We plan to do Alaska in 2014. We intend to cross into Canada after visiting Glacier Nat Park sometime in Mid May.
You might want to check at Glacier National Park if you plan to drive the Going-to-the-Sun Highway. When we were there over Memorial Day a few years ago, it was still closed. When we went back in mid-September a few years later, it closed two days before we got there. Here is the
"When does the Going-to-the-Sun Road open and close?
While portions of this scenic route remain open year-round, for the next 8-10 years, weather permitting, the entire Going-to-the-Sun Road will be open for vehicle access from mid-June to mid-September. Before and after this core summer season, accelerated road work will be allowed and sections of the road will be closed."
Shouldn't be a problem for you because the 2014 Seward Silver Salmon Derby ends on Aug. 17.
The last time I was in Seward the week after the Derby was 1971 or 72, so the Derby and Anchorage were both a lot smaller then. One of the guys I was with that year caught a silver that would have won the Derby a few days earlier, but I seem to remember that it was just under 19 lbs. So, it seems that everything--McDonald's hamburgers, professional football players, and Silver Salmon Derby winners--is bigger now than 40 years ago, with the possible exception of candy bars and "tall" coffees!
Following up on PA12drvr's suggestion, here's a teaser for those who want to experience Kenai Peninsula salmon fishing in 2014, but not combat fishing on the Kenai or Russian Rivers: "If your travel plans include days between August 9th and 17th, 2014, you can experience the excitement of catching dime bright, silver salmon at the 59th Annual Silver Salmon Derby in Seward. Alaska's largest sport fishing derby features $225,000.00 in money and daily prizes, including the largest fish caught--valued at $10,000.00!"
Here is an excerpt from the Anchorage Daily News for August 17, 2013: "An Anchorage man caught the third-biggest fish in the 58-year history of the Seward Silver Salmon Derby on Saturday. Rich Taro landed a 21.25-pound fish to grab the lead with one day remaining in the derby. Only two fish in derby history are bigger -- Shirley Baysinger's 22.24-pounder that won the 2002 derby, and Albert Verrall's 21.31-pound fish that finished second that year."
Just plan to go down to Seward during the week, not over either weekend!
If you have never driven around in Alaska, please don't let us frighten you off from visiting the Kenai Peninsula. It has some of the most beautiful views in the state around Turnagain Arm, Portage Glacier, Resurrection Bay, the volcanoes of the Alaska Peninsula from the Ninilchik-Homer area, etc.
Just be aware of the fact that "The Kenai" is in Anchorage's back yard, an easy Friday driving distance from the city. On salmon run weekends, Anchorage-ites treat it like their own private playground, literally overwhelming local law-enforcement and game & fish officers, highways, parking and camping spots, and riverbanks. And the boondocking site you occupied on Thursday may be the exact spot that more than one Anchorage fisherman planned all year to get for that particular weekend!
If you are planning to boondock on the Kenai Peninsula in 2014, you may want to check with joeb, PA12drvr, and other locals on the forum and every website you can find to advise you on the peak fishing seasons. You may find, like we did in 2013, that, if the kings or reds are running on the Kenai, every camping spot--public or private, turnout, wide-spot and shoulder along the road, beach, riverbank, even the parking lot at the Fred Meyer grocery store in Soldotna is overflowing with campers sporting Alaska license plates. You may even hit bumper-to-bumper traffic jams on the Sterling Highway if you happen to be on the road from Friday to Monday. It's combat fishing on the river, combat driving on the highway, and combat competition for camping spots everywhere!
If you do not hit a peak fishing period, some very nice public campgrounds on the Kenai include Hidden Lake in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and the Tenderfoot and Porcupine USFS campgrounds, but only Hidden Lake has an RV dump. If you boondock on the Kenai, the Fred Meyer in Soldotna has a free RV dump, fresh water, free WiFi, and free camping for up to 4 days in their parking lot. And I am sure many other Roll Call Alaska 2013 RVers have their own favorite Kenai public campgrounds and boondock sites.
