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Alaska Highway Part 2 – Free Camping, Double Rainbows and Hot Springs

While the start of our Alaskan Highway experience wasn’t very eventful (other than a busted RV windshield that is) this section all the way to Whitehorse, YK was one pleasant surprise after another!

The visitor’s centers along the highway are really some of the best we’ve ever experienced and each has turned out to be a worthy stop filled with helpful information (and free wifi).  Our stop at the Fort Nelson visitor’s center was very pleasant and they loaded us up with suggested stops and hiking trails.

As we got further away from Fort Nelson everything started to become more scenic.  There were long stretches of road with nothing in sight, tall trees started to line the road, rolling hills came into focus and long meandering rivers followed our path.

Tetsa River

The Tetsa River area held two stops for us.  A renowned homemade cinnamon roll from Tetsa River Outfitters at Kilometer 576 and hike to burn off the calories!

Even the cats decided to get in on the action.  Cleo was all about the cinnamon roll (she likes to snag bites when she thinks you’re not looking) while Singa was all about getting out the door for a hike!

While the serene lake at the end of our Tetsa #1 trail wasn’t anything super exciting (no intense blue waters like some of the others), the baby moose and mama playing in it were loads of fun to watch.  Apparently around here, there are more moose than there are people and we’re starting to believe it!  On the way back we spotted some old army corps highway building relics (aka trash) that had been left behind (sorry Canada).

 

Racing River

We’ve been dreaming of glacial waters and wild camping ever since we left the Canadian Rockies and oh baby did we find it!  In fact…it’s soo good you’ll have to watch the video to believe us. Spoiler alert, we’re not drunk (not even close), just really high on nature.

Pretty flippin’ spectacular right!!!  Now this is the kind of camping we drove all the way up here for!  We’ve read about and even written about free camping on crown land in BC, Canada before but this was the first time we’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing it for ourselves (even if it was by accident).

We took down our GPS coordinates and emailed the county for confirmation.  They came back to us with the pleasant news that this was indeed crown land – “The area is unsurveyed crown land owned by the government and is frequently used for camping. There are no restrictions on short term parking or camping on this site.” – NorthernRockies.ca

So, if you want to camp in the same glorious spot we did, do a little rain dance and wait for a double rainbow, here are the coordinates: 58.825869, -125.132557

Just as we were packing up our double rainbow campsite, we got a knock on the door!  Turns out our friends Eric and Janette of JenEric Ramblings had caught up to us.  That’s the beauty of there only being a couple of routes into Alaska, you’re bound to run into friends.

Our next stop was going to be Muncho Lake (which is beautiful) but considering the rain looming in the clouds, we decided to continue on.

 

Liard Hot Springs Provincial Park

Hot steamy blue waters and lush greenery surrounding the open air…this turned out to be a hot springs that all other springs should aspire be.

The springs are $10 for day use or free to campers staying in the park.  Considering the campground was only $20 a night, it was a bargain.  The campground is dry camping only and no dump station but there is a freshwater fill station.  But really, here it’s all about soaking, soaking and more soaking.  If you don’t come out looking like a shriveled prune, you’re not doing something right.

 

Watson Lake

Ah, dear Yukon…we’ve been dreaming about you and all your wild wonder for years and its here in this tiny town that we first meet.

The first thing we (and most anyone) notice here is the famous Sign Post Forest.  It’s a fun visual oddity to wander through all of the signs that have come from all over the world (some probably illegally obtained).  I found myself drawn to destinations I’ve visited or searching for those furthest traveled.  The visitor’s center encourages people to bring their own sign to post and even provides nails and a hammer or pieces of wood and paint if you didn’t come prepared with a sign.

The other big attraction here is the Northern Lights Center.  However, I wouldn’t call this a center as much as I would a theatre with a few posters on the wall.  It’s $10 for a 50 min. presentation which consists of two different short films. The Black Hole film was created back in 2006 and the Northern Lights portion was released in 2011 but felt older.  It’s presented on a rounded planetarium screen that gives an impression that it’s going to be good. Sadly, the quality of the projector was seriously lacking and not up to modern specs so everything felt very faded (dull and dark), not sharp or visually punchy which was such a waste of the very neat planetarium screen.  You can honestly see better representations of the northern lights on YouTube so I would skip this particular attraction.

This town of 1,453 is the Yukon’s third largest community and started as a fish camp. It boomed during the construction of the highway and is now a quick stopover for road trippers.  The visitor’s center is a worthy stop with a neat museum inside but the RV parks in town are very uninspiring (parking lots) so you’ll want to have your walkabout and then move along.

watson lake visitors center yukon

 

Rancheria Falls

There are lots of little hikes and scenic stops all along the way to Whitehorse but this particular stop claimed a waterfall, which always piques our interest.

