San Francisco to Alaska (and back): Any suggestions for places to see and camp! | OVERLAND BOUND COMMUNITY

San Francisco to Alaska (and back): Any suggestions for places to see and camp!

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buz1nonly

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Hi All,

Planning a trip for this summer and heading up to Alaska from the Bay Area. Any suggestions of places to see and any good camping spots you know of along the way.

The tentative route is as follows : SF --> Whistler BC --> Salmon Glacier --> Fairbanks --> Prudhoe Bay --> Anchorage --> Homer. Let me know there are any must see sites that are lesser known.

Thanks!
 

Advtres

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I have been wanting to do the same route, do you have Dawson City, Kennicott or any of the off road trails in Denali on your list?
 

buz1nonly

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No plans for Dawson City as we plan to enter Alaska more south. We only have 4 weeks for this trip with a 6 year old so I have to make the long pushes worthwhile. Knik glacier by Palmer was one we were thinking of doing. Will off-road to salmon glacier and stay a night or two and go into Hyde as well.

Any trails in Denali you could recommend?
 

Advtres

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No plans for Dawson City as we plan to enter Alaska more south. We only have 4 weeks for this trip with a 6 year old so I have to make the long pushes worthwhile. Knik glacier by Palmer was one we were thinking of doing. Will off-road to salmon glacier and stay a night or two and go into Hyde as well.

Any trails in Denali you could recommend?
Sounds like an amazing adventure. As I noted in my post I have been wanting to do this route and have not made it to Alaska outside of being an armchair traveler. Will be interested on others suggestions, feedback and of course your trip report!
 

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Hi! We have very similar plans, Bay Area to Alaska, probably leaving around early June for about 4 weeks, with two kids 6 and 8, and probably two (old) dogs. But I decided against Dalton highway and do the Dempster highway instead, Tuktoyaktuk seems way nicer to visit than Prudhoe Bay, at least to me.
 

buz1nonly

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Hi! We have very similar plans, Bay Area to Alaska, probably leaving around early June for about 4 weeks, with two kids 6 and 8, and probably two (old) dogs. But I decided against Dalton highway and do the Dempster highway instead, Tuktoyaktuk seems way nicer to visit than Prudhoe Bay, at least to me.
We have 6 year old and 1 old dog that is coming along. I'm hoping the dog makes it to our trip as we have had recent visits to the vet. I plotted the Dalton highway for now as it seemed more efficient to go that route but I'm torn between the Dempster vs Dalton. I definitely don't like like the fact you need to pay $70 to get to the arctic ocean for 1-2 hours in Prudhoe bay. But it would be really nice to see the gates to the arctic, but I hear that the Dempster is just as or not more scenic...
 

Costa

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My reason for leaning towards the Demster is - you don't have the huge trucks to worry about busting your windshield, and you can easily camp right on the arctic. From what I understand, in Prudhoe bay you need to take a shuttle to he beach, can just drive your tig to the beach, maybe you even need to reserve it ahead of time? Not sure. And you can't actually camp in Prudhpe bay, while in Tuk you can camp right near the ocean, just seem more inviting while still checking all the boxes with similar views, arctic circle and arctic ocean.
My dogs are about 13 and 15, the younger one is acting like a pup so she should be fine but the older one has bunch of old dog problems and tumors and some other things :/ so I'm not sure she'll be with us 6 months from now.
Going to keep watching and maybe updating this thread as my plans taking shape.
We will be likely driving our Ascent with the camping trailer with RTT.
 

rtexpeditions

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I'm in the same mindset as Costa, with the Dempster I can drive all the way to the Arctic Ocean (a bucket list item for me). I'd certainly like to go to all the places other than Prudhoe Bay.
 
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Pathfinder I

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I did the trip in 2015, and it was fantastic. We’re tentatively planning another trip to Tuk this summer.

Places to see -- pretty much once you get out of the lower mainland of BC, I would say “pick a direction and look” :D It’s beautiful up there. Before I write anymore, pick yourself up a copy of the Milepost; it has basically all the info you need to plan a trip up that way: The MILEPOST

There’s no shortage of places to pull over and get off the road a bit all the way through Central and Northern BC as well us up through Alaska. I personally wouldn’t worry about having specific spots for each night but if you do want to do that, iOverlander is a great resource for sites that other travellers have stopped at. We have really good luck with those sites, but some of them LOOK nice but are actually not that pleasant — our style is to typically stay in gravel pits or similar open spaces — leave no trace of course, even if it is just gravel! Our reasoning was the bugs — we had basically a bug-free trip because most of our sites were in places with a breeze. Others do not have a “bug free” Alaska experience!

