The Alaska Highway was built during World War II, more for US military purposes than for the general public, however the road was officially opened for public travel in 1948. Over the years the highway has slightly changed route and has been upgraded many times. The road is commonly referred to as the “Alaska Highway” or the “ALCAN” since a great portion of the route is in Canada.
Throughout our travels we’ve talked with many people who’ve warned us “the highway to Alaska is horrible, and it will destroy your RV” but we didn’t find that to be the case at all, at least this portion of the Alaska Highway is nicely paved and in good condition.
Here in part 1, we’ll cover our travel route and destinations from Dawson Creek to Fort Nelson, then stay tuned for more!
The most exciting part of this route for us was also the most painful! Somewhere near Mile Marker 80, just north of Charlie Lake, we ended up on the receiving end of a rock being hurled from an oncoming logging truck. I knew a busted RV windshield was going to happen eventually, but we didn’t expect it so soon in the trip, especially since we’re not even to Alaska yet! It totally took us by surprise so we decided to shoot a video about it.
Yes it’s a total bummer on our brand new rig but we just chalk it up as part of the adventure…right?
Dawson Creek, British Columbia, Canada marks the official beginning of the Alaska Highway.
We’ve been told you MUST stop by the sign and the mile marker to take photos with it, kinda cheesy but when in Rome. There’s also a small museum at the visitor center that’s worth a visit for a little history on the ALCAN and early life in the area.
We’ve read this is a great place to stock up on necessities but honestly if you’re driving through Grande Prairie, AB do your errands there because the fuel is cheaper and there are more options for stores including a Costco, Home Depot, Best Buy and most everything else you’d expect to see in decent sized city in the lower 48. We were however in need of a solid RV and car wash and the enclosed bays at Tubby’s were a nice escape from the cold weather. At $1 per minute it took us a solid 48 minutes to get all the grime off both vehicles, ouch!
A small hiking trail with views of a small body of water. There are loads of birds and water fowl and during our visit we found what we figured to be the world’s largest natural dandelion field (at least it’s the largest one we’ve ever seen). But oh wow…loads of mosquitoes here so make sure to pack on the deterrent and wear long pants and cover up all exposed skin, or just run the entire time like we did!
The Dawson Creek Visitor Center told us about an old trestle railroad bridge that is located in the nearby village of Pouce Coupe. However, we got the feeling this isn’t a friendly place to stop, Nikki compared it to a modern day ‘Deliverance’ experience with everyone staring at us and everything looking really run down. The local visitor center is closed down and overgrown. There are historic markers around town but many are located near a “locals only” sign or “area under video surveillance” signs. We didn’t feel safe leaving the car parked here so…I guess we’d say don’t visit this little place unless things change dramatically in the future.
We stayed at Northern Lights RV Park and it was fine. The check-in lady was extremely helpful and friendly, but the major feature here is the “screamin fast” free WiFi. Our WiFi Ranger clocked the speeds at 9 mbps, typically I’m happy when I see 2-3 mbps, so we were able to get at ton of much needed work done. Most RVers roll in for one night, we stayed for two to catch up on laundry, chores and work.
There are limited 50a hookups but there are plenty of 30a hookups which we opted for to save a few bucks per night. Our Hybrid inverter came in handy as we were able to power both computers, cook on the griddle, use the washing machine and run a space heater all at the same time! Typically our breaker would pop with just the griddle and space heater on, hooray for new technology!
Tip – If you’re heading towards Alaska and need to fill up with gas or diesel do it BEFORE you get to the RV park. We didn’t realize Northern Lights RV park was on the outskirts of town and the nearest gas station was 5 km the wrong direction.
Fort St. John
After our short stint in Dawson Creek and the commercial RV park we decide to skip the town of Fort St. John, BC altogether and head for the Provincial Park just north of town. Which turned out great!
You see, we’re on this amazing road trip and we want to spend it with Mother Nature, not exploring some random town (we love small towns, but these were pretty basic and different strokes for different folks) or walking through a mish-mash museum of randomness. If we’re going to spend time in a town it has to be surrounded by nature or filled with craft offerings from passionate people (I’m talking unique art, breweries, coffee roasters, distilleries, farm to table eateries, and so on).