Fanrgs, I did a double take on your picture. Minimized the screen, looked at my desktop background picture and darn if it isn't almost the same picture as yours. Never get tired of looking at it and recalling the great time we had there.
I would guess that every Denali bus stops on that same hill when the mountain is visible. There were 3 other buses there when we stopped. So there are probably 1,000's of that exact photo taken every summer! However, the Park Service says that only something like 10% of park visitors see the mountain that clearly, only 30% see the whole mountain, and many don't see the mountain at all.
Mt. McKinley, taken from the Denali Park road on August 1, 2013. Just a little preview of what you will see next summer (weather permitting).
I've done all of the alternatives mentioned, as I am sure Joe B. has. However, you can bet that the State of Alaska will do everything possible to keep tourist money coming into Denali and Fairbanks next summer.
The Denali-Nenana portion of the Parks Highway had a long stretch of construction in 2013 and it was "follow me slowly" for the entire distance. And it sounds like next year may be worse. But, no matter which summer you decide to go, there will always be lots of road construction in Alaska and Canada because it can't be done in winter and, unlike the Lower 48, roads built on permafrost need constant upkeep and rebuilding.
The Denali Highway is undoubtedly better than it was the one time I drove it, but it is still the longest and, possibly, roughest gravel road in central Alaska ("possibly" because the road to McCarthy/Kennicott may be worse). Unless it is dramatically improved next summer, I am not sure I would take a diesel-pusher MH on it. But others with more recent experience should weigh in on that issue. However, you may have some great views of Mt. McKinley and the central Alaska Range (if it is clear), the Susitna River, and wildlife--moose, bears, possibly caribou--because the road gets so much less traffic than the Parks or Richardson Highways.
The train ride from Anchorage or Fairbanks is wonderful! The route follows the rivers and the views are often ones you don't have from the Parks Highway. You can alternate between the dining car for a late breakfast and lunch and the dome cars for better views of Mt. McKinley (on a clear day) than you would have in anything but a convertible with the top down (and how often can you go "topless" in Alaska?). The problem is that the Alaska Railroad and the lodges and hotels around Denali (plus Skagway, the White Pass & Yukon Railroad, and nearly every town along the Inside Passage) are primarily oriented to cruise ship passengers and tour groups, not to individual tourists. So, if you want to ride the train to Denali next summer, you may want to get train tickets and a hotel reservation soon because so much of the train seating capacity and so many of the hotel rooms at Denali are reserved by, or owned by, cruise ship companies.
There is one other option that hasn't been discussed. You can drive to Fairbanks, Anchorage, or Talkeetna and fly to Denali/Healy by small plane. It's the fastest (and most expensive) way to get there, but also avoids all road construction and gravel roads. So, if your time is really limited, it is an alternative to consider. Plus you will have scenic views of mountains, rivers, and glaciers that you won't get any other way and it's just plain FUN! Well, at least it's fun for those who don't get airsick in small planes.
In my opinion, you should go to Denali regardless of road construction, cost, time constraints, or any other excuse. Because, if the weather is clear (and that's a big "if"), you will forget all about travel problems and remember only the spectacular mountain and the abundant wildlife!
Again, I agree with lizzie. Owning a seasonal park in Alaska entails a very different financial risk than owning a snowbird resort in Arizona or Florida. And, as you could tell from reading the "Roll Call Alaska 2013" threads, some RV parks that were open in 2012 were closed during our 2013 trips. The same thing will undoubtedly happen next summer. For example, an article in the Skagway newspaper announced that the Garden City RV Park where we stayed was on leased city property. The city now wants the property for a new city hall, so the largest RV park in Skagway may be closed by next summer.
We also used RVPark reviews, as well as the Woodall's website, in both planning and making on-the-road changes to our itinerary. Our experience was that the reviews and Good Sam ratings for 2012 did not always meet our 2013 experience.
