Mythbusting Alaska: 10 Misconceptions About RVing the 49th State

Mythbusting Alaska: 10 Misconceptions About RVing the 49th State
One adventurous RVing couple debunks common Myths about Alaskan travel!
By: Katelyn & Howard Newstate

While RVing to Alaska is an RVer’s ‘right of passage’ or bucket list road trip, the journey can seem daunting for many! We’ve just wrapped up our second RV trip through the 49th state and have learned a lot in our two summers spent there. With some pre-planning and research, the journey to RVing in Alaska can be a wonderful adventure for anyone in ANY type of RV.

Today in article three of our Alaska Series, we debunk some of the common misconceptions to help you better prepare for your own Alaskan RV adventure! If you’ve started researching an RV adventure to Alaska, many of these will likely pop up. 

We’re here today to help set the record straight!

Top 10 Myths About RVing in Alaska – Debunked!

Myth 1: You need to carry extra fuel cans when traveling up to, and in, Alaska. 

Fact: There are PLENTY of gas stations. With a little planning, you should never have a problem getting fuel.

We understand why this myth exists: Alaska is HUGE and also REMOTE. The drive up the Alaska-Canadian Highway (Alcan) is equally remote. We have great news for you, though. With all the local drivers, commercial trucking, and visitors like you driving these routes on a regular basis, there will ALWAYS be a refueling option at least every 100-150 miles. 

Even the incredibly remote Dalton Highway (famously the route to the Arctic Circle, Prudhoe Bay, and co-star of the Iceroad Truckers series) still has gas and diesel available at Fox, Yukon River Camp, and Coldfoot. 

For the drive up the Alcan, there is a great one-page sheet from Tourism Dawson Creek that lists fuel, camping, and supply stops along the entire route (we scanned our copy from 2019). 

If you’re concerned about running out of gas, the best advice is to prepare for a fuel stop whenever your tank gets below half (which should provide at least 150 miles of range) and fill up when you see a station! 

Myth 2: Alaska will destroy my RV! 

Fact: The way in which you drive will affect the outcome of how your rig handles the trip!

With two roundtrips to Alaska under its belt, our 2019 Winnebago Navion 24D is still in great shape. We have sustained no major damage, no flat tires (we are finally due to replace our tires that came from the factory!), and you should not fear total destruction like you may have heard. 

Thanks to the freezing and thawing cycle of the ground, critical road repairs are needed every year along major highways in Alaska and the Yukon province of Canada. 

While the horror stories are plentiful, they are typically missing an important ingredient: how fast the RV was going at the time of the incident. If you monitor the road ahead for frost heaves (see the painted lines start to visually “squiggle” ahead of you? SLOW DOWN), keep an eye out for pink flags to indicate road damage, and generally drive reasonably below the speed limits, you should be fine.

Myth 3: Alaska is SO popular that I will need to make camping reservations everywhere. 

Fact: You can actually try out a variety of different styles of camping and we have found that the best experiences are usually free sites or first-come-first-served city lots. 

Think of Alaska as an incredible camping opportunity. In beautiful surroundings, you can boondock (free camping on public lands), stay in city/state/federal campgrounds and enjoy private campgrounds. Or try out a combination of all of them while visiting Alaska. 

Some great resources to find camping include books like Mike & Teri Church’s “Travelers Guide to Alaskan Camping” or the Milepost, and online sites like Campendium or iOverlander

Two areas which are predominantly reservation-only and you might consider reservations in advance are Denali National Park and Seward City campgrounds. (Though with the recent significant price increase of the Seward city campgrounds, we found excellent free camping nearby).

Myth 4: Everything is more expensive in Alaska!  

Fact: Some things will be a bit pricier but not everything and you can experience Alaska on almost any kind of budget!

Similar to the availability of supplies and chain stores in Anchorage and Fairbanks, prices for most items (with the exception of fresh fruits and vegetables) will look very similar to what you expect to pay in the lower 48. 

Expect to pay more than usual outside these major cities and for fresh items that must travel from far-away. Hello expensive avocados!

Fuel prices tend to be highest on the drive through Canada and in remote areas like the Dalton highway in Alaska. If you are a Costco member, they sell both gas and diesel in Alaska at great prices. 

