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Old 03-27-2008, 02:07 PM   #1
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Alaska or Pacific Northwest

I was hoping that someone with experience camping in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska might be able to offer some guidance. Last year we took 6 weeks in the southwest with Yosmite being out most northwestern point. We were thinking this year about either picking up there and hitting Redwood NP and Olympic NP then east to Waterton-Glacier down to Yellowstone and then back home. But we have also discussed Alaska/Waterton-Glacier/Yellowstone. Does anyone with experience with these areas have suggestions. As additional information we have approx. 6 weeks, it would be my wife and 2 daughters and google maps indicate it is about 3,700 mile to get to Fairbanks, AK. Looking for beautiful scenery, beautiful rustic campsites, hiking, ect.. Last year of our 6 weeks we dry camped about 3 weeks of that time. Sorry for rambling with my thoughts. Thanks in advance!
Greg
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Old 03-27-2008, 07:43 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ghaag
I was hoping that someone with experience camping in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska might be able to offer some guidance. Last year we took 6 weeks in the southwest with Yosmite being out most northwestern point. We were thinking this year about either picking up there and hitting Redwood NP and Olympic NP then east to Waterton-Glacier down to Yellowstone and then back home. But we have also discussed Alaska/Waterton-Glacier/Yellowstone. Does anyone with experience with these areas have suggestions. As additional information we have approx. 6 weeks, it would be my wife and 2 daughters and google maps indicate it is about 3,700 mile to get to Fairbanks, AK. Looking for beautiful scenery, beautiful rustic campsites, hiking, ect.. Last year of our 6 weeks we dry camped about 3 weeks of that time. Sorry for rambling with my thoughts. Thanks in advance!
Greg
The bolded trip above is a beautiful trip. Easily 6 weeks worth of outstanding scenery and many opportunities for dry camping. If fuel costs are a concern you will find that our BC fuel costs are often running about 25% more than WA State equivalent. Not that we don't want you to come through BC, it is an incredible part of the continent, but just so you are aware of the higher costs.

Let us know which route you decide to take, and hopefully you'll be able to post trip logs along the way or when you get home.

Barry
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Old 03-27-2008, 08:08 PM   #3
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They are very different trips

Greg, check out the thread "ALCAN/Alaska in 2010" somewhere way down the road trip subforum for info about Alaska.

We've done both trips by SUV (no trailer). Though they are both worth doing, they are very different types of trips. Going to Alaska means lots and lots of driving—a week from Colorado to Fairbanks, probably longer with a trailer. The roads are better in the NW, but it rains a lot along the coast (same for Alaska coast). Two weeks of rain can drive us crazy, but we live in the arid Southwest. Once you get to the permafrost, the roads can be bumpy with many frost heaves (well marked for the most part). If you like long, long stretches of wilderness and funky places, go to northern Canada (a lot of the trip) and Alaska.

The Alaska Hwy is generally well paved, wide and fairly frequent gas and places to stop. Get the Milepost for lots of information including where every trash can is located. If you go in mid-summer, prepare for lots of RV's (I know we are too, but many go slow and I don't) and mosquitos and/or no-see-ums. We have gone in late-May to early July and late August to early October. Less traffic, fewer bugs and some places are closed. We loved the Dalton Hwy through the Brooks Range and to the North Slope, but prepare for crazy oil industry drivers throwing gravel. Part of the price for that road will be a new windshield—slow down, pull as far to the right as you can and limit the damage from them. When you slow way down, they generally do too. Go fast, so do they. There's a nice BLM campground 5 miles north of Coldfoot on the south side of the Brooks Range, no hookups. Prepare for Canadian gas prices—always high, but now with parity with our dollar, painful. We have been all over Canada from Yukon and NW Territories to Newfoundland and it is a wonderful country to visit (and live in despite high taxes).

The Pacific coast highway is well worth a trip and the Northern California and Oregon coasts spectacular. There are the Cascades in Washington to criss cross a few times. We went all over Vancouver Is. and spent some time in Victoria. Vancouver is nice too, but we stay pretty much away from big cities. If you liked Northern Exposure, make a trip to Roslyn, Wash., where it was filmed, just off I-90. We thought Waterton NP was prettier than Glacier NP. Remember, no RV's on the Going to the Sun Hwy at Glacier. If you go to Alaska, come back through Jasper, Lake Louise and Banff, a drive well worth it and more spectacular than Waterton and Glacier NP's.

