Calling all Alaska touring experts.......Input needed...

Discussion in 'Alaska' started by RoyB, Jan 19, 2005.

  1. RoyB

    RoyB Dartmouth, Massacusetts

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    A friend and I will be doing our first Alaska trip this summer. We are both seasoned long distance riders and have the equipment and experience to pull it off hopefully without a hitch. Last year I rode out to BC (Banff, Jasper, etc) and then two other trips of two weeks apiece (Florida, Ala, Smokies and then St Louis, Ky, WV) He is on a new R1200GS and I'll be riding a 2004 DL650 V Strom. Both bikes will be on brand new tires and my bike will have new chain and sprockets before we leave. We plan on 85% camping with a hotel/motel thrown in here and there.

    The questions I have concern the route we plan on taking.
    We will be attending the BMW Rally in Ohio and then heading out on Sunday July 24th. We will be in Flathead Lake area of Montana on Monday night and head out north on Tuesday July 26 AM . Our route will take us up through Banff and Jasper. But here's where we need advice. Do we go east on 16 and north on 40 toward Grand Prairie and up to Dawson Creek, or west to Prince George then up 97 to Dawson Creek? What route has the best scenery and roads?

    From Dawson Creek we are looking at running the Alaskan Hwy to Whitehorse and then take the Klondike Hwy (Rt2) up to Dawson, through Chicken and down to Tok.

    From Tok over to Fairbanks via the Alaska and depending on weather and road conditions make a run for at least the Artic Circle if not Deadhorse.

    Once back at Fairbanks, we'll head down to Anchorage via Rt3. From Anchorage we'll head up Rt1 back to Tok and down the Alaska to Haines Junction. We have decided to take the ferry from either Haines or Skagway down to Bellingham or Prince Rupert. Looks like there are two different ways to go depending on where we want to leave from. We really want to see Skagway. Is there any advantage to going to Haines and taking a short ferry over to Skagway? Or should we forget Rt3 and just head over to Whitehorse and down Rt 2 to Skagway?

    Am I missing anything that's a "must do" while we are in Alaska or BC?

    And about the ferry. Seems very confusing. Will we need reservations? We are planning on sleeping in the solarium. Has anyone done this? Did you use your tent or did you sleep on a lounge chair? Advice....

    Is it worth the trip from Prince Rupert to Bellingham, or should we just get off in Prince Rupert and spend more time on the bikes in BC?

    What about our timing for this trip. Last week of July and first two weeks of August. What do you think the weather and bug situation will be?

    Thanks in advance..........really appreciate it!
    #1
  2. HIgh Water

    HIgh Water Waisting Time

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    My only comment is, no matter the route you will not be disappointed. Just try to cover as many roads as possible. Get a Gerbings heated liner or at least a BMW heated vest. Even though temps may not be that low, an all day ride in the rain isn’t so bad with a little heat.

    Enjoy!

    <IMG class=smborder title="highwater > GS photo" height=400 alt="highwater > GS photo" hspace=0 src="https://highwater.smugmug.com/photos/14446916-M.jpg" width=600 border=0>
    #2
  3. RoyB

    RoyB Dartmouth, Massacusetts

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    "Get a Gerbings heated liner "

    Yup...wouldn't leave without em'. We also both have heated grips.

    I see you made the Artic Circle, did you get all the way to Deadhorse?

    Lots of folks have told me there are better ways to spend our time than going from Coldfoot to Deadhorse....do you agree?
    #3
  4. FJRPierre

    FJRPierre Catching up on lost time

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    I did most of what you are planning in Apr-May a few years ago, solo on my 92 FJ (except the Arctic Circle part) and had a great time. I went up via Banff-Jasper-Grand Prairie and down via ferry. If I had to do it again I would have spent more time for side trips (maybe air recce) in the Denali area between Fairbanks and Anchorage, and ridden south of Anchorage toward Homer. Also would have done more water glacier and other excursions in the Skagway-Haines area. Don't forget to take the White Pass RR trip in Skagway. (BTW the cost of staying in Haines Junction vs Haines was 50% different!!! And I think Hy 3 is the most scenic of the two routes down to the ferry. Stay a few days in HJ and run up and down that road and others a few times)

    The ferry ride is nice. I went 2 days Haines to Prince Rupert then 1 day to Port Hardy then rode down Vancouver Island, cross via ferry at Nanaimo to Vancouver then East. But I might have gotten off at PR and gone east to Prince George, then south to Williams Lake - 100 mile House then south via Hy 99 to Vancouver. Many say thats a great ride as well.

