Alaska road Trip: driving the alaska Highway

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to drive the Alaska Highway? Is it your dream to pile your kids in the car and head out on a road trip to Alaska? Are you curious what grand adventures await for you in The Last Frontier?

We’ve been traveling with our 5 kids in a 30 foot class C RV for the last 4 years and have seen most of the Western USA and a large part of British Columbia.  We love sharp, jagged peaks, lush forests, and alpine lakes nestled under glaciers so naturally it was time to explore Alaska. For us it wasn’t a question of should we go there? but how should we get there?

Liard Hot Spring, Alaska Highway
One of the highlights of traveling the Alaska Highway is stopping at this gorgeous, natural hot spring

I was so torn on whether we should drive our RV, which is in poor conditions to say the least, all the way up the Alaskan Highway or just fly to Alaska and rent an RV to explore Alaska.

The drive sounded extra daunting since our home base is San Diego, which meant over two thousand miles of driving before we even started the Alaskan Highway. Sure, Liard Hot Springs sounded amazing, but I’d never drive thousands of miles to visit it when Idaho is filled with epic hot springs that are way less crowded.  I needed more of a reason to take on the challenge of driving 7000 miles round trip.

The Alaskan Highway Overview

First, some quick facts about driving the Alaskan Highway.  If you don’t care about those details and want to know if the ALCAN is for you, skip to the next section.

Views on the Alaska Highway
Views on the Alaska Highway right as you cross into Alaska

Where the Alaska Highway Starts

Dawson Creek, BC is 700 miles north of the US/Canadian border. Don’t confuse this with Dawson City which is near Alaska and north of Whitehorse.

Where the Alaska Highway Ends

The Alaskan Highway ends at Delta Junction, AK, which is right before Fairbanks. But many people who aren’t visiting Fairbanks choose to take the Tok cutoff which takes you down to Anchorage.

Length of the Alaska Highway

1,390 miles one way from Dawson Creek to Delta Junction.

It’s Also Known as the Alcan Highway

Many people are confused when I tell we drove the Alcan highway but it’s the exact same highway as the Alaska Highway, just a different name. Psst, it stands for Alaska-Canada Highway….Al Can 🙂

Road conditions Alaska Highway
Most of the Alaska Highway is in great condition

Road Conditions on the Alaska Highway

The Alaskan Highway is a completely paved road and open all year, although you do need to carry chains from October through April.

Almost all of the Alaskan Highway through Canada was great. There are some short sections though that are under construction and may be dirt road or bumpy for a bit. There are also a lot of logging and semi trucks driving the highway in some sections and between the construction areas and since it’s a two lane highway, the big rigs would often spray up dirt and rocks making your vehicle/RV get very muddy and sometimes sending little rocks flying into the windshield. Not to worry though, finding RV washes along the way are easy and inexpensive and due to the common windshield cracking issue, there are a variety of places to get minor repairs down quickly.

The first part of the Alaskan Highway, after you cross the border into Alaska, is a bit rougher and if you take the Tok Cutoff to go towards Anchorage, the road gets VERY rough and bumpy so you’ll want to take it slower.

Cities Along the Alaska Highway

The Alaskan Highway passes through a few major cities but mostly through really small towns.

From south to north, it passes through:

  • Dawson Creek (Major town)
  • Fort St John (Major town)
  • Fort Nelson
  • Toad River
  • Waston Lake
  • Teslin
  • Whitehorse
  • Haines Junction
  • Tok

Fort St John and Whitehorse are the two biggest cities, both having Walmarts, in case you need to restock along the way, as well as many options for food and lodging.

Fort Nelson was much smaller with a few grocery, restaurant, and lodging options. While Watson Lake and Tok are very small (we’re talking one block long) but big enough to fuel up, grab a bite, and find a place to stay if needed.

Depending on how you get to Dawson Creek, the start of the highway, you will probably pass through the very large cities of Prince George or Calgary, which will be great places to stock up in.

