Ultimate Alaska 61 Day RV Caravan
Fantasy calls this the ‘Ultimate Alaska’ trip, and for most of us it’s the ultimate adventure! Traveling from northern Idaho into Alberta, the Yukon Territory, Alaska and finally ending in British Columbia, it’s a 61-day journey through some of the most scenic areas of the world. And there’s a special added bonus on this tour – we planned this perfectly to catch some of the best action at the Calgary Stampede!
It all begins in magical Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, a small city built on the shores of Lake Coeur d’Alene. We’ve got two long summer days to explore this spectacular area, including a Get-Acquainted Party, a Welcome Dinner and time to prepare our rigs for the adventure which lies ahead.
Our first stop is in Fort Steele, BC, a former boom town during the gold rush era that has been lovingly brought back to life in order to depict its important history during the 1800s.
Yahoo! We’re traveling in to Calgary to join the fun and festivities of the Calgary Stampede. Just like the Calgary Stampede RV Rally guests, we become honorary Calgarians and start our morning with breakfast at the Top of Calgary Sky Tower, a revolving restaurant standing 600 feet above downtown with amazing views of the city and surrounding countryside. Of course, we have time to explore downtown and visit the Glenbow Museum, a collection of more than a million objects, documents, photographs and artwork representing western Canadian culture.
For more than 100 years, Calgary has hosted the ‘Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.’ We have an evening at the Stampede grounds for the famous Stampede ChuckWagon Races to see teams of cowboys load up a chuck wagon, saddle and jump on their horses and thunder around the racetrack at amazing speeds. As soon as the last wagon crosses the finish line, it’s followed by the TransAlta Grandstand show, an event full of elaborate music, over 300 performers, music, dancing, acrobatics and a spectacular fireworks display. The following morning we join top-ranking cowboys and cowgirls in our premium reserved seats at the world’s richest rodeo. Excitement prevails with everything from bull riding to team roping to barrel racing to youngsters riding sheep.
We move on, spending the next three days in Banff, home to Canada’s first national park. The town itself is located within the park, and we take a motor coach tour of the pristine wilderness surrounding our location to visit Johnston Canyon, the Takkakaw Falls, Natural Bridge and Yoho National Park. We lunch at Lake Louise, one of the most awe-inspiring destinations in the world.
It’s on to Jasper, with a couple of stops on the way. We rendezvous at the Columbia Ice Fields, board a special glacier vehicle known as a snowcoach, take a walk atop mountains of ice and drink water that has been frozen for some 10,000 years. Within Jasper National Park, we stop to see Athabasca Falls, the most powerful waterfall in all of Canada. And once we arrive in Jasper, we have a day to explore its rugged backcountry or just enjoy this quiet little town.
Leaving Alberta, we cross into British Columbia and begin our travels on the famed Alaskan Highway, beginning with a group photo at Mile ‘0.’ The following day, we arrive in Ft. Nelson and visit the Heritage Museum to learn more about the remarkable efforts it took to construct the Alaska Highway. Muncho Lake is our next stop. After a couple of long days on the road, we ease our tired bodies into Liard River Hot Springs – a natural hot spring in a lush spruce forest.
We hit the road again the next day and travel into Yukon Territory, stopping for the night in Watson Lake, aka the Gateway to the Yukon, and the proverbial home of the Sign Post Forest. Back in 1942, a homesick young soldier erected a sign post here for his hometown, Danville, Illinois, and a tradition was born. Today, there are more than 72,000 different signs planted in Watson Lake. You can be part of the ritual by bringing or making your own hometown sign to leave in the Forest.
There’s a lot to see in the Canadian Yukon, and we spend the next three days in its capitol city, Whitehorse. We visit the S.S. Klondike, a sternwheeler that cruised along the Yukon River and is now a National Historic Site, and watch salmon navigating the Whitehorse Fish Ladder in their journey from the Bering Strait – more than 2,000 miles and the longest salmon migration path in the world. The next day, we tour the MukTuk Sled Dog Kennel and Training Center, learning more about these amazing canines who traverse this icy part of the world.
Our final stop in Yukon Territory is Dawson City. On the way, we temporarily leave the Alaska Highway to travel the Klondike Loop, following the route taken by those dreaming of fame and fortune during the Klondike Gold Rush days. We have more entertainment that evening – this time at Diamond Tooth Gertie’s Gambling Hall and Can-Can Show, Canada’s first gambling hall. We spend the next day exploring Dawson City and learning about its colorful history during our Gold Rush walking tour, ending with a visit to the Midnight Dome to enjoy the picturesque scenery and get some amazing photos.
Next stop – Alaska! We ferry across the Yukon River and travel the breathtaking ‘Top of the World Highway’ to the town of Chicken, where we spend the night. A true mining town, Chicken’s earliest settlers originally wanted to call the town Ptarmigan to honor the homely fowl that had basically kept them alive during a very harsh winter. Unfortunately (or fortunately), no one in town could spell ‘Ptarmigan,’ so they settled for Chicken instead. Here, we’ll have a mining dredge tour (and actually get to try gold panning ourselves), followed by a Welcome to Alaska dessert party. We move on to Tok for the next night and then head to Fairbanks.
Our four days and nights in Fairbanks are chock full of fun activities, specially planned for us by Fantasy. We get a great taste of fresh Alaskan seafood at our first Alaska salmon bake, followed by a dinner show depicting our 49th state’s pioneer heritage. We’ve got 22 hours of daylight in this northern post. We tour the University of Alaska Museum that features more than 2,000 years of Alaskan artwork and culture.
