Alaska RV Dreams & Alaska Bears
Pre-Post Note/ HAPPY MOTHERS day to all you mom’s out there! Hope you all have a wonderful day!
One of the “bucket list” items that almost every RVer has on their list is a trip to Alaska. The irresistible draw of this place is completely understandable. Alaska is one of the most remote and wild places you can access by RV, and it’s a place unlike any other else I know. Its mountain ranges are pristine and untamed, staggeringly sharp peaks with endless miles of pure nature in-between. The vast distances are mind-boggling, yet the nature is intimately close and wild. The landscape seems impenetrable, yet the glacial-blue lakes create amazing reflections of the nature around them. You will rarely see anything like it in your lifetime.
Just in case you’re wondering we’re *not* going this year, I’ll say that upfront, but we know MANY folks who are and we have very fond memories of trips we’ve done up there in our pre-RV lives. Since this is something just about every RVer dreams about I figured I would write a short post with some Alaska info, link to some of the folks I know who are doing the trip this year and share a few of our own memories from the area.
How Far Is It Really?
It’s a LOoooooooong way to Alaska and the State is BIG once you get there.
To put this into perspective Alaska is over twice the size Texas and it only has just over 700,000 people, so you’re talking a lot of land with very few people. Most of the state is not paved, but there’s more than enough road for those who make the trip by RV. It takes some getting to though. Coming from the West you’ve got to drive all the way to the Canadian Border to start with, and then it’s another ~1,750 miles (~2,800 km) before you even hit the Yukon/Alaska border (Alaska Route 2). Add in a few extra thousand miles within the state itself and you’re talking quite the epic adventure. Coming from the East it’s even further.
Just the drive from the border onwards would be more than what we typically do in a whole year on the road, and that’s not even including the 2-3 states we would have to drive through in the Lower 48 to get there.
What’s The Season?
Alaska is waaaay up there which means spring starts late and winter comes early. As far as the season goes, very few folks cross into Canada before the end of May and most try to be out of the area by the beginning of September. In other words, lots of miles, very little time to do ’em.
How Do You Prepare?
The Milepost Guide is pretty much considered the “bible” for most folks going to Alaska by car/RV. They also have have a website with an excellent FAQ. Another highly recommended book is the Church’s Guide To Alaskan Camping, chock-packed with good info for RVers specifically. In addition the RV Forums will almost always have an “Alaska” thread for newbies which will cover details like internet, health insurance (while driving through Canada), rock guards etc..
Lastly just be sure you bring lots of mosquito repellent, make sure you have windshield insurance and don’t fret it too much 🙂 It’s a long drive, but it’s not the crazy wild-west drive that it was 60 years ago. Parts of the road will have pot-holes and frost heaves and parts of it will be slow, but it’s improved tremendously over the years and lots of RVers make the trip without any issues at all. We’d be perfectly fine taking “the beast” up there.
Who’s All Going This Year?
I don’t know if it’s because gas prices are down or the stars have just magically aligned, but we know a bunch of folks who are making the crazy drive up to Alaska this year. If you’ve always wanted to follow an Alaskan road-trip “real-time” check out these links. Many will be crossing into Canada within the next 3 weeks:
- Gone With The Wynns – gonewiththewynns.com (traveling in their new Bounder, no less)
- Hector & Brenda – islandgirlwalkabout.com
- Technomadia – technomadia.com (they’ll be doing part of the trip by train & sea)
- The Snowmads – snowmads.com (traveling in their brand new Trek)
- Van Tramp – van-tramp.com (traveling with ASoloJourner in an Airstream)
Active Instagram Peeps:
- A Solo Journer – instagram.com/asolojourner/ (traveling with Van-tramp)
- Advodna Dave – instagram.com/advodna_dave (traveling with 2 kids in an Airstream)
- Gone With The Wynns – instagram.com/the_wynns
- Mali Mish – instagram.com/malimish_airstream/ (traveling with 3 kids in an Airstream)
- Technomadia – instagram.com/cherie_technomadia and instagram.com/chris_technomadia
- The Snowmads – instagram.com/thesnowmads
- Van Tramp – instagram.com/van_tramp
Lastly Riveted are going up to Alaska by boat in their Nordic Tug 34. Not an RV, but that will also be interesting to follow.
What Are OUR Memories?
Our most memorable trip to Alaska was in 2003. Back then we flew into Anchorage and did a combo flight/backpacking trip into Katmai National Park (to see the grizzlies and the salmon run) followed by an expedition into the Valley Of 10,000 Smokes. The latter had us being dropped off in a small plane (with guides) in the wilds and and then picked up ~10 days later at a pre-arranged location.