If you have a Kroger/Ralphs/Smiths (locally they are Fred Meyer) or Safeway/Vons/Albertsons cards, they both work in Alaska and can be redeemed just like in the lower 48.

Myth 5: If I don’t like fishing and hunting, I won’t have a good time in Alaska. 

Fact: We don’t fish or hunt either, and while you can find many excursions and guides to fulfill that desire … we go for the wildlife viewing, natural beauty, delicious seafood, history, and so much more! 

Hunting and fishing are definitely popular activities in Alaska, but that is just the literal “tip of the iceberg.” 

From wildlife and glacier cruises (like Stan Stephens in Valdez or Kenai Fjords in Seward) to delicious dining statewide (check out Kingfisher Roadhouse, Captain Pattie’s Fish House, Thorn’s Showcase Lounge, or Exit Glacier Salmon Bake to name a few) and great activities like Denali NP Discovery Hikes or hiking on a glacier in McCarthy to keep you busy.

Myth 6: The season is so short in Alaska that you need to be there in the dead middle of summer. 

Fact: Many locals have told us September is their favorite month in Alaska! 

We’ve known people who have made the journey as early as April and stayed through October. Sure, most activities will happen in July (peak season), but the shoulder season has a lot of perks … like seeing the Northern Lights or the Beluga Whales in Turnagain Arm.

Plus, if you’re into fall foliage, September is a wonderful month to see the leaves in all their glory! 

Myth 7: You need to bring everything from home because it’s hard to find items in Alaska.

Fact: ALL the major chain stores can be found in either Anchorage or Fairbanks. Think Costco, Target, Bass Pro Shops, Cabelas, Best Buy, WalMart, and more. 

With the two large cities of Anchorage and Fairbanks, shopping and resupply is straightforward and easy. 

However, if you like shopping online (like us!) from sources like Amazon, be prepared for longer delivery times and sometimes higher shipping costs. Many items from the lower 48 states travel up to Alaska in shipping containers loaded on ships if you order through a local store (or chains like REI). Get ready to wait!

Myth 8: Planning for Alaska is way too difficult, and you should never do it alone.

Fact: We have made the trip twice by ourselves and felt comfortable and confident in our ability to do so. Or you can leave it to the pros with great caravan services like Winnebago’s Outdoor Adventures. 

There are so many options and resources available to tailor the trip to your liking depending on your style of travel. That’s the beautiful thing about a destination like Alaska. Along with the websites and books referenced in the “Alaska is so popular” section above, you can also watch our Newstates Go North video series or our RVing in Alaska Planning Guide to get ideas on routes, paperwork requirements for crossing through Canada, and more.

If you want to leave the planning of a trip to the 49th State and join others for the experience, consider booking with an RV caravan group, like Winnebago Outdoor Adventures. They will handle all the major details including campground reservations, activities and even some group meals along the way. It’s also a great opportunity to meet fellow RVers as you experience one of the most sought-after RVing adventures together.

Myth 9: It’s so remote, good luck trying to get your RV repaired while in Alaska. 

Fact: Alaska is a top RV destination ... translation: lots of service and repair resources.

Generic RV parts and components are generally available as are service facilities for Mercedes Sprinter, Chevrolet, Ford, Freightliner chassis and more. 

Fun fact: Our first-ever oil change at 20,000 miles was done in Alaska!

Myth 10: My RV is too big/small or not the right type to enjoy traveling in Alaska.

Fact: Take the right RV for you! We’ve seen huge fifth wheels, class As, Bs, and Cs throughout the entire state.

If you need large pull-through sites, Alaskan campgrounds in major destinations have them. You’ll find small, remote sites perfect for smaller class B and C RVs in the wilderness. Most towns and cities also have designated RV parking, too. No matter your RV or camping style, Alaska is ready for you.

That’s 10 myths debunked for RVing in Alaska, and the end to our Alaska series for Winnebago GoLife! Be sure to check out our other Alaska articles including 11 Must Visit Alaska Destinations and 7 Tips to Prepare for Your Alaskan Adventure

What other questions or myths about Alaska would you like debunked? Leave them in the comments below!

