Today, the Alaska Highway hardly resembles the pioneer road that was cut through the bush during World War II. The Alaska Highway is still an adventure road, but the degree of difficulty has decreased greatly in recent years as more and more sections have been straightened and paved.
Today, almost all of the two-lane highway is surfaced with asphalt. But it’s no freeway. There still are stretches where the highway is narrow and curvy, where it lacks center lines and ample shoulders. Watch for loose-gravel breaks where the pavement has failed or is under repair and places where “frost heaves” are caused by seasonal freezing and thawing of the ground.
For those travelers with vehicles in good condition and who drive sensibly, the Alaska Highway is a pleasure, not an ordeal.
Horror stories about mud, dust and vertical grades, oft-exaggerated tales told by long-time-back motorists, still worry hesitant travelers.
Many visitors combine Alaska Highway trips with Alaska’s state ferries. It’s an ideal itinerary; one way on the open road with no schedule—the other through the scenic waterways of Southeastern Alaska’s Inside Passage. Ferries of the Alaska Marine Highway operate from Bellingham, Wash., and Prince Rupert, B.C., to reach the southeastern ports of Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg, Sitka, Juneau (Alaska’s capital), Haines and Skagway.
Alaska’s ferries operate on two separate routes—the mainline between Bellingham, Prince Rupert and the southeastern ports; a separate network in the south-central region of the state that includes stops in Valdez, Cordova, Whittier, Seward, Homer, Kodiak and other points. The two systems do no connect.
The ferries are crowded in summer, so early reservations are essential.
Both Haines and Skagway, at the northern end of the ferry route, provide ready access to and from the Alaska Highway. The 150 mile Haines Highway connects the ferry port of Haines, Alaska, with Haines, Yukon Territory, on the Alaska Highway. The 98-mile Klondike Highway links the port of Skagway with the Alaska Highway near Whitehorse, the Yukon capital.
Unless you are in a hurry, allow at least 7 to 10 days for the 3344km trip from the Vancouver area to Fairbanks. Take some extra days in the uncrowded Yukon. Much of the best mountain scenery alongside the highway is in the Yukon, and the territory has a network of excellent camp grounds.
Peak season for highway travelers is June through August. May is a great time to see wildflowers.