I would recommend looking at the number of "Extended Stay" sites at an RV park on Woodall's. As a very general rule, the higher the percentage of long-term residents, the less desirable were the sites and facilities available to short-timers. That's because the full-timers generally got the longest, widest, most tree-shaded sites and the restroom, shower, and laundry facilities were over-utilized and not as well-maintained as those parks counting primarily or entirely on travelers like us. Of course, a "full-timer" in Alaska and NW Canada generally means a seasonal worker since most parks close in September or October.
No matter how much planning you do, you may still have a few bad nights. But, when you get home, you will look back on the incredible scenery and wildlife you saw and the very long road you traveled and be astonished at what you have accomplished. And you won't trade the memory of those experiences for anything!
That said, we have a small rig (4x4 truck and 22' TT) and a relatively high tolerance for uncertainty. We can put up with almost anything for one night and we don't mind moving our rig every day if necessary. . . lizzie
I agree, lizzie. Our rigs are similar--we have a Nissan 4x4 midsize pickup and a 21' travel trailer. So, we could use some campsites that a 40' MH and toad couldn't fit into.
We also put up with some campgrounds for one night that we would not recommend to others. But we also bought the best-fitting earplugs we could find (which were not necessarily the most expensive). Having a small electric fan, not always for cooling but for "white noise," also helps your tolerance of trains and freeways in parts of Canada and post-midnight parties in Alaska!
We will make reservations at Denali,it's a must see for us and should be the mid point of our trip. As for the rest of the adventure,Our road trips are "free form". We like to come and go as the day permits. That being said,is it necessary to make campground reservations in advance or are there enough available sites or boon docking places to be found along the way. Any info will be a great help in our planing. Thanks. Bob
Bob, we were part of the Roll Call Alaska 2013 group. We made our reservation for the Riley Creek Campground at Denali 4 days in advance and got a perfect spot. It was near the snack bar/laundry/shower building, which is the only place you can access Wi-Fi in the campground. We made on-line reservations for Whistler's Campground in Jasper NP and Lake Louise and Tunnel Mountain 2 Campgrounds in Banff NP one week in advance. That was the longest advance reservation we made on the entire 3-month trip. We made advance reservations no more than a couple of days in advance for private RV parks in popular places like Prince George, BC and Valdez and Seward, AK.
The other private and public campgrounds we stayed in were strictly drive up, although we did have a constantly updated spreadsheet of priorities for many overnight destinations. That allowed us the flexibility to decide at the last minute whether we wanted solitude (public campground) or hookups (private RV park) that night. Some of our spreadsheet updates came from comments and recommendations made by others posting in the "On the Road with Roll Call Alaska 2013" thread.
During the Canada Day/July 4 holiday week, we stayed at Bear RV Park in Stewart, BC without a reservation. Of course, the lack of crowds was because there weren't any bears on Fish Creek (the first salmon runs in the Portland Canal begin in mid-July, but we didn't know that in advance). We made our Kenai Fjords NP cruise reservation the day before we took the boat. We even walked up to the ferry terminal in Skagway to make our reservation for the Skagway to Haines AMHS ferry the same day we took the ferry trip. But we had also built in sufficient time at each location to stay longer if those last-minute decisions didn't work out.
Some of our last-minute choices were surprisingly nice, like River Oaks RV Park in Oroville, WA; Boya Lake Prov. Park, BC, on the Cassiar Hwy.; Toad River Resort, BC, on the Alaska Hwy.; Haines Hitch-up RV Park in Haines, AK; and Eagle River CG (Chugach SP) near Anchorage. Although not cheap, these RV parks and campgrounds were worth the cost for the amenities, proximity, scenery, or privacy offered. And some choices were just plain surprising, like Cow Hollow Park in Nyssa, OR ($10/night for full-hookup, 30/50A, grass or gravel sites); Coeur d'Alene Casino, ID (free until July 1 with 20A electric in an uncrowded, paved parking lot and potable water and a new free, paved, 3-lane dump near the sheriff's office); and Burns Lake Village CG, BC (free wooded sites along the lakeshore with potable water and a free dump two blocks away).
