6 important things to know before riding through Alaska
If you’re an experienced rider, and you’ve travelled to more places in Europe than you can count on both hands, then perhaps it’s time for a challenge on another continent: the Alaska Highway.
The highway begins at Dawson Creek, extends through British Columbia, and ends at the Delta Junction in Alaska. It stretches for 1390 miles and is surrounded by stunning landscapes including mountains and ancient, untouched forest, making this area perfect for riders looking for a panoramic adventure.
Even though most of the Alaska Highway is paved, you may encounter long stretches of road that are made up of nothing but dirt and gravel during highway improvement or maintenance projects, so you should be prepared for some impromptu off-road riding!
Like any long stretch of road, you may also come across potholes, bumps in the road and deteriorated shoulders on older sections. For that reason, you might want to use a bike that can handle a few different types of terrain. If you own multiple (and properly insured) bikes, and an off-road dirt bike happens to be in your collection, this will certainly handle poorly paved stretches of road better.
Get the gear
It can get quite rainy in the summer and autumn months, especially in August when precipitation can average around 3.27 inches of rainfall, which is why you’ll need some waterproof gear. Having a waterproof one-piece suit to wear over your leathers is great to have on hand in case of surprise showers. Waterproof boots are a must-have, unless you don’t mind riding along with wet feet all day! It might also be a good idea to invest in a reflective rain jacket to wear over your leather one for when visibility is poor.
You may also want to bring heated or insulated gear because temperatures can drop to around 40°F (4C) towards the end of the summer months (September) and plummet to an average of 11°F (-11C) in the winter months (January). Even though Alaska doesn’t experience much hot weather with temperatures averaging to around 65°F (18C) in the hottest month (July), cruising in the sun for long periods of time wearing leather can be dangerous. Riders need to be aware of becoming over-heated and ultimately dehydrated when being exposed to the sun for so long. This is why it’s vital to take regular stops to keep yourself hydrated.
Alaska is big and empty. It’s about seven times larger than the UK, with a population of about 700,000 people spread very thinly: about 1.26 people per square mile! Compared to the UK’s 64 million people and a density of 662 people per square mile, you’re not likely to see many people or other vehicles if you do run out of fuel.
So, it’s important to refuel regularly because the next stop may be a long way off. Plus, few stations are open 24-hours along this route which can be annoying, especially given the long-daylight hours in Alaska and Yukon.
It can be easy to lose track of time when cruising along Alaska’s immense highway, more so when you’re nearing the arctic circle where the sun never sets during the summer months. This is another reason why it’s essential to refuel whenever you can.
There are plenty of motels along the way, but it can be a great idea to bring camping gear, even if it’s as little as a tent and sleeping bag. Besides, what better way to experience nature than by camping in the Alaskan wilderness? You’ll find numerous private and government campsites along the highway. There are around 8 government campgrounds in Yukon, and approximately 10 state and federal recreation sites for camping along the highway in Alaska.
Camping in stunning spaces like this can also be cheaper than renting a motel room each night. Keep in mind though that campgrounds are generally open from May until September depending on location and weather. For instance, camping grounds based further north close early due to the icy-cold temperatures which can freeze waterlines.
Stunning scenery, rich vegetation, and majestic mountain views aren’t the only things you’ll witness on your journey. You may encounter some of the local wildlife including bison, elk, moose and bears. These furry creatures are not always so friendly, especially when they are startled, feel threatened, protecting young, or are near a kill. Getting too close could result in them attacking you which is why it’s best to keep a good distance away from them.
The Alaskan highway can offer the most beautiful sights of wildlife creatures imaginable. Whether you hold a subtle appreciation of bird-life or you’re a glorified bird-watcher, you’ll enjoy wonderful views of native birds such as the peregrine falcon,snowy owl, northern goshawk, and if you’re lucky, you could catch a glimpse of the glorious golden eagle.
Start from… the beginning!
The best place to kick off your adventure is by visiting the Mile Zero post located in Dawson Creek, British Columbia. This post literally means “mile 0” and signifies the very beginning of the Alaska Highway. The town also offers opportunities for fishing, bird watching, skiing, and camping.
You’ll also have the chance to fuel up and refill at some of Dawson Creek’s local cafés and restaurants including the Noodle Hut, a local favourite which serves traditional Vietnamese cuisine, and Stuie’s Diner, a retro restaurant serving classic American dishes.
Another place to visit on your journey is the Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park located at Historical Mile 496 of the Alaska Highway. As the second largest hot spring in Canada, the Liard River is a perfect place to ease and relax the muscles after being on the road for so long.
You could even take an extended break from the road and explore the lush vegetation of the forest or trek through the warm water swamps where you’ll find wildlife including moose, bulls, and calves.
Whether you’re riding solo or cruising with friends, the Alaska highway is an incredible route to travel. With breathtakingly beautiful landscapes, awe-inspiring mountain ranges, and rejuvenating natural springs, the Alaska highway makes for a truly memorable road-trip. Just watch out for those grizzly bears!