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Old 12-28-2011, 01:50 PM   #1
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Alaska, any tips?

We're looking at taking our Berkshire to Alaska this summer. Round trip would be about 10,000 miles from Buffalo and maybe an extra couple of thousand miles while we are there. My questions are addressed to those who have made the trip. Any suggestions on must sees and must avoids? If you had it to do over would you still drive your own rig up to Alaska or would you fly in and rent a rig when you get there? Take a toad or rent a car? Take Fido or leave him (them) at home?

We would be taking the trip with our twins who will be 15 at the time. Any other suggestions are more than welcome.
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Old 12-28-2011, 04:23 PM   #2
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I have not made the drive from the lower 48 to Alaska, but have rented motor homes twice . Making that drive is on my bucket list. 2004 was our last motor home trip so some things may have changed. Buy yourself a "MilePost" magazine. It is worth every penny. Camp site reservations in Valdez, Seward,and Homer are a must, especially around the 4th of July. The roads within Alaska are generally paved and in good shape. You will find sections of road that are gravel. This is where freezing has cause the asphalt to heave and buckle. The quick repair is gravel. Just keep an eye out for them and slow down. Also, get your vision used to watching for movement in the side ditches. We had 2 moose run out in front of us. They would not be a good thing to tangle with in any vehicle. Fortunately I noticed the movement. They are huge and it is amazing how well they blend in and are hard to see.

I would not drive my own vehicle on the "Haul Road". That is the road from Fairbanks to Prudhoe Bay. It is a gravel road, flying rock and dust like you won't believe. If you want to go up it a ways rent a car. We took it the Arctic Circle. Big trucks passed us like we were standing still, we were doing the speed limit. It was nice to say I've been to the Arctic Circle and caught fish in the stream just below it we decided to turn around and head back to Fairbanks. The amount of dust that can be induced into a motor home is unbelievable. We spent the night in a hotel and almost the entire next day cleaning the inside of the RV and washing everything we could take out. The dust was still coming out of places a week later. It is something I can tell as funny store now.

Whether to take Fido or not is a tough question. Some things like bear watching, riding into Denali or boat sight seeing trips take all day. That could be tough for the dogs being left in the RV all day. I don't remember seeing much in the way of doggie day camps but that may have chanced since I was there. We did not have a dog at the time but I remember being told by several rangers, guides, etc. that dogs can be a problem for you if you hike, especially with dog off leash. The dog tracks down the bear until he finds it then hightails it back to you with bear right behind him. Bears can be around even in populated areas.

Things not to miss: Trans Alaska Pipeline, Valdez, boat tour of Prince William sound, Seward, boat trip to Kenai Fjords Nationa Park, any of the glaciers you can get to.

The state is like driving in a picture post card, most of the time.
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Old 12-28-2011, 04:43 PM   #3
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kz, thanks for the tips. I actually drove the AlCan when I was stationed in Fairbanks in the early 70's. Back then all of the AlCan was dirt other than the first 30 miles and a small patch around Whitehorse. I do know what you mean about the dust and the rocks as the trucks made our windshield a conglomeration of spider webs from the rock hits. Note, I said rocks, not stones. Some of them looked like Gibralter heading for our windshield.
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Old 12-28-2011, 05:00 PM   #4
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My wife and I along with four other couples made the trip from Michigan to Alaska in August and September of 2010. It is well worth the time and expense. As mentioned above do buy a "Milepost" magazine as there is a wealth of information as well as being able close tabs on where you are located. They are also correct about the "Haul Road". It is worth the trip but renting a vehicle does make sense. If you are camping along the Alaskan Highway make sure you do not just pull off by yourself, but camp in an area where there are campers or there are many campgrounds along the way. Make sure you spend time in "Denali National Park". Most of the Alaskan Highway is very good, however there is a 125 mile stretch in the Yukon Territories that will be a slower pace. Gas along the highway is very expensive so take advantage of stopping at the visitor centers along the way as many of them will have daily prices of the price per gallon/liter at the various locations which we found very helpful. Take your time and enjoy. The views are breath taking, but there is no where on the highway where it is difficult driving.
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Old 12-28-2011, 09:28 PM   #5
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I flew into Anchorage and rented back in 2002. Some of the "must sees/dos:" the boat trip in Seward to see whales and glaciers, camping right on the beach on the Homer Spit (I believe it's either a NFS campground or a state park,) fishing charter trip for halibut in Homer, and if you feel like being really "out there," when you get to Denali, there's a campground 30 miles into the access road (Teklanika) but you have to stay there for 3 consecutive nights, ie, they don't want you driving in and out. I didn't stay there personally because it was getting towards the end of the trip and we had to complete our "circle" to get back to Anchorage in time to return the RV, but that was something that I really would have liked. The NFS campgrounds are pretty rustic, but many of them had paved roads and pads for parking the RV. I recall the one at Russian River was pretty. The Kenai penninsula is a beautiful drive from Anchorage to Homer, and if you like day hikes, Flattop Mountain (just south of Anchorage) is a popular spot. I second the notion of NOT going up the Dalton Highway. Just because the ice road truckers drive it does not mean you should (at least in the RV.) It's so bumpy, the dishes were falling out of the cabinets, and that was only at a slow speed! I do like the "rent a car/truck" idea though.

