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Richardson Highway Part 2 – Glaciers, Waterfalls & Salmon

There are a lot of amazing drives around the world and while I really appreciate the feeling of endlessness that comes with vast wide open spaces, for me, nothing beats the excitement of driving into and being completely surrounded by mountains. If you agree, then chances are you will love this Alaskan drive!

We’re smack in the middle of the Richardson Highway as we make our way to Valdez and the route is one lush mountain on top of another. I found myself torn between stopping at every view point and driving faster to see if the next waterfall lined peak could be better than the last.

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We get asked all the time why we choose a class A RV and one of the reasons is because we wanted this big honking windshield! This is our first view of what we’re about to explore and while the cat may not always be impressed with what’s down the road, it’s a scene we never get tired of…especially when there are glaciers in view!

Richardson highway road trip

If you recall our wild and crazy rafting adventures from our Richardson Highway Part 1, we met up with fellow traveling RV’ers The Banks and The Bonelli’s and we’re all still alive and traveling to Valdez together!  We haven’t had many opportunities to caravan or travel with others much in the past and I have to say…It’s sooo much fun!!!

Copper River Salmon And Fishing The Klutina River

Catching the world famous Copper River Salmon has been on our Alaska bucket list from the beginning stages of this road trip and this is the spot to make it happen! We’re all pumped up, the timing is right and we’ve purchased all the gear and now were gonna get some salmon…so we thought. As with most new activities, there’s a learning curve that can only be learned once you’re doing it. So, here is what we learned about fishing for Copper River “Red” Salmon:

  • Location – We checked with the public lands office in Fairbanks about good wild camping and fishing spots, then we reported back to our Alaska local friends to get their thoughts. Their general recommendation was to skip the free camping and go for one of the campgrounds. The reason being that it’s convenient and comfortable as the campgrounds are right on the river and its typically less crowded than the public areas. They were correct! There are a few options and they all seemed pretty similar. We landed at King For A Day (located at milepost 101) and it’s nothing fancy but location was good and the staff was very helpful to us newbie salmon fishers. Oh, and the photos below were taken around midnight…because when it’s summer in Alaska, this is what you do.

copper river salmon fishing
copper river salmon fishing

  • Gear – When fishing from the river most people use a fly rod. We only had a traditional rod and reel as we were set up mostly for ocean fishing. It still worked but not nearly as well as the fly rod and not as much fun (fly fishing is sooo much fun). Also, at this stage the fish are swimming upstream and not feeding so lures and bait don’t work. The name of the game here is snagging. You have a simple set up of a weight, hook and bright colored yarn. Since the fish are not feeding you are literally trying to snag the fish in the mouth as he swims by! Snag it in the side or anywhere else and you can’t legally keep it, it has to be in the mouth! It’s a challenge that tests anyone’s patients. We spent two very determined days practicing our newly learned skills and finally just after midnight on the second day Jason landed a salmon…in the side, so we couldn’t keep him. But at least he snagged one!

copper river salmon fishing set up

  • Fish – There’s no way to know when the fish will be there, other than when they are there. Before leaving Fairbanks we checked the fish counter and it showed fish, so we were stoked. Sadly by the time we checked into our campground (almost a week later) things had slowed down. The week before our arrival was hot with lots of people catching, then the rain came in for a couple of days, which had the rivers running swift and high, so the fish take a break. During our stay, there were still a few people catching here and there but not much.

 

Worthington Glacier

Wow, talk about instant gratification!  A short 15-20 min hike out lead us out past tiny lakes, onto the glacier moraine and up to what looks like the mouth of the glacier. We must have gazed up into that icy blue cave for over an hour. We felt like children amazed and mesmerized by the seemingly magical cave before us of continuously flowing water from giant frozen waves. Located at milepost 28.7

Worthington Glacier
Worthington Glacier
Worthington Glacier
hike to Worthington Glacier
Worthington Glacier
Worthington Glacier

