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Best itinerary for Alaska

speediq99
Explorer II
Explorer II
We had a whole summer repeat trip planned for Oregon and now wife seems to have decided to go to Alaska instead.

We have July, August and Sept.
Can someone guide me in a few campsite stops, best route from Banff and must visit places?

Thinking

Valdez
Anchorage
Seward
Homer
Anchorage
Denali
Fairbanks

Traveling with 44ft 5th wheel.
I have no clue where to stay and best places to stop for how long. The stretch from Banff to Valdez will require 2-3 stops but I have no idea where to begin.

We did a lot of research for Oregon but starting at zero with this trip. This is what happens when wife gets the adventure bug.

Thank you
29 REPLIES 29

AKsilvereagle
Explorer II
Explorer II
X 3 on the current boondocking status in Alaska these days....

Upon my analysis of the past few years speaking for someone like me equipped with a cabover camper, small travel trailer or equivalent of 20 to 30 feet of space - if one included the Dalton and Denali Highways in the entire Alaska road system, I'd say one would be lucky to find between 150 to 200 places total to freely "roadside boondock" entirely in Alaska nowadays....

Although I have not visited Canada since 2019, I doubt there are much changes between Delta Junction and the border at Port Alcan on the Alaska Highway for free boondocking spots that still exist, however I can clearly speak for the status of the Parks Highway and all the significant changes since 2016.

PA12DRVR is spot on with the posted comment pertaining to all the major road construction and remote roadside properties getting bought up as most of the access trails and gravel pit yards off the highways now have metal gates, concrete slab pylons, large boulders and other barriers blocking access to these areas that used to be available for boondocking because people abused these spots as mentioned leaving trash, junk vehicles, dead bodies, animal carcasses etc, and whatever else unimaginable....

Most day use waysides along the Parks Hwy. now have metal gates they secure at night to eliminate overnighters....

Even in Anchorage now, most former permitted overnight sites that now prohibit overnight parking have 24 hour security patrols to ensure no one violates overnighting stays....I had to resort to Cabelas in south Anchorage the past two years that permits overnight parking, as they still patrol pretty heavy there too - I witnessed security escorting someone off of the property after they observed their camper there for three days (while I stayed for two nights and did not get bothered)

Since 2016, the Parks Highway between Nenana and Willow (mile 300 and mile 74) now has 15 intermittent stretches of extra passing lanes in both directions ranging one half mile to 2 mile length intervals, which removed a handful of boondocking spots and turnouts....

Not to mention the major 2015-2017 projects of the Broad Pass mile 194 Chulitna River and rail under bypass, Goose Creek mile 91 rail under bypass, and Sunshine Creek mile 100 rail under bypass that were way overdue.

The reason I say they were overdue :

A friend of mine that works for the Alaska Railroad back in 2000 told me of this 30 year planned project starting in 1985 of eliminating all rail "roadside" crossings along the Parks and Richardson Highways between Anchorage and Eielson AFB...

14 total rail- road, over and under crossings on the Parks Hwy....

My time in Alaska since 1982, 9 of the 14 rail crossings were "road", as 5 were already established over and under pass crossings.
7 of the 9 "road" crossings are now converted rail- "under" crossings thru 2017 with only two rail-"road" crossings remain on the Parks Hwy. now (mile 169 and mile 235).

The mile 45 North Wasilla rail- "under" pass construction started the 30 year planned project of eliminating the road crossings.

3 total rail- "road" crossings on the Richardson Hwy....

They only converted one of the three "road" crossings in 2014 (southbound) and 2015 (northbound) to rail "under" crossing at mile 345...

Two "road" rail crossings still remain on the Richardson Hwy (at mile 350 and mile 359).

So thru 2022, they have 4 more road crossings yet to convert - which was projected to get done seven years ago.

In 2016, the state started expanding the Parks Hwy. on extending a 4 lane divided highway badly needed from mile 45 to mile 49 and got the squatters out of that area....

In 2021 and 2022, the state even expanded further north converting the 4 lane divided highway thru mile 52 at Big Lake Junction.

The state had more highway improvement projects in 2021 and 2022 at Chulitna Pass in a 5 mile stretch (mile 188 to 193), and (mile 229 thru 233), Montana Creek (mile 96) and Sheep Creek (mile 87) areas.