At the time it was the most epic thing we’d ever done, especially since we’d never really backpacked before, at least not like this. We slogged for 10 days through the Valley Of 10,000 Smokes initially cursing the sandy path, bugs and crazy weather, but by the end we were completely seduced by the sheer beauty and isolation of the place.
The mosquitoes and LRBB’s (Little Red Biting Bastards, the best way I know to describe them) were relentless yes, they really were, but the grizzlies were awe-inspiring and the views unmatched. We followed no trails and saw no other people (at all), just the four of us cross-country hiking into the pristine wilderness. Magnificent!
I wasn’t much of a photographer back then, but I did take a few cool shots and Paul brought along a film camera where we managed to capture some video footage (always fun in restrospect). The 4-min clip below was taken at the very end of our Alaska trip right after our backpacking trip, but sums up the type of epic experience we had there, an experience (and closeness) with wild nature that you rarely, if ever, have. The clip is of a young grizzly attempting to catch one of the thousands of salmon taunting him from the river. The ending is worth waiting for….
Are YOU going to Alaska this year? OR/ do you follow a favorite blogger/Instagrammer who’s going to Alaska that I missed?? Please feel free to add them in the comments below!SPONSORED LINK:
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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do
John & BJ says
We went to Alaska the summer of 2013 and expect to go back again next summer. We’re flying up next week for a couple weeks – installing solar on our son’s trailer and then some time on the Kenai for “testing.”
Sweeeet! For those reading the blog who may not “see” the link, here is their blog link:
Unfortunately I won’t be going this year either, but hope and need to get up there again. I think it should be on the list of everyone who hasn’t been there. And if you have been, like me, you likely have it on the list anyway! It’s that amazing! Worlds truly cannot do this place justice, nor do the pictures. Being there really is that incredible. I’d love to have a summer to devote to spending in Alaska. Particularly in an RV.
It’s definitely on our “list” even though I find the miles to get up there pretty daunting (waaaay more than we usually do at our leisurely pace of travel). One day we’re dragging the RV up there for sure!
Great post on visiting Alaska. We have lived here since 1989 and both had travel jobs that took us all over the state, but we have never landed in Valley of 10K Smokes. I have flown over it many times, but never did the great trip you guys did.
Oh the skeeters are insane today. We had a little rain a few days ago and now it is hard to leave the house without at least one bite. Just wondering…was that Cessna on floats in the pic, the bi-plane you mentioned?
I remember those Alaskan skeeters well, so I can just imagine what you’re going through right now LOL. YES, the plane on floats in the pic was the one we initially flew in on. We landed near Katmai, if I recall correctly, and then also took a drive to get further in before we were completely “dropped off” in the wilds.
I went to Katmai in 2001 – I could not get enough of the bears – so incredibly awesome. We also did 10,000 smokes but I just wanted to get back to the bears!
The bears during the salmon run were just amazing. It was like being in a National Geographic documentary.
Well I went to Alaska about three years ago. It was amazing, it wasn’t an RV trip I wasn’t RVing back then. But wow, the beauty, the expanse of the place, the wildlife- what fun you’re going to have! Funny how many other bloggers are going this summer!
Yup, the beauty of the place is staggering and well worth going back for. We definitely want to re-live it at some point before we stop RVing.
Have flown up to North Pole AK. 4-5 times to visit family over the last 15 years. Planning a RVing trip next year. Have driven as far as Valdez and Seward. At least driving in a car I didn’t really see any issues as far as road surface conditions go. Yes, there are sections with active road work being done. Might have a flag crew holding traffic back for a few minutes, but who cares…you’ll be on a 3 month trek..so what is a few minutes held up. Things to put on your AK. bucket list: Riverboat Discovery (Fairbanks), Chena Hot Springs (90 minutes NE. of Fairbanks), Museum of the North (on the grounds of the University of AK. Fairbanks), Fairbanks Visitor Center, Santa Clause House (North Pole).
Cheers for the tips. I’m sure many of my fellow blog readers are taking notes.
Rick Meade says
We are currently in Lee Vining, Ca. headed to Alaska with several stops along the way.
We plan on crossing into BC right after Memorial Day weekend.
Excellent! Good travels to you. Looks like it might be a nice, long, warm summer this year.
Loved the video–I would go back to Alaska in a heartbeat!
You guys did a WHIRLWIND of a trip up there last year, but knowing how the Cowboy drives it just matches your style. It was fun to follow you.
