The Road to Alaska: RV Driving Tips & Routes
The Road to Alaska: RV Driving Tips & Routes
Plus, learn more about an exciting Revel meetup in Seward!
By: Jim & Cynthia Spies
Driving to Alaska in your Winnebago is a bucket list adventure for many! As lifelong Alaskans, we have an extensive amount of experience traveling to and from Alaska, both by air, land, car, on motorcycles, and our favorite way: in our Winnebago Revel 4x4 Sprinter van.
About Us & The Upcoming Revel Owner Meetup
We have been proud owners of our Winnebago Revel in Alaska for three years and have been sharing the Revel’s four-season capabilities on YouTube (Wings and Wheels Alaska). If you are planning a trip to Alaska this summer in your Winnebago Revel 4x4, we are having a meet-up with our fellow Revel owners as well as Wings and Wheels Alaska YouTube channel subscribers who have been following along on our adventures.
We’re excited about the destination we have chosen in Seward, Alaska, because it has all the amenities of a true Alaskan off-grid experience. It is a BREATHTAKING location with unbelievable views, as well as hiking, kayaking, fishing, and glaciers - all under the Midnight Sun!
The Wings and Wheels Alaska Meet and Greet will take place in Seward, Alaska, from July 8 to 11, 2022.
More information on this Winnebago Revel meetup can be found at: www.wingsandwheelsalaska.com
Before You Go to Alaska
We have driven the Alcan (or otherwise known as the Alaska Highway) many times, and each time we have taken a different route which has offered a multitude of experiences in a variety of conditions. We couldn’t possibly touch on all the topics in one blog post, so stay tuned for more! But we’ll share some of the must-know information in this first article for anyone planning their trip.
1. Find a Copy of The MilePost
The best thing to take with you to Alaska is an open mind and a sense of adventure! You also need to find a copy of your travel Bible: The MILEPOST.
The MilePost has a website, but we preferred the hard copy we picked up in a used bookstore in Portland, Oregon. (Note: the book and the website are very different, we recommend the printed copy.) We held on to ours for years before passing it down to another wanderer who needed it more than we did. If you’re coming to Alaska, grab a copy today and start bookmarking all the points you would find interesting along the way and start planning your route.
2. Be Flexible
I have worked in the travel industry in Alaska for many years and during that time, the biggest complaint I heard from travelers is: “We didn’t have enough time.”
Alaska is a huge state with so much to see and do, we recommend you don’t put off this bucket list experience and give yourself time to enjoy it. But if time isn’t on your side and you only have a few weeks? Do it! Don’t let the amount of time it takes to see Alaska stop you from goinng. Even if you only see a portion, it’s worth the journey to get here.
3. Expect Unpredictable Weather
I’ve also spoken with travelers from all over the world who saved for years to come to Alaska, only to be rained on for two weeks straight. Expect it, and plan for it, because Alaska’s weather is unpredictable.
4. Prepare for BUGS
The final complaint was bugs. Due to the heavy snow fall this winter, we predict this summer’s mosquito and gnat population to be greater than normal. The mosquito is jokingly the state bird after all!
Routes to Alaska & Planning Your Trip
Each time we’ve driven to and from Alaska, we have chosen a different route and each route has been a unique experience. We also recommend you take a separate route on your return trip home for the best experience.
It is also important to note that everything is changing even as I write this blog - gas prices, border crossings, weather, and construction. It’s always a good idea to know before you go and do your research on current border requirements.
We recommend the following websites:
1. The Alaska Highway aka Alcan Highway (Most Traveled)
The Alaska Highway traverses a vast wilderness in a remote expanse of North America, from Mile 0 at Dawson Creek, British Columbia, to Delta Junction, Alaska, at Historical Mile Post 1422 (the official end of the Alaska Highway). A trip like this requires a significant amount of planning and that sense of adventure that unites Winnebago Revel owners.
There are two main routes through Canada and up to southeast Alaska. The Alcan Highway travels through more central and eastward parts of Alberta and British Columbia while the Cassiar Highway stays to the west, meandering through British Columbia until it reaches the Yukon border, where both routes meet at the Alaska Highway for the final stretch.
Both highways offer something different when it comes to scenery and stops along the way, and one may be better than the other, depending on your starting point.
Coming from east of the Rockies? The most direct route to Alaska will be on the Alcan. If you’re starting from the west, then the Cassiar might be a better choice.
