If you live in the “lower 48,” you’ve probably thought about road tripping to Alaska at some point. Yet, the thought of driving to Alaska may have left you feeling intimidated, wondering if it’s even possible.
Before you give up on your road trip dreams, stick with us. In this article, we’ll not only be answering the question “Can you drive to Alaska?”, but we’ll be sharing why it might actually be easier than you think!
Table of contents
- Can You Drive To Alaska By Car?
- The Best Driving Routes Through Canada
- Preparing For The Drive To Alaska
- Can You Drive To Alaska In The Winter?
- Enjoy Your Road Trip To Alaska!
Can You Drive To Alaska By Car?
You can, in fact, drive to Alaska in just about any vehicle as long as your vehicle is well maintained and up for a long drive. Depending on your route, you may be passing through remote areas of Canada where cell coverage is abysmal, and waiting for a tow truck could take hours. That’s why your vehicle must be road-trip worthy.
If you plan to drive straight through and use traditional lodging, like hotels, then a car, truck, or SUV will do just fine. However, if you plan to sightsee along the way, make longer stops, or if you want to spend more time in the wilderness, traveling by RV is probably your best bet. An RV, like the Lance truck camper we took to Alaska in our Go North series, will give you more freedom to travel and sightsee at your own pace.
The Best Driving Routes Through Canada
Obviously, your route through Canada will depend on your starting point in the US, but the following three highways are generally recommended for a safe and enjoyable journey as you drive to Alaska.
One of the most popular routes through Canada is the Alaska-Canada Highway, often referred to as the “Alaska Highway” or the “Alcan.” This 1,387 mile (2,232 km) highway begins in Dawson Creek, British Columbia and ends in Delta Junction, Alaska. You will likely be taking this route if you are entering Canada from the Pacific Northwest or Midwest regions of the United States.
The Alcan is paved throughout, making it an easy drive no matter the vehicle. As with any road, though, there can be hazards, potholes and construction, so stay alert! You can also find accommodations along the Alcan, such as hotels, RV parks, gas stations and grocery stores. However, there are long stretches of road with little or no accommodations, so you’ll need to map out your stops in advance.
We particularly loved the Alaska Highway drive between Fort Nelson and Watson Lake. Our article Driving The Alaska Highway – Things To Do Between Fort Nelson and Watson Lake shares our favorite stops!
The Stewart-Cassiar Highway might best be described as the “scenic route” through Canada due to the abundance of mountains, rivers and glaciers along the way. It begins in Kitimat, British Columbia and ends at the BC-Yukon border. This 543 mile (874 km) road ultimately connects up with the Alaska-Canada Highway in Yukon and is a good choice if traveling from the Pacific Northwest.
Stewart-Cassiar is mostly paved, however, you should expect a few stretches of gravel along this route. Gas stations are fewer and farther between on this road, so be sure to fill up your tank every chance you get. Food and lodging are also limited. In fact, the Stewart-Cassiar Highway is best experienced with an RV if you plan to stop and eat or sleep along the way.
For some more details on this highway and some recommendations on sights to see along this route, read our article Southbound on the Stewart-Cassiar Highway.
If you are traveling to Alaska from the East Coast, you may want to consider the Trans-Canada Highway. This 4,860 mile (7,821 km) highway stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, passing through all ten provinces of Canada. Heading west, this route will eventually bring you to British Columbia. From there, you’ll detour north and join either the Alaska-Canada or Stewart-Cassiar Highways to continue your journey to Alaska.
There are two main things to consider when driving the Trans-Canada Highway. One, you will be passing through mountains, where steep hills can become a challenge for some vehicles. Two, it’s not uncommon for animals, such as deer or moose, to cross the road so exercise caution when driving at night.
Considering that the Trans-Canada Highway is a major thoroughfare, you can expect paved roads with gas stations, restaurants, hotels and tourist attractions along the way. However, you will need to carefully plan how you spend your time, as a drive this long can add up to several weeks or more if you’re not diligent.
Preparing For The Drive To Alaska
Get Your Passport
Because you will be leaving the United States and passing through Canada, you will need a valid passport. Remember, passports can take four to six weeks to obtain, so getting a passport is a top priority for your road trip to Alaska (if you don’t already have one). In addition to a passport, it’s recommended that you also have your vehicle registration on hand at the border crossings.
PS: If this is your first time driving in Canada, you might want to check out Our Lessons Learned from RVing in Canada.
Prepare Your Vehicle
Make sure your vehicle is up-to-date on all of its maintenance and you have it inspected for potential problems right before your trip. You’ll also want to make sure your tires are in good condition because you’ll be putting a lot of miles on them!
If you don’t have international coverage, you’ll lose cell service in Canada. Fortunately, adding an international plan might be easy. Our article on Connectivity in Alaska & Canada will help you figure out how to get cell service for your trip.
Stock Up On Supplies
Speaking of tires, make sure you pack a properly inflated spare tire, a jack and a lug wrench in case you get a flat. You may also want to bring tools, fluids or other spare parts for your vehicle if you think there could be a problem down the line.
Additionally, you should pack water, food and snacks for your drive, as well as a first-aid kit for emergencies. And you should have a blanket or sleeping bag and warm clothes on hand in the unlikely event you become stranded.
Check out our recommended Alaska Gear to get stocked up!
Know The Firearm Laws
Canada’s firearm laws are different from the United States, and they are generally very strict about these laws at border crossings. Some people prefer to simply leave their guns behind when traveling to Alaska to avoid any potential problems.
However, if you plan to transport a firearm across the border, say for hunting purposes, do your research. There are forms that must be filled out in advance as well as rules for storing firearms and ammunition.
“Forgetting” you are in possession of a gun can lead to significant fines or even jail time, so don’t make this mistake. You must always declare possession of a firearm at the border crossing and submit the appropriate forms based on the type of gun.
Can You Drive To Alaska In The Winter?
Yes, you can drive to Alaska in the winter, but there are a few things you need to consider before making this decision. First, be sure you are comfortable driving in snow. While the main highways are maintained during colder months, winter road conditions can be variable.
Second, you’ll likely need winter tires and chains for your vehicle. Many roads on the way to Alaska are at a higher elevation and can get icy. Not only are winter tires and chains a good idea in these scenarios, but many roads require that you have winter tires in good condition and carry chains between October 1 and April 30. Drivers caught without these can receive fines.
Third, keep an eye on the weather throughout your drive as conditions can change rapidly. If the weather changes, you may need to stay an extra night or two in one place. Be sure to factor in extra time for being held up by winter storms. Or, consider visiting Alaska in the spring and summer if you’re on a tight schedule.
Lastly, some accommodations, including gas stations, are closed or have limited winter hours. This shouldn’t be a huge problem, though, if you do your research and plan your itinerary carefully.
Enjoy Your Road Trip To Alaska!
Can you drive to Alaska? We hope by now your answer is a resounding yes! In fact, we’ve successfully made this road trip and consider it one of the highlights of our lifetimes. The keys to success are patience and planning. While the trip may be long, we think you’ll come to see it’s totally worth the effort in the end!
Want Help Planning Your Alaska Road Trip? Check out our Complete Guide for Planning Your RV Trip to Alaska.
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