If you can spare 3–4 weeks over the summer and are looking for a road trip adventure out of the norm, just turn your head North. Driving to Alaska is one of the most scenic, exciting, and very doable drives in North America.
You have two options for major highways to take through Canada: the Al-Can (Alaska Highway) or the Cassiar (Stewart-Cassiar Highway). To get the best of both worlds, take one highway up and the other back down.
The Al-Can highway begins in Dawson Creek, BC and can take you all the way to Delta Junction, AK, near Fairbanks. The Cassiar also starts in BC and ends at a junction with the Alaska Highway near Watson Lake, Yukon. With these two (fairly) well-paved highways, your options of destinations are countless. To explore lush Southeast Alaska, home to state capital Juneau, drive all the way to Haines, Alaska. From there, you can hop on the SE Alaska ferry system and visit historic towns throughout the area like Skagway, Sitka, Ketchikan, and Juneau.
If you want to venture farther north, you can drive on up to Anchorage and Fairbanks. There is even a road, called Dalton Highway, that will take you to the very top of Alaska, but don’t expect it to be completely paved!
Be prepared for some of the best wildlife viewing ever. Along both the Al-Can and Cassiar highways, it is highly likely that you’ll see a black bear (or 20), grizzly bears, moose, marmots, coyotes, bison, and mountain sheep. Along the sides of the highways you’ll notice the trees and greenery have been cut back about 20 feet on each side. This was done so that drivers have enough time to see and slow down when they catch a glimpse of some wildlife. Keep your cameras ready and drive safely!
1) A current copy of The Milepost, a thorough travel guide to getting to and navigating Alaska. This will save you from running out of gas in the middle of nowhere, help you land a camping spot when you are dead tired, and provide great reading material for the copilot. Also, it will lead you to the visitor centers in all of the towns along the way for your Wi-Fi, restroom, and souvenir needs.
2) Bug spray, mosquito repellent candles, and the like. They don’t call the state bird of Alaska a mosquito for nothing!
3) A book on tape. Or two. Depending on where you are leaving from/going to, you are looking at netting several thousand miles.
4) Don’t forget your passport! You’ll need this to get to and from Canada.
Liard Hot Springs: These glistening springs are part of a very well-maintained Provincial Park in BC. You will want to stay the night and spend some time soaking and relaxing in the second largest hot spring in Canada. The campground here is complete with fire pits, picnic tables, fresh water, and firewood for purchase (and delivery). To reach the springs, walk along the wood path through the swampy forest while steam rises up around you. At the end of the walkway you will find yourself at two large pools (pool A and pool B). Pool A is the hotter of the two, with a range from 107–121 degrees Fahrenheit—so bring plenty of water and keep hydrated!
Watson Lake Sign Post Forest: This quirky stop along the way to Alaska is excellent for photo ops. Thousands of sign posts and license plates from all over the world decorate this tourist stop.
Ice Field Parkway: This stretch between Banff and Jasper in Alberta, Canada, is hands down one of the most beautifully epic two-hour drives in North America. Make sure your passengers have their cameras ready or better yet, strap that GoPro onto the dashboard. Think glaciers, ice fields, and towering mountains.
Lake Louise and Moraine Lake: Take a little side trip from Banff to visit these two turquoise mountain lakes. The iconic views grace many screen savers, so go see them for yourself!
If at all possible, make your travel plans in the middle of the summer, and get ready to enjoy ample amounts of sunlight and twilight—even at 1:00AM. Enjoy your trip to the Land of the Midnight Sun!