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  1. Default Early September Trip to Alaska

    Hello all,

    I apologize for any redundancy in questions asked earlier. I'm planning a road trip - originally from Denver to Vancouver in eary september. My fellow travelers and I were content that this would be a rewarding drive, until we looked at the map and saw Alaska...what first seemed unrealistic (appx. 36 hours through yukon territory and such) now has become a sort of challenge and adventure we are all excited to take on. As we're starting to work out the finer details, a bunch of questions have surfaced. As much as road trips are all about spontaneity, a trip like this looks like it will require more preparation. Any help, answers or advice anyone can share would be greatly appreciated:

    1) Rental car: Ive read much discussion on this topic, but this situation seems unique. Wed be renting the car in mainland U.S., crossing through Canada, then returning the car back in the U.S. in Alaska, Ive yet to find any companies that will allow us to rent a car on a one way trip like this. Anyone have any advice on a company to use or alternative ways of driving here?

    2) If we are allowed to rent a car does this drive seem realistic? Salt Lake City Boise Portland Seattle Vancouver 2 nights in Yukon area Anchorage?

    3) For anyone who has done the drive, would it be more rewarding to just fly to Anchorage from Vancouver and spend more time in Alaska, versus the experience of driving through the more remote areas of Western Canada?

    4) What are the road conditions, amount of daylight, temperature in Western Canada/Alaska during this time of year?

    5) If we eliminate Alaska, can anyone recommend interesting stopping points for a trek going from Denver - Salt Lake City - Boise - Portland - Seattle - Vancouver?

    Thanks so much for any help...very much appreciated!
    Safe travels everyone.

  2. #2
    RoadTripper Brad Guest

    Default The Crown Jewel

    Greetings goodolerockytop!

    I must first say that the route you're planning on driving, specifically the route through Canada to Alaska, is high on the list for most of us experienced road trippers, and some may even call it the Crown Jewel of road trips. With that being said... few of us have actually had the fortunate experience of driving the route.

    1) Rental car: Ive read much discussion on this topic, but this situation seems unique. Wed be renting the car in mainland U.S., crossing through Canada, then returning the car back in the U.S. in Alaska, Ive yet to find any companies that will allow us to rent a car on a one way trip like this. Anyone have any advice on a company to use or alternative ways of driving here?
    Any particular reason for renting? Vacationing from overseas, perhaps? I ask because if there is any way possible about getting around renting, I would recommend it. It'll make things much easier.

    2) If we are allowed to rent a car does this drive seem realistic? Salt Lake City Boise Portland Seattle Vancouver 2 nights in Yukon area Anchorage?
    It does seem realistic, depending on the amount of time you have and how much sight seeing you plan to do. If you have ample time, then this route would be realistic.

    3) For anyone who has done the drive, would it be more rewarding to just fly to Anchorage from Vancouver and spend more time in Alaska, versus the experience of driving through the more remote areas of Western Canada?
    EH! The FLY word... If you can't get the overland plans to work, there is another option... The Alaska Marine Highway. You would take a ferry from Bellingham, Washington into various points in Alaska, and then drive to Anchorage. The AMH is a very beautiful cruise through the lower islands and coast mountains, from what I've read and heard.

    4) What are the road conditions, amount of daylight, temperature in Western Canada/Alaska during this time of year?
    Here, I'm going to turn you to a off-RTA source for information on the Alaska Highway, The Milepost. Here's some help they give for Road Conditions, and some info about driving the highway itself.

    5) If we eliminate Alaska, can anyone recommend interesting stopping points for a trek going from Denver - Salt Lake City - Boise - Portland - Seattle - Vancouver?
    Be careful what you wish for... I'm certain we can recommend interesting stopping points. Washington is my specialty. Mount Ranier, Mount St. Helens, The Seattle Waterfont, Seattle Center, Whidbey Island (Several Forts, wineries, whale watching, and Deception Pass), the San Juan Islands, The Olympic Peninsula... I could ramble forever just on the available activities in the Puget Sound alone. In Idaho, there is Craters of the Moon National Monument, and many others.