You should always fill up in these major towns: Fort St. John, Fort Nelson, Watson Lake, Whitehorse, and Tok.

Distance between Gas Stations

One of people’s biggest fears when driving the Alaska Highway is running out of gas. The truth is, it would require a hell of a lot of recklessness to actually run out of gas. You fill up and towns, then you drive, and you never skip filling up in a major junction.

Gas station and lodge along the Alaska Highway
A tiny gas station just before Summit Lake provides a backup in case you somehow forget to fuel up in a major town.

All of the big towns have gas stations and there are a few gas stations in between but they will cost a lot more.

Our RV can go about 400 miles on a full tank so topping off in each of the cities above plus in Teslin was perfect for us. (See the end of this blog for details on exact cost of fuel.)

Gyms along the Alaskan Highway

I had to throw this one in for anyone who is like my husband. While I drove this by myself with my kids, if Victor had been with us, he would’ve needed to find a gym along the way to get his swoll on (I couldn’t say it with a straight face).

Rec Center, Alaska Highway
Jiraiya jumping off the 30 meter platform at the Prince George Recreation Center

There are actually a lot of recreation centers along the way, but not all of them were the best in terms of workout facilities. The larger the city, the better the fitness area tended to be.

Stopping at rec centers along the way was a great way to get my kids to burn energy swimming, gave us a chance to workout and stretch, broke up the monotony of the drive, and was very affordable, usually costing less than $20 CAD for the entire family.

Is the Alaska Highway Dangerous?

If you asked me this when we finished driving it, I’d say no. There were many other RVers on the road and you never felt like you’d be waiting too long for someone to stop and help you. Unfortunately though, there was a horrible incident only a month after we finished our trip where some people who had broke down on the side of the road were murdered. This is very sad but it is a singular case and I don’t think it is a fair representation of whether the Alcan is safe or not.

One thing I do tell friends when they ask me about if I felt safe driving the Alaskan Highway is that some of the smaller towns felt very poor and run down and as always, you should let your instincts guide you. When we pulled into Watson Lake we were exhausted and ready to stop for the day, but I didn’t like the vibe there and so we drove on to an area where I felt safer.

Another time I didn’t like the vibe was when we were parked across the street from Liard Hot Springs. I didn’t realize there was plenty of RV parking near the Springs and there was a huge dirt parking area where other RV’s were camped for the day in order to ride ATVs in the surrounding trails. While we were eating lunch, a couple in the RV next to us started getting in a very loud altercation and it took less than a minute for us to grab our belongings and get the heck outta there. It might’ve turned into nothing but better safe than sorry.

How Long It Takes To Drive The Alaskan Highway

It really depends on your style of travel and what you are driving. For us, when we are on long road trips in our motorhome, we tend to average only 80kph (50mph). For the most part, the roads are good enough that a car can average 105 kph (65 mph).

Alaska Highway views
Most of the Alaska Highway is a drive through a sea of trees

While there are places you can stop along the way, the Alaskan Highway section only took us a total of 5 driving days, but this doesn’t include the detour we took driving the Golden Circle and to Valdez, plus, 3 of those were only half days of driving. Without those detours, I could’ve easily done it in 3 days–Dawson Creek to Muncho Lake, Muncho to Whitehorse, and Whitehorse to Delta Junction. I know there are some people who could probably even do it in 2 days.

When we drove back, even though it was via the Cassiar and Yellowhead Highways, it only took us three days of driving–Anchorage to Whitehorse, Whitehorse to Dease Lake, and Dease Lake to Prince George.

Alaska Highway views

When I was planning our trip I thought I didn’t want to drive more than 250 miles per day, which would be about 5 hours a day, and therefore figured it would take me 6 days of driving. I mapped out where we could stop and researched things to do each day to make it a perfectly balanced trip but…it took me about 5 minutes of driving the Alaskan Highway to realize that was a dumb idea.

