I’m sure you have lots of questions about this trip as we did. I’ll try and answer them all here. Midway through our Alaska adventure in the summer of 2022 I started documenting our route, stops, attractions and many lessons learned so we could pass that valuable information on to you. So here it is.
We teamed up with two other couples and spent the summer months of May, June, July and August traveling through Western Canada and Alaska. It would be the first time any of us had driven to Alaska.
I hope this map and writeup becomes a useful resource while planning your own RV trip to Alaska. There’s a ton of information here.
Here’s a list of topics covered
- Alaska RV Trip Map (May – Aug 2022)
- Our Plan? Be Flexible and Don’t Over-Plan
- What is the Best Route to Alaska?
- Which Route Did We Take?
- Preparing to drive your RV to Alaska
- Crossing the border into Canada
- Where are the BAD sections of highway?
- Mobile Internet Coverage?
- Does STARLINK Work in Canada and Alaska?
- Do Weboost Cell Phone Boosters Work in Canada and Alaska?
- Route Navigation (Google Maps or GPS?)
- Is the Milepost Book worth getting?
- Will you get rock chips in the windshield?
- Will you get eaten by Mosquitos?
- How to avoid Mosquito bites?
- Will you see wildlife?
- Will you get attacked by a bear?
- Does it ever get dark at night?
- Helpful Resources
- Start Planning Your Trip!!
Alaska RV Trip Map (May – Aug 2022)
Here’s an interactive map outlining our route and places we visited along the way. Want to see the beautiful landscape you’ll experience? Watch this 2022 recap video and follow us on Instagram @rvwithtito.
Best way to use the map:
(a) Select the “show full screen” icon on the top right to open the map in full-screen mode
(b) Select the layers icon on the top left to open the legend/layer panel
(c) Check or uncheck the box next to each layer to show or hide it
(d) Select the map icons for more detail
Our Plan? Be Flexible and Don’t Over-Plan
You could say our plan was not to over plan which would leave plenty of room to improvise. We’ve always enjoyed a spontaneous style of travel and approached this trip the same way.
May seemed like a good month for us begin this journey. So we headed north into Canada in mid May and anticipated a return before the end of September.
A lot of leg work was done ahead of time researching and identifying places to explore. It was all documented in a spreadsheet that our friends put together and maintained throughout the trip.
That flexibility really paid off on multiple occasions. In June we were able to book a last minute flight home for a quick family visit. We also booked impromptu excursions that would required us to extend our stay at times.
Flying out to see the bears at Katmai National Park was one of those excursions. We needed to act quickly at the last minute or risk missing out on that experience. We extended our stay in Homer, Alaska waiting for our chartered flight. It was worth it.
Flying out to Katmai National Park would end up being the highlight of the trip. I hope you can experience it someday. If not, here’s a video of the entire experience that I made for you.
It all started in Alberta, Canada. We met up with the rest of the group in Banff, Alberta in mid May during the Canadian holiday. Because of the holiday, we decided to make a campground reservation months prior just to be safe.
Banff, Jasper and Denali National Park were three popular destinations that we felt we should have reservations. Early in the year, we picked a few dates then got online to reserve campsites for those stops. Those ended up to be our only lodging reservations for the entire four months.
As seasoned off-grid RVers, we each felt comfortable dry camping, boondocking or finding free overnight camping along the way (when possible).
We dry-camped the entire trip. The campground in Banff would be the only time we would have RV hookups of any kind. We were always able to find water and dump stations along the way. This helped us be spontaneous and kept campground fees very low.
Large boondocking spots were hard to find. There were many small pull-outs along the route suitable for one or two rigs, but it was a challenge finding larger spots with enough room for three large motorhomes. We had to get creative, but vans, truck campers and smaller RVs should have no trouble getting into most pull-outs along the way.
What is the Best Route to Alaska?
I don’t think there is one. Everyone does Alaska differently and most folks we talked met had a different plan. If you’re driving to Alaska, you have a choice of either the ALCAN route or Cassiar Route (which includes part of the ALCAN).