    There's lots to do on your route. If you're sure you want to drop Alaska, I'm sure we can find plenty of interesting things to see and do.

    -brad

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Central California
    Posts
    378

    Default Ah-Alaska

    WARNING - traveling to Alaska can be a life altering experience!

    We've been there 3 times, once driving up to Prince Rupert, BC and taking the ferry to Haines (3 weeks with 3 day stops in 6 ports), then driving all over the state (4 months). All totaled 5.5 months! The sense of space and peace and remoteness can get in your blood. We met several people, such as waiters and B&B owners, who went to visit and never went home! NEVER! We also met some folks who were thinking of moving "down south" where the winters aren't as harsh. To places like Idaho and Montana!

    Alaska is really four places.

    The Southeast (Inside Passage) area is lush, and wonderful. The suggestion of the Marine Highway is exactly right. You can reserve state rooms on the ferries, or just sleep on the seats or floors of the lounges. You can take a car and/or RV (which is what we did) and get off whenever you want, then catch the next ferry to wherever you like. Same cost if you ride the whole way, or do it in stages. We liked the smaller towns of Petersburg, Wrangell and Sitka best, though the other more touristy towns of Ketchican (most touristy) and Juneau were fun, especially the glacier flight and daily seafood (all the crab, salmon and halibut you can stand).

    The Interior is likely to be getting cold and even snowy in September, but the fall color on the tundra is amazing! By "Interior" I'm including everything from Valdez to Fairbanks to Delta to Tok. It is all interesting and far apart. It is hard to understand the distances until you get out there and get stuck on a stretch of road repair that goes for 60 miles at 30 miles per hour. (It is said there are two seasons in Alaska - winter and road repair). Denali is a must, and a flight over the mountain, landing on a glacier is a must-must!

    The Kenai Peninsula. Wonderful sealife viewing on tourboats out of Seward (you can also walk on Exit Glacier there, if you walk far enough up the hill). Halibut Cove across from Homer is worth the drive to Homer. And the glacier cruise out of Whittier is fabulous, though you will get to the point where you say "another glacier, who cares."

    Then there is all the rest that requires a bush plane to get into. We haven't done that, but maybe next time.

    I could write about Alaska for a week, so if you have specific questions let me know.

    If you go, watch out for wildlife on the road. There are signs in Alaska that tell you how many moose have been killed on the road that year, and by September the numbers are likely to be in the hundreds. I can only imagine how many people died, too. But they don't tell you that.

    Bottom line, considering the lateness of your trip, either fly to Anchorage and go from there, or take the ferry and do as much as you can. Driving may be just too time consuming. Regardless, go! You won't be sorry.

    Craig

    PS - Just occured to me that a trip to the Canadian Rockies from Banff to Jasper might be a good alternative if you feel the need to go north. The scenery there is a little better in the summer when there is still snow on the mountains, but the weather is probably better in the fall. Check it out!

  4. #4

    Default

    just a quick note regarding the weather. it will be starting to get cold but not close to winter. expect 40-50's during the day in the interior. snow is possible but on the rare side. september is a great time in alaska.

    most of the tourists have left, the mosquito's are gone but traveling is still good. while some places will be just starting to close remember that hunting season will be getting going and on through october so many people are still all over the place. more people should visit in september.

    the roads are generally good allthough the alcan always has parts that are under construction and will be gravel or dirt for miles. but it always acomodates thousands of rv's and cars so the road should not be an issue.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,064

    Default All your options

    I'm not sure that you will be able to find a company that will allow you to drop a car off in Alaska. Eventually, the rental company would probably want to get the car back to the lower 48, so even if you found a company that will let you drop the car in AK, I'm sure the fees would be very high.

    However, if you do find a way to drive, I think it would be a shorter trip from Salt Lake City to drive straight up I-15 towards Calgary and points north. Seattle/Vancouver would be a bit of a detour.

    If renting a car is your only option, then Brad's idea of taking the Marine Highway could be an excellent one. You could drop your car off in Washington, ride the ferry only as a passenger (which is much less expensive than taking a car), and then rent another car once you get up to Alaska.

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