Even though there are places you can stop along the way, there’s nothing that’s that really worth stopping for plus, the hikes and bike rides I planned on doing weren’t going to be fun because it was raining on and off most days.

In the end, I basically saw the forecast for Whitehorse, sunny and seventy, and hightailed it there. (See my detailed itinerary at the end of this blog.)

Where to Sleep Along the Alaskan Highway

There are plenty of motels, campgrounds, and free camping opportunities all along the Alaskan Highway. If you like to drive during the day and stop in a campground or motel at night, you’re covered. We like to boondock as much as possible because not only does it save money, but it allows us to do more adventures during the day and get our driving done later in the evening, which worked really well for us on this trip.

Pull off areas along the Alaska Highway
There are many large and scenic pull off areas along the Alaska Highway

With the exception of the Yukon, where there are signs that explicitly say “No Overnight Camping”, there were plenty of dirt pullouts and rest areas to sleep at. The only two places we got a campground along the Alaskan Highway was Strawberry Flats Campground on Muncho Lake and High Country RV Park in Whitehorse both of which I highly recommend.

Muncho Lake, Strawberry Flats Campground, Alaska Highway
Views from Strawberry Flats Campground

Strawberry Flats Campground: This is definitely one of the most scenic campgrounds on the entire Alaska Highway. There are pit toilets and well water but not much else for amenities. Here, you’re coming for the beautiful lakeside sites.

Campsite at High Country RV right next to the playground

High Country RV: I loved this campground and that is really saying something because I rarely stay in campgrounds. I liked that it was reasonably priced, the showers were hot and free, there was a little store in the reception area that sold beer, and there was a dishwashing station.

Recommended Stops Along the Alaska Highway

You could easily drive the Alaska Highway straight through and just go have a blast in Alaska, but chances are you’ll need to stop occasionally to sleep or stretch your legs so here are the top 5 places I’d plan on doing that:

1 | Chill at Muncho Lake

The mountains surrounding Muncho Lake are jaw dropping gorgeous, although so are most of the mountains in Alaska. Camping at Strawberry Flats campground, which is at mile market 437 when driving from Dawson Creek, was certainly a highlight for us mountain lovers.

2 | Swim at Liard Hot Springs

Liard Hot Springs is a gorgeous and relaxing as all the hype makes it out to be and it’s extra fantastic when you think about how few other things there are to do along the highway nearby. I would highly recommend trying to go early or late and camp at the campground adjacent to the hot springs.

3 | Eat Cinnamon Rolls at Tetsa River Lodge

Cinnamon Rolls, Alaska Highway

While you don’t necessarily need to stay the night here, you absolutely must stop to try one of the cinnamon rolls, which the owner bakes fresh daily. They were out of this world delicious! And if you like knives, the store has a rad collection of knives for sale.

4 | Camp or Hike at Summit Lake

This was high on my list of places I wanted to camp and hike but it had too much snow in May so we had to skip it. The campground here is really pretty and a great place to stop for a night if it’s later in the season (or you have warmer blankets than we had).

5 | Explore Whitehorse

Whitehorse in itself is a great destination. While some of the towns on the Alaskan Highway are good to stretch your legs for a few hours, Whitehorse is a place you should plan on staying in for a few days. Detouring from here to the Golden Circle was a really nice change of scenery for us.

Related Blog: Golden Circle: Guide to Whitehorse, Skagway, and Haines

Recommended Detours off of the Alaska Highway

While there isn’t a lot to see and do on the Alaskan Highway, if you detour less than a hundred miles off it in many directions you can find epic adventures. Here are a few detours you should consider when planning your Alaska road trip itinerary.

1 | Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park is one of our all-time favorite national parks for a good reason. There is a little bit of everything here. You can

  • Stay at the lodge on Lake Mac Donald and enjoy gorgeous sunrises, sunsets, and boating.
  • Ride the free shuttle to Logan Pass and enjoy the dramatic views of the mountains and wildlife.
  • Do one of the many short hikes to glacier fed lakes or past meadows filled with wildflowers.
  • Photograph wildlife and wildflowers
  • Take a backpacking trip and sleep beneath glaciers.
  • Embark on an epic day hike to the most incredible glacier views.

