Alaska has been on our list since we hit the road in 2015. We’re not much of planners while traveling the Lower 48 because the beauty of RV life is you can come and go as you please. However considering a whole summer in Alaska, we took advice and did our research to devise a day to day itinerary. We booked ferries and campsites months in advance. What we found after finally making it to Alaska was — it’s not that serious.
OVERVIEW OF ROUTE
- Start in Portalnd, OR
- 1,000 miles to Dawson Creek, BC
- Alaska Highway 1,459 miles to Fairbanks, AK
- Engaged in Denali
- Painted a mural in Anchorage
- Visited Seward, Homer, Katmai, McCarthy
- Ferries to Juneau and Ketchikan
Also known as the Alcan Highway, this historical two lane road stretches from Dawson City, BC unofficially to Fairbanks, AK. The highway is mostly paved with small sections of decent potholes. Nothing your car or RV can’t handle.
What we found to be amazing about this specific highway other than its grandeur of scenery was the lack of billboards, street lights, power lines or cell service. It truly felt like driving in the past! We noticed mostly RVs, makeshift camper vans and Uhaul trucks pushing north. You kind of play leap frog with other vehicles since there’s only one road heading to one destination.
The spruce lined road stretches forever until you come up on a couple scattered buildings marked on the map as a town with the population topping 1,000. Maybe a gas station, definitely a liquor store. Climbing higher up the planet, we realized the effects of 24hr daylight. We had to block out our windows and wear sleeping masks to get some shuteye. Luckily, you can pull over anywhere along the Alaska Highway to overnight camp.
After passing through Dawson City, BC is when we entered bear’s country. Multiple bald eagles soaring the overcast sky was just another day. We were constantly conscious of mama moose waiting to cross the road with her month old calves. Our record was 13 black bears in one day just casually eating grass along the highway.
Favorite Stops along the Alaska Highway include Liard Hot Springs, Kluane National Park and Muncho Lake.
Entering Fairbanks, we pulled into the most northern town on our route and immediately stumbled across a Blockbuster Video in business! Shocked to find it, we took some photos then a couple weeks later unfortunately heard it had closed its doors. Taking advantage of the convenience of being in a real town, we stocked up for the next five days of camping.
Before turning into Denali, we camped a night in Healy catching some serious Into The Wild vibes. We visited the Magic Bus (replica) posted up at the 49th State Brewing Company where we toasted to finally making it to Denali. The next morning we drove the Stampede Road where Christopher McCandless was last seen in 1992. We went as far as we could before it turned into a trail leading 18 miles to the real Magic Bus.
Five nights at Teklanika River Campground with two full day attempts at viewing The Tall One, we left without seeing the continent's highest summit due to weather. Luckily, there are more places than one to view Denali summit. We were extremely fortunate to catch a blue bird day at South View north of Talkeetna where we saw the top of our continent’s tallest mountain reaching 20,310 feet. It was breathtaking.
On our last morning in Denali, we hiked out to the Teklanika River where we got engaged! Victor somehow successfully hid the ring in the RV and waited until our 50th state to propose. We got our only day of snow in Alaska 10 minutes after it happened.
South of Anchorage, the Seward Highway winds until it reaches Cooper Landing where you can take a left to Seward or right to Homer.
Our favorite memory from this remote town was entering it. The longest tunnel in North America, Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, is a one-lane 2.5mi road that leads you to an old secret military base. Of the few days it rained in Alaska for us, this was one of them so we didn’t stay too long.
Another small Alaskan finishing town where we stayed a few days. Caught up on some work at Seabean Cafe and had the famous bucket of (Hali)butt at Thorn's Showcase Lounge that hasn’t changed its interior since 1970.
From Seward, we took a day cruise to Kenai Fjords National Park where we saw all the wildlife including orcas, puffins, harbor seals, more eagles and humpback whales. The turnaround point to this rainy ride was tidewater Aialik Glacier. We idled for about 20 minutes and just in that time, we heard a sound we’ll never forget. A deep cracking sound, followed by ice calving from the glacier plunging into the ocean. A man on board collected small icebergs to reveal the layers of years on the ice.
Driving to the other side of the peninsula, we stopped at Anchor Point where we counted 17 bald eagles on the shore at one point. We camped along the water at Stariski Campground.
Getting into Homer, we found ‘The Spit’ which is the touristy peninsula filled with shops and the highly recommended Salty Dawg Saloon so we stopped there for a drink.
From Homer, we flew in a float plane to visit Katmai National Park. Our guide (and pilot) made us feel very safe in close proximity (30 feet) to bears considering he spent most of his days out there in the wild. He anchored the plane then lead us through the tall grass and purple lupine flowers, making two stops over 4 hours of observing (and hearing) bears tearing up grass and rolling around carefree.
Takeoff and landing seemed effortless. We flew back over the park covered with blue glaciers and untouched land.
After completing the Greetings from Alaska mural, a new friend suggested we check out McCarthy and we're so glad he did! We traveled the dirt road stretching 59 miles ending at a river where we camped two nights. We got settled and crossed the foot bridge into ‘town’ consisting of a few old buildings filled with summer squatters.
McCarthy offers $5 shuttles to the National Landmark of the Kennecott Mines. From the end of the road there, you can take the trailhead to Root Glacier. We didn’t get a guide or crampon shoes, but walked on the glacier any way. It was quite the sight to see people ice climbing among the blue and white layered ice.
From Haines, we caught the first of three ferries heading south. Our first night camping in Juneau at Mendenhall Glacier, we got evacuated due to an annual glacial outburst that floods the area. In Juneau we hiked a 3,000ft elevation gain in two hours at Mount Roberts, kayaked a full day to Gull Island, biked around Mendenhall and watched the salmon hiding from bald eagles.
We tent camped on an overnight ferry to Ketchikan and saw our first real moon of the summer! Our final ferry dropped us off Prince Rupert where we began our descent to the Lower 48.