Here are some routes that others were taking
- Start up the Cassiar Highway then back down the ALCAN into Alberta
- Drive up the Cassiar or ALCAN then take a ferry back from Whittier, Alaska to Bellingham, Washington
- Take a ferry from Bellingham, Washington to Whittier, Alaska and drive back down the ALCAN or Cassiar
We met RV travelers during the trip taking each of these routes. So it is really up to you.
TIP: Be flexible. Weather, flooding (snow melt), road closures or other circumstances may force you to change your plans. Be prepared to re-route on the fly.
Which Route Did We Take?
The route we chose was to travel north on the ALCAN then into the Yukon Territory. After exploring Alaska, we returned via the Cassiar highway.
Coming from Washington we crossed into Canada in Eastport, Idaho (see map). Our friends were coming from other parts of the country. Both would cross the Canada border from Montana.
With snow still on the peaks and higher elevations, we experienced some popular areas like Lake Louise and the Columbia Ice Fields while still snowed over. The only downside was that some trails we’d hoped to hike were still closed for the season. No regrets though. It was beautiful.
For the first month, we traveled together from Banff, Alberta up to the ALCAN highway, then north on the Klondike Highway to Dawson City, Yukon Territory.
In Dawson City, we loaded the RVs onto a tiny ferry to cross the Yukon River. Across the river we connected with the Top Of The World Highway then the Taylor Highway into Alaska.
Yes! You have to cross the Yukon River on a ferry. There’s no other way across. Here’s a video I made about that interesting experience.
For the next few months we traveled around Alaska starting with Fairbanks. From there we headed southwest through Denali NP, Wasilla and Anchorage. Several weeks were spent exploring the Kenai Peninsula.
Our return trip started in Valdez, Alaska and took us back to the ALCAN highway then down the Cassiar Highway through British Columbia. We eventually crossed the border into Washington State where we live.
Preparing to drive your RV to Alaska
Road conditions and availability of services will vary along the route. Here are a few things you can do to be as prepared as possible for the trip.
#1 Make sure you can confidently handle your RV in various road conditions
If you have an RV that’s new to you, I suggest spending time driving it before taking it to Alaska. This is especially true if you have a larger motorhome or towable.
Most of the highways are perfectly fine, but you’re likely to encounter several stretches where the highway is under repair. Conditions in these construction zones are unpredictable. The more familiar you are with your rig, the better you’ll do.
If you plan to visit Dawson City in the Yukon Territory you’re likely to encounter long 10 to 100 mile stretches of dirt or gravel roads. Rainy driving days under these conditions will be especially messy and potentially challenging.
Some narrow stretches of road or bridges have oncoming traffic leaving you with little to no shoulder. So take it slow and know your limitations. Change your route if necessary.
Finally, you’ve heard about pot holes, but there are also things called frost heaves. Frost heaves leave big dips in the road as the ground underneath freezes and thaws. They can be difficult to spot until you hit them. If you hit a deep one at high speed in a large motorhome, you could do serious damage to your suspension or tow setup. So keep your eyes peeled and keep your speed down.
#2 Travel with friends or a group
If this is your first trip, you may feel more comfortable traveling with friends or with a group. Here are some reasons this may make sense:
- You can look out for each other so nobody gets left behind
- It helps to share the burden of planning and finding resources
- If you need help, someone in your group may have the skills or tools needed
- You’ll have friends to hike and do things with
- It becomes a shared experience
TIP: Use handheld radios to communicate on driving days when there’s no cell signal
Finally, if you plan on making this a solo trip, know that you’re not really alone. If you stick to the main routes there will always be someone coming by should you run into trouble.
You might find yourself saying “Hello again!” It’s very common to keep running into the same people along the way. There are only one or two roads in or out of Alaska.
#3 Make sure your RV is in good working order
Repair services and parts may be difficult to find along your route. This could cause major delays in your schedule should you experience mechanical or equipment problems. So take appropriate measures to prepare your RV for a 4,000 to 5,000 mile journey through varied conditions. Here are some questions to help you prepare?
- Have I performed all regular engine and system servicing?
- Are my tires and suspension in good shape? They may take a beating.
- Do I have a spare tire or at least a plan in case I get a flat?
- Are all of the components in my RV in good working order (heater, refrigerator, generator, plumbing, electrical)?
Do you have spare parts and tools on-hand?