Hidden Lake CG at Kenai NW Refuge ($5/night for a very private space, water, and a dump) might have made that list except for one problem. After we finished setting up the trailer, a ranger came by to warn us that a young grizzly had just ransacked the tent camp immediately behind our space to get at a 12-pack of pop. The bear had also been spotted following a couple from the lake to their camper the night before. Not what you want to hear when you plan to spend two nights!
In some private RV parks we were packed into a gravel parking lot like sardines--Valdez's Bear Paw I, Seward's Stoney Creek, and Talkeetna Camper Park immediately come to mind. And some were overpriced, under-maintained, very noisy dumps, like Kamloops RV Park and Sikanni Chief RV Park, both in BC.
We quickly learned that a high-priced campground does not necessarily guarantee a "nice" or "spacious" campground. For example, you may pay a KOA price in Haines for a gravel parking lot space so narrow that your slide nearly touches the side of the RV in the next space, but you have a "view" of the Lynn Canal! Needless to say, we did without the view of the water and were extremely happy with our choice. Now being slightly removed from the road, I think we did as well as was possible mixing public and private, free and costly, hook-ups and dry camping on our 10,000-mile trip.
We are also now home from our Alaska-Canada adventure. We made it safely to the Denver area just days before several of the roads we drove coming home were washed out by last week's floods in northeastern Colorado. Our part of town received "only" 3.75 inches of rain (about 30% of our average annual precip in one week of our normally driest month!). We are high and dry and without damage, but lots of folks only 10 miles away weren't so fortunate. My wife and I lived here when the 1965 flood hit Denver, but this one may actually be worse. Too soon to know, however, as they are still in the search mode and cleanup and insurance adjustments are just beginning. It may be several years before we know the total cost of this disaster.
We missed the Calgary floods by going through BC instead of Alberta on our way up to Alaska. We have now missed the Colorado floods by getting home earlier than we originally planned. So, the timing for the trip worked out better than we could have imagined.
It was the trip of a lifetime for us and we are also grateful to all those who contributed to this thread. It was fun reading about everyone else's trip in real time! Thanks to all of you.
We haven't traveled the Cassier yet so that is why we are looking at that route back to Prince George. We are debating now if we want to deal with the road conditions vs. the Alcan again. We do not remember that portion of the alcan being as bad as it sounds like the Cassier may be. We are a bit concerned our coach may go on strike if we beat it up much more,lol.
The Cassiar is MUCH better than the Alaska Hwy. between Border City, Alaska and Kluane Lake, Yukon. I just don't understand all the concern over the Cassiar--if you take it easy and don't try to go from Watson Lake to Kitwanga in one day. Yea, some of it doesn't have a shoulder, much of it is chip-sealed, and some of it doesn't have a centerline. But dozens of miles of the Alcan in multiple locations were the same and there was far less construction on the Cassiar than on the Alcan.
The only rough road we had was the 20 miles section east of Dease Lake (the lake, not the town) and, like I said, it was much better than the Alcan on both sides of Beaver Creek for a considerably longer distance than 20 miles. If you have driven your motorcoach on State highways in the U.S., you should not have any trouble with the Cassiar. And, if you can make it from Watson Lake to Dease Lake, Dease Lake to Bell 2, and Bell 2 to Stewart without refueling, then fuel shouldn't be a problem either, because all those places have fuel all year (ie., people live there year-round). But, in spite of having just driven both roads in July and August, that's only my opinion.
We also have to consider the weather in Jasper, Banif, & Calgary. We would like to enter the US through Glacier NP and visit. Should that be a safe plan if we leave AK after Sept 15 or so??