Like you say.. most RVers have Alaska on their bucket list. Heck, we had it for year one. But it’s so fricken far away.
We’re hoping our alternative way of getting there this summer will give us the whetted appetite we need to convince ourselves to make the journey by RV some day. Maybe a caravan with some certain dear friends would make the mills slip by easier? 🙂
I’m really looking forward to following your alternative method of travel up there this year. Should be a blast! And yeah, a small caravan would definitely make the miles go by faster.
Well, we’re heading north from the Canadian prairies come June 17th and beginning our full-time RV journey following retirement. We’re headed for Yukon and Alaska for the summer. Thanks for posting your experiences. While we’ve read tons, we’ll follow the whims of the day on where we stay and what we do.
Alaska as your first RV trip! That’s what our RV buddies the Lowes did. It was a steep learning curve, but they loved it! In fact they’re doing a retrospective (re-posting some of their original Alaska travel blogs) on their blog right now:
Chris Travels is going! And vlogging along the way.
Excellent! Cheers for sharing your link!
John Schexnaydre says
Thanks for the information. Just now starting a plan for August. Don’t know travel methods yet.
Steve Hall says
Great post, thanks again. I bet you flew on a float plane and not a biplane. In my early working life I was lucky enough get to fly all over AK in every sort of plane but never a biplane, but lots of float planes. Too many fishing adventures to remember and lots of wonderful people to get to know up there. Everyone should try to do at least one fishing trip for salmon or halibut.
Yup, I’ve been duly corrected. My plane knowledge is clearly abysmal LOL. That was indeed a float plane and there was never a biplane in sight. I’ll correct the blog post later.
Flying over Alaska is amazing. Besides the hike, the flight was one of my fondest memories. It’s a beautiful state to see by air.
Hawk Hickman says
Wheeling it, great post! Add us to the RV Storm Troopers heading north to Alaska.
Hawk and Red Fox- harleyhawk43.WordPress.com
along with three other couples. Shoving off from British Columbia June 1. Meeting up with Captain Canada and Debbie Dewdrops in Vernon. Coming along will be Barbara and Larry and Bernice and Frank.
Sounds like you’ve got a wonderful caravan planned. Cool!
Good post. We Alaskans always say”… Well summer must be close I saw my first RV today.” We love to share it with you but are also happy when you go home! Both the Al-Can and Marine Highway are fabulously beautiful trips. Safe travels!
I can totally see that. I figure most wild places have a kinda love/hate relationship with the tourists. Good to have them, good when they’re gone.
Furry Gnome says
We had a wonderful time in Alaska 20 years ago, on our last big camping trip while the kids wre still at home. Caught more salmon than you can imagine. Spectacular scenery, and VERY long drive! Took us 8 weeks.
Oh my, fresh salmon. That alone makes me drool.
Great timing Nina, we just published our first post on our Alaska trip! It’s total serendipity that we are going on a year when gas prices are low and also when a good number of other bloggers are also going. Can’t wait!
It’s going to be a party up there!
lynn & nancy says
We’re just north of Sacramento on our way to catch the Alaska Marine Highway to Whittier on the 16th. We’re spending the summer & ending up in Denali in early August. Anyone else going on the Kennicott?
Planning on hitting Bend and all those breweries on the way back.
Caite and Glenn says
We’ll be making the trek to Alaska this year, leaving from Glacier around June 1 in our truck camper. Will be doing lots of hiking, biking and fishing throughout the summer. Was glad to see comments from others and their blog address so I can follow them as well. If anyone wants to follow on our blog, the address is: GConthemove.com
Excellent! You’re added to my Alaska watch list 🙂
What a great post. I have followed your blog for quite some time, and have found it to be invaluable, as well as a joy to read. My husband Tim and I crossed the border in Sumas, Washington, yesterday and are on our way to Prince Rupert to catch the ferry.
We’ll spend a month in the Inside Passage and then drive from Haines into the interior sometime in mid-June. We’ll spend the rest of the summer there. We already have a few adventures planned and can’t wait to explore the state and hopefully meet other bloggers. I’ve already started to chronicle the adventure at http://www.SeeWhereTheRoadLeads.com.
Sweet! I look forward to following your adventure.
Dave Burdick says
We were going up last year until our motorhome burned in a RV Storage fire…so this year is the year. We leave Sacramento area, where we are now, on May 25th (figure all he Memorial Day traffic will be headed south that day). Should be in Canada by the 28th, then we will slow down and enjoy the next 3+ months. Looking forward to it, that’s for sure. –Dave (GoingRvWay.com)
Horrible that you guys lost your rig last year! I hope the trip this year is everything you dreamed of.