It was a super short walk to the falls following a boardwalk and while it wasn’t a huge waterfall, it was a lovely way to stretch our legs and enjoy some scenery.  Sadly, the rain convinced us to leave the big camera behind so we relied on our trusty action cam to capture the moment.

 

Roadside Pull Out Camping

Because of the remoteness of the Alaskan Highway and long stretches between campgrounds and towns its common practice to use a roadside pull out to catch some z’s before moving along. There are some rest areas and pull outs that will have signs saying No Overnight Camping but most don’t (thankfully).  A lot of the campgrounds and pullouts are noted in the information from the visitors centers as well as the Travelers Guide to Alaskan Camping and The Milepost.

Good news is, around here even the roadside pull outs have great views!  This stop is just about two hours shy of Whitehorse.

Road Report

Fuel Prices – Fuel came down in price a little once we crossed into the Yukon.  We filled up in Watson Lake, YK at $1.17 per liter for gas.

Road Conditions – You see, when we started this road trip we honestly didn’t know much about the Alaskan Highway, its history or what to expect.  All we knew was what we had been told by fellow travelers: the highway was built in the 40’s through unmapped territory to defend America from threats in the Pacific.  It’s legendary as being one of the toughest road trips you can take on, with RV demolishing rough and challenging roads.  It’s incredibly wild and remote with limited services and heavily mosquito infested.

While this might have been the case in the past, here is what we’ve found so far: Some interesting historical references and relics from days past. The modern Alaska Highway is a far cry from the pioneer road that was cut through during World War II and the entire length of the highway is mostly paved and well maintained with only a couple of short stints of dirt roads.  A little bumpy, yes but nothing crazy. There are miles of pristine wilderness, small but serviced towns and yes, they are still mosquito infested (so bring your bug spray).

Dates Visited – June 7 – June 11, 2015

See all our Alaska travels and tips here: Alaska Bound

Have you traveled the Alaskan Highway?  What was your experience like?  Tell us about it in the comments below!

Hello there! I honestly don’t know what to say, so I am going to tell you a bunch of random facts instead. I'm a fish eating vegetarian who hates spiders and loves snakes. I almost never took vacations growing up. I wanted to be Pippi Longstocking (still do). I misspell about every other word I write and still struggle with grammar. I love splurging on a good high tea (which is really hard to find these days). And whatever you do, don’t tell me I can’t do something, because then I'll HAVE to do it!

Comments (50)

  • jenine

    thanks, grammas going on a road trip next year by herself yay, tent camping/. love your you tube thanks.

    reply
  • LisaD

    “ALL THE WAY!!!”

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  • SALLY GLASS

    We just loved the signpost forest at Watson Lake and wish we had been a bit more prepared and bought a signpost or number plate from Mandurah Western Australia. We did however leave an Aussie flag with our details on it …. Has anyone found it?

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    • Outbackpete

      I’m going there June-July 2016 I will look out for it.
      I’ll have to leave a Qld plate or something novel.
      Cheers Peter

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  • Dennis McConkey

    I enjoyed your adventure. I drove the Alaska Highway in 1965 when it was a narrow twisting “gravel” road. The road was paved from Dawson Creek for about 75 miles north (they still had mileposts then and things was measured in miles). Did not reach pavement until the Alaska border however the road, though paved, had a lot of “frost heaves” and gravel repairs. Of course I had a broken windshield too. Amazing all the changes that have been made. The signpost forest was there although not as big as now. Keep up the adventure, very enjoyable.

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  • Chris Hamilton

    The High Tea at the Empress in Victoria is pretty swanky….I’d suggest base camp in Port Angeles WA (for the hiking, kayaking etc) and taking the ferry over…Also..the whale watching tours from Victoria BC or Sooke BC, while touristy are almost guaranteed to see Orca and many other marine species…Super special and moving..

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  • Matt Schwoebel

    As someone still in Texas, I am avidly following your most excellent trip idea for this summer. Best wishes and safe adventures! – Matt

    P.S. – Future full-time nomad. Heck, I may drive to Alaska in a Subaru to get away from summer 🙂

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  • Pete Litton

    It has been several years since we did the trip but I would offer this suggestion. Anytime you are on an unpaved road pressureize your coach and tow car by having the AC running in each regardless of the temps. The dust is very fine and will come in everywhere. It takes weeks to find all of it and get it cleaned out.
    We are having a great time revisiting many places with you all. Thanks You!!
    Be safe!!