If you choose to add Glacier National Park to your itinerary, be sure to read our blog Tips for Camping in Glacier National Park and 5 Best Hikes in Glacier National Park.

2 | Banff, Jasper + Icefields Parkway

Driving through the Canadian Rockies is almost as incredible as Alaska itself and again, highly recommended if you can fit it into your itinerary. Banff, Lake Louise, Icefields Parkway, and Jasper are incredible but can be crowded and overwhelming. Take some time to plan out this section of the trip if you do go.

At the bare minimum, you should allot 3 days for this area. If you are looking to explore more of the Canadian Rockies, click here to read our Canada National Parks Road Trip Itinerary.

You can easily explore Lake Louise in one day and if you do, click here to get details on the best hike at Lake Louise. Next, take at least one full day to drive Icefields Parkway. There are many great overlooks and hikes to do along the road or click here to sign up for the Colombia Icefields Tour and do the Glacier Skywalk. Last, spend one day in Jasper National Park.

3 | Sea To Sky Highway

This is one of the best adventure destinations in the world. There is seriously a lifetime’s worth of hiking, climbing, off roading, and mountain biking in these mountains. Plus, you have the rad town of Squamish and the hip town of Whistler, both of which you could spend days exploring and eating your way through.

4 | The Golden Circle

The Golden Circle refers to the area of Whitehorse, Carcross, and Haines Junction in the Yukon, and Skagway and Haines in Alaska. You can combine all 5 towns into a great road trip and see the world’s smallest desert, go over the White Pass, which could easily be one of the world’s best mountain passes, and immerse yourself in gold rush history. There is so much hiking, mountain and road biking, fishing, and adventures at sea that this could fill weeks of your travel.

5 | Dempster Highway + Dawson City

While Dawson City just felt a bit too touristy for me, I was bummed that we weren’t prepared to drive the Dempster Highway. We hadn’t alloted enough days in our schedule and honestly, I wasn’t sure I wanted to drive our Class C on this just in case it did break down but I know I missed out on one epic adventure.

The Dempster Highway starts near Dawson City and in 736 km it takes you to Inuvik, which is only 100 km from the Arctic Ocean. Seriously off grid! And at least 12 to 16 hours of driving each way. But if you’re brave and prepared, it could be an adventure of a lifetime.

Summit Lake, Alaska Highway

Getting To The Alaskan Highway

The Alaskan Highway doesn’t start at the US/Canadian border. There are four main routes that you can take to get to the start of the Alaskan Highway:

West Access Route: The West Access Route takes you from Seattle through Vancouver BC, Cache Creek, Williams Lake, and Prince George BC.  I highly recommend you take the detour on The Sea to Sky Highway from Vancouver to Cache Creek.  

East Access Route: This is the most direct route from Great Falls, Montana, through Calgary, AB and Edmonton, AB.  

Central Access Route: This route starts in Ellensburg, WA and will take you through Kamloops. Probably the least scenic way in my opinion.

Canadian Rockies Route: We chose to get to the Alaskan Highway via the Canadian Rockies Route which starts in Couer d’Alene. If you are driving here through Idaho, click here for some inspiration on where to go on a Idaho Road Trip.

Alternate Routes: Driving the Cassiar Highway

We chose to drive the Alaskan Highway on the way up and the Cassiar to the Yellowhead to the West Access and Sea to Sky Highway on the way back and I can’t say enough how perfect this itinerary was.

You can combine the Yellowhead and Cassiar Highways instead of the Alaskan Highway to get through Canada on your way to Alaska.  The Yellowhead Highway runs east-west and starts in Edmonton and ends at Prince Rupert.  Right before you get to Prince Rupert you can turn onto highway 37, which is the Cassiar Highway.  The Cassiar runs north-south and connects the Yellowhead Highway with the Alaskan Highway near Watson Lake. 

