We were four friends driving from Oregon to Fairbanks. We were on a fairly tight time schedule due to other commitments so unfortunately were not able to “dawdle” too much. One of us had made the trip numerous times, two had driven it several times, and I had driven it just once before – in 1996.
Wow, what a lot of changes since then! Back then, the Alaska Highway was winding, twisty, and only partially paved. There were hundreds of miles that were gravel and one section that was so bad we had to skirt boulders.
Now in 2012, the road is incredibly smooth for much of the length of it. We hit a section between Haines Junction and Beaver Creek that was under “re-construction” and had a few miles of gravel, and that was it as far as "rough" road. I was also impressed by the fact that the road was so straight and wide! The Canadian and American governments must have poured billions into this highway.
In some respects, some of the fun and “glamour” is gone from this long drive, because it’s so easy now. However, there are still great long stretches where you won’t see much human habitation. We saw black bear, grizzly bear, moose, bison, stone sheep and a whole host of smaller critters. Do heed the signs along the highway that warn of animals.
The scenery is gorgeous :-) I particularly enjoyed the areas around Muncho Lake, Haines Junction and Kluane Lake. I also enjoyed the many bridges we crossed along the route.
An absolute *MUST* for this trip is The Milepost!
Buy one well ahead of time and go through and highlight subjects that are of interest to you so you can quickly locate them in the book as you’re traveling. It’s not 100% accurate, but it’s pretty darn close. It tells you where to find gas stations, lodging and lists all kinds of attractions as well.
We used the west access through British Columbia. We started the Canadian portion of our journey on Highway 1, then took a lesser highway through Lillooet, then traveled the Cariboo / John Hart Highway 97. We opted not to go to Dawson Creek (Mile 1 of the Alaska Highway) and instead we cut across through the Peace River Valley and Hudson’s Hope.
We did not make any lodging reservations ahead of time in mid-June and except for one town (Watson Lake) had no trouble getting accommodations. For the most part, don’t expect luxury lodging though. Accommodations range from adequate to very good, depending upon where you decide to stop for the night. All of the smaller older motels we stayed in were clean, comfortable and had a microwave, refrigerator and free wi-fi in the room.
We carried a cooler with water, soft drinks and food. Most nights we were able to refreeze our ‘blue ice’ packs in the tiny freezer of the room refrigerator. Restaurants are few and pretty far between so I would suggest carrying lots of snacks to munch on. As with lodging, don’t expect fancy restaurants along the way, but there are many pubs and cafes so you won’t go hungry. Only the larger towns will have good sized grocery stores, so stock up ahead.
There are plenty of toilets along the road – but be aware that most of them are basic outhouses. Every one that I stopped in had toilet paper and was reasonably clean. We kept HandiWipes in the car and they came in very … well … handy!
Once we got north of about Prince George the traffic diminished and we saw relatively few vehicles on the road. There were enough so that we didn’t feel we were the last ones on earth, but few enough that we never worried about stopping alongside the road to take photos. You will see big trucks so be polite and move out of their way if you’re holding them up. Remember, they’re not on vacation!
If you plan on traveling in an RV, there are now a lot of RV parks and campgrounds along the route. I saw several very nice Good Sam parks in lovely locations next to lakes.
We found gas and diesel prices are much higher in Canada than what we were used to. Once you get to Alaska they drop some, but are still higher than in probably many states.
The Alaska Highway technically ends at Delta Junction, but many travelers continue northbound to Fairbanks. The road from Delta Junction to Fairbanks is called the Richardson Highway.
This is a great drive and even though it is much “tamer” than it used to be, it’s still an adventure. I highly recommend this trip and if interested, check out my reviews of our accommodations and dining along the route.
I look forward to the day that I can travel this road again and hopefully take more time!
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