To plan your Alaska Highway road trip, visit the Alaska, Yukon and Northern British Columbia tourism resources online, subscribe to their e-mail updates and connect via social media.
1. Drive safe
From the point of view of road conditions, most of the Alaska Highway is good, and not really worth talking about! Watch for moose along the entire distance. Take care north of Fort Nelson, where you’ll drive 150 miles of steep, curving and narrow road through the Northern Rockies. There are few passing lanes approaching Summit Pass (Historic Milepost 392), at 4,250 feet, the highest summit on the Alaska Highway. On descent, watch out for caribou and sheep on the road, especially where there are no guardrails! Much farther along the route, there’s a long stretch of road through the Shakwak Valley — between Destruction Bay and the Alaska border – that gets sketchy and mangled with potholes from frost heaves. From the border to Delta Junction, watch for moose!
2. Know the gun regulations
Back in the day, when the Gold Rush was full-on, a good percentage of the World’s firearms were moving up to the Chilkoot Pass from Skagway en route to the Klondike. At the top, they were confiscated by Canada’s Northwest Mounted Police. Today, Canada continues to vigorously enforce firearms laws. Border officials search for undeclared firearms and seize vehicles and firearms when found. Guns in Canada are classified as restricted, non-restricted and prohibited. ALL handguns are either restricted or prohibited. Visitors CANNOT import a prohibited firearm into Canada. Fireworks are not allowed either. In Alaska, firearms may be carried for personal protection and for hunting with the appropriate state license and tags. A good resource is the Alaska Department of Fish and Game website, adfg.alaska.gov. Unloaded rifles and shotguns may be sent via USPS with a federal firearms license. Check with your local post office for details. Handguns can be sent via a contract carrier to a licensed dealer.
3. Learn to use a satellite phone
Here’s your best bet when it comes to cell phone service: Check with your service provider before you leave! There are dead spots and long stretches of the Alaska Highway without service. Alaska-based coverage is not reliable once you’re in the Yukon or Northern BC. Similarly, set your expectation levels low beyond Mile ‘0’ if you’re using southern-based carriers. Wi-Fi and plug-in Internet access are available at many hotels/motels, campgrounds, visitor centers, libraries and coffee shops. Satellite phones can be rented in Whitehorse, with networks accessible across the Yukon. These are recommended for wilderness travel. There are continuous weather broadcasts on dedicated stations, and emergency radio procedures if you’re lost or in danger. Another available option is a spot device, which sends regular GPS updates and features an emergency GPS connection to emergency and rescue services. Consider learning about the use of satellite phones and spot devices as part of your wilderness education.
4. Fill up on gas when you can
You probably learned some time ago how not to run out of gas. Make sure it doesn’t happen here! The good news is there are plenty of gas stations, restaurants and accommodations along the way, approximately 25-50 miles (40-80 km) apart. With the closure of several long-time roadhouses in recent years, and the seasonal nature of others, motorists can be looking at 100 to 150 miles between services on a couple stretches of highway. Pay attention to your gas tank and fill up when near a pump. Gas, diesel, food and lodging are found in all towns and cities along the Alaska Highway, as well as at smaller unincorporated communities, roadhouses and lodges located between the larger population centers.
5. Get to campsites and RV parks early
On the Alaska Highway, British Columbia has five provincial park campgrounds, Yukon has eight and Alaska has 10. There are also many private campgrounds and RV parks. Arrive in the afternoon to get a spot. Be prepared at any time for a convoy of RVs to beat you to it! If you’re travelling in spring or fall, some campgrounds close because of frozen water lines and other weather-related woes. In addition to camping options, there are many hotels, motels and lodges in the cities and towns. Even if you think you know where you’re going to stay, it’s not a bad idea to map out all of the available options when you do your planning.
Chris Gale – Wild North Photos