ALASKA HIGHWAY MARKS 70 YEARS OF SCENIC HISTORY
Until the Alaska Highway was constructed in 1942, continuous travel by land between the Lower 48 and Alaska was not an option. Though the idea for a trail connecting Alaska to Canada was raised two decades earlier, it wasn’t until the events of World War II and Pearl Harbor shook the globe that the governments of both countries agreed there was an immediate need for greater military presence around Alaska’s coast and the Aleutian Islands, making the road a reality.
From its official starting point in Dawson Creek, British Columbia, the highway’s 1,387 scenic miles lead travelers through Yukon and northwest to its official end point in Delta Junction, Alaska. Driving straight through from Seattle to Fairbanks usually takes a little over a week, but the trip is well worth some extra time. A drive up the Alaska Highway and a return trip on an Alaska Marine Highway ferry is the perfect way to explore the majesty of the Last Frontier.
It’s easy to plan a road trip from the Lower 48 to Alaska, with perhaps the biggest challenge being too many beautiful sights to see along the way. Gas, lodging and dining services are available every 50 miles or so with the exception of a 100-mile stretch in northern British Columbia. But there’s also the option of letting someone else do the planning. Many RV travel companies offer caravan group tours, so travelers are left with just the fun of a worry-free trip. Alaska is an extremely RV-friendly destination, with an abundance of state-run and privately owned full-service campgrounds and natural attractions from the first mile of the Alaska Highway and throughout the state.
Summer months are best for travel on the Alaska Highway. Extra-long days provide travelers with plenty of daylight hours to explore one of several provincial parks (the Canadian version of U.S. state parks), waterways, national parks and a host of other visitor attractions such as the Alaska Highway House in Dawson Creek, the S.S. Klondike National Historical Site in Whitehorse, Yukon, or the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center just across the Canada-United States border in Alaska. Though it presents cooler temperatures and a higher chance of rain, early fall travel offers the same sights painted in orange, red and purple as the northern forests prepare for winter. Liard River Hot Springs on mile 478 of the Alaska Highway, just north of Muncho Lake Provincial Park, is the perfect rest stop for drivers regardless of the season. The temperatures in these unique springs are high enough to keep visitors warm even in the winter months.
Overwhelmed with the number of places to see? Pick up “The Milepost,” a comprehensive guide to the Alaska Highway experience. The guide and its companion website cover the highway and all other roads and highways in the state mile by mile. Another good source for planning purposes is www.NorthtoAlaska.com.
The sun shines off a wet roadway
TRAVEL TO ALASKA: BY ROAD
Driving to Alaska is high on the list of many adventurers. The trip is legendary for its beauty. Once a bumpy dirt road, the Alaska Highway is now a modern, well maintained highway. Construction occurs seasonally and may cause delays in small sections, but otherwise, it’s smooth driving! Particularly in summer, visitor amenities, including gasoline, food and motels, are abundant along the entire 1,500-mile Alaska Highway.
The Alaska Highway officially begins in Dawson Creek, British Columbia. You can reach “Mile Zero” by heading north up the B.C.’s Cassiar Highway. Or, you can roll through Alberta’s high prairie and head west to Dawson Creek.
Driving to Alaska in a private car or RV offers the opportunity to linger along the way. Some of the world’s wildest and most beautiful national and state parks are along this route. Cultural attractions, adventure tours, incredible scenery and unforgettable experiences make this option popular with independent travelers.
For more information on specific driving routes, visit North to Alaska online.