I went to Alaska last summer for just shy of a month- did one week with my parents doing the cruise thing from Vancouver to Seward (not normally what I’d do, but somehow happened once I told them I wasn’t visiting this year and was quite nice to do with them), then rented a car for two weeks for the interior. Made it as far as Dawson City, Yukon, so all told it was 1500mi or so of driving solo? There were a lot of podcasts. 🙂
My first bit of advice there is definitely go via Dawson if at all possible, as it’s a super cool historic and now hippie artist community in the summertime- it would have been a shame to miss! (I think some RVs worry about the state of the highway from Dawson to Tok, but it was fine if you take it slow- I definitely passed several.) Second bit of advice is to be super flexible with the weather- some places it can just rain for days without stopping, but a few hundred miles in the interior is sunny, so more than anywhere else I’ve been amending the plans is key to enjoying Alaska!
Finally, as an astronomer, I feel obliged to note that I saw the northern lights while there and it was one of the coolest things I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a lot of things! HOWEVER, it never gets dark enough to really see them from May-July in most of Alaska/Yukon, so don’t bother planning then. So best to check the lunar calendar (as a full moon wouldn’t help) in August, and try to be in a dark sky area as far north as possible while praying for clear skies… and check this handy site- http://www.gi.alaska.edu/AuroraForecast
I would looooove to see the Northern Lights. It’s been on my bucket list for years, and we never saw them the previous times we’ve been up in Alaska (not the right time of year). That’s great info!
Oh and for those who are interested in reading Yvette’s blog here’s her link: http://whereisyvette.com/
Karen from NM says
Another place to see the Northern Lights is either Minnesota or Wisconsin. We saw them in both states. Especially if you head north to the great lakes. One of the most amazing things I have ever experienced.
Bill & Jan says
We did Alaska last year for the second time and it was fantastic! We opted to take the ferry north and then drove back down the Cassier Highway as an alternative to the Alaska Highway. And it was worth it the grizzlies were abundant in Hyder. We didn’t find the mosquitos oppressive and had no problems with our windshield thankfully. And oh yeah, as a pilot, that isn’t a biplane:-) You can follow our trip on our attempt at a blog at http://billjansexcellentadventure.blogspot.com
HAH!! You are right….duh! That’s a float plane and it only had one propeller and one set of wings…so definitely not a biplane. My blog followers and Google have set me straight. You can tell how much I know about planes! I will correct the blog post later.
Cheers for sharing your link. It’ll be good reading.
Rick Morgan says
We definitely want to go back. Our first trip was back around the time you went. We flew to Anchorage and rented an RV. We still put on lots of miles but if someone is short on time this is a viable option. It still ranks as one of our bes RVing adventures ever.
Flying up and renting a rig is actually a great idea for those with limited time. Sounds like you guys had a blast!
Mary Ann says
We lived in a 21′ class c for 13 months and drove through Canada to Alaska in May of 2000. My 12 year old son and I actually drove together, and met my husband in Fairbanks at the airport. We drove the Cassiar Hwy, and in May this was not the way to go. Miles upon miles of dirt road (remember, 2000) rain, and the only other traffic for half a day at a time was huge logging trucks. It was worth it, though. Words cannot do justice to the scenery, the wildlife, and just the incredible beauty of the drive. God must take care of fools! I had so many people think I was crazy, but my youngest son and I put many a mile on that rig while my husband was working somewhere. I wouldn’t trade that year for anything!
I love how most maps will put Alaska right smack in the corner of Canada, just over Washington. We bought a huge, fold-out map of North America, and used it for that year to trace our travels with a highlighter. Looks quite different when you see the whole expanse of Canada between you and your target!
My husband and I traveled to Alaska about 6 years ago in our converted, pop-top, Ford van. We took the ferry to Juneau and camped a few days, ferried back down, stopping for camping in Sitka and Ketchican. We wanted to see the part of Alaska we missed in 2000. For anyone driving, I would recommend driving one way and taking the ferry for the other half of the trip. I am not good at relaxing, but on the ferry there is nothing else to do! Just kick back and enjoy the scenery.
We loved the Milepost magazine. Lots of good info and fun historical stories. Really recommend it for the drive. Alaska will be one of our first destinations when we exit our sticks and bricks in a couple of years. Be warned, Canada will blow you away with beautiful scenery before you even reach Alaska. I understand the Cassiar is much more doable now, especially if you wait a little later into summer, after they repair the frost heaves, and it is wonderful.
