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Alaska 2017

60 posts in this topic

I know everyone travels at their own pace but what is a reasonable amount of time to drive from Seattle to Fairbanks?

We plan on taking it easy and stop for pictures and interesting sights along the way (Dawson Creek, Liard Hot Springs, Sign post forest, Fort Nelson, Whitehorse, North Pole, etc...).

I am just trying to get an idea of timing.

Is it reasonable to assume that it will take about 15 - 20 days? Or will we find that 10 days is more than enough? Or is it 25 days?

 

disclaimer: I understand that road construction may throw all estimates out the window as well as other factors. LOL

Thanks

David

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We crossed Sumas, Washington May 23 and arrived in Palmer, Alaska the week of July 4. We crossed back at Roosville, Montana around Labor Day in September. That was our second trip.

 

Are you on a fixed time period? There is so much to see in Canada and the Yukon even before getting to Alaska.

 

Also, unless you have a specific reason to end in Fairbanks you are missing the most beautiful areas of Alaska like the Kenai Peninsula, Valdez, Haines, Skagway.

 

Hope you don't rush the trip if you have the time!

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Port Angeles to Sterling on the Kenai is a week for approximately 2700 miles. We try for mostly 350 miles a day, except Teslin to Tok is about 500 and Tok to Sterling a bit over 400. Our route is Kamloops, Jasper, Grande Prairie, Dawson Creek, and north.

 

Add in the days for layover and special sightseeing, call it 2 weeks. Your route, layovers, stops and such will give you the final answer. You specify Seattle, but is that cast in stone? From Missoula you can do 93 north and hit Banff, Lake Louise, Icefields Parkway and Jasper on the way north, so now maybe 3 weeks. Weather can be a big issue, with rain washing out the road (2 instances in the last 15 years or so), snow on the road for a 5 or 6 hour delay, or fires closing the road due to either smoke or the fire itself.

 

Whatever you do, have fun and enjoy the trip.

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I know everyone travels at their own pace but what is a reasonable amount of time to drive from Seattle to Fairbanks?

We plan on taking it easy and stop for pictures and interesting sights along the way (Dawson Creek, Liard Hot Springs, Sign post forest, Fort Nelson, Whitehorse, North Pole, etc...).

I am just trying to get an idea of timing.

Is it reasonable to assume that it will take about 15 - 20 days? Or will we find that 10 days is more than enough? Or is it 25 days?

 

disclaimer: I understand that road construction may throw all estimates out the window as well as other factors. LOL

Thanks

David

Don't try to decide if it will take 25 days or 10 days. You mentioned a number of stops along the way that are well worth stopping for. I would suggest planing on a two night minimum for each stop. That allows you to pull in, in the afternoon, get set up, go the visitor center that same afternoon for more detailed info and suggestions on what to see. Then you have a full day w/o even thinking about traveling, to visit the sights. If in your online research you think there is enough you find interesting, then plan on spending a second or third full day there.

 

Next consider just what you are going to do if you have unpleasant weather, like heavy rain, or cold and rain. Do you really what to "have" to go see a sight you don't want to miss, or can you just stay nice and warm and dry in your RV and visit the sight the next day?

 

Once you do the above research you will have a much better idea of "how long does it take to get from Seattle to Fairbanks".

 

The idea of trying to drive 350 miles in a day on the Alcan Hwy from Dawson Creek to Fairbanks just horrifies me. It is not the road construction or possible bad road conditions. It is the idea of pushing so hard you must drive for a solid 8-10 hours. It is hard to average 50mph for a full day, and that does not include stops for fuel, lunch and bathroom breaks. Overall the road conditions are good. Well paved hwy, much of the time with paved shoulders. HOWEVER the road goes up and down lots of low hills, elevation changes of 200' to 800' (more or less) with grades of 3% or 4% to as much as 10% for 1/4 to 1/2 mile. Many of these grades come with curves you don't want to drive over 40mph on. A curve you can drive at 40mph on is not very sharp, but if you have a 6-10% grade on that curve, you do want to drive slower.

 

I highly recommend planning an a average of 40 miles (or less) in an hour of driving, including lunch, scenic pullouts and other breaks. For example it is 280 miles from Dawson Creek to Ft Nelson. If you plan on 7-8 hours you will have a relaxing drive. Plenty of time for scenic stops and other breaks. If you get there sooner than 7 hours, then great, if longer then no problem. This trip should be free of rushing. Relax and enjoy the travel.