The Cassiar Highway is a much narrower road, especially the section closest to Watson Lake. This part had no centerline and no shoulder and I would’ve hated to break down along this section because I think we only passed a handful of other cars between Watson Lake and Dease Lake.

Cassiar Highway
Sightings like this are a regular occurrence on both the Alcan and the Cassiar Highway however on the Cassiar, you can just stop in the middle of the road

It did get busier from Dease Lake down to the Yellowhead Highway junction. BTW- the gas station at the Cassiar Highway junction had some of the cheapest gas on the entire drive and gas in general along the Cassiar is a bit more expensive.

Most of this highway is freshly paved though, so even though it’s a little windy and requires driving it at a slower pace (we averaged more like 45mph/70kph along the Cassiar), it was nice not worrying about potholes like we did on the Tok cutoff (seriously, that highway is horrible).

I wish it had a few more pull offs because it is way more scenic than the Alaskan Highway. While driving the Alaskan Highway you are mostly in a constant sea of trees, the Cassiar Highway goes over and beside more rolling hills and a few mountain passes. Only problem, you can’t really stop and take it in.

The beauty and free camping opportunities at the top of some of these passes tempted me to stop and sit still for a few days to enjoy but I wasn’t prepared for it.

There aren’t many stores along this route nor gas stations, so it would be a good idea to stock up before you drive this in case you want to stall for a few days along the way.

Should I Drive The Alaskan Highway?

While it was easy to find blogs on How To Drive The Alaskan Highway and Stops Along The Alaskan Highway, I personally could never find anything on Should I Drive The Alaskan Highway when I was researching our trip.

I asked many people, most of whom happened to be retired, who all raved about how great it was. In retrospect, this wasn’t the best source of information, not because they were lying, it’s just, they were probably more time rich than me and more importantly they didn’t have 5 antsy kids riding with them.  

While the Alaskan Highway provides so many opportunities to learn about history, it’s not the driving force in my life right now.  For this summer, I just want some epic scenery, solitude, and a nice challenging hike.

Driving the Alaskan Highway is LONG and in all honesty, BORING.

Sure we saw 17 bears within a five hours time span (on May 17th to top it off), but after sharing this with locals I learned that this is not the norm.  I’m starting to think the smell of our toilet attracted them *facepalm.*

Why I Chose To Drive To Alaska and Not Fly To Anchorage

Like I mentioned at the beginning, I was really torn on whether I should drive to Alaskan or just fly up and rent.

Next time I will just fly up but I am so glad I drove it once for five big reasons:

1 | Self Sustained

Once I was in Alaska, I loved that I had my RV with me and all the things I needed for this adventure. We’ve flown to Europe and New Zealand with just a backpack on our backs and road tripped through them but it was hard traveling so lightly. With this trip, I had my entire RV packed to the brim with necessities and non-necessities that made me feel prepared and I liked that sense of independence and security.

Related blogs:

2 | Overall it Cost Less

From a financial standpoint, it saved me a good chunk of money by paying the gas to drive there and back instead of flying 7 people up and renting an RV.  Here’s a break down of what our entire Alaska trip cost (coming soon) compared to if I had just flown up and rented an RV in Anchorage.

3 | Canada is So RAD

We were able to explore so many other incredible destinations in Canada on the way up and down that I would’ve been really disappointed to miss if we had just flown straight to Alaska.

4 | The Wildlife

My kids will remember seeing 17 bears on May 17th for the rest of their lives. We didn’t see a single bear in Alaska. We saw plenty of eagles, sheep, caribou, moose, and fox, but no bears. Although we did see about 40 bears in Canada just on the side of the road.

Now, if you have money to throw on some excursions in Alaska, I’m sure you can pay to see some incredible wildlife. But we travel on a budget and seeing this many bears for free was worth the cost of gas and long boring sections of open road.