So, to everyone going, good trip! And I am so envious!
What a great adventure and wonderful memories! Taking the ferry for one of the legs has been recommended to us by many folks. It’s super expensive for our size rig, but it does cut a lot of driving out, plus it’s just a super cool experience. Thanks for sharing your story!
Mary Ann says
Just a thought, you might check out the before May 31st fares when you plan your trip. Our fares included a one driver rides free due to being off season. It might pay to look into one of you driving your RV and one of you being the driver of your toad. Don’t know if it will help, but won’t hurt to check. Also, don’t forget the cost of all the diesel fuel and campground fees when driving. You might find it isn’t as much more money as you might think. You will see scenery not part of your road trip.
Mary Ann says
Correction, to get the driver rides free, you have to go before May 1st now.
Good tip. Didn’t know about the early-bird discount.
Jodee Gravel says
Wow! Looks like there’s going to be more room on the road “down here” this summer with everyone headed to Alaska 🙂 Definitely on the list for us, maybe in a couple years though. Had always thought we’d get a small rig just for that trip, but seeing so many others taking MHs our size it will be great to follow their adventures to see if we want to do that instead!
Lots of big motorhomes do the trip. We’d be fine taking ours up there.
Our friends went last year, and one of their key learnings was to put a yoga mat on the windshield of the towed vehicle. A lot of rocks and gravel will hit that glass along the way. They loved the whole trip.
Nice little tip. I know a lot if folks install rock guards for their tow vehicle. The yoga mat is a simple alternative.
Fantastic….Sounds like the Alaska is going to be one giant RV party this summer, sorry to hear your not coming.
After driving to/from Alaska at least 17 times (lost track) in the last 30 years I can say today’s Alcan is a much nicer experience as compared to the late 60’s and early 70’s.
We put together about the Alcan last fall http://taylorbasecamp.com/2014/10/04/driving-the-alaskan-hwy-now-and-then/
The trick is to take all summer for your trip North and return. Plan on being in Alaska June, July and Aug minimum. As you mentioned this is a very big place with many places to see and things to do and if this is your once in lifetime trip you don’t want to miss anything.
For the ultimate Alaska road trip drive to the North slope on Dalton Hwy. You will see some of the most remote and scenic wilderness America has to offer.
Remember there are two seasons in Alaska- winter and road construction. Almost every Hwy in the state will be experiencing some sort of rehab or upgrade this summer (this does not include Canada)…expect and leave time for delays.
Check this link out for the latest road construction updates http://www.alaskanavigator.org
Remember to slow down for frost heaves !
Wow…17 trips to Alaska!! That’s a lot of driving! Thanks for the links and your travel memories of the highway. Invaluable knowledge for us newbies.
Eric Udell says
Eric and Jeanette will be going!
We’re in Great Falls right now, prepping the RV and the towed and will be heading up into Canada in a couple of weeks.
Excellent! The Snowmads mentioned you were going, so nice to see your link on here. Added to our “watch” list!
James Angleton says
Biplane? ……. REALLY? I’ve been a pilot for thirty years and have found biplanes to be a rarity in the northern latitudes especially Alaska. Although flying one up there would be an unforgitable experience. Perhaps the open cockpits may get a little cool but good coveralls and warm head gear ……. I would love it. What kind of bi plane was it and is it for rent? Location?
No, no, no…..I made a mistake and I’ve been duly corrected by my blog readers since then (see above blog comments) We flew in a float plane, not a biplane. Duh! The pic of the first plane was the one we flew in, and you can tell that I clearly know nothing about planes.
I’ll be correcting the blog post shortly 🙂
Taylor Banks says
We’re headed up there this summer as well, and caravanning with a couple of the folks already on the list. Would love for you to add us to the post, if you’d be so kind. 🙂
Taylor and Beth
Excellent! You’re added to the list!
Karen Cotton says
We are headed North too! We’ve been on the road a month in our 19′ RoadTrek. We plan to enter Alberta next week and travel slowly for 4 months thru Canada, Yukon, NW Territoties and Alaska. I made the trip in 1962 as a young girl on a family trip-wonder how different it will be? We are posting on the North to Alaska site as “Cotton Tales”. http://www.northtoalaska.com
Excellent! That 19′ Roadtrek is a true go-everywhere vehicle. You’re going to have a blast!