One other thing to remember (especially if you're there in the summer) : it stays light REALLY REALLY LATE, but that doesn't mean you should alter your sleeping patterns and timing. If you start to go to bed when it's dark, you'll be up way later than you usually are and you'll be sleep-deprived in no time. This is a sure-fire recipe for wrecking your RV by falling asleep at the wheel. So try to go to bed when you normally do, even if its still light out. Bring extra memory sticks for your digital camera (although after a while, you just stop taking pictures, because around every bend is another great view.) Make sure you take in a local "salmon bake" for dinner at some point, too.

Have a great trip, I'm jealous!
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Old 12-29-2011, 04:02 PM   #6
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We drove our minivan to AK in 2006. Great trip and lots to see. We travelled 9000 miles in about 30 days. The milepost is a must have.

We took a bus tour out of Fairbanks to the Artic Circle. The haul road is rough and bad on your vehicle. The bus driver said he was on his second windshield that season and needed a third. A good way to go since someone else drives and you can see the sights.

We also enjoyed the "Flightseeing" air ride up Denali. A real treat and when we were there the only way to see the summit was to go above the clouds.

I would like to do the trip in the MH so we could take more time.

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Old 12-29-2011, 08:54 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wnytaxman View Post
My questions are addressed to those who have made the trip. Any suggestions on must sees and must avoids? If you had it to do over would you still drive your own rig up to Alaska or would you fly in and rent a rig when you get there? Take a toad or rent a car? Take Fido or leave him (them) at home?

We would be taking the trip with our twins who will be 15 at the time. Any other suggestions are more than welcome.
We made the trip of a lifetime in2005 We left the TX gulf Coast on May 28 and our the 1st night in Alaska was June 28 in a roadside pull off just west of Tow. (in Alaska you cam boomdock at any of the roadside pull offs these are just places to stop they are not Resr Areas as you know them in the lower 48) If you have the time by all means drive and take as much time as you can there is so much to see and do in Canada. Be sure that everone has their passport and don't take any guns just too much hassel trying to take weapons of any kind into Canada. Yes I would drive again I pulled a 30ft 5wheel and used TV for day trips in the area we were camped. If I was driving a Motorhome I would pull a toad There are many areas that you will want to explore and not in a Motorhome are rent a car Most rentsl companys will not insure a car if thaken on back roads. Damage to a rental could cost you more than repairing damage to your own car.
As advised before buy the latest copy of the Milepost it covers mile by mile most Hys in Canada Yukon & Northwest terrories and access routes in Alberta & B. C. Plus all in Alaska. Another good book to have is Alaskan Camping by Mike & Terri Church. We made res. for 4th July for 4 nights but it turned out we didn't need them. We found that Res were not needed except for Denali Nat Park. or maybe if you have a certain campground that you want to stay in on certain dates. We were in Alaska June 28 to Augest 26 & Denali was the only place that res were needed. Most up to date info can be found on the internet. I will add more later about what not to miss seeing or doing
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Old 01-01-2012, 09:57 AM   #8
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What route are you taking to get to Dawson Creek, the start of the Alaska Highway? I STRONGLY suggest that you look at the route from Canmore, AB through Banff and Lake Louise, then up the Icefields Parkway to Jasper. From there, you can go to Hinton then turn north again toward Dawson Creek. If you don't mind (or if you love) mountains, Canmore to Jasper is about the most spectacular drive you'll see in a long time.

Coming back, if you plan to take the Cassiar Highway south from Watson Lake, you can then take the Yellow Hat(?) Highway back to Jasper and repeat the drive back to Canmore.
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Old 01-01-2012, 04:13 PM   #9
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I agreed with Frog don't miss Banff or Jasper Nat Parks
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Old 01-01-2012, 07:49 PM   #10
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We will definitely head up through the Canadian Rockies. We will be driving the motorhome and possibly pulling a toad. One of my concerns is that we are on highways that will work for a 40 footer with a toad. I don't want to get onto any roads that are especially narrow or big drop offs.
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Old 01-01-2012, 08:44 PM   #11
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We did the route up through the Canadian Rockies, the Alaska and Cassiar Highways, Yellow Hat, and a month in northern Canada and Alaska with a 40'DP and a toad. All of these routes are more than adequate.

