Alaska Road Trip Itinerary: Driving to Alaska & Back

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We're going to have another epic road trip in North America next summer! Woohoo! We've already visited 44 of the Lower 48 states as well as four Canadian provinces. Now it's time to cross British Columbia and the Yukon and check out Alaska! I've been posting about our Alaska Bucket List, as well as the places we want to visit along the Stewart-Cassiar Highway and the Alaska Highway. Time to put everything together to create our Alaska Road Trip Itinerary!

Alaska Road Trip Itinerary - 40 days of driving from the Lower 48 into Alaska and back.

Important update: Since posting this itinerary I had some great feedback from fellow travelers on the TripAdvisor forums. So, I'm currently tweaking this itinerary. If you're thinking of using it, the main changes are:

  • Fewer days at Fairbanks, Anchorage and Whitehorse. I was going to make these into "zero days" of resting in a vacation rental but I became convinced that we're better off using these to explore.
  • Using these days, I've added 2 days at Valdez and one day exploring the Matanuska Glacier area, en route to Valdez.

An even more important update!! We did it! We drove all the way from Los Angeles to Alaska and back. Partially following this itinerary.

If you're planning on taking a road trip to the Last Frontier, make sure you read my detailed guide about driving to Alaska!

Why make such a detailed itinerary so far in advance?

Alaska is expensive. To keep this trip within our budget limits, we have to book accommodation this far in advance. And for that, I need to have a working itinerary.

For me, an itinerary is a plan that doesn't have to be followed to the letter. The weather, someone getting sick, the car breaking down or just our mood, can all affect implementation. Which is fine. We actually tend to be very flexible travelers but I still need to see that there's a basic plan that actually works for us.

I'm posting our itinerary for others who may be considering a similar trip. I'd also love to get feedback and more ideas!

Alaska Road Trip Itinerary: Considerations

When reading our Alaska Road Trip Itinerary, keep in mind that -

  • We've traveled the US practically coast-to-coast 4 times and know how much driving we can and want to do every day. This may not suit others who prefer to drive less and see more (or the other way around!)
  • We've already visited the Canadian Rockies (Banff & Jasper). That's why our route back down south goes through other locations.
  • This is our first visit to Alaska but by no means the last. Our early retirement plans include switching to the RV lifestyle for a few years and we'll return to Alaska some day. So, I consider this trip "a taste of Alaska" and consciously skipped several places which made it into our Alaska Bucket List. That's also because...
  • We need to keep this trip within our budget. Alaska offers so many wonderful excursions for travelers but for a family of four this can quickly get way too expensive.
  • Experiencing local life is part of what we want to do. Hence slowing down at Alaska's cities, Fairbanks and Anchorage as well as in Whitehorse. We're going to rent AIRBnB apartments there and enjoy some slow travel for a bit.

With all that in mind, here it is -

Our big Alaska Road Trip itinerary!

This is what it looks like on the map -

This itinerary covers 40 days, starting and ending at the US-Canada border crossings.

Day 1 - From Seattle to Hope, BC

  • Border crossing
  • Hike the Falls Lake trail near Hope

Overnight stay: Hope, BC - Driving distance: 163 miles

Day 2 - Hope, BC

Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park (including the Othello Tunnels)

Overnight stay: Hope, BC

Day 3 - Hope to Williams Lake

  • Hell's Gate
  • Flat Lake Provincial Park
  • 108 Mile Ranch Heritage Site
  • Scout Island Nature Centre at Williams Lake.

Overnight stay: Williams Lake - Driving distance: 247 miles

Day 4- Williams Lake to Smithers

  • Barkerville Historic Town
  • Hike Twin Falls trail near Smithers.
  • Moricetown Canyon viewpoint.