Coming back from Alaska, we took a highway south from the Yukon, the Cassier Hwy, to central BC. About 20% paved, well maintained, not much traffic in late June, and another beautiful road. You can take the Alaska State Ferry down through the Inside Passage, but need reservations early and I wouldn't want to take a trailer on the ferry. Sometimes you have to back through the entire ferry through narrow lanes and I've seen them make people with boat trailers back up the ramps. You often have to back in or out. You could leave the trailer in Haynes and take the ferry to Juneau and Sitka and stay in a motel or hotel.

If I had to choose (and we did), I'd go to Alaska first in '02. We went back in '06 and went as far north as you can go in Canada to Inuvik. Getting onto the ferries (very small) can be interesting as we saw someone get stuck going up the ramp, but a trailer being articulated might be easier. It's not a real wide road, evil when wet and can eat some tires. The scenery is wonderful.

Going to the NW means more people, more traffic, more campgrounds, but also worth seeing. Going to Alaska means more driving than you can imagine. Alaska is a lot bigger than it looks on a map and every town seems to be 100 miles away. Fairbanks is smaller than you might think—the borough of Fairbanks is larger than a lot of states and they must count every bear as well as people in the borough. Still, it's a destination, the state university museum is worth seeing, and we found one decent restaurant.

If you want to see wildlife, Alaska and Canada—brown and black bears, moose, caribou, etc.

Gene
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Old 03-27-2008, 08:13 PM   #4
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Not sure where you are jumping off from but unless it is SD or MT you can not do justice to an Alaskan trip in 6 week. You can see some great country in the our NW, BC, and Alberta in that time.
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Old 03-27-2008, 11:03 PM   #5
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Six weeks may be tight for a trip to Alaska from Arkansas--there's a LOT of driving up here. I'm in Prince George and it's the hub of central/northern BC. People up here think nothing of driving ten hours to come to Costco/Home Depot and WalMart (and the casino) in PG. You can always tell the weekenders at Costco; they're the ones with the huge fish coolers in the box of the F350.

You could do the Alaska trip in six weeks if you were to focus on that portion first, and then on the way home see how much time and enthusiasm is left over for Yellowstone, Waterton/Glacier and other NW areas. If you do decide on Alaska, make sure you hit Dawson City, Yukon on the way to Fairbanks. It's hard to believe that this historic gold rush town exists in the middle of the sub-arctic tundra. It looks like someone just dropped a Hollywood "western set" there. It's just as strange to see so many US motorhomes parked on the main street--it really is in the middle of nowhere! Dawson City, Yukon, is not be confused with Dawson Creek, BC, which is "Mile 0" on the Alaska Highway. Another must if going to Alaska is to drive the Icefields Parkway between Lake Louise and Jasper, either on the way there or on the way back.

If not doing Alaska, then Yellowstone is a must, but try to time it for the shoulder seasons so the crowds are a bit thinner. A nice trip would be to do Yellowstone, then Waterton/Glacier, up to Banff/Lake Louise and Jasper, then back down to Washington/Oregon coast and the redwoods.

Good luck with your plans. If you need more info about central and northern BC, I can help with maps, etc. We have lots of under-used provincial parks, forestry campsites, etc. and even Wal Mart parking lots!

Gary
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Old 03-27-2008, 11:15 PM   #6
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It's how you want to travel

Quote:
Originally Posted by HowieE
Not sure where you are jumping off from but unless it is SD or MT you can not do justice to an Alaskan trip in 6 week.
Quite so. That's why we went back and hope to go back again.

Howie makes a good point. We drove ourselves into the ground at times. In June the sun is always out, or its a bright twilight, and sleep comes with difficulty. Even with blackout curtains in motels, we felt the daylight and were ready to jump out of bed after 4 hours of sleep. After several days of that, we would collapse. Sleep 10 hours or more, and then go back to 4 hour "nights". Above the Arctic Circle, like in that campground north of Coldfoot, the sun just goes around in a circle fairly high in the sky. It sure looks strange. Not an uncommon for cheechakos (non-residents) to have that kind of sleepless experience.

