Lodge accessible only to planes. In the Alaska Range

Vancouver, BC to Anchorage and all points in between.

We just finished the most amazing summer. I have to say that traveling full-time in a motorhome has some amazing perks! We started a four-month trip arriving in Vancouver on June 1, 2018. We traveled to the Alcan, followed it up into the Yukon Territories, across into Alaska, to Fairbanks, Anchorage, Valdez and breath-taking sites in between. What’s not to love?

Use the Milepost to Plan Your Route

If you are planning your trip up the Alcan and into Alaska, you can learn an incredible amount of detail using the Milepost. This is a must-have book listing every highway and every potential pullout, gas station and roadhouse, just to start.

We highly recommend you order it in advance and use it to determine your best routes.  By the time we got home, our copy was tattered and marked up in 6 colors. But when you do not have the internet on the road, this book is a true lifesaver.

We’re on YouTube!

If you just want to see the pretty pictures, check out our video on YouTube to get just a taste of what you are going to find when you drive the Alcan and into Alaska!

Vancouver, BC

We started in near Vancouver, in a little town called Fort Langley. While we were there, we visited the Historic Site of Fort Langley, which had a great living history museum. The forts in British Columbia were mostly built to support the Hudson’s Bay Company fur traders and gold miners in the area. 

Fort Langley Living History - woodworker
Fort Langley Living History – woodworker

Visit the VanDusen Gardens

We also traveled into Vancouver itself, in the jeep. I am a lover of botanical gardens, so I could not pass up the VanDusen Gardens in Vancouver. You can see our photos of the garden, here. This place is worth a couple of hours for sure.

Van Dusen gardens are a quiet place to catch your breath and enjoy the beauty.
Van Dusen gardens are a quiet place to catch your breath and enjoy the beauty.

While you are in Vancouver, you can park near the Vancouver Maritime Museum in Vanier Park. The museum is interesting. But what made the day beautiful was the walk along the waterway with views of North Van Vancouver across the Burrard inlet.

Vancouver - View of North Vancouver
Vancouver – View of North Vancouver

Day Trip to Whistler

On another day, we took a jeep drive up to Whistler just to explore the site of the 2010 Winter Olympics. Of course, in June, this is not a winter wonderland, but a cute little spot with views that don’t quit. Do we really need to drive all the way to Alaska? Lets stay here!

Road Trip to Whistler
Road Trip to Whistler

Prince George, BC

Once we were ready to leave the Vancouver area, we decided to drive Highway 5 to Kamloops. The alternative highway 97 was said to be a bit slower and curvier. Highway 5 is was built as the upgraded road for major semi-truck traffic. It reminded me of Highway 5 north of Redding, California.  It was 4 lane, and very fast, if a bit curvy through the mountains. (On the way back we chose Highway 97. The elevation is lower and we were pushing the edge of winter weather.)

Supplies in Prince George

We spent one night near Kamloops, and then one night in Cache Creek. Then we stayed for several days in Prince George. Now this is not a destination I would recommend for views or history. But it was a great spot to stock up on supplies before we headed into the much sparser areas north. We picked up groceries, paper supplies and fuel. Good thing we did, because the next few towns were going to be a bit sparse and very expensive for groceries.  

Dawson Creek, BC

Why did they build the Alcan?

The beginning of the Alcan, or Alaska-Canada Highway, is Dawson Creek. Before World War II the US DOD decided that Alaska was an important corner of the US to hold on to. After Pearl Harbor was attacked, it was even more clear that Japan’s goal was to take Alaska to get a foothold into North America.

This was a danger for the Canadians also, so both countries put a huge effort into building a road to Alaska. It wasn’t a good road, but it worked. Even now, some stretches are a bit rough. But it worked for my motorhome, so it must be good enough!

Fort Nelson

Next stop, Fort Nelson. The Fort Nelson Heritage Museum was worth a stop, with great information about the highway and the fort itself.

Watson Lake

A fun stop after a long drive, Watson Lake is known for the Sign Post Forest. Apparently during World War II a lonely soldier was working on the Alaska Highway, and put up a sign pointing back to his home in the midwest. Since then people have placed over 80,000 signs pointing to their home towns.

Watson Lake - sign post forest
Watson Lake – sign post forest

You might also enjoy the Watson Lake Visitor Center. The docents keep track of the latest Alcan Highway road conditions, so it is a good idea just to check in. There is a small museum here with some detailed background on the construction of the Alcan.