5 | Peace, Solitude, Appreciation

I’d be driving for hours on end lost in my thoughts, half listening to my 8 year old ramble on again about her birthday that’s 4 months away and half singing along to the same songs I’ve heard a thousand times on Jiraiya’s playlist, while passing a sign that says 1000 km to Whitehorse and think to myself NO FRIGGIN’ WAY, when all of a sudden a huge black dot interrupts the sea of trees that I’m immersed in (which btw is what allows me the luxury to half heartedly listen to my beloved children while pondering the meaning of life instead of focusing on the road). I hit the brakes. It’s another bear.

Summit Lake, Alaska Highway

I wish I was a better writer and could capture for you the excitement that builds in the RV as we get closer to that black speck on the horizon and we realize that it’s our seventeenth bear sighting in 3 hours and feel slightly glum that as rad as it is, it’s almost cheating, because from the comforts of my vehicle there is no risk of harm.

Bears on the Alcan Highway
This particular bear was extremely interested in our RV and had we not driven away just as it touched our RV, it would’ve sat there licking the walls for an hour

The drive is long, but just like another pregnancy or childbirth, you endure it and look back so fondly at it.

By the time you get to Whitehorse (and then to the border and eventually to Anchorage or Fairbanks or Denali) and you spend a few days sitting still, allowing the vibration of the road to finally stop pulsating through your body, you actually start reminiscing about the solitude that the ALCAN provides and the peace you felt in those few days escape from the consumer driven rat race of the world.

Why I’d Fly To Alaska Next Time

The main reason I’d fly to Alaska next time is purely because the absolute best part of Alaska for us was the Kenai Peninsula. There are just so many great outdoor activities, camping opportunities, and other adventures in that small area that I could be happy for weeks, if not months, there.

Related Blog: 15 Things To Do On The Kenai Peninsula

Biking Sixmile Trail bike path, Kenai Peninsula
Riding up from Hope Junction and staring at the mountains near Turnagaan Pass

There’s a reason the destination is Alaska.

While Northern BC was pretty, Alaska is so diverse and jaw dropping-ly beautiful. The raw nature is incomparable to anywhere else in the world.

Do You Really Need The Milepost?

The Milepost is a book with mile-by-mile highway logs for 30 major routes and 60 side trips to and in Alaska. It has tons of information on campgrounds, hotels, excursions, and most importantly, over 100 maps. However, the book itself can be super overwhelming, making you feel more confused than you’d be without it.

If you love planning, maps, want every detail of information on detours and alternative routes, or if you love history, I highly recommend buying it. I personally am an overplanner and enjoyed having it but you don’t NEED it.

If you aren’t the planning type and intend on just driving the Alaska Highway with no detours, you don’t need the book. Driving the Alaskan Highway is super easy, straight forward, and you’re never that far from a city or someone who can help out.

How We Drove the Alaskan Highway

Day 1: Dawson Creek to Muncho Lake

We pretty much drove the stretch from Dawson Creek to Muncho Lake in one day. We arrived in Dawson Creek only a few minutes before the visitor center closed, which I was thankful for so that the kids could get their “Driving the Alaskan Highway” certificate and so we could grab brochures to help us plan what detours we wanted to take.

Views on the Alaska Highway
Views on the Alaska Highway in Alaska

After taking a picture in front of the famous Dawson Creek Mile 0 statue, we drove an hour up to Fort St John so that the kids could swim and we could workout at the recreation center there. When it closed at 9 pm, we drove just a bit further to a rest area to sleep for the night.

If you weren’t stopping at the rec center, this would be only about an hour and a half of driving and could easily be tagged on to what we drove the next day.

Dawson Creek, Alaska Highway
Historic Mile Post 0 at Dawson Creek, the official start of the Alaska Highway

The next day I really didn’t have the intention of driving so far, but there really wasn’t anything that amazing to stop for except for the 17 bears we saw along the highway.