Several years ago, we were in a snowstorm one morning during the third week of September in Lake Louise. In fact, it was snowing when we left Johnston Canyon and it continued north all the way over Bow Summit and past Lower Waterfowl Lake. The road was snow-packed the entire way, but not icy. We even used a photo my wife took of snow-covered conifers in front of Lower Waterfowl Lake as our Christmas card that year. However, by the time we got to Jasper late that same day, the temps were in the upper 40's (F, not C!), with no snow on the ground anywhere.
Oh, and the Going-to-the-Sun Highway in Glacier NP closes for the season about September 15 every year, snow or no snow. We know because we missed it by 2 days the last time we were there.
We are at the municipal campground in Grand Cache today and will be in Hinton tomorrow for "LNG" (laundromat n' groceries). Last night we stayed at a great little municipal campground in Hythe, Alberta. 30A electric, potable water, and a sanidump for $20. Newly cut grass between each site, picnic tables, and two large covered picnic pavilions. Restrooms and showers were in two old Northern Alberta Railway cabooses--first time I have seen that. Less than half full on a Saturday night, so there was at least one empty space between RVs.
And gas in Hythe was "only" $1.199 a liter, compared to $1.569 in Ft. Nelson, BC. Great to be in Alberta!
After a night at Liard River Hot Springs and a night at my new-favorite private RV park of the trip--Toad River--we are headed for Ft. Nelson, Ft. St. John, Dawson Creek and the end (or beginning, depending on direction) of the Alaska Highway. It is raining here in Toad River, but should be clearing this morning. To make up for the weather, we are in a space that backs up to a beautiful little lake surrounded by the Northern Rocky Mountains.
Unfortunately, we missed a herd of bison on the highway and a near-bear collision that a couple from California just an hour or two behind us experienced yesterday. They said it was te most wildlife they have seen in a single day on their entire trip.
Still heading for Jasper and Banff before heading home. Have reservations for two days at Jasper, two at Lake Louise, and two at Banff. Hope we see more wildlife there!
The worst road on our trip so far, by far, is the Alaska Highway from east of Beaver Creek, YT, to Northway, AK. It was much worse than anywhere on the Cassiar Highway. And the best glacier view anywhere we have been, including Kenai Fjords National Park and Denali National Park is the Salmon Glacier 25 miles north of Stewart-Hyder.
We are leaving Whitehorse today and heading for Jasper and Banff on our way back to Colorado. Should be home in about two weeks.
Sitting on th deck at Hi Country RV Park in Whitehorse in bright sunlight and nearly 80 degree temps as I write this. We have had unbelievably good weather this week and actually for most of Alaska and the Yukon. It is probably the driest summer I remember in the 40 years I have been coming to Alaska. In fact, I saw trees in a permafrost thaw pond just off the North Klondike Highway that actually had a "bathtub ring" of white trunks exposed where the water level had dropped. And we came through the smoke of two forest fires on the TOTW Highway. Is this global warming?
Unfortunately that is the wrong side on the story. I would never trade the that disaster for any number of created jobs.
Sorry fanrgs, I like your geology reports etc but disagree with your post.
I just reported what many of the locals told me first-hand. I didn't say it was what I thought. I worked in the environmental cleanup business for 30 years of my 45-year career, so I know an environmental disaster when I see one. And the Exxon Valdez was certainly one of the biggest long-term environmental disasters in our recent history, but perhaps no bigger than the recent blowout of BP's drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico. It was not nearly as deadly to Alaskans as the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake. And no one knows how much environmental damage that earthquake caused in Anchorage, Valdez, Seward, Whittier, Kodiak, and other places as far away as Crescent City, California because there was no EPA in the 1960's.
One of the difficulties of environmental cleanup is balancing hazards to animals and plants vs. hazards to people. Love Canal, New York; Times Beach, Missouri; and Libby, Montana, kllled or sickened many more people than the Exxon Valdez or the Deepwater Horizon. And we still don't know how many "downwinders" died from cancer caused by atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons in Nevada. If the government is footing the bill, rather than private enterprise, hazards to people get the funding every time. And that will be the case until animals get the vote.