard Hot springs. Had we continued on to Delta Junction it would have most likely taken us 2 more days to get there, making the total count for our drive 7 days.
What Is There To See On The Alaska Highway?
It’s easy to assume that a road through some of the most remote areas in North America might not have an awful lot to see but that’s not the case at all! Some of our “must-see stops” along the highway are:
- The “ Welcome to the Alaska Highway” Sign at Mile 0, Dawson City
- Fort Nelson Heritage Museum, Fort Nelson
- Muncho Lake
- Liard Hot Springs Provincial Park
- Sign Post Forest Watson Lake
- Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre, Whitehorse
- Continental Divide, Yukon Territory
- Kulane National Park, Yukon Territory
- Wrangell St. Elias Mountains
- Welcome To Alaska Sign, Port Alcan
Driving the Alcan is a lot like visiting a drive-thru safari park. Wildlife is everywhere! While you’re taking in all the sights, don’t forget to keep an eye out for all the incredible critters that call the Alcan home. Feel Like keeping track? Then you’re going to love this printable wildlife guide! Get your’s here: https://bit.ly/34h9ii2
What Are The Road Conditions Like On The Alaska Highway?
Road conditions on the highway vary from year to year. The biggest issue that most drivers face is the ubiquitous frost heaves.
- the uplift of water-saturated soil or other surface deposits due to expansion on freezing.
- a mound formed by frost heave, especially when broken through the pavement of a road.plural noun: frost heaves
Hit these bad boys too fast and they can send you flying or worse! It’s incredibly important to take caution when driving the Alaska Highway if something goes wrong help is not close by, and cell service is limited. Drive the speed limit, or under and take caution when approaching areas marked with frost heaves.
What’s The Best Vehicle For Driving The Alcan?
Any vehicle and make the drive up the Alaska Highway, and they do! We saw it all from Smart Cars to $300,000 RV’s. If you can dream about this trip, you can do this trip!
What Do I Need To Know About Crossing International Borders?
We covered a lot of questions regarding Border Crossings in an RV in these two posts
If you think we missed something, let us know and we’ll add it in!
What Is The Cell and Internet Reception On The Alaska Highway?
Cell reception and the internet is highly limited on the Alaska Highway. The best reception is around major towns and crossings.
If you rely on a cell signal to get internet like we do then you’re going to need to rethink your approach. Towns along the route, are loaded with visitor’s centers, small-town libraries, and RV parks that offer wifi services.
What Is The Average Distance Between Services On The Alaska Highway?
Services can be found in most towns and communities along the Alaska Highway; This includes gas, diesel, food, and lodging. An average of 100-150 miles apart from one another. Keep in mind that many of these services do not operate in the evening hours. Make sure you carry cash with you in both Canadian and US currency.
The Milepost is an excellent resource to help you gain a better understanding of what services are available and where. You can pick up your own copy here: https://amzn.to/39QQk2Z
Where Are The Best Places To Camp Along The Alcan?
There is an unlimited number of options for camping along the Alaska Highway. There are numerous stunning provincial parks and private campgrounds along the route.
We used The Travelers Guide To Alaska Camping, book time and time again to locate the best spots to stop. You can pick up a copy here: https://amzn.to/2x4t0Bi
When Is The Best Time Of Year To Drive The Alaska Highway?
The Alaska Highway is open year-round. The majority of travelers use the highway during the warmer months of May- September when the majority of services are open, and the weather is more predictable. If you are considering driving the highway during the winter months, full self-reliance and preparation is necessary.