Valdez Goat Trail

This stretch of the highway enters an area know as Keystone Canyon and what must be a rain-forest because everything is lush, lush, lush!  The whole area just begs to be explored so we parked our land yachts and decided to take a trail that has been traveled since the early 1900’s! The Valdez Goat Trail was a military pack train trail that was the first glacier free route to the interior of Alaska, and it was still occasionally used all the way up to 1952. Now, its a lovey 2.5 mile tree canopied hike that has a great view of Bridal Veil Falls and its lined with more salmon berries than we could pick! Bridal Veil Falls and trail access to the Valdez Goat Trail are located at milepost 13.5

keystone canyon alaska
Valdez Goat Trail Hike    keystone canyon alaska
hiking the Richardson highway

Keystone Canyon Roadside Camping 

Roadside camping is very popular in Alaska and we’re starting to understand why. This stretch of highway is one alluring pull out after another. Some had us feeling like we were on top of the world while others felt cozy as they were nestled into the side of a mountain. Because we’re still a traveling trio of RV’s we decided to stick together and landed at this river facing, private waterfall site for the night just about a mile shy of the goat trail.

Come to find out, this wasn’t an ordinary roadside pull out.  During the big copper and gold mining days from 1910 to 1916 there were attempts to build a railroad through the canyon and into the copper region. Railroad companies battled to secure a right-of-way-north of Valdez and a tunnel which was built but never used is still here. It’s an interesting story of feuds, fights, murders and money that didn’t end well for any party involved.

Roadside Camping on the Richardson highway
richardson highway alaksa

Road Report

Fuel Prices – Fuel around the area hovered in the realm of about $3.70 a gallon with only minimal differences from town to town all the way to Valdez. For the most recent pricing, check out the free Gas Buddy app.
Road Conditions – This portion of the Richardson Highway is a two-lane road and is in great shape.
Weather – Temperatures were mild and pleasant with highs hovering in the low 70’s and the lows in the mid 40’s.
Dates Visited – June 29 – July 3, 2015
Resources – We consulted the milepost and the Church’s Alaskan Camping book.

See all our Alaska travels and tips here: #Alaska Bound

Have you traveled the Richardson Highway? Share your stories, tips and thoughts with us in the comments below! We love hearing from you.

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 (29)

  • Margaret Rosin

    Hi guys, thank you for all the gorgeous pics and crazy fun videos, I am GREEN with envy! Some day we plan to make the trip through Alaska, and your videos really make me want to go NOW. It is incredible country, and as environmentally things are changing scary fast, I feel a real urgency, so maybe next year we will be ready. It was all so lovely to see your adventures, and I can’t wait to see more. : )

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  • SusanJ

    I Loved the Part 1 of the Richardson Highway but this Part 2 is just over the top! I especially love the photo of the Keystone Canyon camping! That looks like a great hike up to take that shot! I’m looking forward to the next post!

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  • John S.

    Love the photos. Looks (and sounds) like you are having a great adventure.

    Plus I’ve watched so many of your movies that I hear your voice when reading your words.

    Take care,

    John

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  • kim threlkeld

    Jason, if you guys are back in Fairbanks it is moose hunting season, I have a four day weekend if you would like to go and ride along for fun.

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      • John S.

        Nikki, I think that some of the confusion as to your location is because different maps on your website show different information. For example the small map on the bottom of this page shoe “The Wynn’s are currently at: . . .” as Fairbanks. It has not been updated since ran his ‘marathon’. 😉

        But on your blogs you have “dates visited” and I also think that I saw a map showing some dates from now till you reach Seattle. (Where is that map?)

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        • John S.

          I wish I could fix my typos.
          shoe = shows
          add JASON before “ran his ‘marathon'”

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  • kim and sandy threlkeld

    If you guys are back in Fairbanks and would like to stay out at the house we would love to have you, I’m still out at the mine site until Thursday night but Sandy is home. we have lots of room for your motor home. we can barbecue and relax on the deck.
    Kim.