Whitehorse

When you get to Whitehorse, you have another chance to stock up on supplies at a reasonable price. We spent several days here, to catch our breath and to catch up on work. While we were there, we visited the SS Klondike. This sternwheeler is now grounded. These boats were the major means of transportation up the Yukon to the interior of the territory, and to Alaska, before the Alcan was built and for many years after.

SS Klondike - Whitehorse
SS Klondike – Whitehorse

The Natural History Museum near the airport was also worth seeing.  Sometimes walking through the museums helps provide context for all the things we see as we drive down the road.

Skagway

Leaving the motorhome in Whitehorse, we took the Jeep down the over the steep road to Skagway. The road is very well maintained. But as we crested the top, we realized how high we were as we drove through several miles of clouds, otherwise known as fog.

There is a little park here called Caribou Crossing. My dad would call it a ‘tourist-trap’. But the museum displayed some great historical and current animals and we got up close and personal with some sled-dog pups. So it was a nice stop.

Sled dogs - Lets go!
Sled dogs – Lets go!

Be prepared for a border crossing here, Whitehorse is in Canada but Skagway is part of Alaska. The road, when it wasn’t foggy, was absolutely stunning and we stopped often for photos.

Skagway itself is a small town surrounded by completely vertical mountains. It is not hard to imagine yourself as a hopeful gold miner trying to get your 1-ton of supplies over that pass. The local museums tell the tale of the successes and fatal failures.

Downtown Skagway
Downtown Skagway

Dawson City

It isn’t strictly necessary to go to Dawson City on the Way to Alaska. In fact, it is a detour. This is one detour you need to make. It took us two days to get from Whitehorse to Dawson City in the motorhome. Then we stayed for a week. There were road trips over the Top of the World Highway and the Tombstone Territorial Park. Of course, Dawson City itself is a crazy fun place to explore. Don’t pass this one up!

To see more of our photos around Dawson city, check out this article.

To explore gold mining and the dredges of the Klondike gold rush, read this one.

Tombstone National Park. Dirt Road, Enormous Views
Tombstone National Park. Dirt Road, Enormous Views
Local river boat cruise in Dawson City
Local river boat cruise in Dawson City

Tok, Alaska

Now many people are willing to drive their big rigs across the Top of The World Highway from Dawson City to Tok, Alaska.  Not this girl. We had driven most of it in the jeep and I did not need to do it again. The 42′ motorhome was made for other roads. We drove back down to Whitehorse, sleeping one night in a dry pullout at a beautiful view of the valley. Then on to Tok.

Tok is the first town you hit after you cross the US border into Alaska. It is not a large town, but everyone driving from the east into Alaska will go into Tok. Here you will find a nice little visitor center, grocery store, mechanic, and a large, easy RV park. Like most RV parks on this trip, you are not going to find concrete pads and swimming pools.  But all spots are pull-throughs and the utilities work!

Fairbanks

Next stop, Fairbanks. I have to say, this was not my favorite spot, although we spent 3 weeks here. Bill needed dental work and this was our chance. And, of course, I needed to get some work done for a client.

It is possible to drive up to the arctic circle from Fairbanks. We did not try it. The road is gravel for 300 miles. My love is mountains and that entire road is flat. 

Trestle built to haul copper near the Kennecott Mines
Trestle built to haul copper near the Kennecott Mines

What we did instead was take a weekend trip down the Richardson Highway. We left the motorhome in Fairbanks (actually an RV Park in North Pole) and drove south down Highway 4, known as the Richardson Highway. There were several stops to see the huge Alaska Pipeline. This pipe runs from Prudhoe Bay on the Arctic Ocean all the way to Valdez on the Gulf of Alaska. , carries the lifeblood of Alaska, both in terms of jobs and economics.

Oil was discovered in Prudhoe Bay in 1968. The 800 mile pipeline was constructed with private funds running though a conglomeration of oil companies called the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company. Construction required 70,000 workers between 1969 and 1977. Tax revenues to the people of Alaska reached $50 Billion as of 2002.

Alaska Pipeline
Alaska Pipeline

For more information on the Alaskan Pipeline, click here.

We spent the first night in a campground in a tent. We then drove the McCarthy highway to McCarthy and then walked in to town and explored the abandoned Kennecott Copper Mine.  Read more about this great road trip.

