Alaskan Odyssey: 5 Unforgettable RV Road Trips Through the Last Frontier
Alaskan Odyssey: 5 Unforgettable RV Road Trips Through the Last Frontier

Alaskan Odyssey: 5 Unforgettable RV Road Trips Through the Last Frontier

Experience the adventure of a lifetime on these epic Alaskan road trips. Discover stunning landscapes, wildlife encounters, and the freedom of the open road.

The Last Frontier, as Alaska is often fondly called, is a land of untamed beauty and awe-inspiring wilderness. One of the best ways to immerse yourself in the grandeur of this northern wonderland is by embarking on a road trip. With its vast landscapes, pristine national parks, and a sense of adventure in the air, Alaska offers road trippers an experience like no other. In this guide, we’ll take you on a virtual journey through five breathtaking Alaskan road trips, complete with key stops, route details, and ideal places to park your camper van for the night.

1. The Alaska Highway: A Historic Route to the North

The classic Alaska Highway adventure from British Columbia to Alaska

Distance: Approximately 1,390 miles

Best Time to Go: Summer (June to August)

The Alaska Highway, also known as the Alcan Highway, is a legendary road trip that stretches from Dawson Creek, British Columbia, to Delta Junction, Alaska. This historic route was initially constructed during World War II to connect the contiguous United States to Alaska. Today, it’s a favorite among travelers seeking a quintessential Alaskan road trip.

Key Stops along the Alaska Highway

Dawson Creek, British Columbia: Start your journey in Dawson Creek, where you’ll find the Mile 0 marker, signifying the beginning of the Alaska Highway. Don’t miss the Alaska Highway House, which provides a fascinating insight into the road’s history.

Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park, British Columbia: A perfect spot for relaxation, these natural hot springs are a welcome break from the road. Soak in the warm waters and enjoy the surrounding lush greenery.

Watson Lake, Yukon: Here, you’ll encounter the famous Sign Post Forest, where travelers have been leaving signs from their hometowns for decades. Feel free to add your own!

Whitehorse, Yukon: The capital of Yukon, Whitehorse offers various attractions, including the SS Klondike National Historic Site and the Yukon Wildlife Preserve.

Kluane National Park and Reserve, Yukon: Marvel at the vast wilderness of Kluane, home to Canada’s highest peak, Mount Logan. Hiking and wildlife viewing opportunities abound.

Fairbanks, Alaska: Known for its northern lights displays and Gold Rush history, Fairbanks is a must-visit. Explore the Museum of the North and take a riverboat cruise.

Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska: Witness the majestic Denali (formerly Mount McKinley) and embark on a wildlife tour. Be sure to reserve your camping spot in advance.

Anchorage, Alaska: Alaska’s largest city offers a taste of urban life. Visit the Anchorage Museum, explore the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, and dine at local seafood restaurants.

Route Details

The Alaska Highway is well-paved and maintained, making it suitable for campers and RVs. While the road is generally in good condition, it’s essential to be prepared for long stretches without services. Fill up your gas tank whenever you can, carry spare tires, and stock up on essentials like food and water.

Places to Stay with a Camper Van

  • Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park Campground: Enjoy the convenience of camping right next to the hot springs.
  • Kluane National Park and Reserve Campgrounds: Several campgrounds are available, offering stunning natural settings.
  • Denali National Park Campgrounds: Choose from various campgrounds within the park, but book well in advance, especially during the summer months.
  • Anchorage RV Park: A great option to relax after your long journey, with full hookups and easy access to the city.

2. Seward Highway: Coastal Beauty and Glacial Adventures

Explore Alaska’s southern coast and witness glaciers up close

Distance: Approximately 125 miles

Best Time to Go: Summer (May to September)

For travelers seeking a shorter but no less awe-inspiring road trip, the Seward Highway offers a concentrated dose of Alaska’s natural wonders. This 125-mile route takes you from Anchorage to the coastal town of Seward, passing through some of the most spectacular scenery in the state.

Key Stops along the Seward Highway

Anchorage, Alaska: Start your journey in Alaska’s largest city, where you can stock up on supplies and explore attractions like the Anchorage Museum.

Chugach State Park: Just outside Anchorage, this vast state park offers hiking trails with breathtaking views of the Chugach Mountains.

Girdwood, Alaska: Visit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center and take a scenic tram ride up Mount Alyeska for panoramic views.

Portage Glacier: Take a boat tour or kayak excursion to get up close to this magnificent glacier, which has been steadily retreating over the years.

Whittier, Alaska: Accessible via the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, Whittier is a small town nestled amidst stunning fjords. Explore the Prince William Sound on a glacier cruise.

Seward, Alaska: The final destination of this road trip, Seward is known for its bustling harbor and as a gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park. Don’t miss the opportunity to take a boat tour to witness calving glaciers and marine wildlife.

Route Details

The Seward Highway is well-maintained and offers plenty of pullouts for taking in the views. While the road itself is not challenging, keep an eye out for wildlife, especially during the twilight hours. Moose, eagles, and bears are commonly spotted along this route.

Places to Stay with a Camper Van

  • Chugach State Park Campgrounds: Several campgrounds are available within the park, providing a rustic and scenic camping experience.
  • Portage Valley RV Park: Located near Portage Glacier, this RV park offers full hookups and beautiful mountain views.
  • Miller’s Landing Campground, Seward: This waterfront campground is an excellent spot to relax and enjoy the coastal ambiance.

3. Dalton Highway: Into the Arctic Wilderness

An epic journey to the northernmost reaches of Alaska

Distance: Approximately 414 miles

Best Time to Go: Summer (June to August)

For the boldest adventurers, the Dalton Highway, also known as “The Haul Road,” is the ultimate Alaskan road trip. Stretching north from Fairbanks to Deadhorse on the Arctic Ocean, this route takes you through some of the most remote and challenging terrain in North America.