    Have fun :thumb

    [​IMG]
    #4
  5. racer

    racer Long timer

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    Did Alaska last May and had a great time. I would suggest after getting to Anchorage, rather than head back up to Tok, run down to Hope or Seward on the Kenai Pennisula. If you chose Hope, be sure to ride out on the Spit and have lunch or dinner. This will take a day. I would also suggest that when leaving the K/P, you ride through the 2 1/2 mile long tunnel to Whittier and get on ferry to Valdez. Its a little pricey, about 160 dollars for the bike and yourself, but you are going to get a chance to see Prince William Sound and the second largest glacier in Alaska. Its about a seven hour trip, and Valdez is a cool little town. Leaving Valdez, you get to ride through Thompson Pass and the Worthington Glacier, must do experience. A nice side trip after Thompson pass is McCarthy, 65 miles in and 65 miles out, no gas available and gravel all the way.

    As you are coming down to Anchorage from Fairbanks, a nice side trip is Hatcher Pass. Turn east at Willow on Hatcher Pass road, it will take you over the mountains and put you in Palmer, then Anchorage is about forty miles from there.

    Have fun, take lots of money, beer is five dollars most places.
    #5
  6. AntWare

    AntWare Lost In Translation

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    Roy, I did the same trip you're talking about last summer, only in reverse. I took the ferry from Bellingham to Haines and pitched the tent on the deck. No reservations needed, it's on a first come first served free for all :D
    If there are two of you one might want to get up top and stake your claim while the other works on strapping the bikes down. Not everybody is going the whole distance, so things usually thin out after the first day anyway.

    The ferry only gets out in open water for a short spell, so strapping the bikes down securely isn't too big a deal. I strap my luggage down using a couple of 15' tie downs, I used those to secure the bike, although the ship does have some thin rope available.

    The ferries only ran every 3 days so you'll have to time it right. Take a look at the timetable on the Alaska Marine Highway website. We got dropped off in Haines in the wee hours of the morning so boarding in Skagway will likely be at a more sociable hour.

    I ran down through Jasper/Banff/Kananaskis/Lake Louise, then down to a little know park/village called Waterton Lake (a must do), spent the night there then crossed into the US on Can 6/US 17 into Glacier NP.

    I GPS'd track logged the whole trip, I could probably send you some of that data if you think you'd need it.

    Here's a link to an unfinished trip report and another to the pics of the whole trip.

    Trip Report

    Trip Pictures

    Hope this helps.
    #6
  7. KL5A

    KL5A Bugs are the new black

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    I didn't see a Denali Highway trip in your schedule, and if you've come this far, you should make that trip. Think about this-from Fairbanks on the Parks (rt3) to Cantwell, east (left) onto the Denali, across to Paxson, south (right) at Paxson, PAxson to Glenallen, and then Glenallen to Anchorage. On the trip back, if you want to pick up the part of the Parks you missed, you could go to Talkeetna to see Denali, back south to Willow, pick up the Hatcher Pass road, then back to Valdez.
    Also, if you head south, Hope is a nice ride but it's NOT the town with the spit, that's Homer :D . Seward is a good run, a fair amount of local riders go to Seward for lunch. Whittier is the ugliest town in AK, but the Swiftwater Cafe has the best shrimp and halibut basket on the entire planet. You could catch the ferry at Whitter, as soon as you get out of town the scenery is unbelieveable.

    If you have time, a trip down the Petersville road could be combined with a Talkeetna ride, eggsellent views of Denali.
    If you need help, don't be shy about contacting the locals.
    #7
  8. Suruppak

    Suruppak Been here awhile

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    Buy Greg Frazier's book on motorcycling Alaska from Whitehorse Press.
    #8
  9. racer

    racer Long timer

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    You're right, its Homer, not Hope. Although Hope is neat also. Petersville Road has the Forks Roadhouse about 35 miles in on gravel. Five dollar beer, leave a dollar stapled to the wall with your name and date.
    #9
  10. Jeff Munn

    Jeff Munn Just along for the ride..