It was physically difficult and comfy seats are a must. In our 2002 Tundra, a pretty nice truck, our butts got sore about 4 weeks out. And so we wore ourselves out. We found we had to stop somewhere for two days at a time every week or so and forego some places to see. Alaska is really big, and so are Yukon, BC, Alberta. NW Territories are enormous, but haven't many roads and they are all in the SW corner (unless you count ice roads and none of us will be traveling them, probably)

But, it was worth it.

Being new to this, I think we will take longer and longer trips to see how that works for us. We know about driving 8,000-11,000 miles in 5 or 6 weeks and that we can survive it. But that was driving an SUV or a pickup. Towing a trailer is different and I don't know if we could do 500 miles a day, day after day. We met people on the Alaska Hwy who travel 800 or more miles a day just to get there. They are mostly people who live somewhere along the Highway and travel it frequently. So many things are far, far away and people have to make those kind of trips fast to get back to their lives. Where we live we have to drive 75 miles to get decent bread, so I understand the need.

Everybody has to know or learn their limits and how they want to travel. If you haven't been to the NW, you probably haven't taken really, really long trips—maybe better to start with that and save Alaska for later.

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Old 03-27-2008, 11:20 PM   #7
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And yes to Dawson City. Gary is right. Beautiful and easy drive. Whole, enormous valleys were gold with changing aspen in September, '06. The city is fascinating, there are some good restaurants, and the Klondike gold fields are downright strange to see.

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Old 03-28-2008, 07:14 AM   #8
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I'm interested in BC's underused Provencial Parks and forest campsites. We will be making the trip starting early May from south Texas. This will be our second driving trip to Alaska so we plan to visit the places we missed last time.

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Old 03-28-2008, 08:36 AM   #9
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On my last trip to Alaska I was in Dawson Creek talking to a local. He mentioned that a couple up from Texas and on their way to Anchorage asked, at lunch time, if they could be there by dinner. He told them yes in 4 days.

Its a problem with our maps. Rand McNally chops off the top half of BC and insters Alaska at abou 1/4 it's size.

We took a 2 month trip to Alaska just after I retired. It was not enough and that was running fast, 600+ miles per day, to Dawson City in the Yukon on the way up and fast from Drumheller Alberta on the way home.
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Old 03-28-2008, 09:04 AM   #10
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Thanks

Everyone, thanks so much for your insights. I think after what everyone has said, it seems the driving that Alaska requires might overwhelm my kids. I think the suggestion to go up to Banff/Lake Louise and Jasper and then back down to Washinton/Oregon sounds like a great alternative. If you were to do Banff/Lake Louise and Jasper would you still go to Waterton-Glacier? Is there any problem pulling a camper on the Banff/Lake Louise and Jasper leg of the trip? If anyone has any suggestions on campgrounds or sights to see along the attached route, I would love to hear about them. Thanks again for taking the time to respond.
P.S. I am going to try to attach a few pictures from last years trip, hopefully it will work.

http://i101.photobucket.com/albums/m55/greghaag/CA1.jpg
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http://i101.photobucket.com/albums/m55/greghaag/CA3.jpg
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Old 03-28-2008, 12:13 PM   #11
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Outstanding photos. Almost surreal. They look like they should be framed and hanging on the wall of a den. Thanks for posting those.

You might find this site helpful

Drive BC

and this one

Tourism BC | Official Travel Website of British Columbia

and one more

British Columbia Campgrounds - Super Camping British Columbia

You will not have problems towing your trailer on the routes you have suggested. I think CodyBear on this forum did a similar trip in the not too distant past so you may want to contact them.......

Barry
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Old 03-28-2008, 01:39 PM   #12
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Thanks

Barry,
Thanks for the compliment and your help.
Greg
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Old 03-28-2008, 04:17 PM   #13
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Greg,

Your photos are fantastic--you have a real eye for composition in the landscapes.