McCarthy Highway Kennecott Mines
McCarthy Highway Kennecott Mines

Parks Highway to Denali, Talkeetna

Finally ready to leave Fairbanks, we headed south on the Parks Highway. This road is named for the Denali National Park and Denali State Park you pass on the way to Anchorage. We spent a week at Cantwell, just south of the parks. We drove into the National Park for a day, but did not get on the bus tour. The next day we had amazing views of “the Mountain” from the state park. We must be highly favored. They say 80% of visitors never see the top of the mountain. But we had several hours of clear viewing.

The closest view of Mount Denali from the Highway.
The closest view of Mount Denali from the Highway.

Learn more about our exploration of the Alaskan Range, Denali, and Flightseeing over Denali from Talkeetna.

Wasilla

Since we are not really fans of large cities, we decided to stay in Wasilla for a couple of weeks, rather than finding an RV Park in Anchorage. From Wasilla, we visited the historic Matanuska Colony of Palmer. During the depression, in 1935, the federal government transplanted 203 families from Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan into the Matanuska Valley. It was an expensive project, costing the government $500 million dollars, with mixed results. Be sure to stop by the visitor center in Palmer to explore the existing buildings from that period.

We also took two day trips up into Hatcher Pass, just for the beauty of the photography.  See our photos here.

We took another day trip into the Kenai Peninsula to explore Whittier. This is a cute sea town, and the landing spot for many of the cruises that come up into Alaska. There is a one-way tunnel which opens on a schedule in each direction. There is a toll of $13 for a car and $22 for larger vehicles. I am not sure I would spend a lot of time in Whittier, but the port was fun and we had a great lunch of fresh halibut.

Whittier, Alaska Harbor
Whittier, Alaska Harbor

Glenallen

Our last stop in Alaska was to be Valdez. To get there from Anchorage, you drive the beautiful Glenn Highway. Don’t be in a hurry on this one. It is paved and well maintained. But it is too pretty to drive fast, with several waterfalls and a glacier along the way. There are several pull-outs meant just for photos.

We spent one night at a roadhouse outside of Glennallen. When the roads were rougher, these roadhouses were scattered every 50 miles or so, to enable people to travel and have a safe place to stop. Many of those that still exist celebrate that history with family-style dinners and basic supplies.  We stayed at the Ranch House Lodge and RV Park. The food was great, and the conversation with other travelers, as well as the proprietors, made the stop so much more than just a place to sleep.

Valdez

Valdez was our last stop before heading home. We did not really plan to go to Valdez, but the weather on the Kenai Peninsula was going to be wet and dreary for the next couple of weeks so we decided to skip Seward and Homer. As they say, “leave some for next time”.

Valdez was a special treat. We found a beautiful campsite in an RV Park right on the water. While we were there we took several drives up to Solomon Gulch to watch the Salmon Runs and looks for bears. We are not overly lucky at animal sightings. Might have something to do with the two dogs we travel with.

Valdez Bay - view from our campsite
Valdez Bay – view from our campsite

We did take a very special excursion from Valdez. We took a 6-hour boat tour into the bay and to the Glacier. There were a couple of cruise choices, but we selected the LuLu Labelle on the recommendations of several people who had tried it. What a day! Cold, windy, but cozy inside. We saw sea lions, puffins, and a humpback whale. The glacier itself was the purpose of the day. Astounding.

Sea Lions from boat Valdez cruise
Sea Lions from boat Valdez cruise
Glacier View from Valdez cruise
Glacier View from Valdez cruise

Heading North to Return South

So our time in Alaska was over. We left Valdez with full hearts, gigabytes of photographs and a need to beat the snow getting out of the state. There was a “minor” delay with brake issues on the motorhome. AAA paid for the tow back to Anchorage to get the work done, which slowed us down. We left Anchorage on September 5 and sped back the way we came. Back to Tok and then south to the Canadian Border. Driving the motorhome in snow was not my idea of a good time. But we mostly missed it. Phew!

Travel the Alcan and Alaska Highways for the Ultimate Road Trip. Things to do in Alaska and the Yukon Travel the Alcan and Alaska Highways for the Ultimate Road Trip. Things to do in Alaska and the Yukon Travel the Alcan and Alaska Highways for the Ultimate Road Trip. Things to do in Alaska and the Yukon

Check out our YouTube video for more photos along the Alaska Highway and the Alcan.

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