Wow — cannot believe how many of your blog readers are heading for Alaska! It’s going to be one heckuva party up there! Alaska has been on our travel wish list for years — I think summer of 2017 is going to be when we actually go for it. We’re planning to do the ferry one way and the Al-Can the other. You had quite the adventure up there in 2003 — love the video of the young grizzly! Thanks for all of the great info links.
Combining the ferry (one way) with the road (the other way) is a really nice mix. I’ve heard from lots of folks who’ve done the trip that way and have thoroughly enjoyed it.
Steve Hall says
One small tip for folks coming back out of Canada. Make sure you know the rules about what you can cross the border with when it comes to food and pet food. We were honest last year and got held up and inspected with oranges ( that we had bought in the USA) confiscated as well as our dog food. We had a rather unpleasent experience ( for over an hour) and lecturing by a border agent, who said he was doing us a big favor not fining us $300+. You should be able to find the rules on line. The Canadian border guys were much nicer.
Yes, knowing the border crossing rules for both Canada and USA is very important indeed. In addition to food restrictions, pets need to have valid rabies vaccination certification & (preferably) a health certificate, certain items will incur duty tax (e.g. alcohol) and other items are very strictly controlled & best left behind (e.g. firearms). So sorry you had a bad experience, but thanks for the reminder for everyone else on here.
Here’s a good link:
And for animals specifically:
Thanks for your post. We enjoy following you & Paul has inspired me to be a more engaged investor.
We leave for Alaska this week. Two of us & a yellow lab in a 21′ Travato campervan for 3 or 4 months! We are super excited. Looking forward to hiking, fishing & wildlife watching.
Andrew & Becky says
We have already started our journey and just finished the Cassiar segment today! Weather has been great and although lakes are still frozen the roads have been clear and dry. We saw 2 black bears, 6 caribou, and a moose today, but suffered one fallen picture and a currently unknown number of rivets lost…
We update about every 1-2 weeks (as long as we have internet) and you can see our basic itinerary here:
If anyone going thinks we might be close, drop us a comment and perhaps we can meet up!
You guys started early and are doing some serious miles…all the way to Prudhoe Bay!! Looking forward to following your travels.
We are heading up after a stop at Collins Lake and Mount Shasta. We post as Twentyfeetonthemove on Facebook and should have Twentyfeetonthemove.com by the time we leave Collins Lake. We’re traveling with our two Siberian Huskies , two Himalayan cats and Dave and myself. We’ll be in Alaska July 1 and will be staying primarily at military reservations. I am retired Navy.
Nina, thank you for the information and insight on Alaska. We have being reading your blog for a few years and have learned quite a bit. Hopefully, we can return the favor, with regard to Alaska at least. We are in Birch Bay right now and plan to cross today (what perfect timing for your post!) to begin our trek north.
Outstanding! Hope the trip turns out to be everything you dreamed of. Weather is looking good right now with promise f a potentially early spring. Perfect for all those folks going north.
We went to Alaska in 2013 specifically to go to Lake Clark to see the Grizzly’s fishing in late August and they were amazing, sometimes only a few yards away from us. It was difficult getting information about the road conditions and whether we should take our 5th Wheel. Travellers on trip advisor just said “go”, so we did. There are always road works because the roads take a beating from the weather – the Canadian roads are very bumpy due to permafrost, so you just have to drive slower or you will end up with a mess inside your RV! Come back via the Cassier Hwy (south at Watson Lake) for a change.
The best time for most people is to go is in June/July when the weather is warmer and you will probably see the grizzlies with cubs at that time too. It’s very hard to be in all the right places at the same time – The best time for Denali is in September, the northern lights is winter. Liard Hot springs is a good stop if you are going up the Alcan. You can do day trips to see bears from Homer. You can also do day trips to Brooks Falls which is cheaper than staying there.
Here is my post if people are interested in spending a few days with some grizzlies…
Cheers for sharing your memories of the place. By the way you got some AWESOME bear shots in that blog post. Wish I’d gotten the same shots back when we went in 2003.
Jean Mathes says
Thanks for the great post on AK. Very informative and not embellished. You tell it the way it is. We’ve followed your blog for a couple of years now and finally feel we have something to contribute.
We wanted to give you a current update on driving to Alaska. We entered Canada from Montana on May 3rd and crossed the border into Alaska May 11. We’ve lived in AK for 30+ years so have made the drive many times.
The road as far north as Whitehorse is in great shape and unless there’s a late spring storm, it’s completely snow free. Most campgrounds are open and the ones that aren’t, will be by the 15th, which starts a Canadian 3 day weekend. If they aren’t officially open, but they aren’t locked, we were told it’s fine to go in and stay at no charge. The Yukon Government campgrounds all seem to be $12 nightly, a real bargain. They provide pit toilets, pump water and firewood. The ones we’ve driven into have several sites big enough for our 36ft fifth wheel. Wildlife has been abundant all along the way.
