Traveling to Alaska via the Alaskan Highway is a rite of passage for those who want to experience North America in its wildest form!
We are excited for you and your trip to Alaska via the famous Alaska Highway. Geography is all about perspective.
I grew up in Oregon thinking that Seattle was so far north!! After driving 2200 miles further north, now Seattle seems so far south!
No matter how you look at it, there is a lot of land between Alaska and The Continental United States! And it's the Alaska Highway that'll get you there!
This page contains our notes from the Alaskan Highway. We've traveled it three times..with our six children each time! Yes, I think we must be a bit crazy! ;-)
Border Agents Make Me Nervous
Dealing with border agents has always made me nervous.
The only reason I get nervous is because I worry that I might have forgotten something that they'll ask for.
Having said this, we've never had a problem
Proving Your Citizenship
Be sure to have proof of citizenship when you cross the border into Cananda and into The United States upon your return.
If you can't prove your citizenship, you stand a good chance of being delayed quite awhile while you go through a process to prove your citizenship.
Friends of ours recently where held up for this very reason. Can't recall how they eventually proved their citizenship, but they had their car searched pretty good and they spent a couple hours in the customs office.
There is a lot of change going on in this area. You'll want to be sure to be sure that you have the latest information about entering Canada and The United States. Here is a Canadian Border Crossing link that will keep you up to date on this issue.
Bring Your Birth Certificate
The best way to prove citizenship is to have a copy of your birth certificate.
ALSO, you'll need the birth certificates of each of your children. This is to prove that they really belong to you.
If you are traveling with your children, but without the other parent, you need to have a notarized letter from the other parent. My brother drove up with his two boys and he was required to have a letter from his wife, stating that my brother had permission to take the boys out of the country!
Update: 2011 - Border security is getting tighter, as everyone knows. A passport is now required, even of U.S. Citizens...including Alaskan residents (much to the dislike of all Alaskans).
In the fall of 2005 Sheri and I crossed the border into Canada near Boundary, Alaska with our six children. It is just off the Alaskan Highway and along the "Top of The World Highway". We were on our way to Dawson City in the Yukon Territory.
This border crossing was out in the middle of no where and I'm not kidding. We just went through Boundary which literally has a few shacks and a couple gas pumps that I'm sure didn't work.
From here, one looks up a hill and a follows the road, that looks a lot like a "jeep trail", up to the border crossing.
Shortly after pulling up to the border crossing, the Canadian border officer asked us if all of the children in our car were ours.
We told her that they were, and my wife began reaching for the birth certificates for each child. We were prepared with all documents, but the border lady said that it wasn't necessary.
She jokingly told us that she highly doubted that anyone would travel all this way with six children that weren't their own. Who would be crazy enough, right?
We laughed in agreement and soon we were on our way to the shores of the Yukon River and Dawson City.
Be flexible. I wouldn't recommend making reservations ahead of time. We never have and we've never had a problem. One notable exception was while in Dawson City (Yukon) over Labor Day Weekend. All hotels in the small historic town were full, but luckily there was a hotel available just outside of town.
I had Never Seen A Motel Do This Before...
We stayed at the Bonanza Gold Motel & R.V. Park, just outside of Dawson City, but it was a unique experience.
The motel itself was normal and nothing really made it special, but it was about 8 PM and the office was closed for the night. There were three rooms available. The rooms numbers were written on a whiteboard hanging on the exterior wall next to the office door.
Hangining on little hooks were the keys to the rooms! We chose the key for room 108 and settled in for the night.
It made me wonder how many people take advantage of this situation and leave early in the morning without paying. I later reasoned that there probably weren't too many, otherwise the motel wouldn't do business like that anymore.
Lodging, along the Alaska Highway is great until you get past Fort Nelson. Fort Nelson has a great selection of hotels to stay at, but beyond that the choices begin to deteriorate.
Whitehorse, in the Yukon Territory, is the lone exception until you reach parts of Alaska.
This isn't to say that there aren't places to stay along the Alaska Highway, but on one trip we stayed at the Westmark Inn in Beaver Creek located at historic milepost 1202.
The Alaska state line is just a little past Beaver Creek, on up the Alaskan Highway.
We got a room at the Westmark and immediately the remote location of Beaver Creek became apparent. The rooms were nice, but there wasn't a phone or TV in the room. There was a pay phone in the hallway and that's what everyone used.
Without a phone or TV in the rooms and since it was summer and daylight until late, many of the guest were outside visiting with each other . There we discovered the Beaver Creek Rendezvous which is an outdoor dinner show and BBQ.
It was at this point in our trip that I really noticed how late the sun was staying up. I recall telling family, while talking on that pay phone, how it was so light out that one could still be playing catch with a football without any problem....at 11PM! That was a new experience for us!
Caution: With the near constant summer daylight, be sure not to lose track of time and drive so late that you fall asleep and have an accident!
Even though the Alaskan Highway is very remote, you won't go hungry. But planning is important. Meals can be expensive on the Alaskan Highway, especially if your family or group is large.
We've always saved money by investing in large ice chests and then shopping for food at grocery stores. This makes breakfast and lunch quicker and cheaper. We always looked at it as a string of consecutive picnics.
At the end of the day, we find somewhere to eat near our hotel. We figure that we need at least one meal at the end of the day that we don't have to prepare and one that we could relax for.
We don't always do this, but we try. We'd do it everytime if we were smart, but those McDonald's McGriddles sometimes "call our names"! Love those thing way too much!
Beyond Prince George (north bound), look for grocery stores in Fort Nelson, White Horse and Tok Alaska. These towns have good-sized grocery stores.
If you don't take advantage of the grocery stores, you'll find yourself hungry and no where to buy food except for a gas station convenience store. As you know, you'll being paying a lot for your meal and your choices will be real slim!
Whether coming across Canada or up through British Columbia, you will find plenty of actual rest areas. The further north you go, the less fancy they get.
You will still have a place to pull over, stretch your legs and go to the bathroom. The bathrooms eventually turn into the "hole in the ground type" but there are bathrooms all the same.
If you are traveling in an RV or camper, it is completely fine to spend the night at these roadside stops.
It is kind of hard to figure. On some trips, we saw many bear and then other times we didn't see even one.
All of our trips were during the summer months.
A cool bear story!
My parents were on their way up the Alaskan Highway to see us, and they pulled over to one of these pullouts, and got into their camper to prepare some lunch.
With their side camper window facing the road, they noticed all cars were slowing down and looking in the direction of their camper.
Curious, mom and dad looked out the camper door window and saw a female black bear with a cub. The mama bear had her front paws up on the camper step!
They waited quite awhile before they felt safe enough to return to the front of the truck and continue on down the road!
Update June 19 2011: This wasn't exactly on the Alaskan Highway, but at about 7am last Sunday morning my son Kyle and I were northbound out of Anchorage when a large, shaggy grizzly bear sprinted across the highway...on a dead-sprint!
It was going from our left to right.
It was close enough to see saliva dripping from its mouth. "Dinner" must have been just ahead! :) The car ahead of us had to really hit the brakes, to prevent hitting it.
It was a beautiful bear and a thrill to see.
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