 

The road from Haines Junction to Tok is a slow drive. Lots of gravel construction areas and lots of frost heaves. You will be driving at 30-35mph quite a bit in this area.

 

I see you have a HDT so you should be able to drive faster than we did in our 29' class A pulling a 4500# pickup truck. But still you don't want to go rushing down a 10% grade at 55-60mph.

 

There are lots of boondocking spots along the way. You are a member of Escapees, so go to Day End: http://www.daysenddirectory.com/ and for the nominal sum of $15 download the listing of free and low cost places to stay.

 

Take a look at our blog in my signature line for our AK trip in 2016. We traveled much different than most people do, but there is still some info here which may be useful to folks in large rigs. Even though we are much smaller than you are, most of the places we spent the night, has room for an HDT & a 40' trailer.

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Be sure to read the "Alaska 2016" topic in travel for lots of good info. There are links to the Alaska 2015 & 2014 topics, and links to several Alaska blogs there as well.

 

Also in the HDT section there is an Alaska 2016 topic specific to HDT's.

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The idea of trying to drive 350 miles in a day on the Alcan Hwy from Dawson Creek to Fairbanks just horrifies me.

 

I totally agree! We've made two trips to Alaska and some days we drove less than 50 miles! We were never on a schedule...we stopped when we felt like it and never made reservations any place. The times that we took tours, we'd go down to the ticket office the day we arrived and were always able to take the tour the next day. We always stop early in the day (2 or 3 in the afternoon), so we were always able to find a place in an RV park...if we weren't boondocking some place.

 

An average of 40 MPH is probably a good estimate of speed, particularly when you encounter road construction, which you invariably will. You will also encounter frost heaves which will require going slow, too.

 

However, for *us,* 7-8 hours on the road is WAY too much! We normally don't travel more than about 4-5 hours...leave around 10:00 AM, stop for lunch and potty breaks (for us and the dogs), get off the road around 2:00 PM.

 

Enjoy your trip, but don't worry about having to arrive some place at a particular time.

Edited by LindaH

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We, too, drove approx. 50-200 miles/day. We sitesee as we travel rather than parking and backtracking. Keep in mind that you don't want to drive fast because the opposing traffic or someone behind you will, most likely, be showered by rocks that you throw. When an approaching semi was in view we would pull to the side of the road as far as we could and sometimes, even stop until it past. The semis drive fast and this is where a lot of damage is caused to other RVs. Pulling over is a common thing to see on the drive.

 

We boondocked/dry camped about 90% of our trip so didn't have to make reservations. The only reservations we made for the whole trip was the July 4 weekend in Palmer and 5 nights in Denali's Teklanika campground - the farthest one you can drive. We only made those reservations a couple weeks prior when we could better judge when we'd be in the area. Even so, those two reservations felt like a dark cloud over us knowing we HAD to be somewhere on a certain date. We absolutely hate reservations!

 

As it turned out, we were early to the area for our Denali stay so on a whim we boondocked nearby at a lovely spot and drove into Denali early the next morning. We easily secured an additional five nights for our 40' motorhome in Denali's front campground, Riley Creek.

 

We spent 10 nights in Denali and kept busy constantly. We were glad we broke up our stay in the two sections as they are both completely different. We saw 'THE' mountain for many hours of the day 7 out of our 10 nights. We saw every one of the big five critters more than once. It was a fantastic stay!

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We too found ourselves doing 50 to 150 mile days.

 

Slow down and smell the roses or bears.

 

Two of the many highlights that stick with me, Liard hot springs and the fishing bears at Hyder.

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I did Alaska last year.

 

6750 total miles from Wenatchee over two months.

 

It felt like I was always on the road!!

 

I would split the trip into two. Haines Junction and points south and east.That would cover BC and parts of the Yukon and some of coastal Alaska. That would be a good trip for two or three months. That would include the Stewart-Cassier highway which is more interesting than the Alcan west of Haines Junction.

 

Then I would do another trip just for Alaska. I would take the ferry up and stick the RV on it. See the recent Escapees Magazine article on costs of doing that. I think you can do Alaska in a month or two. I just found it less interesting than northern BC and the Yukon. I did like Valdez and Fairbanks areas. Denali National Park is a complete bust, don't bother unless you have reservation past the road closure. On the other hand, the Denali-Richardson Highway was really cool. I could spend two weeks easily on that route. Wrangle-Elias National Park is worth sometime as is Valdez.