Comments

User commented on October 23, 2021 4:06 PM
Thanks for the great insights. Gerry and Jeannie
User commented on October 25, 2021 10:32 AM
It sounds so exciting and a freedom adventure!!
User commented on October 25, 2021 1:16 PM
What kind of vehicle are you towing? Any problems towing with your Nav?
User commented on November 20, 2021 10:52 AM
I live in AK, drove up in April 2016. Frost heaves, potholes and broken windshields are almost a certainty. If you are aware and take it slow in degraded areas you should be fine. Be prepared for long periods of no cell coverage. Especially across Canada on the ALCAN. If traveling in unknown area’s i do recommend a 5 gal fuel can. Fuel stations have been hit or miss due to weather and COVID. The best thing you can get is a copy of “Mileposts” and keep it with you wherever you travel. It will provide mile by mile guidance on local conditions. (Will even warn you of notable individual frost heaves)
User commented on November 20, 2021 11:00 AM
Yes....the Alaska roads are fine....but the Yukon is very hard on your vehicle and the rocks are windshield killers... Fun times but would fly and rent next time.
User commented on November 20, 2021 11:52 AM
Thank you for the information, this is very nice of you to post this and yes I was worried because of all the myths. Fuel and bad roads was a major one for me. Now it is definitely on my to do list. Thanks again, LeRoy
User commented on November 20, 2021 2:05 PM
Dear Katelyn & Howard, Thank you both for a wonderful news article you recently wrote about myth busters of Alaska. You both are the pros! Very informative and we thank you for that. We look forward to receiving our new Navion 24D this year if Winnebago ever gets it built. Still waiting. Hopefully next year we would like to make that Alaska trip. You have definitely debunked a lot of questions we had. Happy camping to you both and be safe. Craig & Ingrid Blessing
User commented on November 20, 2021 2:15 PM
My first trip to Alaska was in 1972, my last in 2017. I have all over the state, including Nome and the Aleutian Islands, and agree with everything the authors have written!
User commented on November 20, 2021 2:51 PM
As a fellow Navion (16V) owner, I'd say Katelyn & Howard Newstate give great advice on their various social platforms, I encourage everyone to check out the Newstate Nomad channel on You Tube. Thanks guys!
User commented on November 20, 2021 9:09 PM
1) There might be fuel stops every few hundred miles, but they may not be open when you pull up to the pumps (in Canada, anyway). If you can't get fuel after dark, you might have to wait until morning, but a few of the fuel stops are fully automated, debit/credit, self serve. We used one near Pink Mountain, if I recall. 2) You got lucky. We went once, and got clobbered in one of the many stretches of under construction, coarse gravel surfaced, 18 wheeler "drag strips". Cost us a windshield when a speeding big rig (going at least 90kph in a signed 50 kph zone) showered us with gravel. The ditches were deep, and there was no place to pull over out of the way in time. The moral? You can drive as slow as you want, but don't expect the big rigs to do the same, because they don't. Try to get through inactive/unattended gravel surfaced work zones as quickly as is safely possible. 3) Camping can be free or cheap or expensive, just like everywhere else, it's driven by supply and demand. Go at the right time of year (after Labor Day), and even Denali isn't crowded. Lots of free camping everywhere, if you're game. 4) Many things are more expensive in Alaska. As suggested, it depends on your location. Near the bigger cities and towns, you'll be fine. Stray away from them, and be prepared to pay more. Same as in the lower 48. 5) Never heard this one before. Fishing and hunting are available, but hardly the only reason to visit. 6) See myth rebuttal 3. If you don't like bugs/mosquitoes, after Labor Day is also a better time to visit. 7) Another myth I've never heard. Either way, it's not true for the stated reasons. Even Tok had anything/everything we needed when we arrived. 8) Yet another in a series of "myths" I've never heard of before. It's like planning any other trip. Do the homework, take your time, and it's done. Go. 9) Like myth number 2, you got lucky, and like number 1, service centers and shops and parts may exist, in the bigger urban centers, but depending on where you are when you need them, and getting to them (towing services/Emergency Roadside Service), and then finding a shop/mechanic that has the time, might take a while, in some cases days/weeks, not hours. Don't expect drive thru service. Except at McDonald's. 10) Another non-myth? It must not be a well known myth, because we also saw all kinds of motorhomes and towables up there. You get in your RV and go. Simple?