Cruising the Chena River aboard an authentic sternwheeler, we see a float plane take off from the river’s spring-fed waters. Our boat stops at a reconstructed Athabasca Village to watch native Alaskans demonstrate how life is lived in their northern outposts. Then it’s miner’s stew for lunch. We also get a warm and wagging welcome at the Susan Butcher Sled Dog Center, operated by the family of the late champion dog musher. As if the cruise wasn’t enough excitement for the day, we take a narrow-gauge train ride to Gold Dredge #8, where we learn how this equipment was used to mine the gold fields. Here, we get to try panning in hopes of a great find – maybe this time we’ll strike it rich! We have some free time in Fairbanks, where we may choose to tour the Arctic Circle, visit the North Pole Santa Claus House (where it’s Christmas every day!), soak in the Chena Hot Springs or just spend some time on our own exploring the city.
Celebrating its 100th birthday in 2017, Denali National Park is six million acres of wild land, bisected by one road. We spend the next three days here, and if the weather gods are on our side, we should be able to view North America’s tallest peak, 20,310-foot Mt. Denali. We take the national park bus tour right into the park for a day of incredible sites and wildlife. Plus, there’s time for Cabin Night Theater and an optional whitewater raft trip.
It’s on to Alaska’s largest city – Anchorage. We visit the Alaska Native Heritage Center and learn about the eleven major cultures that shape our 49th state. But don’t be fooled by its metropolitan atmosphere – from the sparkling waters of Cook Inlet to the tall surrounding mountains, Anchorage is still an adventurer’s paradise!
It’s a short drive to the far end of the highway and our next stop, Homer, where we camp along the notorious Homer Spit, complete with our own private lagoon and salmon fishing right at the campsite. During our three days here, you’ll have plenty of time for an optional charter for halibut fishing – after all, Homer is known as the “Halibut Fishing Capital of the World.” And if we don’t want to fish, there’s plenty to do in this quaint town, including some eclectic art galleries, eateries and boutique shops.
In 1867, William Seward, President Lincoln’s Secretary of State, negotiated the purchase of Alaska from Russia, and our next stop is named after him. Today, Seward is a busy ice-free harbor and home to many fishing boats, not to mention the requisite Alaskan wildlife. We explore Exit Glacier, following its gradually melting path. At Alaska SeaLife Center, we meet puffins, one of the most distinctive sea birds of Alaska. We also enjoy a Fox Island boat and dinner cruise. Again, there’s enough free time in the schedule for optional charter fishing.
We move on to Palmer in the heart of the Matanuska Valley, known for its giant vegetables resulting from the fertile soil and long daylight hours. There’s time for optional visits to reindeer and muskox farms and the Colony House Museum. In the evening, we enjoy a relaxing campground cookout.
Our next stop is Valdez, and it’s here that we cruise the unparalleled scenery of Prince William Sound. Its 2,700 miles of coastline is home to several coastal villages. More importantly, it supports sea otters, harbor seals, puffins, humpback whales, porpoise, eagles and more – all of which we hope to see on our voyage. We also view the Mears Glacier and enjoy a lunch and snack on board. Valdez is yet another premier fishing destination, and optional charter fishing for salmon can be arranged.
We return to Tok and the Yukon Territory, spending the night at Destruction Bay to enjoy a traditional Yukon dinner and some home-spun entertainment.
Next stop? Skagway! We’re back in Alaska and these next four days we have lots to do. We’re up and off on a cruise to Juneau, Alaska’s capitol city, only accessible by water or by air. Again, we hope to see some whales and lots of wildlife on the way from the boat, and when we arrive in Juneau, we have a tour of the city with a stop at Mendenhall Glacier. Back in Skagway, we board the White Pass/Yukon Railroad train, aka the ‘Scenic Railway of the World.’ We travel to White Pass Summit with fantastic scenery and glimpses of the treacherous path known as the ‘Golden Stairway,’ or the Chilkoot Trail, which took many prospectors lives trying to reach gold and fortune. There’s a free day to drive to the trail head of the Chilkoot Trail or browse the shops and galleries in this quaint little town.
We return to the Yukon, spending the night in Teslin, home of the George Johnston Museum. Johnston was a self-taught photographer with a Brownie camera who lived among the Tinglit people, recording their daily life through his photographs. We continue on to Nugget City, and then we enter British Columbia, staying in Dease Lake and enjoying a campground dinner. Along the way we can stop at Jade City, where artists create carvings and jewelry from Canadian nephrite jade.
We journey on to Stewart, located along the Canada/U.S. border. Crossing the border, we make the short drive to Hyder, Alaska, a rather independent town with no local law enforcement and billing itself as ‘The Friendliest Ghost Town in Alaska.’ Hyder, population of approximately 87, uses Canadian currency and goes by Canadian time, even though it’s part of Alaska. Here, we see Alaska’s most notorious animals – grizzly bears and black bears that come to fish for salmon. We spend another day in the area with time for a self drive along a scenic 23-mile (mostly gravel) road to see the Salmon Glacier.
Our tour continues to Smithers/Fort Telkwa for the night and then on to our final destination – Prince George, one of the largest cities in British Columbia. Here, 61 days since we met in Coeur d’Alene, we must say goodbye to our fellow travelers and new lifelong friends as we share laughs and experiences at our traditional Farewell Dinner. There’s a Goodbye Continental Breakfast in the morning, filled with hugs and many thanks for a grand experience.
See the complete 61 Day Alaska itinerary: http://bit.ly/2mKU1A9