A recap of our 4,000 mile drive to and around Alaska

As many of you already know, we spent the second half of May driving to, and camping around, the magnificent state of Alaska.  This trip was unique for us in that we left our truck camper behind and instead drove a friend’s truck as we were helping them make the move from Idaho to Alaska.  For us, this was a bucket list kind of trip.  And of course, we now dream of the day we can do it again, in our own rig.  Since we now have a little bit of knowledge about what a trip of this scale is like, I thought I’d compile a thorough recap of our experience. 

For more photos and daily recaps from the entire trip, click here.

How the trip came to be and why it was a one way journey

Our friends Cade & Becca had two trucks and one cargo trailer that needed to be driven to Alaska and they were hoping to find friends interested in coming along so that they didn’t have to do the long journey alone.  They sweetened the deal by telling us that once we got to Alaska we could use their truck to explore and camp until we needed to catch a flight back to the lower 48.  When we saw that we just so happened to have the time open on our calendar, we accepted the invite without hesitation.

The route

Of the two primary route options, the Cassiar and the Alcan, we took the Cassiar out of necessity.  At the time of our trip a section of the Alcan was closed due to wildfires.  

The Cassiar highway was stunningly beautiful.  In looking at the topography of both highways, the Cassiar highway weaves through the mountains while the Alcan follows the foothills at the base of the Canadian Rockies.  We’ll never know for sure until we actually do it, but my hunch is that in terms of scenery, the Cassiar route is the way to go.  

Not to say we never saw the Alcan.  The Cassiar highway ceased and joined the Alcan shortly after we crossed into the Yukon Territory.

Road conditions

Due to abundant wildlife, rain, and frost heaves that created an uneven road surface, I’m glad the heavy trailer we had in tow wouldn’t allow us to travel much faster than 65mph.  If Mark had not been driving diligently, hitting an animal or catching air off of a frost heave would have been a real possibility.  In budgeting how much time it might take you to drive to Alaska, I would plan conservatively.  

Timeframe – getting to Alaska

With Cade’s first day of work being our goalpost, we had 10 days to get from Boise, Idaho to Talkeetna, Alaska.  Roughly 2,900 miles.  We drove every day with 6 of those 10 days being all day drives and 4 days being half day drives.  While getting from Idaho to Alaska in 10 days was doable, it didn’t allow for much else outside of driving.  If we were to do it again, we would plan a minimum of 14 days to get from the Canadian border to Alaska.  

Timeframe – exploring Alaska

Once we arrived in Alaska we had seven days to explore before catching our flight out of Anchorage.  Cade & Becca loaned us their Toyota Tundra complete with camper shell, mattress pad, and all the camping gear we could ever want.  This allowed us to avoid hotels and explore the wilderness far from developed towns.  This is exactly how we would go about seeing Alaska if we had our truck camper and so it was a great opportunity to see new land the way we prefer to see it.  

The seven day timeframe gave us enough time to see Wrangell-St. Elias National Park plus the long, lonesome and beautiful Denali Highway, as well as spend a couple of nights with our friends in the town of Talkeetna.  Seven days allowed us to fit all of this in at a somewhat leisurely pace though we still drove everyday.  This is a mere fraction of what Alaska has to offer.  I completely understand how people can fill their entire summer driving to and around Alaska.  

Minimum timeframe recommended for a camping or RV-ing trip to Alaska

I’ve long wondered how much time we would want to allot if we were to drive our truck camper to Alaska.  Knowing what I know now, the absolute bare minimum would be 30 days (starting from the Canadian border).  10 days to get there, 10 days to see Alaska, and 10 days to return.  A 30 day timeframe would be an ambitious trip with a lot of time spent behind the wheel but is doable for those that enjoy being on the move.  Because Mark and I get the most enjoyment out of our travels when moving slowly, we think a minimum of two months would be ideal for covering that kind of mileage.

If a 30 day trip is not feasible but you’re craving a taste of this part of the world, British Columbia is phenomenal and worth a visit all on its own.

Camping Opportunities

In 18 days we enjoyed 16 free places to camp and two paid campgrounds.  Free dispersed campsites were easy to come by and paid campgrounds were abundant.  We were early in the season so the summer rush hadn’t yet arrived.  I am curious just how busy it gets mid-summer.  My instincts tell me its not unlike the lower 48; it’s likely harder to find campsites near popular destinations but there is public land everywhere so spreading out and finding something off the beaten path is probably not hard to do.  British Columbia had many provincial parks in beautiful locations.  I would look into those before heading north to learn more and see if they take reservations or offer first-come, first-served sites.


The beauty of camping is that it’s one of the cheapest ways to explore a place, especially if you seek free campsites.  Fuel and food were our two expenses and both were more expensive than what we’re used to in the lower 48.  We stocked up at Costco before leaving and that definitely helped keep our grocery bill down.    

Weather & Bugs

We’ve long heard that the mosquitos and flies in Alaska are horrendous during the summer.  Since we were on the cusp of summer we experienced more cold and rain than bugs.  However, any moment the sun appeared, so did the mosquitos.  Good rain gear, bug spray, and a head net, are essential items for an Alaska camping trip.