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  • Jim S.

    I have a 3 ring binder sectioned off for different sections thru Canada and Alaska. Thanx for all your posts on your trip. Plan to do 1-2 nights of “pull offs” followed maybe by a 3rd night at a private campground (parking lot). Already rearranging the RV (trailer) for next years “North to Alaska” trip. Getting rid of extra weight in the cabinets to allow for the extra stuff for the 3-4 month Alaskan trip. (Add portable solar panels, rain boots, good rain coats, gold panning kit, extra tools…) Only 168 more days of work till retirement…..

    I just love having a campsite or section of a campground (State park) to ourselves. Pull offs like the one you had on the Racing River I would have to pinch myself. I can tell Jason was really happy.

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  • Kevin

    Consumer’s Report just did a review of mosquito repellents. Top rated was Sawyer Fisherman’s Formula (available at Amazon and, I think, Cabelas) 20% picairdin. Second was Repel Lemon Eucalyptus. Both scored much higher than the highest rated Deet formulation.

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  • John

    ThermaCell mosquito repellant not good:
    This item is advertised as a “mosquito repellent device”. Imagine my surprise when I read the fine print on the box—it is actually a heat-release vaporizer dispensing the insecticide Allethrin. That is a synthetic pyrethrin-type insecticide which scrambles nerve signals in insects–causing them to fall down twitching and not bite you. This is NOT a “repellent”, this is an insect killer, although its package uses the word “repellent” over and over. I would not have knowingly bought an insecticide fogger. The package has numerous warnings that do not appear on the Amazon sales page, such as “do not contaminate water, food or feed” by use or disposal of the ThermaCell; “harmful if inhaled”, and “do not breathe vapors” (good luck avoiding THAT around a vaporizer appliance!) The package also states that the insecticide is toxic to fish and other aquatic life (probably not suitable for use near a garden pond.) Finally, a Wikipedia search revealed that the pyrethrin-type insecticides are highly toxic to cats. Since I bought this thing to ward off mosquitoes on a patio we enjoy with our three cats, it’s absolutely NOT acceptable. Sadly, as a butane-burning appliance, it is also NOT RETURNABLE to Amazon, so please, BUYER BEWARE.

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  • It was a pleasure running into you guys on the Alcan, hope to see you again soon! Love the double rainbow.

    Eric and Jeanette

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  • Wendy

    Yes, I have heard there are bird sized Mosquitos in that part of the world! May I ask what kind of repellant you are using and does it work?

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  • cindy williams

    Loved the surprise campsite!!!! The water looked ice baby blue!!! I only seen a double rainbow once and I’m twice you’re age!!!! What else will you see!!!!!

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  • Oh man! Double rainbow video? Awesome, just awesome!

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  • Sean Bates

    Thanks for sharing all that you do. Absolutely love it. Here’s some trivia for you… Double rainbows have an interesting quirk to them. The first rainbow will be ROYGBIV (Red Orange Yellow…) and the second one will be reversed. Safe travels.

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  • I am very impressed with the audacity of your feline explorer partners. Thanks for sharing the great views. I hope you took advantage of the hot springs. Keep those little guys safe from predators.

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  • Martine Felts

    I love the way your cats explore the outdoors. I would be terrified to let mine off leash. How did you know they would not just take off????

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  • Robert Lighton

    Wynns..what is the sqeaking sound at the beginning inside the coach. Is it the suspension?

    reply
  • Sonia & David

    Just want you to know we are thoroughly enjoying your Alaska posts. Love the photos. Thanks for sharing.

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  • guy

    Don’t you guys ever wear a seatbelt?

    reply
  • Loving these Alaska updates. We hope to retrace this route in a few years, and your posts will be invaluable.

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  • Terry Meyers

    Re: Tetsa River Outfitters at Kilometer 576
    They are the BEST homemade cinnamon rolls anywhere. We had them at about 10 AM hot out of the oven. WONDERFUL
    Did you see the sign on the gas pumps that said “NO SNIVELING”

    Enjoy
    Terry and Teri ( TnT)
    Blue’s Roadies (our Dog)

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  • Jim Hummel

    I think you have conclusively found the visual definition of “Idyllic”

    reply
  • rob

    wow, love your vlogs and info. look forward to seeing them and have a lot to catch up on. one day i will get there, my grandfather was one of the engineers during and after the war who built the highway. he had many stories about it. hope it is a nice route and somewhat straight. great travels

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  • Jeanne Behrens

    Love following you and especially enjoyed this video of your joyful double rainbow evening. My husband and I (Wisconsin) along with 2 friends (Minn) will be RVing in Alaska in a few weeks. According to your prior “plan” post our paths may cross in Homer or Seward. We’ll be keeping a lookout for your RV. Thanks for sharing your tips!

