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, throughout our 49th state and ending in beautiful 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 which 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 with 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 where teams of cowboys load up a chuck wagon, saddle and jump on their horses …thundering around the racetrack at amazing speeds. As soon as the last wagon crosses the finish, it’s followed by the TransAlta Grandstand show, with elaborate music, over 300 performers, music, dancing, acrobatics and culminating in 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 visiting Johnston Canyon, the Takkakaw Falls, Natural Bridge and Yoho National Park, with a lunch stop 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 – and take a walk atop mountains of ice and drink water that has been frozen for some 10,000 years. Within Jasper National Park, we can 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 stay in 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, where we 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 started. Today, there are more than 72,000 different hometown 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 which 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, where we can 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, honoring the homely fowl which 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 chockfull 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 where more than 2,000 years of Alaskan artwork and culture is on display.
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 constructed Athabasca Village, where native Alaskans demonstrate how life is lived in their northern outposts, topped off with 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, Mt. Denali at 20,310 feet. We take the National Park bus tour right into the park for a day of incredible sites and wildlife. Plus, there’s time for an optional whitewater raft trip should we so choose.
It’s on to Alaska’s largest city – Anchorage. We visit the Alaska Native Heritage Center and learn about the eleven major cultures which 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 gradual melting path over the years and visit the Alaska SeaLife Center where we meet puffins, one of the most distinctive sea birds of Alaska. Again, there’s enough free time in the schedule for optional charter fishing and even a dinner cruise if you like.
We move on to Palmer, in the heart of the Matanuska Valley – known for its giant vegetables resulting from the fertile silty 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 have planned a relaxing campground cookout.
Our next stop is Valdez – and it’s here that we’ll cruise the unparalleled scenery of Prince William Sound. Its 2700 miles of coastline is home to several coastal villages, but more importantly supports sea otters, harbor seals, puffins, humpback whales, porpoise, eagles and more – all of which we hope to see on our voyage. We’ll also view the Mears Glacier, and enjoy lunch and a 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 where we enjoy a traditional Yukon dinner followed by some home-spun entertainment.
Next stop? Skagway! We’re back in Alaska and these next four days we have lots to do. We kick off our stay by attending the infamous Soapy Smith Vaudeville Show and Monte Carlo Night. One of Skagway’s most renowned characters, Soapy was a con man who ruled the town during the Gold Rush Days. The show depicts just some of the antics of this colorful character. The next day we’re up and off on a cruise to Juneau, Alaska’s capitol city which is 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. When we are back in Skagway, we board the White Pass/Yukon Railroad train, aka the ‘Scenic Railway of the World’ traveling 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 where we can opt to drive to the trailhead 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 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’. The Hyder population of approximately 87 use Canadian currency and set’s their clocks to the Canadian time zone, even although they are part of Alaska. But it’s here that we see Alaska’s most notorious animals – grizzly bears and black bears who 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 who have become 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