Alaska Road Trip: Driving the Alcan – Seattle to Fairbanks [Part 2]

Note: This travel post is part of a 12-day trip that departed from Seattle and included Canada, Fairbanks, and Deadhorse, before ending in Anchorage, Alaska. Our kids were ages 2 and 5.

Part 1: Complete Trip Itinerary
This post –> Part 2: Driving the Alcan (Seattle to Fairbanks)
Part 3: Driving the Dalton Highway (Deadhorse + Prudhoe Bay)
Part 4: Driving the Parks Highway (Fairbanks to Anchorage)

Related: Child friendly activities in Anchorage


There is some gorgeous country between Seattle and Fairbanks, interspersed, of course, with some pretty boring bits. By far our favorite parts were up by Muncho Lake/Laird River and Kluane National Park. I’d wish we’d had more time for both locations, but especially some exploring near Muncho.

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Here is our quick daily itinerary, with longer summaries below.

Day 1: Lower British Columbia, Canada [Seattle, WA to Dawson Creek, BC.]

Day 2: Dawson Creek, BC [Dawson Creek to Duhu Lake]

Day 3: Liard River Hot Springs, BC [Duhu Lake to Liard River Hot Springs]

Day 4: Teslin, Yukon Territory [Liard River Hot Springs to Teslin]

Day 5: Kluane National Park, Yukon Territory [Teslin to Kluane National Park]

Day 6: Delta Junction, Alaska [Kluane National Park to Deltana]

Day 7: Fairbanks, Alaska [Deltana to Fairbanks]

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Complete Trip Itinerary
Day 1: Lower British Columbia, Canada

After work on Friday night, we drove 800 miles (through the night) and landed in Dawson Creek Saturday midmorning. We’d recommend not doing this! Instead, split it into two days, spending the night about halfway (like at Lac La Hache Provincial Park) OR (even better), take some extra days and swing east through Banff and Jasper National Parks. We did this a few years ago and were enthralled by the scenic vistas and wildlife in the Northern Rockies.
Drive: 808 really long miles. 13 hr 46 minutes.

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Day 2: Dawson Creek, British Columbia

We looked up an elementary school in our GPS, and had a picnic lunch on the grass while the kids played on the playground. Later, we visited the famous Alaska Highway sign, filled up on gas, and got the hell out of dodge. We spent the night at Duhu Lake Recreation Area, which was lovely, in that it was free and deserted. The lake was calm and there was a tiny decrepit dock that was perfect for fishing. We set up shop under the giant picnic shelter as it was raining heavily. It was, however, mosquito heaven.

Drive: Dawson Creek to Duhu Lake. 157 miles. 3 hours.
Stay: Duhu Lake Recreation Site. Some noise from nearby fuel trucks. Free.
Activities: Alaska Highway Sign

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Duhu Lake

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Campsites and picnic shelter at Duhu

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Day 3: Liard River Hot Springs, British Columbia

This was our favorite drive day of the entire trip. We stopped off in Fort Nelson for another picnic lunch (don’t miss the public playground/spray park!) and then headed north to Muncho Lake for wildlife viewing and spectacular scenery. A break next to the aqua-blue waters is a must-do; a hike would be lovely if you have the time for it. And then hightail it over to Liard River and prepare for some serious R&R. We’ve been to a number of hot springs in our time…Liard River is my favorite so far. Follow a boardwalk for 1/3 mile (looking out for the moose that frequent the swamp) before arriving at a tastefully constructed changing room that hugs the pools. Hot pools are as you enter; head left for more kid-friendly temperatures. Adventurous children will especially enjoy following the stream as it winds among the trees. Make your campground reservations in advance; it’s often full by 2pm throughout the summer. Hot springs admission is included and they also have a nice (small) playground onsite. If you do only one thing on this itinerary, make it Liard Hot Springs!

Drive: Duhu Lake to Liard River Hot Springs. 323 miles. 6 hours.
Stay: Liard Hot Springs Provincial Park. Reservations required. $22 CAD.
Activities: Hiking/picnicing near Muncho Lake. Hot Springs.
Tips: Stop in Fort Nelson for gas and groceries. Fort Nelson also has a fantastic public playground and spray park that is not to be missed. It’s located on the corner of 55th street as you’re passing through town on the Alaska Highway.