Your exhaust brake will get a LOT of exercise along the way, and will be worth its weight in gold.
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Old 01-03-2012, 10:51 AM   #12
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if you go into canada through sask you will most likely run past me lol.

jasper, banff, all worth the drive! there is also glacier buggy rides
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Old 01-03-2012, 10:58 AM   #13
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Take Bug dope...?
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Old 01-04-2012, 02:23 PM   #14
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Thanks to all for your suggestions. We are looking into all the possibilities including driving the rig up the Al Can, flying into Anchorage and renting an RV, or flying into Anchorage and just renting a car and using hotels and restaurants. One of the tour books we got said that hotels and restaurants means that you should plan on a minimum of $175 per day per person. For the four of us that would be $700 per day and for a three week jaunt we would be in the $14,000 neighborhood without air fare and car rental. This makes the RV travel much more attractive.
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Old 01-04-2012, 02:50 PM   #15
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wow that expensive. Definatley paying for a rental and taking your time stopping when you want rather than trying to make the next check in time at some hotel is the best way to go.

Hope you see some amazing wildlife along the way
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Old 01-04-2012, 03:23 PM   #16
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Just a note that we drove from Kentucky to Fairbanks and back in 2006. Drove my 5 yr old minivan with 88,000 miles. Spent 28 days and drove 9,080 miles. Burned 375 gallons of gas

There were only the 2 of us but we only spent about $6,000. And, that included a couple of hundred $ for an airplane ride over Denali and a bus tour to the Artic Circle. So, $14,000 seems a bit high.

On the other hand, the worst part was hurrying to get to the next motel. An RV would definitely be more enjoyable.

Now, to all my Canadian friends out there....DW and I agree that the most beautiful scenery on the trip was in Canada...If you fly, you will miss that.

Good luck and let us know how you make out.

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Old 01-08-2012, 09:51 PM   #17
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My son and his family drove a class c from corpus christi to anchorage for about 4500 miles and flew back to Texas. The wife and I flew up and drove back in 8500 miles since we had more time to utilize. We left Anchorage July 15 and arrived in Corpus October 15 for about 3 months transit. Your emphasis on planning should be to have enough time to enjoy the trip. A 9000 mile trip in 30 days would be 300 a day every day and that would be akin to hard labor.
We are going to make the trip again in 2013 leaving in April and return in October. Its a great way to have 6 months of spring and fall weather the best part of the year.
Take the Alcan up and the Cassius south, catch a halibut at Homer, see the sun not set above the arctic circle,watch the salmon runs,glacier and pacific old growth forests. Make it a lifestyle not a vacation
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Old 01-08-2012, 10:13 PM   #18
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We flew up in 2005 and rented motorhome from Great Alaskan Holidays. Great outfit to rent from. Whether you fly in or drive up don't be afraid to stay in some out of the way places or unusual places. Our first night we found that we had come in on Memorial Weekend and found campgrounds full. We ended up spending the night in a lot at the Aleyeska ski resort. Quiet & out of the way. Most towns like Homer or Seward have parks along the bays that you can camp on in your RV. We spent a pleasant night in Seward on the beach at one of these parks. Only charge a small fee for the night, but there are no hookups so being fully contained was a benefit. In Homer we stayed on the spit in the local park which was nice as it was right next to the the Fishing Hole where my sons managed to catch king salmon. Then a halibut fishing trip topped off the trip out of Homer. The family talk about this trip often & all of us would like to do it again some day. The tip about buying the Milepost is right on. Don't travel without it. They put out a new edition each year & have full travel tips for traveling in Alaska & Yukon territories & best directions on getting up north.
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Old 01-08-2012, 10:53 PM   #19
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We drove our 36' DP up and back with a dog and cat... 6 weeks and had a ball! We left from Bellingham Washington, so my comment is based on driving from Milepost 0.

Roads for the most part were better than I expected. You will certainly encounter construction which could hold you up for a considerable amount of time. We were stopped for nearly an hour west of Ft. Nelson BC.

Most road surfaces were good, but you can encounter some chip seal which slows most folks down. There was little truck traffic beyond Ft. Nelson, and the scenery is some of the best we've seen anywhere... when it was visible. We had lots of cloudy days both ways.

I found that the road warning signs were usually placed a little too close to the hazard... some steep hills surprised me as the "Hill" sign was posted a bit later than I would have liked more than a couple times. Some of the river valleys you cross are pretty deep!

There is wildlife to be seen everywhere. Fortunately the roads are clear-cut for a wide swath so most folks have time to avoid the animals they encounter along the road... not always the case.

Get the latest "Mileposts" travel guide for the Alaska Highway.

As mentioned, there are boondocking locations all along the Alaska Highway. Canada has Provincial Parks that offer designated camping at regular intervals along the road. There are a few RV parks as I recall, but we only stayed in a park at White Horse to dump and fill both ways so I can't recommend any.

Beware the frost heave! These "speed bumps" are only marked with red flags along the edge of the road... Hit one at crusing speed and you will pay closer attention for red flags later!

There is so much to see and do, before you ever get home, you will likely be planning your next trip to see the stuff you know you missed.

Eat at Fast Eddy's in Tok.
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Old 01-09-2012, 12:13 AM   #20
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Rbq, reading your post just put me in total flashback mode, as we did many of the same things you did. Big +1 for Great Alaskan Holidays, good company to deal with for the rental, and also a +1 for the milepost book. Be sure to watch for beluga whales on the way to Seward and Homer!
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