As noted - all of their infrastructure, materials and machinery were staged along any turnout and clearing they could use which were places that others used to boondock.

Pretty similar to the Cassiar Hwy. with the power transmission intertie project during 2013 where the south corridor between Bob Quinn and Tatogga Lodge at the time hoarded up every single turnout, space or clearing to use to where I could not boondock anywhere - staging their infrastructure, materials, atco buildings, machinery, etc.

With all the more road projects and added infrastructure, there will be even less roadside access boondocking within the highways of Alaska - it ain't what it used to be.

The few turnouts along the Nenana River and the Broad Pass turnouts are still permitted overnight parking along the Parks Hwy.
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PA12DRVR
Explorer
Explorer
"A wild exaggeration. There are more & more places being closed off that were formally available. My guess is that they have been abused by campers."

This is spot on. Up through probably the mid-90's, a road "Camping" trip on the loop (Anchorage-Fbks-Valdez-Anchorage) didn't need any planning since one could pick any wide spot in the road and "camp" there overnight. Similar option for the southern leg (Anch - Seward-Slodotna-Kenai-Homer, etc). In the 90's, lots of road-building / road improvement work took off and many of the wide areas became access to staging areas for construction, or became official pull-offs or became waysides or whatever and were either physically blocked (gates or jersey barriers) or had signs emplaced "Construction traffic only". That continues to this day along with the increasing number of signs popping up in the otherwise unaffected wide spots "No Camping".

Another not insignificant impact to the "stop anywhere" paradigm is that more and more of the roadside property (this seems a bit more prevalent on the Glenn and Parks than on the Seward Highway) is being either bought or actively occupied and what was previously suitable to pull off now bears either housing or "Private Drive" or "Private Property" signage.

One trigger event was the (unfortunately fairly frequent) dysfunction of the Alaska legislature in the early 2000's where funding was not given to the agencies (DoT/PF, State Parks, other DNR) to support the then-designated "camping spots" (often just a flat spot with a well and outhouses) so those spots were blocked or locked. People then just went to the next wide spot and "camped", leaving trash, garbage, s**t, and all sorts of debris. The next legislative cycle saw a fair amount of $$ dedicated to the "no camping signage".
The wide spot in the road camping paradigm was indeed abused by campers.
CRL
My RV is a 1946 PA-12
Back in the GWN

Veebyes
Explorer II
Explorer II
ppine wrote:
There are thousands of places to pull of the road and boondock in Alaska.


Well now, that is not quite true. The facts are that, the smaller you are, the more options you have for dry camping. Size does matter.

I am not getting my 55'LOA truck & 5er into places that a TC is getting into. Physics. No, there are not thousands of places to get into. A wild exaggeration. There are more & more places being closed off that were formally available. My guess is that they have been abused by campers.
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Ham Radio: VP9KL, IRLP node 7995

ppine
Explorer II
Explorer II
There are thousands of places to pull of the road and boondock in Alaska.

PA12DRVR
Explorer
Explorer
Did the OP ever decide on a different trip / smaller rig / rental rig?

FWIW, certain Alaska public CG's (run by Alaska State Parks and other elements of the State of Alaska) struggled in 2022 to get funding for CG hosts, maintenance, etc....as did other parts of the publicly funded aspects of Alaska. Time will tell, but no reason to believe that there might not be similar problems this season. Strictly based on very anecdotal info, the problems seemed to be resolved by limiting winter services and later opening for Spring /Summer....

As far as I know, federally-run CG's weren't similarly affected.
CRL
My RV is a 1946 PA-12
Back in the GWN

SideHillSoup
Explorer
Explorer
In BC Park Campgrounds, Campsites are available for anyone, doesn’t matter the size of type of rig, with the exception of Handicapped Sites.
A lot of the time people coming into a campground might only find the one site is available and it is a large site, so that’s what they take. Other times it might be the location of the site, like right on the lake shore so it’s taken for that reason.
The BC Parks reservation site map when clicking on a particular “site” will show the size of the site. And in the reservation system when you fill out your profile and there is a box where you add the in your rigs type and length and when you enter a site number, it will show you if you will fit.
You don’t have to necessarily book a reservation, but you can use the system to help you find the sites that will be big enough for your rig, then you would have a list of sites to drive by to see if they are available or by using reservation system see if it is already full before you even get there.
As well a “lot” of BC Park overflows are basically a gravel parking lot or a field which will also be available if required, and that if the campground has an overflow.