There are new frost heaves going west out of Whitehorse that folks will want to slow down for. The stretch between Destruction Bay and Beaver Creek is very rough, with severe frost heaving and road repair in places. Take it slow. Be sure items are really secured in your rig! There are still some frost heaves after reaching the U.S. border in Alaska. The Tok Cutoff Road has severe damage right now starting around mile 70 until Chistochina (mile 35). Equipment is in place and it looks like they’ll be working on it soon.
As a heads-up, we were told at the border coming into Canada that we couldn’t bring in any poultry products right now because of the threat of Avian Flu. We had to go back to the U.S. Border patrol across the road and leave behind our fresh/frozen chicken, eggs and also apples for some reason. As with every time we make the drive, they grilled us on whether or not we had firearms, pepper spray, or ammo onboard. They also went over our dog’s paperwork pretty thoroughly this time, making sure shots were current and health certificate was issued within 30 days. Crossing back into the U.S. at the Alaska border was much easier. Firearms and fruit were their main concern.
Hopefully this helps anyone about to make the journey. It’s a trip everyone should make at least once. Well worth the bumps getting here. Plan to take your time, have your camera ready and enjoy!
Feel free to contact us with any specific questions at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jean & Duane Mathes
blogging at: http://www.HaulinHome.blogspot.com
Excellent tips!! Thanks so much for sharing them all!!
Bob McQuade says
You can add me as another blogger Alaska bound, and, yes, it is because of the price of gas and the favorable exchange rate. I am sending this from Grand Prairie on Route 40 and 43, you see, I am already 1/3 of the way there.
If anyone enjoys wildlife photography, please come along for the ride. I have reservations inside Denali and will be driving the Haul Road to Prudhoe Bay in mid-August , so I’m sure there will be some interesting wildlife along the way, not to mention the spectacular scenery. I am doing a map of the trip with road condition comments on the blog as I go along.
One more for the list. For those who want the blog link here it is:
Dennis Keppner says
However you get there its worth it! We spent 8 years, compliments of Uncle Sam and the USCG in Valdez and Cordova (son was born in Valdez). Last time was in 86 and we’re both still homesick for the place. Hearing a Minke whale blow, an eagle screech or just the rush of water is only surpassed by the crisp, clean air.
Alaska was our first trip for our full time rv’ing when we started 12 years ago…we started out with 4 rv’s then 3 then 2….and eventually by ourselves heading back to the lower states…I wanted to do it because we had a opportunity to travel with people who have been rv’ing for many years and “knew the ropes” we were newbies…..hadn’t even owned a car for 20 years…It was a learning experience on traveling with others..We learned how to caravan to fit our needs and who we could travel with…one we have adhered to, to this day…The trip was awesome…for us very lucky no mosquitos…hardly any rain…it was awesome and a very good introduction to the RV way of life…
I wish all of you who are traveling this year and future years a great time and wonderful experience…from all that I read above it sounds like it will be…
Sounds like you had a fabulous experience Jil! Thanks for sharing your memories of it.
Alaska is on our bucket list, and we are going there this summer for 3 months! We are so excited! Please feel free to follow our journey on our new blog, imagineyourview.com. We totally agree that the “Milepost Guide” and the “Church’s Guide to Alaskan Camping” have been great resources for preparing for our trip of approximately 5,500 miles in our Winnebago View. Thank you for posting this topic, Nina. We look forward to the adventure. On another note, we want to thank you, Nina, for your hard work on your blog. You continue to inspire us! Dream on!
Whoo hooo! Enjoy your trip up there!
Ah Alaska! That was the trip three years ago that convinced my gf to be future full timers. It was only two weeks but what two weeks! Flew into Anchorage, rented a 31 footer and off we went. From Denali, thru Talkeetna and downward thru Kenai and down to Seward, it was one of our best vacations ever.
Now she asks when can we quit the rat race and do what you guys do!
Sounds like an amazing trip!! I can totally understand why you got the travel bug from it.
Lynn Bonelli~Tales From the Mutiny says
We’re on our way too…currently in Bellingham, WA patiently waiting for the Snowmads to catch up with us for our border crossing in 2 weeks. I graduated from high school in Alaska (Ben Eielson near North Pole) and the University of Alaska Fairbanks is my alma mater and want to show the husband where I “grew up”. We have to be in Seattle this Sep. for a family wedding (our niece’s fiance is from Homer, AK, btw) so it made it easy to pick this year for the journey since we’ll have to be on the West Coast anyway.