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    Can't speak for heading east on 16 from Jasper, but we rode 16 west up to Prince George and north to Dawson Creek last July. From Tete Jaune Cache (junction of 16 and 5) to Prince George is okay but not that exciting. Straight shot up a long open valley, mainly four lanes too. Prince George is a very unattractive city and I wouldn't go out of my way to see it. 97 north is very nice between McLeod Lake and Chetwynd. My wife commented that section was the nicest piece of road on the way north between Seattle and Dawson Creek, but the rest is not that spectacular. Not when compared to what you will see.
    Excellent choice! Dawson is worth spending an extra day or so there. About that time every year Dawson hosts a folk music festival that is world renown. We arrived on the last day and it looked like a Greatful Dead reunion. Never saw so much tie-dye and psychodelic painted vans in all my life. :thumb The road to Chicken is a lot of fun too. Just get up early and beat the RV caravans to the ferry crossing the Yukon when you leave.
    If the weather is good, go for Deadhorse. You'll probably never have another chance to be that close. I posted a ride report this summer about the Dalton to Deadhorse. It might help you out with your decision
    http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=50861&highlight=deadhorse
    We investigated the ferry option. Found out it would cost a lot more and take just as long as riding back. So we came back the ALCAN to Watson Lake and then down the Stewart Cassiar Hwy to Stewart (and Hyder). It was the most spectacular road on the entire trip, and the 20 miles out to Stewart was the best part. You may want to verify the cost of your ferry ride, it could be between $600 and $1000 USD for you and the bike (if you get a cabin).
    I posted this in the 2004 ADVrider Mileage Contest thread last August after returning. It lists what I thought we the highlights of our trip. So info starts around page 60, but this should be on page 62 of that thread. Hope the link works. I personally would spend the time in BC. Buy a book about Hotsprings of the Pacific Northwest and search them out too! Many are free and soaking in a natural hotspring at the end of a long day in the saddle is heavenly.
    http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=33532&page=62&pp=10&highlight=mileage+contest
    Timing is excellent. The weather was fantastic for us going up, and miserable coming back. Take heated gear and the best raingear you can afford. You will use it. Bugs can be brutal, but if you have any wind at all, they are not bad.

    Just do it! You won't regret it.
    #10
  11. Curtis

    Curtis Life serve the risk taker

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    If your only going one way, I would head Prince george way and keep going to the Cassiar and up that way. Do take half a day and wander over the Glacier highway to Stewart. When you get to Alcan again briefly check out Watson lake for the sign posts at the visitor center.

    The camprground near Whitehorse is nice. We stayed at the River View lodge and the manager recieved tires for us and held them until we arrived. The Honda dealer will mount them for you for an exhorbinant sum.

    You already said Fairbanks and Prudhoe maybe but the Denali highway is a cool ride right in the middle of Alaska and then Parks highway the rest of the way to Anchorage. If the weather is good I loved the plane flight around Denali on K2 aviation at Talkeetna.

    The ride to Glenn Allen is alright but I would rather take the Whittier tunnel and then Ferry to Valdez. I much preferred Thompson pass. In this area is a rare ride that almost no one does. If you asked a 100 people only a couple have gone to Cordova and seen Childs Glacier and the Million dollar bridge. It takes a ferry ride to and from Cordova and then 100 miles of dirt each way to a remote campground and you bring your food. You won't get much sleep becuase of the cracking and splintering from the Glacier all night and then when a chunk falls in it sounds like WW2. I sat in front of the Glacier all day and it was the coolest thing I've seen. All the locals who've lived in Cordova all their life sit in front of it all day on a nice day. Everyone who visits sits in front of the Glacier all day. You have your camera ready and you don't want to leave even to take a pee.

    As for Haines and Skagway unfortunately both roads into those towns are spectacular. Whitehorse to Skagway does have the emerald lake or sone name like that, very cool. Skagway has the best people I met anywhere. Camp at the end of town in the city grounds and the trailers there are all the summer workers. The locals hang in Moes because it's ugly and the tourist are afraid to go in, party there. The RO is cool also for a more tourist atmosphere. I had an incredible yourning to hike the Chilcoot while I was there.

    There's of course tons more and fortunately everything is cool, unfortunately we never have enough time for everything.

    What's your estimated time for completing this?
    #11
  12. Fighter

    Fighter Head Gruver

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    Living in Alaska for over 30 years and being an avid motorcyclist for half again that long certainly doesn't make me an expert but.... here is a route
    that I use.
    From Flathead Lake:
    Glacier National Park to Babb, MT
    Babb to Pincher Creek, AB: with a side jaunt into Waterton Pk
    Pincher Creek over the Crows Nest to CranBrook, BC
    Cranbrook to Creston, BC
    Creston to Kootenay Bay; free ferry to Balfour
    31 and 31A to Nakusp
    23 to Galena Bay; free ferry to Shelter Bay
    Shelter Bay to Revelstoke, BC
    Revelstoke into Lake Louise and up to Jasper, AB

    Not sure if this works but if you are anywhere near either Revelstoke on the north end or Creston, BC on the south end, DO THE ABOVE. :nod :nod :nod :nod

    Drive up to Alaska, do the Taylor, do Dawson City, do the Denali, see the Kenai (Homer, Seward) do the Parks and the Glenn. Pick up the ferry at Haines and float to Prince Rupert. If time (lack of time) is an issue, drive north... play around... stash the bikes in Anchorage...fly home...fly back next summer... do the D2D..go home.
    #12
  13. MANXMAN

    MANXMAN Overlander

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    I agree with Curtis, if you are riding only one way, then the Cassiar is a road not to be missed. The Alaska H/way is a road more suited to Goldwings and motorhomes. It is very straight and offers no adventure. The Cassiar is a great road offering better scenery, wildlife encounters, and will require caution if its raining.