Overnight stay: Smithers - Driving distance: 376 miles

Day 5 - Smithers to Stewart/Hyder

  • Hagwilget Canyon bridge
  • ‘Ksan Historical Village
  • Bear Glacier

Overnight stay: Stewart - Driving distance: 203 miles

Day 6 - Hyder, AK

  • Fish Creek Bear Viewing
  • Salmon Glacier

Overnight stay: Stewart

Day 7 - Stewart to Watson Lake

  • Dease Lake
  • Jade City

Overnight stay: Watson Lake - Driving distance: 403 miles

Day 8 - Watson Lake to Whitehorse

  • The Sign Post Forest
  • Teslin Tlingit Heritage Centre

Overnight stay: Whitehorse - Driving distance: 272 miles

Day 9 - Whitehorse to Beaver Creek

  • Kluane Lake National Park

Overnight stay: Beaver Creek, YK - Driving distance: 277 miles

Day 10 - Beaver Creek to Fairbanks

  • Delta Junction - Big Delta State Historical Park
  • North Pole

Overnight stay: Fairbanks - Driving distance: 311 miles

Days 11-15 - Fairbanks

  • University of Alaska Museum of the North
  • Large Animal Research Station
  • Gold Dredge No. 8
  • Georgeson Botanical Garden
  • Wedgewood Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Chena Hot Springs (including the ice museum)
  • Pioneer Park

Overnight stay: Fairbanks

Day 16 - Fairbanks to Denali NP

  • Denali National Park

Overnight stay: Denali National Park - Driving distance: 120 miles

Day 17 - Denali National Park

  • Denali NP bus tour

Overnight stay: Denali National Park

Day 18 - Denali National Park to Anchorage

  • Denali National Park morning hike
  • Talkeetna

Overnight stay: Anchorage - Driving distance: 249 miles

Day 19 - Anchorage to Seward

  • Kenai Fjords NP (including Exit Glacier  ranger-guided Hike)

Overnight stay: Seward - Driving distance: 127  miles

Days 20-21 - Seward

  • Kenai Fjords NP : Icefields ranger-guided hike
  • Kenai Fjords NP boat tour/cruise
  • Alaska SeaLife Center

Overnight stay: Seward

Day 22 - Seward to Anchorage (inc. Whittier)

  • Portage Glacier (including local hike)
  • Whittier (via tunnel)

Overnight stay: Anchorage - Driving distance: 127 miles

Day 23-25 - Anchorage

  • Girdwood: Alaska Wildlife Conservation
  • Girdwood:  Alyeska Aerial Tram
  • Tony Knowles Coastal Trail
  • Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center
  • Kincaid Park
  • Willawaw trail

Overnight stay: Anchorage

Day 26 - Anchorage to Beaver Creek

Overnight stay: Beaver Creek - Driving distance: 427 miles

Day 27 - Beaver Creek to Haines

  • Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve

Overnight stay: Haines - Driving distance: 329 miles

Day 28 - Haines

  • Kroschel Wildlife Park
  • Chilkoot Lake State Recreational Site

Overnight stay: Haines

Day 29 - Haines to Whitehorse

  • Ferry ride to Skagway
  • Klondike Historic National Park

Overnight stay: Whitehorse - Driving distance: 109 miles

Days 30-33 Whitehorse

  • Miles Canyon & other hiking trails
  • The SS Klondike
  • The Yukon Beringia Interpretive Center
  • The MacBride Museum of Yukon History
  • Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre
  • Yukon Wildlife Preserve

Overnight stay: Whitehorse

Day 34 -Whitehorse to Watson Lake

Overnight stay: Watson Lake - Driving distance: 272 miles

Day 35 - Watson Lake to Fort Nelson

  • Liard Hot Springs
  • Muncho Lake

Overnight stay: Fort Nelson - Driving distance: 319 miles

Day 36 - Fort Nelson to Dawson Creek

  • Kiskatinaw Bridge
  • Alaska Highway House
  • Walter Wright Pioneer Village

Overnight stay: Dawson Creek - Driving distance: 282 miles

Day 37 - Dawson Creek to Edmonton

  • Edmonton: West Edmonton Mall

Overnight stay: Edmonton - Driving distance: 363 miles

Day 38 - Edmonton

  • Fort Edmonton Park
  • High Level Bridge and Streetcar

Overnight stay: Edmonton

Day 39 - Edmonton to Lethbridge

  • Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology

Overnight stay: Lethbridge - Driving distance: 344 miles

Day 40 - Lethbridge to Missoula

  • Going-to-the-sun road from east to west

Overnight stay: Missoula - Driving distance: 302 miles

There you have it - that's our Alaska Road Trip Itinerary for the summer of 2017.