Crossing the border into Canada
Our border experiences were very easy. We were asked just a few basic questions. I was prepared, friendly and clear with my answers and onward we went. One of our friends entering Canada with Texas plates got his RV searched for weapons. Another friend was “randomly” selected for COVID testing. So you never know.
Before crossing visit the Visit Canada Website and acquaint yourself with any current advisories and guidelines.
Where are the BAD sections of highway?
As you reach the Northern British Columbia and Yukon Territory of Canada, highway conditions can vary from year to year. Rough surfaces, frost heaves and pot holes are common in that region.
You may also encounter large sections of highway under repair. Expect to stop and wait before driving slowly through narrow dirt lanes with little to no shoulder. There’s no guarantee of the condition of these temporary lanes. So be very careful even when following the lead truck.
On one occasion, the lead truck led us through some very soft dirt. Had I stopped moving we surely would have been stuck.
Conditions change regularly. So review your route on these websites before driving them. It helps to know what’s ahead.
Regularly check in with the the RVingToAlaska Facebook Group. Members traveling ahead of you may share updates on road conditions or closures. This is VERY helpful information.
Unfortunately, some of the worst roads are in Alaska. On the Canadian side, there are more warning signs alerting you to road hazards. This is not the case in Alaska. Frost heaves (big dips in the road) and pot holes may pop up without warning. The only thing you can do is to keep your eyes peeled and keep your speed down.
Here are the worse sections of highway that we encountered:
- HWY 2 from Whitehorse, YT to Dawson City, YT: Several multi-mile road construction projects
- HWY 9 from Dawson City, YT to US Border: Dirt highway with some narrow sections (not too bad when dry)
- HWY 5 from US Border to Tok, AK: Partial dirt highway with lots of narrow spots, pot holes and frost heaves
- HWY 2 / HWY 1 from Tok, AK to Destruction Bay, YT: Lots of dangerous frost heaves and pot holes
How to handle rough roads? Reduce your speed and drive around the potholes when possible. Some potholes and frost heaves are simply unavoidable. You’ll need to slow way down and brace for impact. Don’t worry about slowing down traffic.
Also avoid soft sections in the middle or edges of dirt roads. Stay close to where others have driven.
Mobile Internet Coverage?
There are several dead zones in remote areas along the route, but most populated areas have mobile coverage of some sort.
Northern British Columbia and the Yukon Territory will have spotty coverage or no coverage at all. When you reach a populated area the cell-signal will come back. Cell coverage was generally better throughout Alaska.
We were able to get a signal in most areas west of Tok along regular travel routes. Of course, the signal quality and coverage varied from one provider to the next.
AT&T (or Cricket Wireless) and Verizon were the two carriers we relied on. The T-Mobile coverage map looked promising. In reality, T-Mobile proved to be very slow and unreliable.
Cell Coverage in Canada (British Columbia, Alberta and Yukon Territory)
AT&T Wireless devices clearly had the best coverage in Canada. Verizon was not very good in Canada. While we were able to get a roaming T-Mobile connection in Canada, the signal/data strength was generally poor.
Expect to have no cell signal while driving through remote areas in Northern British Columbia and Yukon Territory. Large sections of Highway 97 through Northern BC, Yukon Highway to Dawson Creek, Top Of The World Highway east of Dawson Creek, and most of the Cassiar Highway are some dead zones that come to mind. Most populated areas will have cell coverage though.
Small Towns Have Limited Bandwidth: Many smaller cities and towns had strong cell signals but limited bandwidth which limited data speeds. The further north we went, the bandwidth was limited and data speeds got worse.
Cell Coverage in Alaska
Verizon and AT&T both had good coverage in most populated areas and near most common travel routes in Alaska. T-Mobile again had coverage but poor speeds.
Does STARLINK Work in Canada and Alaska?
Our friends have a STARLINK Dish which we were eager to test up north. Unfortunately, it was not usable above 52 degrees in latitude (where STARLINK cuts out).
UPDATE (November 2022) – SpaceX announced that service is now available in parts of Alaska and Northern Canada. So check The LIVE STARLINK Coverage Map to verify the coverage areas before heading north.
Do Weboost Cell Phone Boosters Work in Canada and Alaska?
Yes they do. If you have one, it will certainly help in some remote areas where there are dead zones. Having a cell phone booster is not required though. You’ll just have a better chance of picking up a signal when others can’t.