 

I am currently posting on the trip on my blog: http://usbackroads.blogspot.com

 

The Alaska trip postings start in July.

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We left Grand Junction, CO the week before Memorial Day. We came through Port Angeles, WA on Sept. 9. No hurry. Had a great summer! It was our second trip up there, too.

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If all the time you have for an Alaska trip is 2 months, you WILL be on the road all the time!

 

If you plans are to spend ONLY 5-6 weeks touring AK, then save yourself the hassle of the expense and rush of making a mad dash though Canada. Fly to Anchorage and rent mid sized Class C RV from one of the many rental companies. From Anchorage, make a circle tour in either direction. Visit the Kenai Peninsula, then Valdez and the Kennicott copper mine in McCarty, continue on to Fairbanks and Denali and finally back to Anchorage. I consider this a rush trip, but you will get to spend several days in each location and see most of the highlights of AK.

 

It is about 2000 miles from the US border to Tok, AK. It is a grueling drive to make 300 miles a day, every day, to cover this distance in 7 days. You can do it, but you won't see much except the road in front of you. No fun at all.

 

We took 4 1/2 months from the US border in Washington (Sumas crossing) to returning to Washington. We crossed the border on April 27th and back in the US on September 5th.

 

We spent about 12 weeks in AK and the remainder exploring Canada.

Edited by Al Florida

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Driver you ain't going to believe this, I have made the trip 3 times and can't wait to go again. Last year we allowed 1 week Sweet Grass to Tok then 1 week Alaska then 1 week back to Sweet Grass. We started mid September no crowds . Did the trip in October once covered about 500 per day business & pleasure in my pickup. Did the trip March once delivering motorhome about 400 per day. So it depends on what you want to see and spend time seeing. My wife went with me last year and loved BC more than Alaska. So saddle up enjoy your ride.

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We crossed Sumas, Washington May 23 and arrived in Palmer, Alaska the week of July 4. We crossed back at Roosville, Montana around Labor Day in September. That was our second trip.

 

Are you on a fixed time period? There is so much to see in Canada and the Yukon even before getting to Alaska.

 

Also, unless you have a specific reason to end in Fairbanks you are missing the most beautiful areas of Alaska like the Kenai Peninsula, Valdez, Haines, Skagway.

 

Hope you don't rush the trip if you have the time!

Thanks for the info.

We plan to cross into Canada around May 20 and return to the Calgary area by Sept 15 or so. I was wanting to be in Coldfoot or Deadhorse on the Summer Solstice (above the Arctic Circle). It's just a personal thing but it would be cool so that is why I mentioned to Fairbanks. I plan to visit Haines, Skagway area on the way up depending on timing but we will visit SE Alaska.

Can't wait to see it for ourselves.

David

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If all the time you have for an Alaska trip is 2 months, you WILL be on the road all the time!

 

If you plans are to spend ONLY 5-6 weeks touring AK, then save yourself the hassle of the expense and rush of making a mad dash though Canada. Fly to Anchorage and rent mid sized Class C RV from one of the many rental companies. From Anchorage, make a circle tour in either direction. Visit the Kenai Peninsula, then Valdez and the Kennicott copper mine in McCarty, continue on to Fairbanks and Denali and finally back to Anchorage. I consider this a rush trip, but you will get to spend several days in each location and see most of the highlights of AK.

 

It is about 2000 miles from the US border to Tok, AK. It is a grueling drive to make 300 miles a day, every day, to cover this distance in 7 days. You can do it, but you won't see much except the road in front of you. No fun at all.

 

We took 4 1/2 months from the US border in Washington (Sumas crossing) to returning to Washington. We crossed the border on April 27th and back in the US on September 5th.

 

We spent about 12 weeks in AK and the remainder exploring Canada.

Thanks for the input and I will check out your blog for additional information. We plan to spend nearly 4 months on this trip between Alaska and Canada as we make our way northward (and southward in Sept).

My main concern was having a place to stay around July 4.

Looking forward to our trip and I appreciate the feedback.

David

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Thanks for the info.

We plan to cross into Canada around May 20 and return to the Calgary area by Sept 15 or so. I was wanting to be in Coldfoot or Deadhorse on the Summer Solstice (above the Arctic Circle). It's just a personal thing but it would be cool so that is why I mentioned to Fairbanks. I plan to visit Haines, Skagway area on the way up depending on timing but we will visit SE Alaska.

Can't wait to see it for ourselves.