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  • Jim Herring

    So I see you use bear bells so being I have spent a lot of time in Montana I’ll share this joke with you. “People use bear bells to alert the bears of your presence so they stay away. Now there are Grizzly bears and Black bears where you are. But while hiking and you see bear scatt (poo) do you know how to tell the difference between Grizzly Bear scatt and Black Bear scatt? ……………………….answer. The Grizzly Bear Scatt has the bells in it!

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  • Please carry bear spray!! I lived in Alaska for 20 years and bears can be unpredictable and aggressive. Better safe than sorry. Keep up the great work. Love you guys! Jason, your pics are amazing!

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  • Dennis

    Great to see your newest post and what fantastic PICs. I am about to leave on my first RV adventure in our New 35K. (Friday, Sept 4th we head to Memphis) I have been thru the manuals about a hundred times and learned a great deal on the coaches operation and functions. The electronics are pretty impressive and challenging to figure out, even for an electronics geek. I have my new bike rack on the back and the bikes are loaded, so we will see how that travels. Tomorrow i will take a shot at figuring out my Satellite receiver and which cable goes to what TV for it (LOL) then load the groceries and be ready for Friday departure. Be safe and look forward to your next post……..

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  • William (Bill) Weaver

    Copper River Sockeye, had some for dinner night before last, but didn’t catch it myself. On one of my 5 trips to Alaska, they were running in the Russian river. When I found that I had to snag them, it took the thrill out of catching one. The glaciers are melting everywhere, so get to Alaska and admire them. When I revisited one 10 years later, I was stunned at how much it had melted. I spoke to a Ranger and he said that he brings his grandson on his birthday to the same spot to take his picture with the glacier in the background to record the melt. Sad.
    I keep my copy of Church’s “Alaskan Camping” next to my easy chair to read along with your posts. I have never been on the Richardson and have missed a spectacular area. Thanks for sharing your adventure.

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  • Rich Quigley

    When you’re in bear country it’s important to know whether you have black bears or grizzlies in the area. The most reliable way to determine the type of bear is to inspect their scat (poop). When you dig into the scat and observe seeds and fiberous stems then you know you’re dealing with a black bear. When you break apart scat and find bells, whistles, and chewed up cans of bear spray, then you know it’s a grizzly.

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  • Ken Sullivan

    It’s just so much fun keeping up with you guys! You ARE the best! My wife Rachel and I follow everything you do. We have a new 38 gasser and just got a Smart to pull behind it. We have learned so much from your adventures. Thank you, safe travels! We are getting out there too!

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  • N Burgess

    What???? No more videos?

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  • Joe the computer guy

    Hey!! Love you guys. Glad to see you’re enjoying the adventure up there. I did a cruise some 17 years ago and it was breathtaking. You pictures bring back so many warm memories.
    Can’t wait to hear the review on the Bounder. I am close to buying and I’m between the 35K and an Allegro 36LA.
    Stay safe and keep doing what you’re doing. It’s so much appreciated!

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  • julia

    Nikki you are so right …I love you guys and I can only hope to do the amazing things yall have experienced. Live life to the fullest …life is short .

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  • Darrick

    Valdez Goat Trial typo 🙂

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  • Keith

    My wife and I love sharing your web site and all the helpful tips, tricks, and adventures….Thank-you !
    We were curious in your travels through Alaska and all the hiking through the wilderness if you ever encountered any of the wildlife Alaska is famous for…bears, moose, etc…I would think it might be a be hazardous walking around out there heading for a glacier…
    Thanks again, and safe travels !!!

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      • Nolan Olson

        A little background – I live 80 miles from Yellostone NP and have spent a good share of time in bear and moose country. I have my share of encounter stories. Here are a couple of things you might consider. Bear and moose are very protective of their young. Bears are extremely protective of food caches (dead deer, elk, and soon on) and do not leave them just because they hear bells and whistles. Bells and whistles are good, but do not provide assurance against serendipitous encounters. Statistics show the most effective protection in a bear encounter is bear spray. It works on moose also. Make sure you know how to use it because if you get caught up in the spray you are going to become incapacitated along with dealing with an angry critter. In the last week we have had both a bear (grizzly) and moose attack in the area. We don’t want anything bad to happen to you two.

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