You can’t just boondock in a Canadian National Park or a Provincial Park, you must stay in a campground. Southern BC and south western Alberta are very busy in the summer time for camping, so just driving up to find a site, May already be putting you in the over flow, for the more popular campgrounds. Once you get about 1/3 of the way up BC and Alberta things open up more for vacancies in campgrounds and places to boondock.
Prince George BC and Edmonton Alberta are just over 1/3 of the way up the provinces.
I pulled a 35ft 5th wheel all over western USA and western Canada and I didn’t ever find a place that I couldn’t park, but I did do some research.

The biggest issue and one that ever person with an RV should remember is that a lot of theses campgrounds are in the Forrest, and with that comes low hanging branches. In my truck and camper I’m inches under 12 ft high, and I am for ever looking up and around when driving through campgrounds for those low hanging branches. I have been bitten by some of those branches before, so I am talking from experience, so heads up.
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Veebyes
Explorer II
Explorer II
cbigham wrote:
He'll have a tuff time fitting the 44 ft in a provincial campground..


Yes Sir. Size does matter. Some PP & Alaska State Rec areas actually do have a very few sites that can accommodate an extra large RV but it takes local knowledge to know about them.

Then there is the problem that most of these CGs are 'first come' so you pick the site.

Few things are more irritating than arriving at a CG to find that a TC, a B or a C is occupying one of the few 40' plus sites available when there are plenty of <30' sites.

Will never forget the VW camper occupying a site that I later paced out in excess of 75' long.
Boat: 32' 1996 Albin 32+2, single Cummins 315hp
40+ night per year overnighter

2007 Alpenlite 34RLR
2006 Chevy 3500 LT, CC,LB 6.6L Diesel

Ham Radio: VP9KL, IRLP node 7995

cbigham
Explorer
Explorer
He'll have a tuff time fitting the 44 ft in a provincial campground..

ppine
Explorer II
Explorer II
Veebyes,
You are the voice of experience.
Alaska is the perfect place to wander.

Veebyes
Explorer II
Explorer II
No reservations made anywhere, & none will likely be made for quite some time, but a fair amount of research, mostly roaming around street view of Google Earth looking for boondocking spots for our somewhat large 5er.

Since this will be a fifth trip north finding roads which have not been travelled before is tough. The North of Canada & Alaska really don't have that many roads to choose from.

We might give Denali NP a miss this time but try the Robert Campbell Highway & the Denali Highway which will be slow going but well within our tankage range even at the slow speed the gravel roads will demand. Looking forward to just winging it along those roads as CGs are extremely few to non existent.

The plan is to favour provincial parks, Yukon Government Parks & Alaskan State Recreation areas. These CGs give a true flavour of being in The North. The atmosphere of the private CGs you can get anywhere. They have their use if needing a dump, a fillup or laundry.

We are looking at six months MD, AK, rtn MD. This will likely be our last 'last' trip. We are getting long in the tooth & so is the truck & 5er.

A trip North should never be rushed.
Boat: 32' 1996 Albin 32+2, single Cummins 315hp
40+ night per year overnighter

2007 Alpenlite 34RLR
2006 Chevy 3500 LT, CC,LB 6.6L Diesel

Ham Radio: VP9KL, IRLP node 7995

SideHillSoup
Explorer
Explorer
It’s been a few months since this post was really moving along, however today, someone asked a question and the tread is alive again.
I will add a couple of comments:

Slow driving:
If your going to drive slow because of wildlife, road conditions or just to better view the sights, check your mirrors often and if you start backing up traffic, pull off to the side of the Hwy when safe to do so and allow the faster traffic to pass.
Even if there is no place to pull completely off the road to allow people to pass, don’t hug the Centre line, this way people behind you can see what coming down the Hwy towards you, and they don’t have to stick their nose out into on coming traffic to pass.
The worst offenders of the “backing up traffic” I find are RV Caravan tours, them people like to bunch up and drive close to each other for some reason, and if they are driving slow, they can back up local and other types of traffic a long long ways, I especially see this in the Mountains around here.