We have a Weboost Drive Reach RV installed and it came in very handy on long driving days. I wasn’t sure if it would work in Canada, but it did. There were several dead zones and having the booster kept us connected more often than if we did not have it. We were also able to get faster data speeds with the booster in some cases, but not always.
Route Navigation (Google Maps or GPS?)
We were able to use Google Maps for most of the trip, but we also use a Garmin GPS as a backup.
The reason I prefer navigating with Google Maps is because all of our pinned locations and points of interest are stored there. This makes it easier to get driving directions and share locations with our travel buddies.
Google Navigation needs a cell-signal to operate which becomes an issue when in remote areas. So here’s what you need to do in to make the navigation work off-line.
While you have a cell signal, download Google Map data for use off-line. There’s a built-in feature for this. You select a region on the map and the app downloads basic map data for that area. Keep downloading maps for all areas along your route. Once the maps are downloaded to your GPS enabled phone, the Google Navigation will continue working even when there’s no cell signal.
Of course, you can use your GPS instead if that’s your primary navigation tool.
TIP: When in Canada, set the units on your GPS to Kilometers Per Hour (kph) and use it as your speedometer. Google Maps should switch this automatically for you. No need to get a speeding ticket for going 100 in a 70.
Is the Milepost Book worth getting?
Yes. The Milepost book (updated annually) is a great resource for the trip up to Alaska. We referenced it quite a bit especially in areas where there was no cell-signal.
To use it, you need to know the highway you’re on and the nearest mile marker. Yes there are mile markers in Canada along the ALCAN. Check the book for any nearby attractions, campgrounds, gas stations, or historical information.
The only complaints I’ve heard about MILEPOST is that it’s not very intuitive. However, it gets easier to use once you understand how it is structured. It came in handy driving while through BC and the Yukon Territory, but we rarely opened it once entering Alaska.
Will you get rock chips in the windshield?
Probably. If you’re lucky you’ll avoid this, but Class A motorhomes like ours with a large windshields are big targets.
There are several long dirt or gravel sections along the ALCAN and Klondike highways. They use a lot of crushed rock about the size of your thumb which has sharp edges to it. Oncoming and passing vehicles speeding by are likely to kick up a small rock that could nail you. This may happen even if you’re going slow and giving cars lots of room.
So it’s best to be prepared with a couple rock repair kits like this one like this one and some clear packing tape.
We managed to make it unscathed all the way up to northern British Columbia. This got me thinking “we might make it through the trip without any rock chips” Nope. Soon after we had our first rock chip.
A small car zoomed pass me on a dirt section of gravel road then promptly cut in front of me. His maneuver kicked up rocks chipping our windshield and cracked a fog light. What a jerk. Most regulars know to leave lots of room when passing.
On our way back south, I got another chip when an oncoming semi-truck blew by me. Lastly, I discovered a stress crack forming near the top of my windshield.
I went through four of the chip repair kits patching all of the chips and temporarily stopping the stress crack from growing. Clear packing tape came in handy for putting my fog light back together.
Yes. I’ll be replacing my windshield.
Don’t Forget About Your TOAD: Cover the windshield and front of any vehicles you’re towing. If not, you’ll wish you did.
Will you get eaten by Mosquitos?
That really depends on where you go and in what month. The worst months are June and July. They start to die off in August. By August, the mosquitos start to thin out.
Expect to have a lot of mosquitos when camped in wooded or marsh areas. You might be in the clear when there’s a breeze. When the breeze dies down the mosquitos are likely to come back out.
How to avoid Mosquito bites?
This is a widely debated and controversial topic. So I’ll just share how I deal with mosquitos which seems to work pretty well.
The best thing you can do is cover up with long sleeves, hat and long pants. Be aware, they can bite through thin tight clothing. So think twice about wearing those yoga pants where mosquitos are going to be.
You can also take covering-up to the next level and get a mosquito net like this one for your head. Instead of a net over my head, I find that a hat with some mosquito repellent on it does the trick. I spray some 100% Deet repellent under the bill of my ball cap and on top. That tends to keep them off my face. I kept a special Deet ballcap for this and put it on when I’m heading out into the bush.