Beatton Provincial Park
On the east side of Charlie Lake Beatton Provincial Park is a quiet campground used more by the locals than the typical Alaska Highway traveler. We found a nice little site with partial sun (for our solar) and a cut trail to the boat launch. We spent the afternoon paddling our iSUP around the lake basking in the warm sun. There were only 3 other boats on the lake, the wind was fairly calm and the water was almost as flat as glass. We spotted several birds making mud nests in the rocks, a few big fish swimming below and a little head pop up out of the water just a few meters away! We’re guessing it was a river otter or maybe a beaver or something similar, but he swam much faster than we could paddle so we never got a good look (or photo).
As the sun meandered its way toward the horizon we took Mr. Singa for a walk to stretch his legs and watch the clouds roll in. The only bummer here is we wish there was more time, we could have easily spent a few days lounging, shooting videos and paddling.
Tip – It’s really important to consider cost of fuel vs. number of nights stayed when traveling out of the way for a specific campground. We could have easily stayed in town for $30 but we wanted to be in the smaller campground for $12. This campground was 14 kilometers off route so considering the price of fuel we didn’t really save anything by visiting this less expensive park…however the clarity that comes with relaxing and being alone in nature makes up for it no problem.
We had planned to stay for a couple nights, see the hoodoos at Lake Wokkpash and visit the museum. But with our newly busted windshield, we weren’t sure what was to happen next. Here’s how it ended up: We fill up with fuel because this is as cheap as it’s gonna get for several hundred Kilometers. We drive to the one campground (the Triple G Hideaway) on the edge of town. We decide the campground isn’t gonna work because their WiFi was down and the price was too steep. Instead we decide to park on the highway axis road based on info from our gas station attendant. We found some random public WiFi to tap into, and after checking emails and such for any major work related fires, we decided to call it a night (yes, this is what nine o’clock at night looks like here).
The next morning I stopped by the local glass repair shop and they just laughed at the ginormous size of our windshield crack, they informed me there was absolutely nothing they could do to fix it. They did however give us kudos for taping the bash and agreed it should help keep out dust, dirt and water which will likely delay any further spreading. (A nice pat on the back for us.)
We drove by the Ft. Nelson Heritage Museum but it was a little too “eclectic” for our taste, and we didn’t have any more Canadian money to pay the entrance fee.
Across the street from the museum is the Northern Rockies Visitor Information Center and the people there are extremely knowledgeable about the area and the Route to Alaska. They offered up recommendations for several hikes on our route that they claimed are “must stops”: Tetsa #1 Trail, Summit Peak Trail and Mineral Licks Trail. Inside the visitor center is fast free WiFi, and free coffee, there’s even a free dump station & freshwater fill on the property. Now that is a giant RV friendly welcome! Its good to know they do not allow overnight parking and they have YouTube and other video sites blocked because they don’t have unlimited internet. It was hard for us to get away from the visitor center because it’s the last WiFi we’re likely to get for a while, but it’s time to hit the road and get in some good hiking!
Tip – If you have a few extra days the hoodoos at Wokkpash Creek seems pretty darn cool! It’s a 4WD and multi-day back-country hiking experience, not the best when you have a big RV and pets to look after, but could be worth the effort. Stone Mountain Provincial Park offers camping and shorter hikes to hoodoos but nowhere near the same quality hoodoo as the Wokkpash Creek Recreation Area.
Fuel Prices – Gas and Diesel were both more expensive up here, but what do you expect? Dawson Creek was the least expensive sitting around $1.15/liter and Fort Nelson was the most expensive at $1.43/liter.
Road Conditions – The roads are mostly paved with little damage along the route. We did encounter a few construction areas where there was gravel and/or dirt stretches of road but it was maintained and not all washed out.
Dates Visited – June 1 – June 6, 2015
Have you traveled the ALCAN? What was your take on the route, the towns and the road conditions? Please share your thoughts and tips in the comments below to help other travelers planning their #AlaskaBound adventures.