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First trip and headed north - all the way north


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Well, we have purchased our first rig - 40 Country Coach and are going to take our first trip and head north to Alaska. For work reasons we are headed in Canada through Bellingham, Wa. any advise for first timers on the route through Canada - or maybe, more specifically, what route should a first timer avoid?

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First of all, welcome to the Escapee forums! It is always nice to have new folks join our discussions and we love to help and support newer RV folks and to share with the more experienced ones. Please do join in with comments and questions in any subject area and as often as you find an interest!

 

There really are not that many alternative routes to take to AK depending upon just where you plan to go there. If you plan to visit Prudhoe Bay it will be a trip of 2500 miles each way. Are you now in Bellingham, or just planning to route that way? A little more information would probably get you a better range of responses. But we are still happy to have you and I'm sure that you will get some solid advice.

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Your question might better be asked in this year's Alaska thread which can be found here:

 

http://www.rvnetwork.com/index.php?showtopic=116342

 

As Kirk stated, there are only two roads to Alaska: The Alaska Highway and the Cassiar (which eventually comes out on the Alaska Highway). You can, of course, also take the Top of the World Highway west out of Dawson City, Yukon, but will have to travel much of the Alaska Highway to get there.

 

I would recommend the Alaska Highway (with or without a detour to Dawson City and the Top of the World Highway) for your trip up and the Cassiar for your trip back. Assuming you will be coming back toward the end of July or into August, take a detour to Hyder to see the bears feeding on salmon at Fish Creek and visit the Toaster Museum Stewart (assuming it's still there).

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No question about it. Buy the latest copy of 'Mile Post'. It will give all the latest information. It's a while since we were up there but the Cassiar was a great drive but it was way slower. When we went much of it was still dirt!! Either way it's worth the trip.

 

good luck.

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We leave Wednesday and will cross the border at Sumas. At Hope there are two choices: either take Hwy 1 to Cache Creek and Hwy 97 to Price George and Dawson Creek, or take Hwy 5 over the Cascades to Merritt and Kamloops, north on 5 to Hwy 16, East on 16 thru Jasper, and north on 40 Grand Prairie, then 43 to Dawson Creek.

 

On Hwy 1 you get to do the Fraser River Canyon. Sometimes the road is divided freeway and sometimes not. There can be some competition when the road narrows. From Cache Creek to Prince George there are a lot of small towns and stop lights. Most people go this way. On Hwy 5 it is all freeway to and thru Kamloops, then high quality road beyond. Going thru Jasper is no charge unless you stop overnight or do the Icefields Parkway, and usually some wildlife.

 

If you take the Cassiar coming south you will hit Hwy 16 west of Prince George. A nice loop would be the Hwy 5/16/40 route north and the Cassiar/16/97 route south. That will limit driving both ways over the same road to the Watson Lake to Tok portion of the Highway.

 

When you get to Tok, check the weather forecast for Valdez. If it looks like nice weather, go there first, if not go to Fairbanks. Enjoy the trip.

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Sumas, Washington is very easy to cross because there are not a lot of big trucks entering at this spot. We spent our first night in Hope, B.C. to regroup - buy fresh meats, veggies and get some Canadian currency from the bank at the best exchange rate. We planned to utilize the Provincial parks and Yukon government parks and many just have a fee drop box for cash. We also used coins for laundry and small purchases. Hope is a very pleasant small town with awesome huge wood carvings lining the street and even a Japanese Garden. It was a relaxing first day after so much worry and preparation before the crossing. Have a great trip!

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I realize that you are entering Canada through Bellingham but if it were me going to Alaska I would try to go up through Alberta entering Canada at Sweetgrass/ Coutts and driving on some flat land for a good stretch. The hiway from the border through Lethbridge, Calgary, Edmonton to Grand Prairie is all on flat land and is divided 4 lane all the way .......it is also in very good condition.

