In this post I’ll summarize the things I observed and learned on my trip.
I think many people have an image of the Alaska Highway as a narrow, gravel road that is nearly impassable. That may have been true in the 60s, but now the road is fully paved. It’s a wide, 2-lane highway with ample shoulders. The road quality varies from excellent to fair. The worst parts are the constructions zones, which are gravel and a little rough, but pilot cars guide traffic and make sure everyone goes slowly enough for the conditions.
Any car or motorcycle in good condition with new tires can make the trip. There is plenty of gas available. Most restaurants and lodges have gas pumps. Motorcyclists should be aware that the driveways, aprons, and parking lots off the highway are hard-packed gravel. It is not difficult to navigate the gravel and after a couple of times you will be able to ride the gravel with ease.
You can expect the weather to be highly variable. It will be sunny and warm or cold and rainy. In a single day you can experience all types of weather. Riders must have excellent rain gear and a heated jacket. It’s very cold when it’s 40 degrees and raining.
Take time to plan your route and the places you want to see. Know where there is a long distance between gas stations. The best information about the highway is in The Milepost. It is published in April of each year and is the definitive guide to Alaska travel.
Be sure to have a contingency plan if something you want to see is closed or the weather prevents you from seeing it.
You’ll need a passport or passport ID to enter Canada and return to the US.
Alaska is a long way from the lower 48 and the southern sections of Canada. It costs more to ship goods to stores and the transportation costs are added into the price of everything. Tourist-related businesses have four months in which to make a year’s revenue. So lodging, meals, and attractions are very expensive. You can expect to pay $80 to $250 per night for motel or cabin accommodations. Campsites run $15 to $50 per night depending on the type of hook up you want.
The greatest attractions are the mountains, lakes, rivers, bays, and wildlife. The scenery is magnificent. Denali National Park is probably the biggest destination. Only about 30% of visitors actually get to see the mountain not shrouded in clouds. So instead of seeing the mountain, bus tours take you into the park to see wild life. There are a couple of tours available; one is 6-1/2 hours long, the other is 8 hours long.
It’s about 2000 miles from Calgary to Fairbanks. You can drive or ride that distance in five days, but it would be more enjoyable to do it in six days. Add additional days to see other parts of the state. So you will need a good bit of time to enjoy the trip.
It’s also possible to take a ferry from Washington up the inland passage to various points in Alaska. The cost is probably equivalent to the cost of gas, food, and lodging if going by car or motorcycle.
Several people have told me in the last few days that they really have no desire to go to Alaska. It’s a major undertaking to go there and it understandable that such a trip is not for everyone. If, however, you would like to go and aren’t sure you could, you should know I found it was much easier than I anticipated. If it’s something you’d like to do, take the time to investigate and plan a trip. You’ll have a good time so long as you accept that you may have to change plans and have alternate plans ready.