Rock chips:
Getting rock chips in your windshield or on front facing body parts of your vehicle is an every day occurrence in Canada. Our vehicle insurance policies here in BC cover the repair of rock chips for free or you might have to pay a small fee like $20.
Every winter we get snow and ice on our Hwys, and every year the Hwys people sand and plow the Hwys. Them rocks usually will have been moved off the Hwys by traffic on the Hwy by late spring, but some little sneaky rocks will hang around waiting just for the right kind of windshield or colour hood to put a rock chip in.
On long trips I carry the manufacture’s touch up paint with me “just in case ” I also have an old glass cutting tool that I also carry incase of a rock chip that looks to maybe turn into a spider. I put a deep scratch across the rock chip finger to “try” and stop it from spreading.
When I bought my truck new, they day I drove it home in July a car passed me going the other way, threw up a rock, and yup, first rock chip in my windshield,,, and only 28 kms on the truck… I cried… and I only live 3.5 hrs north of Spokane Washington, in southeastern BC, no where near Alaska.

Enjoy your trip
Soup.
2018 Northern Lite 8-11 EX Dry Bath
2017 Sierra SLE, 3500 HD / 4x4 / Duramax with a 6 speed Allison Trans
Torklift Super Hitch 20K, 48" Super Truss, front and rear frame mounted tie downs
Fast Gun Long Range SS Turnbuckles, Fast Gun locks

Geewizard
Explorer
Explorer
Sue T, I want to ask a question about your trials bike carrier on your travel trailer. Not sure how to get in touch with you.

geewizard
Spokane
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PA12DRVR
Explorer
Explorer
Couple of further thoughts about AK.

- Roads are a mess in certain areas...no question. Just slow down. On occasion I drive a 5-yd dump truck (unloaded) between Los Anchorage and Fbks or Homer. Although that truck is very stout and can take any bumps, the driver not so much, so I slow down and enjoy the scenery even though there's almost no risk of damage to the rig.
- Tires: In 45+ years of driving in AK, including 20+ trips on the Alcan, I've had 3 flat tires in AK (on the road...a couple more around the house) and 1 (!) on the Alcan. That one was a monster PITA as it was on a big flatbed truck, but it happened just outside Whitehorse, so solvable. Point is, although flats can happen, the odds are in your favor.
- Windshield damage: it happens. I've got 5 vehicles, all have damage...but strangely enough, except for the Jeep Wrangler, all of the vehicles picked up the first ding / crack in the L48 (not even the Alcan, just in the L48). Slowing down helps windshield damage as does not having to see the bumper of the guy in front of you.
- "You can drive all of the paved roads in the State easily in less than a week."....although more or less accurate for the Anchorage-Fbks-Valdez-Homer loops, it would have to be a pretty fast drive and that wouldn't include the Dalton North of Fbks that's paved. One would also miss some of the relatively decent gravel roads on those loops.
- If you can bring yourself to go slow between Dawson Creek and Delta/Fairbanks/Tok, and if you can identify where to stay in AK for a few days at a time so you can use your truck to get out and see / do, a trip to Alaska would be enjoyable IMNSHO.
CRL
My RV is a 1946 PA-12
Back in the GWN

Grit_dog
Traveler II
Traveler II
speediq99 wrote:
I have been in contact with a couple of friends that are driving to Alaska now in similar rigs. Just before Tok, one experienced damage to the rig, and a bent frame. The other one had broken leaf springs and 2 blown tires. Roads are a mess in certain areas.

Thank you for all the great information shared here. It sounds like we are going to rethink this year's trip and either fly next year or rent a smaller rig. I am not sure I can drive 30mph for 1000s of miles.
These big rigs take a beating even in our relatively well paved highways.

Thank you again

MC


That's unfortunate. And I wouldn't judge by the issues your friend's had. There are a multitude of reasons why those things could have happened and not a precursor to you having problems.
Heck I average more windshield damage driving around Seattle that 2 years in AK and never popped a tire.

But yes, if you don't have the patience to slow it waaay down with a monster sized camper like that, then it will be frustrating for you.
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speediq99
Explorer II
Explorer II
Thank you.
These is very good advise.
I appreciate it.

MC