Key Stops along the Dalton Highway

Fairbanks, Alaska: Begin your journey in Fairbanks, where you can stock up on supplies and explore the city’s attractions.

Yukon River Crossing: This is one of the few services you’ll encounter along the way. It’s a good place to refuel and grab a meal.

Arctic Circle: Cross into the Arctic Circle, a significant milestone on this journey. There’s a visitor center here where you can get a certificate to commemorate your achievement.

Coldfoot, Alaska: A small settlement in the heart of the Arctic, Coldfoot offers accommodations and dining options for travelers making the long trek north.

Atigun Pass: Navigate the challenging Atigun Pass, the highest point on the highway, and marvel at the sweeping views of the Brooks Range.

Prudhoe Bay/Deadhorse, Alaska: The end of the road leads to Prudhoe Bay and Deadhorse, both serving as bases for oil industry operations. Tours of the Prudhoe Bay oil fields are available, but you’ll need to plan ahead and make arrangements.

Route Details

The Dalton Highway is not for the faint of heart. It’s a gravel road with rugged terrain, sharp curves, and steep grades. Travelers must be prepared for changing weather conditions, as well as the possibility of encountering large trucks traveling to and from the oil fields. Adequate supplies, emergency equipment, and a reliable vehicle are essential for this journey.

Places to Stay with a Camper Van

  • Coldfoot Camp: This remote outpost offers basic accommodations, a restaurant, and camping facilities.
  • Happy Valley Campground: Located near the Arctic Circle, this campground is a rustic but picturesque spot to spend the night.
  • Prudhoe Bay Hotel: In Deadhorse, this hotel offers comfortable rooms and dining options for those reaching the northernmost point of the highway.

4. Top of the World Highway: Scenic Views Over Alaska and Canada

A cross-border road trip with panoramic vistas

Distance: Approximately 79 miles (Alaska portion)

Best Time to Go: Summer (June to September)

For those looking to combine an Alaskan road trip with a taste of Canada, the Top of the World Highway is an enticing option. This route takes you from Tok, Alaska, to Dawson City, Yukon, offering sweeping views of both wilderness and historic gold rush towns.

Key Stops along the Top of the World Highway

Tok, Alaska: Start your journey in Tok, a small town with services and accommodations. Don’t miss the Tok River State Recreation Site for a peaceful break.

Chicken, Alaska: This quirky town is known for its humorous road signs and the unique Chicken Creek Saloon. It’s a great place to stop for a meal and some entertainment.

Top of the World Highway: As you ascend into the hills, you’ll be treated to breathtaking vistas of the surrounding wilderness. The road is mostly gravel and can be rough, so drive carefully.

Dawson City, Yukon: The final destination, Dawson City, is a historic gold rush town frozen in time. Explore its wooden boardwalks, visit the Jack London Cabin, and try your hand at gold panning.

Route Details

The Alaskan portion of the Top of the World Highway is unpaved, so a sturdy vehicle or camper van is essential. Check road conditions before embarking on this journey, as the route can be challenging after heavy rain. Border crossings are also part of the experience, so be sure to have your documentation in order.

Places to Stay with a Camper Van

  • Chicken Gold Camp & Outpost: This unique camp in Chicken offers RV sites, cabins, and the opportunity to try your hand at gold panning.
  • Dawson City RV Park & Campground: In Dawson City, this campground offers full hookups and is within walking distance of the town’s attractions.

5. Glenn Highway: Matanuska Glacier and Beyond

Discover glaciers, rivers, and historic sites in Southcentral Alaska

Distance: Approximately 180 miles

Best Time to Go: Summer (May to September)

For a diverse Alaskan road trip that combines glaciers, rivers, and historic sites, the Glenn Highway delivers. This journey takes you from Anchorage to Glennallen, passing through some of Southcentral Alaska’s most captivating landscapes.

Key Stops along the Glenn Highway

Anchorage, Alaska: As the starting point, Anchorage offers plenty of opportunities to stock up on supplies and explore urban attractions.

Eagle River Nature Center: Just a short drive from Anchorage, this center provides access to hiking trails and stunning views of Eagle River.

Chugach State Park: This expansive park offers a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking, camping, and wildlife viewing.

Matanuska Glacier: Take a guided tour onto the glacier and witness its stunning blue ice formations. This is a must-see attraction on the Glenn Highway.

Historic Copper Center: Visit the Copper Center Visitor Center and explore the history of the region’s copper mining industry.

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park: This vast national park is home to some of North America’s tallest peaks and offers countless hiking and backpacking opportunities.

Glennallen, Alaska: The final destination, Glennallen, serves as a gateway to adventures in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and the Copper River Valley.

Route Details

The Glenn Highway is well-paved and suitable for campers and RVs. However, be aware that you’ll encounter some steep grades and winding sections as you approach Matanuska Glacier. Take your time and enjoy the scenery along the way.

Places to Stay with a Camper Van

  • Matanuska Glacier State Recreation Site: This campground is located near the glacier and provides a serene setting for camping.
  • Copper Center Campground: A great option for exploring the Wrangell-St. Elias area, this campground offers basic amenities and beautiful views.
  • RV Parks in Glennallen: There are several RV parks in Glennallen, providing a comfortable place to rest before continuing your journey.

In conclusion, Alaska’s road trips offer a unique blend of wilderness, history, and adventure. Whether you choose to tackle the rugged Dalton Highway to the Arctic Circle or explore the coastal beauty of the Seward Highway, each journey promises unforgettable experiences and breathtaking scenery. So, pack your bags, fuel up your camper van, and get ready for the road trip of a lifetime in the Last Frontier in America. Alaska awaits, and the open road beckons!