Personally I deplore BC's hiways as they are rough and narrow and twisty and turny to the point where it takes forever to get anywhere. We here in Alberta state that BC is short for bring cash. Its a very expensive province.

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First of all, welcome to the Escapee forums! It is always nice to have new folks join our discussions and we love to help and support newer RV folks and to share with the more experienced ones. Please do join in with comments and questions in any subject area and as often as you find an interest!

 

There really are not that many alternative routes to take to AK depending upon just where you plan to go there. If you plan to visit Prudhoe Bay it will be a trip of 2500 miles each way. Are you now in Bellingham, or just planning to route that way? A little more information would probably get you a better range of responses. But we are still happy to have you and I'm sure that you will get some solid advice.

We are headed north from Forks Wa, so Bellingham seemed to make the most sense from a distance perspective, but will have to look at the trip based on all feedback! Thank you

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No question about it. Buy the latest copy of 'Mile Post'. It will give all the latest information. It's a while since we were up there but the Cassiar was a great drive but it was way slower. When we went much of it was still dirt!! Either way it's worth the trip.

 

good luck.

 

Done! On its way to our mailbox now!

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Oh yeah get the Tour saver coupon book for sure. You didn't say when you were headed north, but mid to late May is a great time to go. A lot of snow still on the Mtn's., the Wrangells & Mt. Sanford are awesome, animals out and about, not any construction yet, and you'll feel like you're the only one on the road.

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A surprising number of Canadians drive into the US and take I-90 east rather than drive in BC.

 

But the drive in CA 1 east of Vancouver is pretty spectacular and beats the heck out of I-90 for scenery. But for speedy travel it's I-90 for me.

 

If you drive down and through Olympia and then up WA18 to catch I-90. You'll save money on tolls (ferries or the Narrows bridge).

 

WDR

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Time at border crossings will be a crapshoot at any location. Blaine being the worst. After getting thru the Border head to Hope BC, about 2 hrs then north up the Fraser Canyon to Cache Creek. From there North to Prince George. There won't be much traffic from Hope to Cache Creek. That stretch died on the vine after the stretch from Hope to Merritt was built years ago.

There ia generally lots of road construction in BC and Alberta, but that is the stretch thru the Rockies and you won't be going that route.

 

I would check with both Canadian and US Customs to find out if there are any food products or other things they have issues with.

 

Don't bring guns. That is another topic current on this forum.

For decent small meals, Tim Horton's is the place to go. Kinda like Starbucks but cheaper.

 

Our fuel is more expensive than yours and Bellingham is really spendy.

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Take a few minutes and learn how to use the aurora predictor.

The most amazing thing I have ever seen in my life.

http://www.gi.alaska.edu/AuroraForecast

 

 

my blog post about it, with pictures

 

http://soos-ontheroad.blogspot.com/search?q=aurora

 

 

Sue

Thanks Sue, I have used that web site and a few apps on my phone as well. I have spent a great deal of time on the Kenai penisulia, and the predictor has enabled me to see some great displays of light! this will be the first time there going by land so maybe even more opportunities

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Time at border crossings will be a crapshoot at any location. Blaine being the worst. After getting thru the Border head to Hope BC, about 2 hrs then north up the Fraser Canyon to Cache Creek. From there North to Prince George. There won't be much traffic from Hope to Cache Creek. That stretch died on the vine after the stretch from Hope to Merritt was built years ago.

There ia generally lots of road construction in BC and Alberta, but that is the stretch thru the Rockies and you won't be going that route.

 

I would check with both Canadian and US Customs to find out if there are any food products or other things they have issues with.

 

Don't bring guns. That is another topic current on this forum.

For decent small meals, Tim Horton's is the place to go. Kinda like Starbucks but cheaper.

 

Our fuel is more expensive than yours and Bellingham is really spendy

 

 

So crossing at sumas, stoping in hope for reill of food (that I cant bring across), north on 1 to cache creek, north on 97 to prince george? so the roads are decent that way for a first time big rig driver?