There are many types of mosquito repellent. I find the 100% Deet repellent to be the most effective. I don’t spray 100% Deet on my skin though. We stocked up on these small bottles of Ben’s Deet Repellent before the trip. They’re small enough to always keep in my backpack.
Other things that may work are mosquito coils or a good fan. I’ve had good luck with mosquito coils in the past as long it’s not windy. On this trip though we never used them. Using a fan to create a breeze works pretty well (like near the door). Mosquitos can’t fly in a breeze.
Bonus TIP: I’ve also found that spraying Deet repellent on the window or door screen will keep them from landing on it. It makes it easier to open and close the screen door without letting a bunch of bugs in. Combine that with a fan blowing on the screen. Give it a try.
Eventually you will get bitten though. So have some anti-itch stuff on-hand. We used this new Bug Bite Suction Thing as soon as we got a bite. It worked really well to minimize itching and swelling.
Will you see wildlife?
Yes. Give them space and enjoy them from a distance. Always be on the lookout while driving. Keep an eye on the shoulders of the highway and on the edge of the woods as wildlife may be wandering on to the road. We found this to be perfect co-pilot task since, as the driver, I had plenty of hazards to watch out for in the middle of the road.
Early in the trip we started keeping a tally of what kind of wildlife we saw and how many. Eventually the number got too big, so what was the point. We stopped counting.
What type of wildlife could you see? You’re likely to see big horn sheep, elk, bison, fox, coyote, moose, black bear, grizzly bear. Near the coast you’ll see bald eagles and lots of seagulls.
When you encounter wildlife on or near the road, stop the car and give the animals the right-of-way. Just stop, stay in your car, put on your hazards to warn oncoming cars, take pictures and wait for them to wander off.
In addition to individual animals, we also saw small herds that blocked the entire road.
If you see animals around your campsite, stay clear and give them plenty of room. Campsites will usually have posted warnings advising of wildlife in the area. Follow those guidelines.
I had an elk run towards me in a campground, because I was standing near some nice green grass that she wanted. Lesson learned.
Will you get attacked by a bear?
Don’t let the fear of bears keep you from visiting popular places and experiencing everything Canada and Alaska has to offer. Early in the trip we were worried about bear encounters. The more we hiked and ventured out as a group, we got more comfortable with it.
Most wildlife you’ll encounter will be from your car or RV. When you venture off for a hike or excursion, there are some general guidelines to follow:
- First of all follow the recommendations of the rangers or guides you may be with
- Do not hike or venture off alone
- Stay on marked trails
- Maintain conversations while hiking
- Always carry bear spray where you can quickly reach it
- Keep food and snacks INSIDE your pack
- Don’t carry fish products
Trust me, you quickly learn to become “Bear Aware” and learn to get comfortable with it.
If you encounter a bear follow these guidelines from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Does it ever get dark at night?
It’s not as bad as you think. Blackout curtains or Reflectix insulation work great to block out light. The longest days are in June and July with sunset as late as 1AM. There’s always a twilight glow though.
As you get into August, it starts getting darker at night.
There’s a lot of great resources out there to help you plan. Here are some of the resources we relied on for Canada/Alaska travel tips, road conditions, free overnight camping, RV parks and campgrounds.
- RVingToAlaska Facebook Group – By Gary and Stacey Quimby
- Milepost Book
- iOverlander.com and iOverlander App
- British Columbia Routes and Driving Conditions
- Yukon Territory Road Conditions
I highly recommend you join Gary and Stacey Quimby’s RVingToAlaska Facebook group when you travel. They live north of Anchorage and provide this great resource for people traveling that year. We were able to get a heads up on numerous occasions about road conditions and campsite availability beforehand. Plus you’re likely to run into folks from the group on the road.
While in Canada, we primarily used iOverlander to help find boondocking or free overnight spots. Campendium didn’t have much helpful information in Canada, but worked great in the Alaska.
You should have no problem finding RV parks and organized campgrounds along the route. We saw lots of them even though we didn’t use them.
Start Planning Your Trip!!
That’s it. I could go on and on about RVing to Alaska, but I should stop before it starts sounding like bla bla bla. I hope this information helps you out. If you have recommendations or anything to add shoot me an email at email@example.com.