Other than stopping to admire the bears for a few minutes each time and refueling, we also stopped by Tetsa Campground for their famous cinnamon rolls. THEY WERE SO GOOD!!!

Bison Along Alaska Highway

I actually had my sights set on camping that night at Summit Lake campground but we were too early in the season. The sites were snow free but the lake was still frozen over and the hike we wanted to do there was still covered in snow. I was too worried that even if we tried to sleep there we’d freeze overnight so we drove on towards Muncho Lake.

Leaving Summit Lake, Alaska Highway
Views leaving Summit Lake heading toward Alaska

If you are later in the season I highly recommend spending two nights at Summit. As we were driving along Muncho Lake we stumbled upon another gem of a campground. Strawberry Flats is one of the most gorgeous campgrounds I’ve ever stayed at. It sits right on the turquoise lake that was still partially covered in ice and is surrounded by snow capped mountains. It was heavenly!

Muncho Lake, Strawberry Flats Campground, Alaska Highway
Strawberry Flats Campground

Day 2: Muncho Lake to Teslin

We took our time getting going from Muncho Lake since the scenery at Strawberry Flats was so incredible. In retrospect, I would’ve stayed an extra night at Strawberry Flats and done a nearby hike that day.

Then we broke up the drive by relaxing at Liard Hot Springs for a few hours. It was a Sunday so it was a bit crowded and if you can coordinate getting here mid week or at least not mid-day, you will enjoy the experience much more.

Liard Hot Springs, Alaska Highway

We ended up spending this night at another rest area, but if I had known how nice the Teslin RV park was I probably would’ve pushed on to there.

Day 3: Teslin to Whitehorse

Teslin to Whitehorse was only three hours of driving for us. I wanted to make sure I got a campsite as close to town as possible since I was planning on spending a few days here.

Whitehorse was amazing and I highly recommend at least 2 days here. Whitehorse is part of the Golden Circle which encompasses Whitehorse, Carcross, Skagway, Haines and Haines Junction. You definitely want to read our blog Golden Circle of Yukon + Alaska: Guide to Whitehorse, Skagway + Haines to get detailed information about Whitehorse and to help you decide if adding the Golden Circle to your itinerary is worth it.

Day 4: Haines Junction to Alaskan border

This was also only a half day of driving because we had spent most of the day hiking King’s Throne near Haines Junction. This is a great hike and camping near here or even just spending a day on Kathleen Lake would be a great addition to your itinerary.

King's Throne hike, Golden Circle, Alaska

Tip for border crossing: I almost always time the crossings to be later in the evening just in case the wait is long. For crossing here by Beaver Creek it probably doesn’t matter but I know the border crossing by Skagway can get really long with all the tourists off the cruise ships.

Day 5: Alaska + recommended detours

When we reached Tok we left the Alaska Highway, 100 miles before its official end. I really had no interest in Fairbanks for this trip and even though I was curious about Dawson City, I felt like I had had enough touristy things when we did the Golden Circle. I was ready for jagged mountains, glaciers, and epic hikes so we headed down to Valdez.

Valdez is a bit out of the way but you get to drive over the pass and one of my favorite parts of our Alaska road trip were all the passes we went over.

The mountains were still fully covered in snow so we couldn’t hike at the pass, but in the town of Valdez we did a short hike to this incredible viewpoint and discovered a free camping area at the base of a glacier.

Another night we camped right on the water and saw many sea otters playing right in from of the campground.

From Valdez we drove straight towards Anchorage and if you don’t choose to detour to Valdez or Wrangell-St Elias NP, then you can easily do the drive from the Alaskan border to Anchorage or Fairbanks in one day. In fact, one the way out of Alaska, we did Anchorage all the way to Whitehorse in one day, but it was a long day of driving.