Light Cycles

The long days and elongated sunrises and sunsets were what Mark and I were most looking forward to experiencing in Alaska and they didn’t disappoint.  Our trip spanned the second half of May and each day was noticeably longer as we drove further north and also got closer to the summer solstice.  Once in Alaska, the night never turned dark.  Instead, sunset lasted for hours and slowly faded to dusk.  Dusk drew on for a couple of hours before blending seamlessly into dawn.  Some of the most beautiful moments of the trip were witnessed in a half awake state when I would get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.  If we were ever to return, we would attempt a nocturnal schedule so that we could experience the most beautiful time of the day which occurs in the middle of the night.

And in case you were wondering, a sleeping mask or black-out shades are essential for getting any sleep during the summer in Alaska.

2:30am on Moose Lake


Mark and I have spent many years living in the Colorado Rockies so we’re no strangers to wildlife encounters.  However, we can easily say that the wildlife in Canada and Alaska is more abundant than anything we’ve ever experienced in the lower 48.  In the span of two days we saw 10 black bears in British Columbia.  During a 40 mile long drive at sunset on the Denali Highway we saw several moose and one grizzly.  It was incredible to see so much wildlife thriving and also kept us on our toes being that we were camping on their turf.  We always had a canister of bear spray on hand and spoke loudly to each other (and ourselves) to make our presence known.

Border Crossings

Driving from the lower 48 to Alaska involves two international border crossings.  One to enter Canada and a second to re-enter the United States.  After taking a look at our passports, the primary questions at both crossings addressed whether or not we were carrying any guns, marijuana, or large sums of money.  The fact that we had watercraft with us was of the most interest at both crossings.  We had to find an inspection station in British Columbia where they rinsed down the rafts and gave us a certificate.  Upon entering Alaska a long list of questions had to be answered about each watercraft.

We entered Canada at Kingsgate, British Columbia and we entered Alaska at the Alcan Port of Entry.  Both crossings took no more than 10 minutes.  This is solely our experience.  Border crossings can vary depending on the day, the agent, and which crossing you choose.

Essential Gear

Here’s a list of the items we found essential for camping in Canada and Alaska:

  • Rain coat
  • Rain pants
  • Waterproof boots
  • Sleeping mask
  • Bear spray
  • Bug spray
  • Head net
  • Tarp or awning
  • Clothes line (for drying out all our wet gear)
  • Satellite communication device (we were without cell service for long stretches of the drive in Canada and Alaska). We use a Delorme InReach.
  • iOverlander app for finding campsites
  • The Milepost. A robust travel guide for traveling to Alaska and western Canada.

If you enjoy photography:

  • A long lens to photograph the wildlife. We use the Canon RF 100-400mm.
  • A drone to see and photograph the incredible landscape from above. We love our DJI Mini.


We’re far from experts on Alaska travel.  However, I’ve long wondered what it would be like to make the drive and now we know.  I hope the little bit of experience that we garnered and shared here is helpful for anyone dreaming of their own journey north.  Whether it’s a camping trip to southern British Columbia or a road trip all the way to Alaska, there are endless opportunities for exploring and enjoying some of the most beautiful country in the world.  

Did we miss anything?  Let us know!  Are you a seasoned Alaskan traveler?  Your words of wisdom are welcome in the comments.


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  • Thanks for the recap and stories about your journey! Would you be concerned about black bears/grizzlies if you’d been camping in your Four Wheel with the partial soft sides (food, toiletries attractants)?

    • That’s a great question Barb. It makes me a bit nervous, however I’m a bit nervous in Grizzly country no matter the style of camper. I know people do it in pop-up truck campers all the time so I wouldn’t hesitate to do it but would make a point to educate myself first on the best preventative measures.

  • Thanks! This trip has been on our list for a very long time. When we decide to finally go, we are allowing three months for the entire trip. Hopefully that allows her a lot of exploration time in Alaska. 😀

    • Three months is ideal. I’m excited for you guys, whenever you make that happen. You’re going to have an incredible time!

  • Nice summary.
    Like your nimble, adaptable travel style.
    And then there’s the photos – a visual delight!

  • Enjoyed reading your comments. We did trip from Ohio to Alaska in 2013, 58 days over 11,440 miles. Then did it again in2018, 53 days. We went with neighbors each in rvs and trailer. We did all our nights at campgrounds. I enjoyed the calm driving, where you might see a vehicle in twenty minutes. The long light of day is different. But saw amazing growth of flowers and plants during those days. We enjoyed Homer, did fishing charter both trips, the first trip was awesome
    .We sent home almost 30 pounds of halibut. The second trip was four foot waves and most of the people were throwing up! And only two small halibut.

    Hope you get back there again.

    Rod and Dorothy from Columbus

    • Those sound like incredible trips. What a treat to go home with so much halibut. We visited Homer many years ago and would love to go back sometime. The entire Kenai peninsula is quite stunning.

  • I agree, the Cassiar is the better choice for getting to Alaska. However, I highly recommend adding northern Alberta (Wood Buffalo Natl Park), the drive to Yellowknife and the NW Territories to the itinerary as well. Though much of the NW Territories is rather flat boreal forest, the rivers drain huge areas making them quite large and featuring many spectacular waterfalls. I also found this Territory to feature fewer people than Alaska. One of my other favorites is the Dempster Hwy in the Yukon.


We’re Mark & Michele, modern-day nomads perfecting the art of slow, full-time travel.  Our tiny home on wheels and slow-paced travel style allows us to minimize our expenses while maximizing our freedom.  May our unconventional way of life inspire you to design a life that you love.


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