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  • Teresa

    AWESOME POST! Thank you so much for sharing. I am so inspired 🙂

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  • Billy

    WOW! the coolest camping video ever in Alaska. Rainbows, cats, river, sky, trees and a couple of adult beverages [or several]. Keep ’em coming, wish we were there. You two are the best!

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  • Scott Moffatt

    It was like the moment you drove to that spot on the river was the culmination of pieces of the perfect spot in your mind, and it all came together. They say you attract the things to you that you think about most. So Coincidence? I think not. Thank you for all the updates… and safe travels guys.

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  • Definitely bookmarking that natural spring for our travels! Looks AHmazing. Absolutely love your blog! it’s such a great resource for us!
    xx
    Lauren Jade
    Lauren Jade Lately
    ‘Simplifying Life, Maximizing Happiness’

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  • Love your way to discover new things by just doing it. All the information you are gathering (and sharing) is great for future trip to Alaska for other RV’ers.

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  • Loved you video about the double rainbow and free RV camping in Canada. The sights were gorgeous! I hope the weather holds out so you can do all the things you’ve planned. My husband and I were planning on going on a tour of Alaska and Canada this year, but I just had knee replacement, so I’ll see it vicariously through your blog.

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  • Wayne

    I look forward to each post. Thank you for sharing.

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  • Marilyn Johnson

    We’re leaving for Alaska July 9th and getting very excited. We love, love, love your newsletter and the pictures are awesome. We will be in a caravan of a class C, class B, and our travel trailer. Six of us in all and 4 dogs. Three of the six of us have lived in various parts of Alaska so are very knowledgable about certain areas. Always interested in hearing of your experiences and who knows….maybe we’ll meet somewhere along the way!

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  • Kathy Donaldson

    I agree with one of the previous comments. Heading back home from Alaska, from Beaver Creek to Kluane Lake is the worst section. The road dips drastically with almost not warning. Watch the side of the road for cones or markers that indicate these drops. Some are not marked so keep your eyes peeled. The permafrost heaves cause this upsy downsy road. They are doing research on how to fix it but so far no success. Great travels to you.

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  • Don Vantzelfde

    I’m really liking your new travel videos with the spontaneity as you’re driving it gives a more personal feel for what travel is all about. Keep up the excellent work loving it

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  • George

    It’s a joy to watch you follow your dream. How wonderful that you are able to do this now, with the knowledge that your future can be filled with making more dreams come true. Please keep feeling “high on life” and allowing us all to enjoy your adventures.

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  • Jerry & Sheila

    Really enjoyed this one. It will be sometime before we can go to AK, but have started a file with all you vids so we can reference they at a later date. Do you know if you could have fished the racing river? Anyway keep doing what your doing it’s almost like being there.

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  • Joe

    Thanks for sharing your trip. We RVers tend to obsess about which floorplan, which class, how much capacity, mpg, and so on. The best thing about RVing is visiting places that make you realize all of that stuff doesn’t really matter.

    RVing is about the places you go and the people you go with. The RV is just a means to get there.

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  • Kristen

    I drove the Alcan with my travel trailer last year. The stretch between Kluane Lake and the border has the worst road. Once you’re past that you should be pretty much home free.

    Due to work obligations dictating my schedule, I took the route at the last week in May. Unfortunately I was caught in a late spring blizzard. My drive through Rancheria was hellish. Fortunately accident free though.

    I picked up some delicious baked bread a Teslin Junction. Going in there is a mistake; the aroma of baking bread is so enticing and irresistible. You bet I bought a couple of loaves.

    I’m not sure where you’re going in Alaska, but if you make it to Valdez, I’d highly recommend taking in the Earthquake museum in addition to the primary museum. The Earthquake museum has a perfect, historically accurate model of old town. If you drop to eye level it springs to life before your eyes. I toured the museum with a colleague who had grown up in town. When I asked him if he knew the children who had died he explained that it was a small town; he knew everyone that died. Of course that stops you in your tracks. And it is a reminder that life is a precious thing to live and make the most out of. And that is just what you two are doing.

    Enjoy your journey.

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  • Kim Oslund

    I was excited for you both, as the bus (motorhome) pulled up to the river and that beautiful view. Some times you can get overly excited or very emotional, when surrounded by such beauty. Look forward to each and everyone of your posts. The wife and I will be using your info for our own trip to Alaska next summer. Thanks so much for taking the time to share the adventure with us. Take care and safe travels.

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