Exploring Alaska by RV: 10 Tips + Resources

by thenewstates

We took our 2019 Winnebago Navion 24D up the Alaska Highway in July of 2019 and spent a month and a half exploring the beautiful state. Today, we’ll share with you 10 (plus bonus!) things you must know before planning your trip up to the 49th state in an RV.

YouTube video

A lot of you have asked where our Alaska Vlogs are, and the truth is, we didn’t HAVE a YouTube channel back then. ? While it feels like forever already, we launched our Newstate Nomads channel in 2020, and can’t thank everyone enough for joining us on our journeys! Since you’re along for the ride, we’re going to do our best to give you what you want. Starting with our experiences planning and traveling up to Alaska in July, 2019. Today we share some of our lessons learned and favorite parts of rving through alaska with our top 10 tips!

It’s a long journey to get there but totally worth it.

TIP#1 Don’t rush up to Alaska!

Muncho Lake

Make sure you have enough time to enjoy the drive up because there are SO many things to see and do before you even get to Alaska (we unfortunately didn’t take our own advice on this and drove from Washington state to Alaska in 7 days. That’s almost 2000 miles!). We had previously scheduled some of our friends to meet up with us in Anchorage to RV around the state with us, so we were in a major hurry. Point is: Don’t be like us. Take your time.

A few of our favorite things:

  • Chetwynd (chainsaw carvings!)
  • Liard Hot Springs
  • Sign Post Forest
  • Checking out parts of the original Alaska Canada Highway
Liard Hot Springs

TIP #2: Don’t Just Buy The Milepost

There’s a holy grail of RVing through Alaska called The Milepost. The level of detail in this book is off the charts… it gives you a mile by mile guide to traversing the Alaska highway plus all the major roads and routes in the state and Western Canada. This might come as a shock but TIP #2 for us is not to rely on this book because it can be a bit overwhelming. Instead, (and this may be the best tip on this list!) make sure you stop at the visitor center at the official start of the Alaska Highway in Dawson Creek. Not only to get your awesome Alaska Highway sign picture, but they have a super condensed version of the milepost in a neat little brochure. This was so helpful in mapping out gas stops, campgrounds, and other must see spots along the way. Here is a scan of our copy from 2019.

Dawson Creek, BC: Official Start of the Alaska Higway

Speaking of books, based on other recommendations, we picked up a copy of Mike and Teri Church’s Travelers Guide to Alaskan Camping. This is NOT a replacement for The Milepost, instead it is condensed with excellent info on camping based on the most popular routes in and on the way to Alaska. We frequently opened the Church’s book BEFORE consulting The Milepost to find camping info. The most recent edition we can find is still from 2017, but we feel it is absolutely worth the purchase.

TIP #3: When You See a Gas State… FILL UP!

The Alaska Highway is extremely isolated. We would drive for hours without seeing another person, so you never want to be without gas. There’s also little to no cell phone reception on large parts of the drive. We went three full days without connectivity so you don’t want to be in a position where you’re waiting on the side of the road for help. 

TIP #4: Take it Slow in Construction Areas

There’s a LOT of talk in the RV world about how terrible the drive is and some pretty mixed reviews. Are there rough spots? Definitely. But it is it going to destroy your rig? That depends on how you drive! 

You get really good at spotting frost heaves which are sort of like inverted speed bumps where the road has buckled and sunk due to the ice and snow in the winter. There are often several miles of roadway where the pavement has been removed. Every year crews replace large sections of highway because the weather simply damages it that badly. This goes for both the drive through Canada on the Alaska Highway and once you’re exploring the state. Driving in these sections can be really rough on your rig and they are completely gravel surfaces, but if you take it slow (which a lot of times you’re forced to because there will be a pilot car) you will be fine!

You always want to have your eyes peeled for bears, moose, bison and more! And also to watch out for them on the roads… because the Alaska highway is so remote, a lot of time large herds of animals can be found crossing the highway. 

TIP #5: Mandatory Pet Health Certificates

Hiking to Portage Poss Glacier

Alaska requires a certified Health Certificate from a vet prior to entering their state with your dogs. We got Piper and Ella’s in Washington State at a PetSmart Banfield Vet Location, it cost about $200 total. There is a specific form your vet will need to fill out and sign after examining your dog. We were never asked for the paperwork, but if you are caught without it, you could be fined or have other implications. 

TIP #6: Camping Galore!

You really can camp almost anywhere in Alaska. Unless there are local regulations (for example in the city limits of Anchorage). We did a mix of  campground camping and boondocking while in Alaska, the state has very relaxed laws regarding camping. Pull offs and rest areas are fair game. We found a beautiful pull off one night that even had a fire pit and was right on the river. One of our favorite boondocking spots was just outside of Valdez on a glacier filled lake. We also camped inside Denali National Park at one of their campgrounds. So it’s a great state to try a variety of camping styles! 

TIP #7: Prices May Vary

Prices in anchorage are very comparable to prices in the lower 48 (Target, Walmart, Bass Pro, etc.) however in more remote areas the cost of fuel and food can be much higher. Because of the short season, a lot of restaurants and tourist attractions have much higher prices since they can only serve customers 3-4 months out of the entire year. 

TIP #8: Phone Connectivity Can Be a Challenge

Connectivity inside of Alaska is very limited and you can frequently make a call but don’t anticipate watching netflix in the rv. Of the carriers that are available in the lower 48, only AT&T, Verizon have towers. TMobile and Sprint roam on an Alaska carrier called GCI, so you should check the coverage maps on their website before venturing out into areas. Large sections of the state do not have any coverage, most are 3G/calls only. 

TIP #9: The Sun Never Sets

Be prepared for almost 24 hours of daylight. This can be challenging to adjust to. At first, it was really awesome! There is so much daylight that you feel like you can keep hiking, exploring and adventuring all night long. But obviously that catches up to you. I’m a light sleeper and it never really got dark at night, which was an adjustment in the beginning. We have pretty decent blackout shades on the RV, but even so… it always looked like dusk or dawn overnight. At least through the middle of August. You might want to consider additional blackout shades or sleeping with an eye mask to help. 

TIP #10: Soak it All In!

Always have your camera ready! There is so much incredible beauty from the scenery to the wildlife. We look back on these pictures and videos and are in awe at what we got to experience. Take it all in and enjoy every minute of it. Alaska is an incredibly special part of our country.

BONUS TIP #11: Be Bear Aware!

hat’s a way of life in Alaska. Whether it’s properly containing food in campgrounds or being on the lookout for them on hikes… bear activity is real. We learned an important, life saving tip from a ranger in Denali National Park…. HEY BEAR! You always want to make as much noise as possible when you’re out hiking. Also, make sure you carry Bear Spray. It needs to be labeled specifically as bear spray otherwise it’s considered a weapon in Canada.

Resources

Process your FMM (tourist visa) in advance:
Have Discover Baja do it for you
Apply for FMM yourself

Facebook Groups:
RVing to Alaska (2019) Facebook Group
View to Alaska Facebook Group

Guide Books:

Traveler’s Guide to Alaskan Camping (2020 Edition)

The Milepost 2020 Edition

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