Heart of Alaska 48 Day RV Caravan
Alaska, our last great American frontier. An iconic destination on many bucket lists – exciting, wild, untamed and beautiful. Here’s your chance to tour America’s 49th state in just 48 days on Fantasy’s Heart of Alaska RV Caravan. Departing on the cusp of summer, we travel from Dawson Creek to the northern reaches of Fairbanks. We experience astonishing coastlines, the Kenai Peninsula, British Columbia and a whole lot of fabulous wildlife and glaciers along the way.
Our journey begins in Dawson Creek, British Columbia, at the official Milepost ‘0’ of the Alaska Highway. Here, we enjoy our Fantasy welcome dinner and participate in a presentation about the history, construction, challenges and triumphs of this great highway. There’s time to work with our Fantasy team of leaders to make sure we and our vehicles are properly prepared for the adventure to begin. Next is a group photo at the Milepost gateway to commemorate the start of our journey.
Once on the road, we head for the friendly community of Fort Nelson, where we explore the Fort Nelson Heritage Museum at our own pace. This museum is dedicated to the construction history of the Alaska Highway, highlighting artifacts, equipment, stories and more.
The next day we make our way to beautiful Muncho Lake, home to stone sheep and the occasional moose. Just north of Muncho Lake, we can take a short drive to the Liard River Hot Springs to soak in the soothing waters and enjoy the scenery.
We move onward to Watson Lake – the Gateway to the Yukon Territory – and location of the Sign Post Forest. A homesick soldier started it in 1942 by planting a sign for his hometown, Danville, Illinois. Today, there are more than 72,000 signs posted, and growing! You can be a part of this tradition by bringing a sign from your town or making your own. We celebrate our Yukon arrival with a campground cookout this evening.
Our journey continues to Whitehorse, where we have earned a welcome three-day stop. With a population of 26,000, Whitehorse is the capital of the Yukon Territory and its largest city.
There’s plenty to do here, and Fantasy has arranged a Whitehorse bus tour, a visit to the SS Klondike (a restored sternwheeler and national historic site) and time for a little downtown shopping. We also explore the Whitehorse Fish Ladder that allows salmon to bypass the Whitehorse Rapids dam and continue their return journey from the Bering Sea to Whitehorse – nearly 2,000 miles and the longest salmon migration in the world. Through underwater windows, we can watch as salmon make their way up this 1,182 foot ladder, rising 60 vertical feet.
We stop for a Yukon lunch of bison burgers and then get to interact with a pack of Alaskan huskies at Muktuk Kennels, where mushing legend Frank Turner and his wife care for these amazing canine athletes. Expect lots of slobbery kisses and cuddle time!
We leave the Alaska Highway the next day and travel along the Klondike Loop as far as Dawson City, a community nestled along the banks of the Yukon River. Here we spend the next three days visiting and reliving the Yukon gold rush days. We trek through historic buildings and back alleys on a guided walking tour, learning about the colorful characters who roamed the streets during this period. We spend an evening at Diamond Tooth Gertie’s, Canada’s first licensed gambling hall, complete with casino games, entertainers and cancan dancing by the high-kicking Gold Rush Girls. Finally, no trip to Dawson would be complete without some photographs from the Midnight Dome, where we capture panoramic views of the countryside.
Alaska or BUST! Today, we cross the Yukon River via ferry and begin our drive on the Top of the World Highway, winding our way along mountain ranges for a truly breathtaking experience. We stop in the tiny town of Chicken for the night, one of the Last Frontier’s surviving gold-mining towns.
How did it get such a weird name? It wasn’t named after chickens. Originally the townsfolk wanted to call their new town Ptarmigan after the local grouse, now the Alaska state bird. However, the community wasn’t exactly sure how to spell Ptarmigan and, not wanting to be the laughing stock of the new Alaska Territory, the townsfolk settled on Chicken instead. We also tour the Pedro Dredge. Although we can’t guarantee you’ll strike it rich, you can at least try gold panning before our Alaskan dessert party. The next day, we’re off to Tok – aka the ‘Sled Dog Capital of Alaska.’
Continuing our journey north and heading into Fairbanks, we can expect about 20 to 22 hours of daylight each day. Those sunny hours are crammed full of activities in Alaska’s second largest city! After a busy day, we enjoy an Alaska Salmon Bake – fresh salmon and Halibut caught in Alaskan waters, grilled to perfection.
After dinner, we stroll over to the Palace Theater to enjoy a comedy revue of life in Alaska’s Last Frontier. The next day, we board a sternwheeler boat and cruise out into the Alaskan wilderness, looking for wildlife along the riverbank. We’ll see a floatplane take off right from the river and, at a riverside fish camp, learn how and why Alaskans smoke salmon. Further down the river, we share in the joy and hard work of an Iditarod dog kennel operated by the family of late champion Susan Butcher. We also make an unforgettable stop at a reconstructed Athabascan village, where native Alaskan guides show us around and offer insight into their rich history and heritage, topping it off with a hearty miner’s stew for lunch.
Later, we take a narrow-gauge train ride to Gold Dredge 8, seeing firsthand how the dredge worked the gold fields. Back at camp, we try panning ourselves – and this time, maybe we really will strike it rich!
Our long days in Fairbanks continue with a visit to the University of Alaska Museum, where we experience native cultures, natural wonders, diverse wildlife and more than 2,000 years of Alaska art.
