It is a rite of passage for fulltime RVers to travel the Alcan Highway into the great unknown of ALASKA. Bragging rights aside, most RVers are drawn to the wildlife and fishing, mountains and meadows, grandeur and adventure of the highway. An expedition of this magnitude takes a lot of pre-planning, flexibility and, of course, cash. My family and I have traveled to the great state of Alaska three times within the past ten years. We have driven, flown and even sailed – each time creating a new and different experience. So, whether you are planning your trip to Alaska for the first or third time, here are some helpful tips to make your journey a memorable one!
1) Learn how to convert liters to gallons.
Learn how to convert liters to gallons, 3.785L = 1 gallon. The current price in Abbotsford, British Columbia according to gasbuddy.com is $.95 per liter for diesel, so this converts to $3.59 per gallon . Since a major portion of your trip is through British Columbia and the Yukon, it pays to figure out this simple conversion when thinking about your gas expense. Most RVers will begin their journey from Bellingham or surrounding area in northern Washington State. We have crossed into Canada through the Huntingdon Border in Sumas/Abbottsford as well as the Peace Arch Park in Blaine. From this point it is an additional 698 miles to Dawson’s Creek, British Columbia which is the official start of the 1,422-mile-long Alaskan Highway.
2) Skip the Alcan…at least one way.
Although travelling the 2,000 miles between Seattle, Washington and Fairbanks, Alaska is an amazing experience, there are alternatives. Taking advantage of the Alaska Marine Highway is one of the best alternatives. The ferry system just celebrated 50 years of service and has an awesome fleet. By taking your RV one-way on the ferry you can still experience the Alcan either heading in or on your way out of Alaska. Use the Sailing Search on the website as a pricing widget and check availability based on your selected travel criteria. First, select passengers, vehicles and extra items. The cost of travel depends upon the length of your rig, number in your party and where you begin your destination. If your destination begins in Bellingham, Washington the cost can be almost double than if you drive the day and a half to Prince Rupert, Canada. This is the option we took, stopping in Smithers, B.C. overnight and then continuing onto Prince Rupert. You will cruise northward on the Inside Passage, just like the gold rush pioneers. Get on and off the ferry up to 3 times heading north at the same ports of call as the expensive cruise lines for so much cheaper. Ketchikan, St. Petersburg, Sitka, Juneau with your final destination of Haines, Alaska just across the bay from Skagway, home to the Chilkoot trail and Whitehorse Railroad.
3) Pick up your Milepost Guide.
The single most important tool to own when considering a trip to Alaska is The MILEPOST®. One of North America’s most famous roads sparked creation of one of publishing’s longest-running guides. The Alaska Highway was a rugged road when it opened for tourist traffic in 1948, and facilities were few and far between. On such a road, a reliable guidebook was essential, and in 1949, The MILEPOST® was born. The MILEPOST® has been guiding travelers to Alaska longer than Alaska has been a state. Alaska became the 49th state in 1959.
4) Is the Alcan Highway a remote road?
The Alcan was originally built to create an overland link between Alaska and the lower 48 states during World War II. This two-lane road travels through two countries – the United States and Canada. During my trip the road surface ranged between fair to excellent with relatively few steep grades and the average distance between services was about 30 miles. Running out of fuel along the Alcan can delay your trip. The Cascade or Dalton highways can ruin your day. Many RVers already know this from excursions out west but again the Alcan is a different animal. Be prepared!! Bring at least two (2) five gallon gas cans for just such an emergency. You will be glad you did.
5) Get off the bus in Denali National Park.
Denali National Park encompasses over 6 million acres of wild land, bisected by one ribbon of road. Explore the high-alpine tundra, rivers and snowy mountains before viewing North America’s tallest peak, 20,320’ Mount McKinley. Roughly 400,000 intrepid travelers journey to Denali National Park and Preserve each year, primarily between late May and early September. Within Denali there are six campgrounds of varying size and distance from the entrance to the park. You are allowed to camp a total of 14 days per year in Denali’s campgrounds. Families on the Road recommends spending at least 4 days at Savage River Campground and an additional 3-4 days at Teklanika if your rig can fit. We were fortunate enough to find camping in both Savage River and Teklanika River campgrounds. Spending more than a week inside the heart of Denali offered unique access to wildlife, serenity and a survivalist bond. Remember to determine the overall length of your RV before heading into Teklanika River because you will be stopped and measured by a park ranger. The overall truck and trailer length for this campground is 40 feet max.
6) See the Kenai Peninsula.
Leaving Anchorage and heading south towards Seward and the Kenai, Peninsula you will be treated to the sights of Beluga Whales in the bay and wonderful snowcapped peaks along this easy stretch of road. Seward, Alaska has a great city campground right on the bay and is home to one of my favorite hikes in all of North America. The Exit glacier is a 20 minute drive from town and offers the opportunity to get up close and personal with the glacier.
Hiking the Exit Glacier trail is an extremely intense 4 hour hike to the top, where you can take in the breathtaking view of the Harding Ice Field. Glacier cruises and fishing charters also leave out of Seward. Your next stop will be along the Russian river where you can fish for wild salmon but be careful of the bears. The princess lodge has a unique RV campground but is only 14 sites so be prepared to boondock. Soldotna, Alaska offers a chance to pay for camping with full hookups and enjoy some more fishing along the Russian river. Visit the Russian Orthodox village of Ninilchik and don’t forget to dig for razor clams along the muddy shores. You will never get a better chance to dig, clean and cut clams for the most amazing homemade clam chowder. Finally you reach Homer and the spit. Camp along the water, fish for the best Halibut in the world and then catch a charter over to see the brown bears in Katmai National Park.
7) Visit the Alaska State Fair and leave before the terminus dust starts.
Great concerts, giant vegetables, buffalo burgers and tons of carnival rides await you when you visit and enjoy the Alaska State Fair in Palmer, Alaska. The fair runs for two weeks from late August to the day after labor day, and is just an hour outside of downtown Anchorage. The fair offers onsite camping and is the perfect way to end your summer before heading back out to Tok and the southbound leg of your journey back to the United States.