In answer to your earlier post, Alaska may be a bit too much at this point. Better left to when you don't have a return deadline. If you did the Jasper circle tour, you could start off at Waterton/Glacier, head to nearby Pincher Creek, Alberta, then west into the Rockies through the Crows Nest Pass to Cranbrook, BC. Near there is Ft. Steele Heritage Town (an 1800s North West Mounted Police detachment built to establish law and order in the wild west and keep out the whiskey traders from Montana!). From Cranbrook, you could head north on Hwy 95 through Fairmont Hot Springs, Invermere and Radium Hot Springs to Golden. Then eastward on Hwy 1 (Trans Canada Hwy) to Banff. See the Banff Springs Hotel (an architectural gem in the neo-gothic/French Chateau style of the early 1900s railway barons) and take the tram to the top of the mountain which overlooks the town and valley. Amazing.

Then backtrack a short ways to Lake Louise and do a "Kodak moment" at the shore. From Lake Louise, it's only a few hours drive to Jasper, but it's "Kodak moment" around every turn. Stop at the glacier, and get in line with the hordes of Japanese tourists to take a ride up the icefield on a glacier buggy--a bus with humongous tires. As you near Jasper, you may be stopped on the highway by elk and mountain goats/sheep that decide the pavement is a nice place to get some sun. More "Kodak moments", but don't feed the wildlife!

Jasper is another mountain railway town, and they have an amazing tram ride up a nearby mountain. From there, you can take Hwy 16 westward back into BC and visit Mt. Robson Provincial Park (Mt. Robson is the highest peak in the Cdn Rockies). Lots of hiking trails for all levels of hikers and campgrounds everywhere as the whole area is covered by Yoho N.P., Glacier N.P., Banff N.P., Jasper N.P. and Mt. Robson Prov. Park).

After Mt. Robson, you could travel south on Hwy 5 to the Thompson Valley and the city of Kamloops (a tad warm and dry in summer). Then take Hwy 1 east to Shuswap Lake, and camp at Shuswap Lake Prov. Park at Scotch Creek (hour and a half drive from Kamloops). Beautiful park and beach, and the water is clear and surprisingly warm! Shuswap Lake is the houseboating capital of Canada, and the lake is huge with four arms.

From there, take Hwy 97 south into the Okanagan Valley and the cities of Vernon, Kelowna, and Penticton. This is western Canada's wine country, with small estate wineries producing very high quality vintages. A particularly good tour is at Mission Hill Winery on the Westside of Kelowna. There are small provincial parks throughout the area, but on weekends in the summer, they can fill up fast. Most of the busy southern prov. parks take reservations which are booked up months in advance, but they all leave a certain number of sites available on a "drive-up" basis. There is a great hiking/biking trail above Kelowna, called the Kettle Valley railway. It was an early 1900s regional rail line that has been converted to trails. It has really high trestles, most of which were burnt in a 2003 wildfire that devasted the area. Many of the trestles have been rebuilt and the hiking is great.

After all the wine-tasting and too much sun, head south on Hwy 97 to Osoyoos/Oroville border crossing. From there, you could do a side trip to Grand Coulee Dam, and then on to Wenatchee and apple country. From there, others will have to expand on the wonders of Wash. and Oregon....

I just bought a really good BC road map that I can send to you. If you want to p.m. your mailing address, or send to me at my email address (nodoubtinmymind@shaw.ca) I will drop it in the mail on Monday. Good luck with the trip planning.

Gary
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Old 03-28-2008, 05:29 PM   #14
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Trip of a Lifetime!

I have been to both Alaska and BC and this is the best trip of them all and you don't have to spend all the cash going to Alaska. You start out in Anacortes, Washington. Take the Washington State ferry to Sidney BC.
Stay in Victoria for a day or two then head north on Vancouver Island to Port Hardy. Take the BC ferry to Prince Rupert (Inside Passage for about 10 hours). The Inside Passage is the best part of the trip. Stay overnight at Prince Rupert then head East to Prince George. Once you are at Prince George you can go south and head home or check out Eastern BC and Alberta. The Port Hardy to Prince Rupert trip is very popular so you have to book like right now for the summer. See these internet sites for costs, times, etc; Official Washington State Ferries Homepage BC Ferries: WELCOME ABOARD BC FERRIES

Ralph
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