David

I assume that for the summer solstice you will want to be in a place you can see the horizon to the north, so you can see the sun above the horizon around 12am-1am. Coldfoot has a mountain range to the north that will probably keep you from seeing the horizon.

 

You don't have to be in Deadhorse on June 21-22 to see the sun above the horizon at midnight. In Deadhorse the sun doesn't set from mid May to late June.

http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/RS_OneYear.php

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Thanks for the input and I will check out your blog for additional information. We plan to spend nearly 4 months on this trip between Alaska and Canada as we make our way northward (and southward in Sept).

My main concern was having a place to stay around July 4.

Looking forward to our trip and I appreciate the feedback.

David

If you are not well prepared and experienced in dry camping or boondocking, finding places to stay in the busiest part of the summer could be a problem unless you make reservations well in advance. I have no personal experience with RV Parks as we only spent 2 days out of 139 days in an RV park on our trip. Reading about others experiences some say no problem find RV parks to say in, others say must have reservations. Finding places to boondock or dry camp was not a problem.

 

You don't actually have to go out in the boonies to gain dry camping experience. Just unhook from the facilities in the RV park for a few to several days.

Edited by Al Florida

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We just traveled to AK this past summer, we workamped just outside Seward. Crossed through Sumas May 4, arrived Seward May 25; left Seward Sept 27, crossed through Sweetgrass Oct 9. We had hoped to do some sightseeing on the way out - but weather chased us out! I do not recommend doing it that fast! I blogged about it with a lot of details in the Getting to AK and Recap AK posts - check it out if you'd like: bkamericanodyssey.com. (Sorry don't know how to ad a link from the phone!)

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We only made two reservations for the whole summer; July 4 weekend in Palmer because we were hooking up with others and 5 nights in Denali's farthest campground you can drive - Teklanika. We only made those reservations a couple weeks prior when we could better judge when we'd be there.

 

As it turned out, we were a little early for our Denali reservations so on a whim we boondocked nearby at a beautiful place and drove into the park early morning. We easily secured a spot for an additional 5 nights for our 40' motorhome in Denali's front campground, Riley Creek.

 

90% of our all-summer stay was in dry camping campgrounds (state parks, national forest, city parks) or in lovely boondocking spots just off the highways. We stayed in Canada's Provincial parks on the way up and back.

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My wife and I did Alaska in 2009 with 2 other couples. We entered BC at Sumas on 5/21 and entered Alaska on 6/21. We only made reservations twice and had no problems getting into campgrounds when we showed up. We only boondocked twice. We are returning this year and plan on a lot more boondocking. Sumas is the place to cross on the West coast. Extra booze was not a problem as long as we declared it, but revolvers are a no no. Try to leave enough time to enjoy British Columbia and Yukon Territory as they have a lot to offer. Along with purchasing the Mile Post (mandatory), I strongly recommend reading James Michener's "Alaska". Leave enough time to drive at 50 MPH or less and you shouldn't have any problems. I would recommend you check in with this site on a regular basis. We ended up meeting with several other contributors on this site at Talketna for the Moose Dropping Festival. Hope to meet some of you on this years trip.

Edited by Monaco Larry

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It is now mid March and we are curious as to who might be headed to Alaska this year. We intend to enter BC in mid May from Washington and take 3 weeks to a month to work our way up to Tok. We hope to do more boon docking this trip than we did in "09". We are open to traveling with one or two others that have similar interests and time schedules.

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can't delete message, so did an edit.

Edited by IdahoRV

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Has anyone taken the NPS Glacier Bay Cruise and stayed at a hotel in the area?  If so, how did you get to Gustavus? We are planning to take the AK ferry from Bellingham and stop in Juneau but can't seem to put together a way to get to Gustavus. Would it be better to fly there from Skagway instead of Juneau. We will be in Skagway later on in the trip but it would be more convenient to go when we are in Juneau and using the AK ferry up the coast, we have better control of our time. We are planning to end up in Whittier and then start wandering southish.

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I did all that but can't seem to find a flight the way the system is set up. I seem to need to put in a specific day and I just want to look at a range of days and what flights are available. I want flexibility to make a decision on time and day and can't get the system to work that way. I haven't made online reservations for a flight in 10-15 years and it seems so limiting. I don't know if the flights are full or if I put the info in wrong. The feedback is negligible. I think I am on a steep learning curve.

I'll have to look into th ferry, that may be the easier way to go, less confusing. I thought flying would be better but perhaps not.

Edited by SWharton

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