Matanuska Glacier, Alaska Highway
Views of the Matanuska Glacier from the highway

Between Valdez (or Tok) and Anchorage there’s the Matanuska Glacier that you might want to hike. We only stopped to take a picture of it from the rest area because we had plans to visit Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjords and Portage Glacier near Whittier, but if we had more time or weren’t doing the Kenai Peninsula, then I would have spent a little time in this area of Glacier View since there are a lot of other epic adventures you can do here like white water rafting, ATV riding, and zip lining, along with some great camping spot . However, I would tell everyone to prioritize time on the Kenai Peninsula. Check out our blog 15 Things to Do on the Kenai Peninsula: Alaska’s Best Destination for help planning that part of your itinerary.

Just an hour past Glacier View you will arrive in Palmer. While the town itself isn’t something to write home about (though it was nice to be back in a lively civilization again), the area just north of it, Hatcher Pass, is something you shouldn’t skip. We included our two favorite hikes and an epic campground in Hatcher Pass in our blog 25 Epic Things To Do Near Anchorage.

How Much Our Alaska Trip Cost Us

Total Campgrounds Cost= $900 USD

This was our total cost for all the campgrounds we stayed at over our entire 4 months of travel. We only stayed in campgrounds for a total of 30 nights and some were as little as $9 per night and others were as expensive as $70 a night. Honestly, most of this was in Whistler and Squamish.

Total Airbnb Cost= $650 USD

Over the course of the 4 month road trip we got an Airbnb for one night four times. Once in Kalispell, Palmer, Anchorage and Squamish. It’s nice on long road trips to have a day in a big kitchen to cook huge meals, catch up on laundry, take long hot showers, and get WiFi to write blogs. But it ends up being a little exhausting and very expensive when you compare this number to the cost of camping.

Total Fuel Cost= $3,800 USD + $300 USD Ferry

This was our total fuel expense from San Diego, California all the way to Denali (including all our detours) and back. We also took the ferry from Skagway, Alaska to Haines, Alaska, which is only a one hour boat ride but ended up costing almost $300 for 6 of us and our RV.

Fuel prices in Canada (CAD per liter):

  • Lake Louise $1.32
  • Grand Prairie Costco $1.19 (everywhere else in Grand Prairie was $1.32)
  • Fort Nelson $1.42
  • Muncho Lake $1.89
  • Watson Lake $1.37
  • Teslin $1.41
  • Whitehorse $1.37
  • Haines Junction $1.42
  • Junction to Highway 37 $1.48
  • Iskut $1.50
  • Meziadin Junction $1.55
  • Junction of Cassiar and Yellowhead $1.26
  • Prince George $1.32
  • Pemberton $1.30
  • Whistler $1.36
  • Squamish $1.45

For US travelers: If you want to compare the price of gas from CAD to USD take the price per liter and multiply by 3.78 then multiply that by the current exchange rate of $1 CAD to the USD (at the time that was $0.76 USD). Or simply…. multiply the Canadian liter price by 4 and take three-fourths of that. So in Grand Prairie, we paid about $1.20 per liter times 4 is $4.8, and 3/4 or that = $3.60 per gallon, which wasn’t much different than what we paid in the States. Okay, enough math!

Fuel Prices in Alaska (USD per gallon):

  • Tok $3.69
  • Glenallen $3.62-$3.78
  • Costco in Anchorage $3.09-$3.34
  • Wasilla $3.27
  • Homer $3.28

Travel Tip: The cheapest gas in Canada was at the Costco in Grand Prairie but they don’t take Visa (only Master Card I believe) so we had to go inside to buy a Costco cash card with Canadian dollars.


If you made it this far, CONGRATS because you are going to have an epic trip up the Alaska highway with all the info you just read. I truly hope I helped you plan an amazing Alaska Highway road trip! This really is a trip of a lifetime and most everyone who does it once wants to go back and do it again.

If I left any of your questions unanswered, don’t hesitate to comment on the blog and let me know!

If this helped, don’t forget to Pin it:

Alaska road Trip: driving the alaska Highway