Road trip! Join me on the journey of a lifetime as we drive the Alaska Highway
The winding road of the Alaska Highway is legendary and is reserved for the most fanatic travelers. Making it on the bucket list of travel junkies worldwide, it is for many a once in a lifetime undertaking.
We are on a race against the clock. We have 4 days to make the 2,826 mile drive from Seattle to Anchorage and there is a lot of ground to cover.
The Alaska Highway is nestled in North America’s last frontier. Billions of trees have rooted their earthy brown trunks in the rich soil below, supporting the branches full of lavish green leaves that reach into a turquoise sky to embrace the sun’s warm rays. The mountain range in the distance is violet and looks like crushed velvet and capped with snow. The colors appear to be more vibrant in the north, the stark contrasts extenuate an already brightly painted canvas.
In order to see the most breathtaking view, one can image all you must do is open your eyes.
The Alaska Highway starts in Dawson Creek, British Columbia, Canada and travels 1,390 miles (2,237 km) to Delta Junction, Alaska in the United States.
An engineering marvel, the Alaska Highway was built in just 9 months. In February of 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie Kings agreed to the construction as a means of connecting the U.S. and Canada. Less then one month later, construction began. The Alaska Highway is fondly referred to as the “Alcan.” This stretch of concrete cost the U.S. approximately $140 million dollars.
Many of the towns on the path sprung forth as a result of the building of the highway. You will not find a large metropolis on the journey; just quaint little pit stops inhibited by only a few hundred people where you can evacuate the vehicle to stretch your legs.
As the odometer clicks by mile after mile, be sure to take time to visit these roadside attractions.
Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway is in Dawson Creek. It is an obligation to stop and take a picture under the sign announcing “You Are Now Entering The World Famous Alaska Highway”.
The next big town on the Alcan is Fort Nelson which is known for the large reserves of oil and gas nearby. On the way to Fort Nelson, you will pass over Pink mountain, which is the highest point of the trip—and if you blink, you will miss it.
The next 300 mile stent is home to Summit Lake and Muncho Lake, which are renowned for there jade color waters. This unique color is attributed to the copper oxide that has leeched into the the water from the bedrock below. Stop here for a picturesque picnic lunch.
Pause for a moment at the Laird Hot Springs. It will cost you $10 to get in but you can stay as long as you like; they are open 24 hours a day. A long wooden boardwalk ushers visitors through the marshes where bear and moose are often spotted. These natural sulfur springs are a nice way to relax after a long day of driving. The heat will relax your muscles and the fern covered embankment evokes a peaceful abeyance. There are no public showers, so if you do not have an RV to shower in after your dip, you will smell a little like rotten eggs— but it is well worth it.
In Lake Watson, you have the opportunity for another photo op in front of “The Sign Post Forest”. 72,000 signs are on display. Look for the “Alaska or Bust” sign and snap a photo there. The sign forest started in 1942 by the homesick layman Carl Lindley who posted a sign for his hometown of Danville, IL. Without knowing it at the time, he created the most famous attraction in Watson Lake.
Trucking along, you will come to Whitehorse, a town that boasts 2/3 of the Yukons residents with a population of 36,000. Here you can see the S.S. Klondike on the banks of the Yukon River, “Log skyscrapers” which are small two or three-story log cabins and the Whitehorse Waterfront Trolley.
When you reach Haines Junction, you are entering Kluane National Park and Reserve, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Keep driving and you will find yourself at the gateway to Alaska, the U.S. Border. From here, you can continue on the Alaska Highway to its official end in Delta Junction or you can branch off and head south to Anchorage, which is what we did.
If, at any point in the drive you see a sign warning “Rough Road Ahead”, proceed with caution. “Rough Road Ahead” actually means, beware of the potholes which are the size of small children that are quickly approaching. Unevenly grated roadways, loose gravel and dust storms from speeding semis are in your immediate future.
Expect to see a lot of wildlife on the trip. Big game like buffalo, elk, bear, moose, reindeer and antelope all call this place home and I noticed that many of their homes were right on the side of the highway. There are plenty of fishing holes where you catch the biggest fish of your life. Take time to hike around one of the many lakes along the road and soak in the 360 degree panoramic views. Remember, you are in bear country, so do not leave food out and be alert to your surroundings.
We made it to Anchorage ahead of schedule, taking 36 hours to make the 1,580 mile drive. If I were to do it all again, these are my three tips to make your journey more enjoyable.
Tips To Navigate The Alaska Highway
1 Take at least a week to complete the drive. You can do the drive in a couple of days; however, you’ll pretty much just be driving and not soaking up all the beauty the landscape has to offer.
2 Take a friend with you that is willing to share in the driving responsibilities. You can do the drive alone; however, it will be much more enjoyable if you can switch off drivers.
3 Pack a cooler full of food. If you’re looking for fine dining along the drive, you’re not going to find it. If you do not pack some food you will end up eating a lot of gas station snacks.
A camera can not capture the beauty I’ve seen with my eyes. The journey of a lifetime on the Alaska highway showed me things I had never seen before and will probably never experience again. If you are considering taking the drive, go for it, it will be well worth it and the stories you will harvest along the way will bring you lifelong joy.