At the Trans Alyeska Pipeline Visitor Center, we find informational displays about the 800-mile pipeline that snakes its way across the tundra, delivering ‘black gold’ to the lower 48. We even take a day off to relax back at camp or do some exploring on your own. You can opt for excursions to the Arctic Circle or to the North Pole Santa Claus House, where it’s Christmas every day!
We say goodbye to Fairbanks and travel to Denali. Here, we journey 62 miles into Denali National Park to enjoy incredible scenery, a bus tour narration and some great opportunities to look for the park’s wildlife inhabitants, including Dall sheep, moose, caribou, wolves and grizzly bears. If it’s a clear day, we may get an amazing view of Mt. Denali, from base to summit. There’s even time in this beautiful location for some the Cabin Night Theater and optional whitewater rafting on the glacially-fed Nenana River.
Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city, might be quite cosmopolitan, but it still maintains the frontier spirit. There’s even a salmon stream in the heart of the city. Mighty urban moose can often be seen grazing along the freeways right next to tall buildings.
It’s a short drive to Homer, and Fantasy has left us with plenty of free time in this charming town. Why? Homer is the ‘end of the road.’ Actually it’s only the end of the Sterling Highway, but it is surrounded by wilderness and ocean. It’s also known as the ‘Halibut Fishing Capital of the World,’ and many Fantasy guests use this opportunity to make some extremely large catches! Our full-service RV park is located right on the famous Homer Spit, offering a private beach and lagoon fully stocked with both King and Silver salmon. And for those who don’t want to fish, Homer offers a number of interesting boutique shops, eateries and eclectic art galleries; there’s a bike path along the Spit and opportunities for bear viewing. Homer is also the starting point for some very interesting optional excursions to view bears or even the art community of Seldovia.
We move on to Seward, located at the head of Resurrection Bay on the Kenai Peninsula. Here are more optional charter-fishing opportunities. Seward is one of Alaska’s oldest and most scenic communities, and its ice-free harbor serves as a natural gateway to Alaska’s huge interior. The city was officially founded in 1903, named for President Lincoln’s Secretary of State, William Seward, who engineered the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867. After a short walk through the forest, we encounter Exit Glacier, following its path that has gradually melted over the past 120 years. We visit the Alaska Sea Life Center and learn about their work and research of marine mammals and birds and fish in the arctic. We can also meet some very cute puffins at the Puffin Experience.
Traveling the Glenn Highway, we spend the night in Palmer, home of Matanuska Valley’s legendary giant vegetables. Years ago, this area was covered by glaciers, and the silt left behind (combined with long daylight hours) makes the ground very fertile – hence a wide variety of vegetables. Here, we’ll enjoy a campground cookout before continuing on to Valdez.
Our stay in Valdez leaves time for optional salmon-fishing trips in this outdoor paradise. We take a day cruise on the majestic waters of Prince William Sound, looking for sea otters, harbor seals, sea lions, humpback whales, porpoise, eagles and puffins on our way to Meares Glacier, the only tidewater glacier at the head of the Unakwik Inlet in the Chugach National Forest.
Heading back to Tok for the night, we cross back into Yukon Territory and camp at Destruction Bay, home to 43 hardy souls – some of whom put on a special Yukon dinner and show for us. Then it’s back to Alaska and on to the charming town of Skagway.
More than 400 cruise ships stop in Skagway each year, disgorging thousands of visitors into this small town, making it resemble the busy Gold Rush days. Our group is here for four fun-filled days, beginning with a cruise to Juneau, the capital city of Alaska. We sail through the Lynn Canal, the continent’s longest and deepest glacial fjord, where humpback whales and other sea life take advantage of the glacial nutrients feeding these waters. Once in Juneau, we board a motor coach and enjoy a city tour and lunch before heading to the world-famous Mendenhall Glacier. Back in Skagway, we take an unforgettable journey on the ‘Scenic Railway of the World,’ traveling 20 miles to the summit of White Pass. We can relax in vintage railroad coaches and enjoy breathtaking views of mountains, glaciers, waterfalls and historic sites, including the original Klondike Trail.
Our next stop is Teslin, YT, the former home of George Johnston, a photographer who used a brownie box camera, self-taught skills and a rough dark room in the corner of his bush cabin to produce hundreds of photographs to depict the life of the Tinglit people. We stop at the George Johnston Museum, where his works are lovingly displayed. The next day it’s on to Nugget City, continuing to Dease Lake, British Columbia, to enjoy another campground dinner.
We move on to Stewart, right on the U.S./Canadian border. Crossing back into Alaska, we drive to eclectic Hyder, driving under a hand-painted sign that reads ‘The friendliest Ghost Town in Alaska.’ With a population of about 87, Hyder has no law enforcement, uses Canadian currency and the B.C. time zone (even though it’s in the U.S.), has no grocery store, gets mail service twice a week via the mail plane from Ketchikan and features two saloons. Why are we here? We’re going to see the bears at the Fish Creek Wildlife Observation Site just out of town. Both grizzly and black bears come here to fish for salmon. Here’s our chance to observe and photograph an epic Alaskan scene – bears in their natural habitat in this beautiful glacial river valley.
Forty-seven days after our rendezvous at Milepost 0 in Dawson Creek, we arrive in Prince George. We enjoy a Farewell Dinner, reminiscing about our Alaskan adventures and the time we’ve spent together. It’s been an experience like no other in this great Last Frontier.