    As KL5A said, the Denai H/way from Paxson to Cantwell is another must do.

    I was surprised at how much it rains up there, so you might want to have a 50/50 camping/motel plan. After several days of straight rain in cold temps I decided that a hot shower and a chance to dry out every couple of days beat setting up the tent when I was that cold and wet.

    If you decide to head up the Dalton, and its raining, this road can really screw up a perfectly good bike trip. It is slipplier than snot on silk when wet, someone once said it was like riding in 4" of lard, and I think thats the best way to describe it. But if the weather is dry its not bad at all. Check the weather forecast at Fairbanks before you set out, or maybe just go to the Artic Circle for a picture if its raining.

    Don't worry if you miss some things, because once you've been to the Yukon & Alaska, you will be planning another trip back.

    Good Luck,
    Manxman
    #13
  14. legion

    legion Honking the Horn

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    Man, that sounds like a gas! I've been here since '70 and haven't made this run yet... how'd I miss?

    #14
  15. RoyB

    RoyB Dartmouth, Massacusetts

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    You folks are great.......I've been researching this trip for months and in one day I got more info than I had 24 hours ago!


    I've read all of your trip reports and they are a tremendous help....but nothing like hearing it fresh from the "horses mouth".

    If anyone else has any tips....
    "bring em' on!"
    #15
  16. RDJEff

    RDJEff Lost in Alaska

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    I'm no Alaskan expert, but I did stay there last night...

    The run from Fairbanks is an easy afternoon round trip, just pick a dry day to do it. I would highly recommend a run across the Denali Highway, it has the best scenery in the interior. Definitely make the run from Glennallen down to Valdez, you won't forget that one. If you have time, be sure to make it to both Haines and Skagway. I don't know what else to add, other than Alaska is fairly civilized, while keeping one foot in the past.
    #16
  17. KL5A

    KL5A Bugs are the new black

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    Funny thing about Haines and Skagway, they are 11 miles apart by water and ithink 300+ miles apart by road! I've been to both, if I was only going to get to one I'd make it Skagway and see about a day trip on the White Pass railway.
    #17
  18. greengoose

    greengoose n00b

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    Hey Roy, I'm also riding to Alaska this summer, been planning it for about 6 months leaving Texas on june 10th for a 6 week trip.
    All the Alaska - western Canada ride reports on this site are a great help:thumb many thanks to you folks who post them and take the time to answer all our Questions. I have a couple of more if you dont mind.

    1- Is the trip into Denali NP park worthwhile? From what I can find there are a lot of things involved that I dont like such as, making reservation weeks in advance (dont like my schedule to be that tight) , busloads of tourist, and not being able to ride my bike in. I'm thinking of skipping it and instead riding on the Petersburg rd. and taking one of the airplane rides around Denali. Will I be missing out on anything in the park?

    2- Cordova sounds like a good side trip - childs glacier, million dollar bridge, river road , is this one worth doing and if so how far in advance do you need to make ferry reservations?

    Thanks
    Dennis
    #18
  19. BARB

    BARB Long timer

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    Don't forget to do McCarthy/Kennicott mine. Barb
    #19
  20. visaliacraig

    visaliacraig Adventurer

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    Roy, thanks for starting this thread, and I'd like to ride your coattails a bit as I plan my trip this summer. Fighter has been providing some encouragement to make it to the D2D event and that's my current plan. I'll be leaving central California June 9 and back at work July 11 so it's a solid month![​IMG] I'll probably run pretty hard getting to Dawson City by June 15/16. I want to do the Alcan one direction and Cassiar the other, visit Anchorage, Denali, Fairbanks, and some scenic roads up north. I'd love to try going up the Dempster or Dalton to the Arctic Circle, but am a bit apprehensive on weather/road conditions. Not much off-road experience. On the return, I'd like to take some time on the Cassiar and drive the Icefield Parkway from Jasper to Lake Louise. I've wanted to go to Alaska for years and this looks like the right time.

    Dennis, your timing looks similar to mine. You planning on making the D2D in Dawson City? Maybe I'll run into you up there somewhere.....

    Fighter, Legion, AKRider, Friar Mike, KL5A, globaldude, Barb, Katoomer, all the gruvers and many, many more of you make this forum a total delight and are unbeliveably friendly and helpful to total strangers. I'd like to thank all of you.
    #20