How Far is Alaska?
It’s far! This will give you some idea:
It is 2,077 miles from Vancouver, BC to Fairbanks, Alaska. That is only 700 miles less than driving from Los Angeles to New York, but it will take just as long heading north because you won’t be on any major interstate highways.
“Wow!” Is the usual response. “That’s a long way!” The point is this: It’s extremely important to plan your Alaska Vacation that’s not only within your budget, but within your time limitations.
Now, with some idea of the driving time needed to get there, You may be ready to consider some of the many options you have, including driving:
What to Pack?
When packing for your trip to Alaska, think “Layars.” No matter when you travel to Alaska, the weather can change quickly so you want to be prepared. The jacket you bring should be waterproof and warm. Many of Alaska’s visitors explore the coastline via cruise ships and ferries and coastal Alaska is known to be wet!
Good shoes are also a must, as you almost always end up walking a lot when you’re visiting Alaska. However, most visitors won’t need big heavy hiking boots for anything but the most strenuous hikes. Lightweight walking shoes will meet most of your daily needs.
Alaska is a very casual place, and unless you’re planning fancy evenings out in Anchorage, your regular comfortable clothes will take you from daily tours to dinner out.
What’s the Weather Like in Alaska?
The weather in Alaska can be be pretty extreme. Winter temperatures can drop as low as -60 degrees Fahrenheit, while summer temperatures occasionally rise to 95 degrees. However, summer temperatures are usually around 65-75 degrees while winter temperatures average from -5 to -10 degrees.
For more details and mile by mile descriptions of every highway to and in Alaska click here.
What’s the road like? Most of the Alaska highways are paved or chip sealed and most rough sections are well marked – but not all, so stay alert. Do not be afraid to try and drive on the smoothest part of the road. Keep to the right on corners and when going up-hill. Watch your mirrors as some people travel the highway much faster than others. If you let them get by it is safest for everyone. Most highways are all-weather roads that are maintained year-round and grades are moderate except for those in the highest mountain passes. It’s the law to drive with your headlights on at all times.
When should I make my trip? Early May to late September is the best time for a pleasure trip. At other times, extreme winter cold or spring thaws can make traveling difficult. Even so, once the highway is snow packed and temperatures stay cold, the road surface is like pavement. As a result, many veteran Alaska Highway travelers prefer travel during the coldest months.
If you plan a winter trip, have plenty of warm, winter clothing, down-filled sleeping bags, an electric engine heater that you can plug in at overnight stops, and remember to run only on the top half of your gas tank. Many of the lodges and service stations close during the winter so when you stop, you need to find out which facilities down the line are still open. If the weather is extreme, it is best to call ahead to make sure your next planned stop is open.
What about my car or camper? Your vehicle should be in top mechanical condition. A bug and gravel screen will protect the front of your vehicle and if it’s high enough, may even help protect your windshield. (It should not be so high as to impair your vision.) Plastic, bubble-type headlamp protectors are also a good idea and can be found easily in most northern communities.
Automotive services are found about every 50 or 60 miles along the route (except in winter), and most sizes of tires are stocked by roadside services. You can get tires repaired at most lodges and highway services. Be sure to periodically check the wheel nuts on campers and motorhomes (particularly the vehicles with dual rear wheels). Maintaining proper tire pressure will cut down on problems
What if my vehicle breaks down? Towing services are available at infrequent intervals. Since these services are reluctant to respond to second-hand reports, it’s best if someone from your party goes in person to get help. Towing charges are about $2.50/mile for a passenger type vehicle but more if it is a motor home.
How fast can I travel? It is easy to get fooled into traveling too fast as some of the highways are wide and smooth with very little traffic. You can be sure, though, that there will be rough sections ahead, so don’t increase your speed to where it will be difficult to slow down. One thing to look for on the paved roads are the black tire marks that can be found in front of dips in the road. These are caused by the tag axle on the big trucks when the frame flexes as they hit the dip. If you get used to watching for these they are a great help in locating potential trouble spots. Blowout danger on gravel increases as your tires get hotter. Do not exceed posted speed limits. (30 mph/50 kmph when passing emergency or maintenance equipment).
What about my pets? If you are traveling with an animal you should keep them on a leash, especially at highway lodges, as dogs that live at the lodges can be very protective or aggressive. Rest areas are the best places to walk your animals.
Are there many campgrounds/waysides along the highway? In both the Yukon Territory, British Columbia and Alaska, government operated campgrounds and picnic sites have been established at frequent intervals along the route. There are many privately operated campgrounds and most lodges have space for campers.
You can cruise to Alaska from Vancouver, BC, Bellingham, Washington, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, California. Some Alaska Cruises are part of larger package tours, which include various combinations of cruise ship, motorcoach, air and rail travel.
You can also use British Columbia Ferries to connect you to the Alaska Marine Highway. Ferries from the northern end of Vancouver Island will take you for a scenic ride through mostly sheltered waters to Prince Rupert, BC, where you can transfer onto the Alaska Marine Highway system or connect to The Yellowhead Highway (Highway 16). This is a good alternative to driving the 946 miles from Vancouver to Prince Rupert.
Only 45 minutes between ports. Call for Reservations: 1-888-766-2103 or 907-766-2100
National Alamo Car Rental has rental counters at the Anchorage International Airport. 800-327-9633 or 907-248-0088