Alaska, MT Everest of the RV world
Alaska, the “Last Frontier” – after holding tanks, storage and batteries, it seems that every extended RV discussion eventually leads to Alaska. When we first got started, Alaska was very high on our bucket list. After two consecutive summer seasons “inside” we’ve decide that it is time to share some of what we’ve learned and experienced. If you’re planning an Airstream or RV trip to Alaska, hopefully this will be useful. Stay tuned!
Because it’s there…
When you picture Alaska in your mind’s eye, do you see vast swaths of wilderness, epic landscapes, wild animals, national parks, mountains, glaciers, aurora or the gateway to the Arctic? For us, it was all of that and ended up being so much more, including a lot driving!
Alaska, To Drive or Not To Drive…
That is the question!
Alaska is the largest state in the Union, over 2.5 times larger than Texas. Driving from Homer, at the bottom of the Kenai Peninsula to Prudhoe Bay, on the Arctic Ocean, is over 1,000 miles. Homer to Valez is a little more than 500 miles. Factoring road construction, repairs, frost heaves and the scenic pullout for photos, you can expect an average speed of no more than 45 mph. You can do the math on the amount time it can take to get around.
Much is accessible from one of Alaska’s 11 major highways. Renting an RV is an increasing popular option. Numerous companies including, but not limited to, Cruise America, Great Alaskan Holidays, and Apollo RV offer rentals. You can also rent from private owners through the likes of Outdoorsy. We had friends has a good experience renting from Outdoorsy. For more on Outdoorsy, check out this article on Your RV Lifestyle.When renting, you typically fly into Anchorage, pick-up the RV, and eventually return to Anchorage for the return and flight out.
Driving to Alaska from the lower-48 means crossing Canada and driving all or some of the Alaska Highway (aka Alaskan Highway or Alaska-Canada Highway or simply the Alcan). This 1000+ mile highway starts in Dawson Creek, British Columbia. and runs to Delta Junction, AK.
An alternative route, from the west coast, is the Stewart-Cassiar (pronounced like caviar) or simply Cassiar Highway. This runs about 500 miles from Kitwanga, B.C. to the north and joins the Alcan near Watson Lake, Yukon Territory.
The Alcan is the major land route that connects Alaska and is open year-round. Another option is to take the Top of the World Highway which is accessed by ferrying across the Yukon River in Dawson City.
All routes are different and interesting in their own right. What we have not done is taken a car/RV ferry on the Alaska Marine Highway system. We’ll share more about Canada in separate posts.
Alaska, You’re in!
So you’ve decided to venture to the land of the midnight sun. You might be wondering what other resources exist to help you plan your adventures, obviously other than the fantastic blog you’re currently reading.
A great place to start is Alaska.org. They have a really good map you can obtain for free in the US (you only pay shipping and handling). You can also pick up a map and activity guide at most visitor centers. They even have a free app for your smart phone, although you will need Internet access to use it (more on Internet later).
If you like to plan in detail, you’ll want to look at the Milepost. Updated every year, this tome will provide you with mile by mile information about the roads, road conditions, signage, gas stations, campgrounds, attractions, contact numbers and local history. Another useful resource is the Traveler’s Guide to Alaska Camping. Like the Milepost for the roads, this guide also has suggested itineraries for visiting Alaska and detail on campgrounds such as hookups, amenities and maximum RV lengths. We used both of these guides for our first season in Alaska.
There are many resources online as well. The RVing to Alaska Facebook group is a popular option. You would do well to join or monitor your RV brand/model specific groups or forums should you encounter any issues on the road. For Airstream owners, there is the Facebook Airstream Addicts group and also AirForums.com. We occasionally peek at these but find that there is too much noise generated by the many enthusiastic responses. It is common to ask a question and receive 50 opinions from 25 people! Information shared on social media, usually with good intentions, is often delayed due to poor connectivity which creates its own problem of inaccuracy particularly related to road conditions, fires or weather. The group administrators and moderators do their best to guide people but it can be a challenge with so many excited travelers just wanting to share their stories.
What works best for us is to consult the respected authorities, and use our own experiences coupled with word-of-mouth information from like-minded travelers.
Stay tuned for more!
Article By Sean