We’re looking forward to traveling with and/or meeting up with several friends we’ve met while fulltiming (Technomadia, Snowmads, The Learning Banks, JenEric Ramblings, Gone With the Wynns…and a few others we may have helped convince to come on up). I traveled up the Alcan from Southern California and back down 5 years later…tent camping both ways. So happy to be going back…it really feels like going home.
You’ve definitely got the inside track with having your alma matter up there. Plus it sounds like your trip is going to be super social. Can’t wait to read about your Alaska travels!
My husband and I have worked seasonally in Skagway since 2000 and drive north every year in early April. The highway is especially good this year with few frost heaves and potholes, testament to an unusually mild and dry winter. A couple thoughts: for anyone contemplating the Inside Passage via AMH, May is usually the sunniest and driest month of the summer on the coast. We are experiencing a very early spring this year so it is already summer here. Canada will not allow anyone with a recent or past DUI into the country without levying a very heavy fine, doesn’t matter if that person is driving or not. And DO NOT try to stealthly bring any fire arms across the border, Canadanians do not look on that kindly.
Have wonderful trips, all, and don’t forget to put Skagway on your itinerary.
Good info Suzanne! Cheers for chiming in with your extensive experience of the area.
Great and helpful comments and post.
My husband and I visited Alaska 14 times including four road trips. Every trip was longer and the last one almost 3-month long. For those looking for secluded places I recommend Wrangell-St Elias NP, Kobuk Valley NP and the Gates of the Arctic NP. Great hiking but getting there is not easy. We too went bear watching (11 times.) Actually I went 11 times my husband only ten times. Our first bear watching trip to Katmai NP took place long ago when there was only one small company offering those trip. At that time we paid $250.00 per person. Now these trips are much more expensive and there are sometimes many floatplanes bringing several groups. It is just such different feeling.
Alaska state parks and national forests have many wilderness cabins for rentals. A few of them you can access by road but to majority you need to fly in or take a boat. They are offer fantastic way to experience less known Alaska. They are bare bone cabins so you need to bring your bedding, water, food, fuel and arrange your own transportation.
For those traveling in RVs you don’t have to even use campgrounds to stay overnight. Also with RV you can stay inside Denali NP, with advance reservations, in Teklanika campground. To get to and from this campground you are allowed to drive along the park road where private vehicles are not permitted.
Driving Alaska Highway is experience everyone should consider. There are plenty of wildlife, hiking trails too and places to stay/camp.
As to mosquitos we had problem only once in mid-June around Wonder Lake in Denali. Other than that I don’t remember using bug spray often. From comments here I noticed there are preferences for when to visit Alaska. Our favorite time to visit and hike in AK is August until mid-September
We almost enjoyed our ferry experiences and loved visiting Wrangell, Petersburg, Sitka, Juneau, Haines, Glacier Bay NP.
For those taking the ferry you’re not allowed to sleep in your RV or car. Your pets have to stay in your vehicle but you are allowed to visit them and walk them a few times a day. You have to clean up after your pet. When the ferry stops you can take your pets for walks outside but remember to have your tickets and ID s with you.
I’m still thinking about visiting Alaska this summer, this would be my first time driving to Alaska since my husband’s death. I would take Alaska Highway to Alaska and on the way back Cassiar Highway. I’m not sure if I would stop this time in Hyder to see bears. If I decide to revisit Haines I want to take the ferry to Juneau and go whale watching. I would love to again see whale bubble feed. In Haines every time we got to see many bears fishing. Every trip we took delivered different experiences.
FABULOUS tips! Thanks so much for sharing your experience. I so agree on the recommendation to take a trip by plane or boat. One of our BEST memories of Alaska was taking that float plane. You get to see places you’d never otherwise visit.
I was also interested to read that you like to stay until mid-September. That’s later than most of the other recommendations I’ve seen. Good to know the weather can hold until then.
THANKS again for the tips!
Craig Bowman says
The trip to Alaska starts Sunday, May 24th, with an interesting cast of characters. Our FC 28 is as ready as I can make it, packing it up this week. . . I am SO ready after thinking about / planning this trip since 1977. Look for us on the Alcan going & the Cassiar coming back, & a month of roaming AK. regards, Craig
Sounds like a dream in the making. HAVE FUN!!! Hope the trip turns out awesome for you.