The Case for a Springtime Drive to Alaska

RV travel to Alaska
Erin Kirkland

Typically, most Alaska travelers arrive between June and August, wanting to capture the full bloom of flowers and trees, wildlife and scenery. They'll find it, for certain, along with premium pricing at hotels, attractions, and vehicle rental facilities. Those choosing to drive the 1,400-mile stretch of the Alaska-Canada Highway, or AlCan, often run in to lengthy construction delays and crowded two-lane roadways and campgrounds. Early reservations are a must for those traveling in the summer, especially in an RV. 

Increasingly popular, however, is a contingent of early-season road-trippers looking for an opportunity for adventure and quiet as they traverse the Canadian and Alaskan wilderness on the way to the Last Frontier. Great Alaskan Holidays, an RV rental company based in Anchorage, offers a seasonal special they call the "Spring Adventure Package" that invites independent and confident drivers to travel between Forest City, Iowa and Anchorage, Alaska. 

Picking up a new RV from the Winnebago factory in Forest City, located about two hours south of the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, parties receive training details for new RV drivers before putting the rigs in gear and scattering toward the open road. 

Some people choose to explore the Lower 48 states before heading north; visiting Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone, or Glacier National Parks, then cross into Alberta, Canada and beautiful Banff and Jasper among the Canadian Rockies. 

Still others head directly for Canada from Forest City, and traverse the provinces before connecting to the famous AlCan at Dawson City, Yukon Territory. 

Planning Ahead

Anyone considering a road trip to Alaska should first purchase The Milepost, considered by many to be the bible for driving to and from the far north. In it, travelers will be able to track progress via a click-by-click formatting, complete with projected construction alerts, wildlife hotspots, and camping and lodging options. 

Keep a journal of your vehicle's mileage and take heed of signage for fuel fill-ups, especially if driving a diesel rig. GoTip: Many gas stations and rest stops do not open before late May, so it is prudent to top off the tank whenever you have the chance. The Milepost can provide assistance with fueling locations. 

Prices for food and fuel are likely to be higher than other locations in the Lower 48. Keep tabs on current gas prices and budget accordingly. Carrying non-perishable foods for travel and picnicking at local parks and pullouts can be an excellent way to "live local" along the way. Be sure to pack out trash and leave nothing behind that may attract wildlife. 

Traveling with children? Pack plenty of games, sports equipment, and books for the journey, keeping in mind that for much of the journey, internet and/or cellphone service will be limited or non-existent. Some campgrounds will have wireless internet complimentary with reservations. 

Expect to take at least a week to adequately cross the northwest and Canadian landscape before reaching Anchorage, longer if you want to stop and explore along the way. In this case, the journey is indeed the destination. 

Canadian Crossing

Wherever you choose to cross from the United States into Canada, be sure you have the following: 

  • A current passport from your country of origin, making sure it will not expire within six months from date of entry. Children traveling without both parents must have a notarized note stating the dates of travel and guardians during those dates.
  • A written agreement from the RV or auto company, if you are renting a vehicle and returning it at the end of your one-way trip. 
  • Proof of insurance, a drivers license, and title information, if traveling in your own vehicle. 
  • A list of fresh meats, vegetables, and other purchases made in the United States. Find the complete list at the Canada Customs and Immigration website

What You'll See Along the Way

It should be noted that pringtime driving between the Canadian border and Southcentral Alaska is often unpredictable thanks to northern weather patterns. Drivers should expect bright sunshine, driving rain, or pellets of snow, and sometimes all three at once. The National Weather Service in the United States, and Canadian Weather Service in Canada can provide up-to-date weather and road conditions for both countries. 

An advantage of spring road trips is also the opportunity to view wildlife, the likes of which are usually very active after a long winter. Brown and black bears, deer, moose, foxes, rabbits, and other animals and birds can be spotted within view of your vehicle (where you should always stay when viewing wildlife), often with youngsters in tow. 

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