Either way, you’re bound for an unforgettable road trip. Your return trip can be via the alternative.
2. The Cassiar Highway (Least Traveled)
“The Sea to Sky Highway” as many of us call it in the North, is a beautiful remote route also known as the Cassiar Highway. If you are beginning your journey from the west, this is a good starting route for you. Head due north to Prince George on Highway 1 and then Highway 16 west to Kitwanga.
Once on the Cassiar, you have many options for boondocking but very few fuel stops so ensure you are full on fuel in Kitwanga. When we did this route, aside from Stewart and Hyder, there is one fuel stop in the middle of the route. We were able to do this on motorcycle so no issues in the Revel.
We have probably seen the most bears along this route than any other route during our adventures. You are basically driving through a valley between mountains the entire trip north past beautiful lakes and rivers until you meet up with the Alaska Highway just northwest of Watson Lake, so there are lots of chances to spot wildlife.
3. The Alaska Marine Highway
We have used the Alaska Marine Highway as a form of transportation but not with our Winnebago Revel since we prefer the drive. For those short on time and willing to pay a little more, this is the route to consider.
The benefit of this route is you disembark in the city of Homer, or Whittier which is a short drive to the small town of Seward. This option saves the wear and tear on your van and the high cost of diesel; however, we believe that the best part of traveling to Alaska is the journey getting here.
This option gives you the views from the sea instead of land and saves a significant amount of time. You get to visit many of the coastal towns that you will not see simply by driving. But pet owners beware… your pet must stay in the RV and you are given visitation times for walking your pet.
Check out this website for more information about this option: www.dot.alaska.gov
Road Conditions and Expectations
You will come across gravel breaks that are anywhere from a few feet to a few miles long—where road repairs are under way. Road construction is a fact of life here in the summer, although delays are usually minimal.
The asphalt surfacing of the Alaska Highway ranges from poor to excellent. Much of the highway is in fair condition, with older patched pavement and a minimum of gravel breaks and chuckholes.
There’s a lot of straight roads the first 300 miles of highway, between Dawson Creek and Fort Nelson.
North of Fort Nelson, the Alaska Highway crosses the Rocky Mountains. Expect about 200 miles of narrow road with curves and hills with 10 percent grades and few passing lanes. This stretch of road crosses Summit Pass (Historic Milepost 392), the highest summit on the Alaska Highway at 4,250 feet elevation. You may experience an odd snowstorm here, even in July. We felt like we were in another world on this section of the highway!
After winding through the MacDonald River Valley—few guardrails and watch for caribou and stone sheep on the road—the highway straightens out again for the next 140 miles into Watson Lake, Yukon Territory.
The stretch of road between Watson Lake and Whitehorse, approximately another 300 miles, is in fair to good condition, with easy curves through wide river valleys and along lakes.
From Whitehorse to Haines Junction, 100 miles, it is straight road with poor to fair surfacing with gravel breaks and frost heaves.
The next 200 driving miles, from Haines Junction to the Alaska border, consists of long straight stretches of improved highway with wide lanes and generous shoulders. This is an improved section that winds along the shore of Kluane Lake followed by a long, often bumpy, frost-heaved stretch of road—in various stages of improvement—from Destruction Bay to the Alaska border. The Kluane Lake area is where we often find ourselves resting for days and enjoying the solitude.
From Tok, Alaska, to Anchorage, you pass through a narrow winding paved road through sheep mountain and find yourself on a four-lane highway about 45 miles outside of the city of Anchorage and a sense of returning to civilization creeps back in as soon as you hit Palmer, Alaska. We recommend restocking supplies in Anchorage as this is where you will find the cheapest amenities
Seward is an approximately three-hour drive south of Anchorage including scenic stops along the way. The route to Seward is a narrow two-lane highway with a combination of local Alaskans and visitors.
Our final meeting destination for the Wings and Wheels Alaska Meet and Greet in Seward is a breathtaking off-grid location with unbelievable views. There are zero amenities in this area and it is 100% off-grid camping. We will expect you to come “Bear Aware” and haul your own trash and waste to a local area we will recommend.
Our goal is to make this an annual event so this is a great way to begin your planning now for 2023.
We couldn’t possibly share all the information we wanted in one post, so please stay tuned for future articles from us! Our next article will offer our recommendations for stops on the way through Canada and onward to Seward.
You can find us on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram @WingsandWheelsAlaska