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  1. Default Washington D.C. to Alaska Road/Backpacking Trip - Need lots of advice!

    I'm in my late-20's now and have promised myself I'd take this trip since I was 17. I'm going to leave this company I've worked for for 5 years and want to take this trip right after I get released form the shackles of corporate America and before I head off for the Peace Corps.

    My route intends to be Washington D.C. to Mount Rushmore, Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Glacier, Banff, Whitehorse, then on the Alaska Highway to Fairbanks, up the Dalton Highway to Deadhorse, denali, down to Anchorage taking the Ferry to Juneau then down through Vancouver, Seattle, Crater Lake, down route 1 through SF, Big Sur, Yosemite, then to the NP's in southern Utah through Colorado, visiting a friend in Lawrence, KS, then through the smokies taking the blue ridge parkway back home.

    Whew!!!

    I'm an experienced road tripper but have usually stayed in motels. i'm also an avid backpacker and know how to camp and really rough it, but have never really done the whole car camping thing. i'm looking for solitude so i'm wondering if there are any resources or advice on campgrounds that are kind of smaller or off the beaten path. I'm also open to suggestions as to lesser known but beautiful places along my route as well. I plan to avoid highways and plan to set my GPS to "shortest distance"

    This is kind of a stupid question, but up in the northwest territories of canada and in alaska, what are the frequency of campgrounds or traveler facilities? is there a good resource on this?

    I'm sure i got many more questions i can't think of yet, but any help would be greatly appreciated. thanks!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Camping Resources

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    There are several general camping possibilities that you should be aware of as you plan your trip. First of all, in the Lower 48, National Forests and state parks are two of the most under appreciated resources going. In the National Forests, ask about distributed or dispersed camping. This is where you can hike back into the woods a ways and set up camp anywhere as long as you maintain a certain distance from roads and water sources. It is often very low cost or even free and is as off the beaten path as you can get. Exact costs, rules and areas available differ with the particular forests, so be sure to check ahead. State parks are another underused and low cost option. These, however, tend to have their camp sites grouped in clusters. But especially mid-week I have been fortunate enough to have entire parks to myself. I don't know if this is still true, but many years ago when I was driving the Trans-Canada Highway I would come across 'transient camps' in many small towns. These were generally town parks where you could park and sleep overnight. The town constable might come by in the morning if you were still there and ask for a donation, but otherwise they were free. As for the Alaska Highway, you can do no better than get a current copy of The Milepost which lists all the services, including camp sites, available along all the different trunks and branches of that fabled route.

    AZBuck

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,271

    Default

    Do you have a suitable vehicle and equipment for the Dalton? That's not a drive to take lightly.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default My Kinda Trip!

    You cannot do better than follow AZBuck's advice and purchase The Milepost. It is the bible for all those travelling to Alaska. You will find that most travellers, and all first time travellers carry this publication. It covers everything from accommodation, supplies and services to recommended photo stops, roadside rest and picnic areas and even where to expect roadworks... which are constant, the whole way. It can however not cover wildfire road closures which I encountered on both my trips there and back.

    I can assure you there is no shortage of campgrounds. These mostly cater for the RV brigade. However, the secluded tent camping areas are not as obvious, and need to be sought out. The Milepost will help here. There are two campgrounds in which I pitched my tent back in 2004. The first is just south of the intersection of hwy 37 and 37A in BC - just round the corner from Bear Glacier. The cost was pretty steep though, considering there were only pit toilets and no drinking water. None-the-less, it was full up in August. The other is a beautiful spot in Denali State Park. No shortage of bears, and a lovely walk around the lake. There were basic State Park facilities. Best thing was the allocated spots were well separated.

    You do not say what vehicle you will be driving, nor which route you plan to take from Banff to Whitehorse. And I'd forget that GPS. The map you will get with The Milepost together with the book is the best navigation you can possibly get, and from my experience, much more accurate than a GPS. You may like to check out the report of my trip from Newton MA to Fairbanks AK, in 2009. As well as the tour I took to Prudhoe Bay, to get some perspective, especially of the James W Dalton Highway.

    When are you taking this trip? Keep in mind that before June and after the end of August, services are greatly reduced. The season is really only three months.

    Lifey who is planning next time to drive it

  5. Default

    Awesome, I ordered a copy of the milepost and loved those pics on that link as well. As far as the car I'm taking, it's a Lexus RX, which has handled everything I've thrown at it for the 5 years I've owned it. I'm pretty sure it can handle the Dalton but it's just not that great on gas mileage and range. It should do Fairbanks to Coldfoot and Coldfoot to Deadhorse just fine I think, but it'll be close...

    As far as getting to Whitehorse, I think it's the Alaska Highway, but I can't remember if it started in Whitehorse or somewhere else (Dawson something?) I'm leaving in mid-August, but that's mostly because I want to avoid crowds. I don't mind reduced services. I'm fairly used to roughing it, especially when climbing mountains, as long as there are general stores up there in which I can get supplies. I plan to spend most of my time in Alaska in September because the idea of a extended day doesn't appeal to me. I hope to see some northern lights as well?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by and4adv View Post
    ........I plan to spend most of my time in Alaska in September because the idea of a extended day doesn't appeal to me. I hope to see some northern lights as well?
    If you want to drive the Haul Road, check when it closes, as there is a limit for when private cars are allowed to drive it beyond Coldfoot. But I can't remember what it is.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Born and raised in Fairbanks, AK.
    Posts
    2

    Default

    When you travel up the Haul road MAKE SURE to have at LEAST one spare tire on hand. Your car may be tough but that road is tougher. When driving to Anchorage/Denali give it the extra effort to start out in the early morning for the best time to see some wildlife.
    Keep in mind that AK gets a bit colder in Sept. then the rest of the country. If you end up extending your trip it will snow, in Fairbanks at least, by Halloween and it is a fairly common occurrence for it to snow in the beginning of October. Be careful when camping if you're not used to this. Or will you be staying in a motel or B&B while in AK?

    October is the best time for Aurora viewing. There's a chance you could see them in September I suppose. There's an aurora watch. http://www.skynewsmagazine.com/pages/aurora.html It's not always right but it could give you an idea.

    If you like fishing you could time your AK part of the trip with the salmon runs. July the kings run and beginning September the silvers run. The rest of them aren't as tasty. It doesn't take much equipment and you can fish from shore in Anchorage(at Ship Creek), Valdez,(Allison Point), Chitna, and many many other places. Be prepared to battle the crowds, as fishing is a popular past time.

    If you hike there are some great day hikes in Fairbanks. My favorite is called Angel Rocks.

    If you couldn't already tell I'm from Fairbanks. If you need any more help on this area feel free to ask.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,271

    Default

    When you travel up the Haul road MAKE SURE to have at LEAST one spare tire on hand.
    Everything I've seen recommends at least TWO mounted full-size spares. Here is an excerpt from one site:

    Don't even consider driving the Dalton unless you have 4-wheel drive, a CB radio, extra fuel, food, tires, and a trunk filled with supplies.

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