Your route (if I’m understanding it correctly) will bring you up the Stewart-Cassiar highway and when you exit in the Yukon you will be about 30 minutes from Watson Lake, home of the famous Sign Post Forest. For a 6 year Old, this might be pretty neat, and so I wanted to mention it specifically as if you leave the Cassiar and head straight to Alaska you’ll miss it, and 30 minutes is not much of a detour.

We really liked Haines, AK, and the road into it was phenomenal, but this is perhaps another diversion from your route.

If your plan is to hit up Fairbanks before Anchorage, you might actually want to consider going up through Dawson City, Yukon. It’s a very interesting place and you can drink a shot of alcohol with a human toe in it. There’s more to it than that I promise. It also puts you within striking distance of the Dempster up to Tuk if you want to do that, but others have already suggested it; instead though it gives you a shot to take the Top of the World Highway into Alaska.

We did not do the run to Tuk on our trip; we went to Prudhoe. The entire trip was fantastic and there are plenty of places to see all the way up. Not much in Prudhoe Bay itself and if your goal is to see the Arctic Ocean there, you need to book a tour well in advance.

If you have specific questions the above doesn’t cover, I’m happy to chime in. There’s just so much to see that honestly I could do the trip 10 times on the same roads, and probably see new stuff each time. Have a great trip!
 

buz1nonly

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Thanks! I'm using the The MILEPOST already which is an awesome reference! Thanks for the suggestion on the Sign Post forest and read about it but didn't have it on the map. It is now. I think based on the post here from Costa and others, we decided to drop the Prudhoe Bay route and head to Tuk via Dawson City. Not sure about the shot with the human toe, but will definitely check it out.

I'll post more once we get more of the details. Again, thanks for all the info especially your experiences.

We can't wait for our trip to start, but lots of planning until July.
 

Costa

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buz1nonly, How are you going to be traveling? Ground tent? RTT? trailer? motels?
We were initially planning on doing it with our small 'jeep' trailer with an RTT and staying at motels/hotels every few nights, but my wife seem to be apprehensive about wet weather, mosquitos and the elements in general for an entire month and suggesting to upgrade to a small travel trailer. I must say I can appreciate not needing to setup the RTT outdoors in wet and muddy conditions, or being able to have meals without worrying about the weather or mosquitos.
 
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buz1nonly

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Costa,
I’ll be in a FJ with a iKamper on top. I upgraded a few years ago for that sole purpose from a soft top RTT because of the pain with opening and closing. With the iKamper I don’t feel like it’s much work. You can check out our setups here on Instagram @exploringtheunpaved. The other car will be a Jeep with an Ursa Minor since we are planning on some remote trails for off-roading as well. The plan I sold to the copilot was just like yours every few days there would a hotel stay, but we’ve been out as long as 10 days away from civilization. That plan has not been disclosed to the copilot and probably won’t be and more of a “oh crap” situation. We also want to take a few days to enjoy anchorage and some of the cities along the way to not make it a camping only trip.

We’ve been in some fairly dense mosquito infested areas but have heavily relied on the thermocell mosquito repellent devices. They really work and we typically setup a parameter of devices to keep the mosquitos out. If you haven’t used those I would highly recommend them. For this Alaska trip, we are taking a pop up screen as a secure area.
 

Costa

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Cool. We've been out for about a week with the RTT and trailer and it was fine, even at around freezing temps and in rain as well but I never had to pack and unpack the RTT when it's wet or when raining. Yes we were also looking at iKemper or other hard shell RTTs but decided on the one we have for mainly two reasons - 1. Since we travel with two large dogs we planned on keeping them in the anex room and we decided (don't remember why) soft shell anex is easier to setup than hard shell anex. 2. I'm fairly large at 6'3" and 250lbs and with two growing kids we wanted all the elbow room and length possible and I think our RTT is one of the largest out there, I fit in any orientation.
Yep we have a few of the thermocells and I was also thinking of a getting a pop up screen for that same reason. I feel like my trailer is set up very well for this trip and I really don't want to pull a huge travel trailer behind me. We'll see, still have time to decide.
 

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Strongly recommend you get the Tour Saver discount book. Costs less than a hundred bucks, but saves you a ton of money. When we did Alaska we found this and where it really made the difference is for events/food/attractions etc that the per-person cost was a bit steep and without the coupon book, we'd probably have passed on them. BUT, a 2-for-1 coupon makes a lot of difference and we ended up doing a lot of things because of it. Alaska Travel Coupon App | Alaska TourSaver® | Alaska Discounts (alaska-tours-saver-app.com)