Many people dream of driving to Alaska. It is common knowledge that Alaska is quite far away from the continental US. To actually drive thousands of miles through the US and through Canada to get there is another thing entirely. There are not many tourist destinations throughout the route, and perhaps, that is one of the best parts about the trip. Occasionally, you will happen upon stops such as the Sign Post Forest in the Yukon. Other that that, you will likely see nothing except for amazing scenery and beautiful wildlife. This is a trip that I would recommend for anyone and everyone at least once in a lifetime.
After crossing into Canada with our dogs, we were excited to see what driving to Alaska would be all about. When entering British Columbia the road definitely seems to get more isolated very quickly. If you have done any research about driving to Alaska, chances are that you have heard that you should bring extra gas and that the roads are horrible. From my experience, that is simply not the case. While it is never a bad idea to drive cautiously and to have extra gas on hand, I never encountered a situation that seemed dire.
The further north you drive, the less traffic you will see. There are undoubtedly some stretches of road where you won’t see a gas station for well over a hundred miles. As long as you take advantage of gas stations when they are available, you shouldn’t have any issues. Keep in mind that there are a few gas stations that can’t refund your credit card when you prepay, so be sure to get an amount that your car can actually hold.
As for the roads, some of them definitely get rough. I was in a Ford Focus car, and they were never so rough that I had any issues or worries due to road conditions. Since this area is covered in snow and ice during a large portion of the year, I was not shocked that the roads would be rough. Keep in mind that depending on the time you decide to take this trip, you might be required to have snow tires or chains with you.
You will notice that as you stop seeing people as often that you will begin to see wildlife. As someone who had never even seen a bear in the wild, this was definitely one of the most exciting parts of the trip. I was probably way too excited when we drove upon the first black bear of the trip. We pulled over since he was so close to the side of the road and took way too many photos.
Each time I would see a new species of animal was equally as exciting. Among the animals spotted include black bears, grizzly bears, mountain sheep, elk, buffalo, fox, bald eagles, and more. By the end of the trip, I had seen so many animals that that first black bear seemed a little underwhelming.
Animals like to come out and lay on these roads during the early morning and evening. After you see just how big a moose is in person, you will understand why you want to be extra careful while driving at these times of the day. Since there are no street lights to be found, you may only see an animal’s shinning eyes in the reflection of your headlights. I recommend trying to do the majority of your driving during daylight hours while taking this route.
If at all possible, you should take this trip when you have no set time to get any where. The scenery that you will encounter is unmatched. Throughout Canada, there are many roads that go off in one direction in the middle of nowhere. Sometimes there will be very small signs around with a graphic on them depicting a camera. If you have any time at all, you are going to want to follow that sign to wherever it may lead. Sometimes the road will take you half a mile, sometimes it will take you five miles. Since these roads are not maintained, take it nice and slow as you explore. If the roads start getting bad, give yourself ample opportunity to turn around.
Each time that I went down one of these roads I was not disappointed. They generally lead to view points, which can be anything from a gorgeous field, to a snowy mountain, to a vast lake that seems to go on forever. While there is wildlife around, be sure to be appropriately cautious. While we did not have any unlucky encounters, simply making your presence known should be enough to keep animals at bay.
As you continue north and head towards the Arctic, you will notice the landscape start to change. I think this was probably my favorite part of the journey. You will begin to see more snow capped mountains, notice the weather cooling off, and eventually you will begin to see frozen lakes.
If you are looking to camp your way through this area, there is no shortage of camping opportunities. There are many designated camping areas and there are also areas where you can pull off and stop for the night. Any place that doesn’t allow overnight stopping will have signs to let you know.
Of course, this breathtaking scenery continues as you enter into Alaska. Even though you are back in the US, it will be a few hours before you reach any major city. Not long after crossing the boarder I was able to see my first glacier, which is something that I will never forget. Driving to Alaska puts you in one of those situations where the journey is every bit as good as the destination.