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Crapshoot was referring to wait times at the border.

 

Abbotsford is a midsized town and probably a better option than Hope for food etc. Hope is about 2 hrs from Vancouver and Cache Creek is a little over 2 hrs north of Hope. Cache Creek has a large Visitor info Center, Joyce Deering runs it. cachecreekinfo@telus.net

is what's on her card. Joyce should be able to provide info for the general area. From Cache Creek north to Prince George there are a number of midsized towns to cater to most of what you need. Prince George is 500 miles from Vancouver.

 

For fuel, I'd Google up the various locations enroute and check prices. My truck has 2 x 100 gallon tanks plus a fuel computer but I still look for fuel when getting below 1/2 to 1/4 tank. It seems the last 1/4 drops like a rock. Canadian fuel is more expensive than US. Our litres are close to your quarts.

 

This time of year the roadside fruit stands will be opening up, fresh fruit, vegies, corn, jam, pies etc.

 

From Prince George you will either head north to Ft St John or west towards the coast and Prince Rupert. New Hazelton, on the way to Rupert it the turnoff north to Alaska. At Prince Rupert there is an Alaska Ferry. Costs will be on line.

 

Just make sure your vehicle is mechanically sound.

 

Roger

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We crossed into Canada at Sumas, WA when we went to AK in 2011. Great crossing with very little wait time. Just SW of Sumas in Linden, WA we found VERY inexpensive propane at Vander Yacht Propane,a very large dealer but we still received fast friendly service when we stopped by to get our tanks filled. Their prices were far less expensive than other USA options and, of course, far less expensive than Canadian options. Just across the border in Abbotsford there is a Costco store. We stopped there to replenish the pantry and refer with fresh foods etc. that we were not able to bring across the border. As you go north food and fuel will just keep getting more expensive.

 

We kept a pretty detailed journal of our 2011 AK trip. Some of that info will be a bit dated now but if you are interested in reading it just go to this address in our Trip Journal for the beginning. We drove the Top of the World on our way back south. We also went up the Haul Road to Prudhoe Bay right around the summer solstice. We had a wonderful summer and we hope you do also.

---ron

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Well, we have purchased our first rig - 40 Country Coach and are going to take our first trip and head north to Alaska. For work reasons we are headed in Canada through Bellingham, Wa. any advise for first timers on the route through Canada - or maybe, more specifically, what route should a first timer avoid?

We were up that way summer 2014 and besides all of this great advice you've gotten, stay as long as you can and partake in some at least, the excursions, float trips, fishing, and sight seeing. We were there 2-1/2 months, and it wasn't enough. You'll never see it all. Stop and spend at least 2-3 days at each location. The longer the better. And I didn't see it mentioned, but Liard Hot Springs and Chena Hot Springs (where the ice castle is) are a must.

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Im seeing several options north. According to google maps the 97 north from Hope to Prince George and then 16 to 37 north to the 1 is construction all the way up. Hope north on the 5 through Kamloops looks pretty good. How is the section of 16w between the 5 and Prince George? Has anyone been that way? Would it be a good drive for beginner mountain drivers?

 

Would it be better to stay on 5 to the 40 and go up through Grande Cache and Dawson Creek?

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Contact the Chamber of Commerce I provide the info for. If they don't know, they should be able to find out someone who does. Why go to Kamloops and backtrack west 40 or 50 miles to Cache Creek then north from there? Go straight up the Fraser Canyon.

 

Personally, I'd stay on the route that had the most towns, just in case of breakdown.

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I'd recommend from Hope taking 97 north to Price George and staying on 97 to Dawson Creek and the beginning of the Alaskan Hwy.

 

Return from your trip via Hwy 37 (Cassier Hwy).

 

There really isn't any mountain driving on any of this - just ups and downs. :) Easily done.

 

I'm not understanding your statement of 'construction all the way up'. We know folks driving both ways right now.

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