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The stunningly gorgeous Muncho Lake

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Stone sheep near Muncho Lake

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Caribou near Muncho

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More stone sheep

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Liard Hot Springs

 

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Day 4: Teslin, Yukon Territory

A morning dip in the hot springs is not to be missed! The earlier you get there, the better. The hardcore among you will drive the 8 hours all the way to Whitehorse (Yukon) but we petered out around Teslin Lake and found a boondocking spot that was notable only for the vast number of mosquitos in the area. Note to self: stay away from marshy, mucky swamps. We did enjoy our mid-day stop at the Signpost Village in Watson Lake, although the town itself is not much.

Drive: Liard River Hot Springs to Teslin. 300 miles. 6 hours.
Stay: We boondocked near Teslin Lake. Mosquito heaven. Not recommended.
Activities: Watson Lake Signpost Village

 

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There is nothing much in Watson Lake…except the signpost village. You can bring along a sign to add to the collection; bumper stickers will probably have a tough time making it through the freezing winter temps.

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Day 5: Kluane National Park, Yukon Territory

After a long night in mosquito city, we made a beeline for Whitehorse, the first proper ‘big town’ in a thousand miles. We’d heard decent things about both the wildlife park and the hot springs but we opted for a hot restaurant meal and the nice/free playground and spray zone at Rotary Park (next to the SS Klondike). This is the best place to fill up your gas tank and find a proper grocery store.

We really enjoyed the drive through Kluane National Park and Congdon Creek was quiet and inexpensive. They have an ancient playground, loops for the kids to ride bikes around, and a nice short nature trail along the lake (be on the lookout for bears). That night we heard wolves howling in the hills. It was magical.

Drive: Teslin to Kluane National Park. 271 miles. 4 hours 30 minutes.
Stay: Congdon Creek Campground, Kluane NP. Highly recommended. Hard-sided RVs/trailers only (due to bear activity). $16 CAD.
Activities: Whitehorse public playground and spray park

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Kluane Lake National Park

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Leaving Kluane NP we saw a lone wolf cross the highway. Definitely the highlight of our time in the Yukon.driving-the-alcan-7852 driving-the-alcan-7854

 

Day 6: Delta Junction, Alaska

Welcome to Alaska!

We picked a nice boondocking spot on the river with views of the surrounding scenery and the Gerstle River Bridge. The mosquitos weren’t bad and the traffic noise from the highway was minimal. Plenty of parking out on the sandbars and access roads.

Drive: Kluane National Park to Deltana. 314 miles. 6 hours.
Stay: Boondocking site at the Gerstle River Bridge, a bit south of Deltana/Delta Junction (63.818924, -144.920052). Free. And lovely.
Activities: None, unless you count the giant ice cream bars we ate at a gas station in Tok.
Tip: If you can, wait to fill your tank in the US side, rather than in Canada, as it’ll be MUCH cheaper. Yukon residents often come into Alaska just to get petrol.
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Boondocking site on the Grestle River

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Day 7: Fairbanks, Alaska

We stopped midmorning for a visit at the very kitchy Santa Clause House in North Pole. Ben asked for legos while sitting upon St. Nick’s lap and Emma screamed bloody murder when we tried to get her to join her brother. No creepy old men in Santa Suits for that girly. I’m not sure I can recommend the Santa House….it was just a little too much. There is a reindeer exhibit next door that charges an exorbitant amount for tours but we’d skip that in favor of the reindeer farm in Palmer (near Anchorage), if you can swing it.

We motored into Fairbanks mid-afternoon, picked up some greasy pizzas, and once again found another elementary school playground where the kids could let off steam before heading over to Chris’ aunt’s home. We spent our time there luxuriating in hot showers and doing many laundry loads.

Drive: Deltana to Fairbanks. 124 miles. 2 hours.
Activities: North Pole’s Santa Clause House. Free.
Stay: Fairbanks (We stayed at a relative’s house, so sorry no advice here).

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Next –> Part 3: Driving the Dalton Highway (Deadhorse + Prudhoe Bay)
Part 4: Driving the Parks Highway (Fairbanks to Anchorage)

Related: Child friendly activities in Anchorage

 

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