Riding to Alaska - Routes
by Bill Hughes - Member MTA
Make no mistake about it.........its a long way to Alaska. From Loveland, Colorado to Fairbanks is about 3100 miles, equivalent to driving from Seattle to Boston. And that's without any touring around! Overall, plan on a trip of about 7500 miles !
We should make a note of this right now: You WILL need a passport to enter Canada, as of January 2007; if you don't have one you have lots of time to get one.
For this discussion we'll talk only about routes beyond Calgary, Alberta, since there are many options this side of Calgary, many familiar to some of us. The main road into Alaska is the Alcan Highway, the legendary road built in the 40s, during World War Two. Fear of invasion from Japan drove the US Army to build the Alcan so they could get men and equipment to Alaska for its defense. It officially starts at Dawson Creek, in eastern British Columbia, and ends in Delta Junction, AK. Dawson Creek is reached via Calgary and Edmonton.
There is an alternate route between Calgary and Watson Lake (Yukon). It is a more westerly approach, to the Alcan, through BC, via Prince George, Kitwanga, and Dease Lake; it joins the Alcan in the Yukon. I have driven the Cassiar Hwy. and would recommend it as a change of scenery going one way or the other. It is less traveled but more scenic, and has adequate, but fewer, services than the eastern route. It also has four unpaved sections of road (less than 40 miles out of 450) but is being upgraded annually. From Calgary this route takes you through Banff, Jasper Nat'l Park, and the southern Canadian Rockies, all an added attraction.
The entire Alcan Hwy is paved, but, as they say, "Alaska has two seasons -- winter and road construction." So, any "paved" road may be worked on in a given season. The Milepost gives up-to-date information on road conditions each year. Prevailing thought is that late in the summer (August) most of the road work will have been done.
Another word about paved vs. unpaved roads: Randy Powell, in his article in Wing World, Dec. 2006, advised if you are afraid of a little gravel road, stay home. Even the gravel road is in good condition, and the trip is worth a good bit of this inconvenience.
Within Alaska, there are major, paved roads connecting the major cities and almost all the towns and attractions that are worth seeing. There is a loop road connecting Tok (entry town on the Alaska Hwy), Anchorage, and Fairbanks. Valdez is accessible via a spur road off this loop. The Kenai Peninsula is accessed via a spur road out of Anchorage, and Haines and Skagway are reached by spur roads off the Alaska Hwy. These are all good roads, keeping in mind they are not meant for interstate speeds as we know them. And the scenery is un-ending and ever-changing!!
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