Starting on August 8th should bring us back to drive the Going-To-The-Sun road (for the fourth time!) about a week before the expected closing date. We should be back in California for our flight home in early October without a problem

I know we did not include many awesome destinations like Valdez, Homer and the entire Inside Passage. We'll include them in our next trip to Alaska to keep this one within budget and time limitations.

Considering that, have we missed any interesting local item anywhere? I'd love to get feedback on this itinerary, especially from people who have visited or live in these areas. Thanks in advance for sharing your input in the comments section!

Going on a road trip? Don't miss out on my 37 tips for an awesome road trip. You may also want to check out my mega posts about Alaska travel - Driving to Alaska, How to reduce the cost of your Alaska trip and Which Alaska National Parks you should visit.

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    • I always say, this is all about the planning – not the plan. We’re in Alaska now and we keep making lots of changes in our plan as we’re traveling. The weather is quite a challenge! This has been our first sunny day in 10 days!

  1. Hope you are enjoying the trip up the Alcan. I was born and raised in Alaska and my family drove the Alcan in 2016 and 2017. We are in the Palmer area. Hope you love it. It is an awesome place. Let me know if you guys need a local tour guide!

    • Thank you so much, Catrina! We should be in Palmer in a couple of weeks. It would be awesome to meet up if we can arrange that. I’ll send you an email in a minute.

    • Hi Catrina,
      Hope you don’t mind me jumping in way after your post.
      Living in NH, our trips out West are far and few between! We were on the road 117 days, drove 14,000 miles and we are ready to do it all over again.
      We were on a Fantasy “62 Day Your Way” RV tour in 2017, 35 days of it being in AK, and not nearly enough time at any location! Loved it and think about a return daily. Loved Palmer and Hatcher Pass, so will be returning there!
      This would have been the year we returned, but we want to take in Canadian Parks along the way and we are giving the experts enough time to develop a valid/tested vaccine, so will not be going until 2022.
      I wouldn’t mind connecting with you periodically if you are offering to anyone on this thread…my email is 54able at gmail dot com.
      Best regards

  2. Great Stuff! We just spent 4 weeks exploring Alaska and it was Amazing! So many adventures to list a few off the top of my head that we loved… Our new favorite city is Juneau Alaska. We did it all from Hiking, Glacier Ice Climbing, Ice Caving, Gold Panning, Heli-hiking, to Cruising. One huge one was wild bear viewing and camping in Lake Clark NP. It is a worlds top 100 travel adventure and an experience of a lifetime.

    • Sounds intense! I don’t think we’ll be able to budget in so much, maybe just a cruise and one more excursion.

  3. Hi!
    We are traveling to Alaska this summer with our 15 yo (b/g) twins (our 20 year old is in college and will not be joining us). We are flying into Anchorage and renting a Sprinter 4×4 for 3 weeks. Traveling from Anchorage to Denali State Park, Denali National Park, Denali Hwy, Paxson, Golkana, Wrangell/St. Elias NP (Kennecott and McCarthy), back over to Seward (looked at going through Valdez and taking the ferry to Whittier but it is really expensive) and Kenai Fjords area. You might want to take a look at how long you are staying in Fairbanks…from everything I have been reading you don’t need a lot of time there. We are skipping Fairbanks since we have a 4×4 and can drive across the Denali Hwy. Your trip sounds awesome – we might cross paths with you! We are from San Diego, CA and take 3 week vacations every summer! Check out the blog: http://www.gonewiththewynns.com/ and go to their RV/Alaska section – you will get lots of great information about Alaska! Enjoy!

    • Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment, Lisa! What an awesome blog you have! I only had time for a quick peek and I’ll be sure to come back and read more! We’ll keep an eye out for your RV when we’re in Alaska. Would be awesome to meet you guys!

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