To Alaska and Back in 80 Days!

Part 1: Preparing for an RV Trip to Alaska

Our long-awaited RV trip to Alaska is about to begin. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to drive from the lower-48 states to Alaska (through Canada) and explore most of the places in Alaska that you can drive to, we hope you’ll join us on this journey.

This blog post details the work we did to get to this point, useful if you too are planning to drive there one day. Even if an Alaska drive is not in your plans, we think you’ll enjoy reading about our plans and getting an overview of what lies ahead.

Figuring Out the Route
One of the biggest decisions we made was how we would get to Alaska and back. When we started planning this trip back in 2018 (yes, 2018!), for a 2020 departure (delayed multiple times by Covid), we knew almost nothing about routes to and within Alaska. What do you mean we can’t drive to Sitka, Ketchikan, or Juneau, Alaska’s capital? Sitka is on an island? Juneau has no roads that lead to it, even though it’s on the mainland? There’s a difference between Dawson Creek and Dawson City? Wow! We had a lot to learn.

Hank investigated some of the caravan trips out there. Fantasy RV Tours is one of the best ( Being a bit independent ourselves, we didn’t really want to join a commercial caravan—some of their choices just are not our cup of tea—but we did take a look at their route, which was very helpful. Hank’s direction to me, the main trip planner in the family, was to get us to Tok, the first town in Alaska when you drive in on the Alaska Highway.

I had heard of the Alcan Highway, but apparently the preferred name is the Alaska Highway. That seems odd, since the vast majority of this highway is in Canada. Planning to drive the entire Alaska Highway was one of our first decisions. So, we had to get ourselves to Mile 0 in Dawson Creek, British Columbia, and then to Tok, Alaska (pronounced “toke”).

A scene on the Alaska Highway that we hope to replicate (but this is not our photo)

I love to put my research skills to use in trip planning (much more fun than doing research for a dissertation). Given the famous Milepost book as a Christmas present back in 2017 (thanks, Laura and Chris!), we also purchased several travel books on Alaska, British Columbia, and the Yukon Territory, and used the trip planning software from Good Sam and RV Trip Wizard, cross-referencing with the AllStays app to read campground reviews.

My first Milepost--January 2018
A few of the other books I used for research
And the newest 2023 edition!

Thus, I began to put together a route that would include: 

1. Traveling 1,916 miles from our home campground in Valencia, CA, to Dawson Creek, BC (Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway).

1,910 miles from SoCal to Dawson Creek, BC

2. Driving 1,256 miles on the Alaska Highway from Mile 0 in Dawson Creek, BC, to Tok, Alaska (we would complete the remaining 108 miles of the Alaska Highway after leaving Fairbanks later in the trip).

1,256 miles from Dawon Creek, BC to Tok, AK (most of the Alaska Highway)

3. Traveling a (mostly) clockwise route of 1,664 miles through south and central Alaska to visit several national parks, explore all the major cities you can drive to, and maximize our opportunities to see wildlife (Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Valdez, Matanuska Glacier, Anchorage, Seward, Kenai Fjords National Park, Homer, Katmai or Lake Clark National Park [via air], Kenai, the Mat-Su Valley, Denali State and National Parks, and Fairbanks).

1,647 miles of exploration in the main part of Alaska you can drive to

4. Visiting two more tips of Alaska on our way back—Haines/Skagway and Hyder (next to Stewart, BC off the Cassiar Highway) for an additional 1,768 miles.

1,768 miles from Tok to Haines to the Cassiar Highway and back to Prince George, BC

5. Mostly backtracking on the remaining 1,712 miles from Prince George, BC, with a stop-off at our summer family camping grounds on Harstine Island and McMicken Island, Washington, before heading back to the L.A. area.

1,712 miles from British Columbia to SoCal

Total Miles in the motorhome: 8,303 (and that doesn’t include day trips in our tow vehicle). You can see on the maps that it’s a long way to go from Southern California through Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, the Yukon Territory, through a big portion of Alaska, and back home. We knew we needed plenty of time: 11 ½ weeks, or 80 days!

Finding Travel Companions
We also knew we didn’t really want to drive alone because if we were to break down in the middle of the Yukon Territory a hundred miles from a town, we liked the idea of a safety net in traveling with other people. At a family party before we had even completed our travel route, I shared our idea with the other family members who have an RV (and are retired), Hank’s sister Judy and her husband Allyn. Their response? “We have always wanted to drive to Alaska. We watch every show we can on TV about Alaska! Yes! Yes! Yes!”

Got these bumper stickers so we could find other Alaska travelers along the way.

Then a cousin said he also wanted to go, driving from the Phoenix area, and buying a trailer just for this trip. Tom then recruited another Phoenix couple who wanted to get out of Arizona for the summer with their RV.

Cousin Tom bought this trailer just for the Alaska trip!
Tom recruited Ron and June!

So we had our mini-caravan of 7 people, 4 RVs, 3 dogs, and 2 cats, and after multiple delays and cancellations for 2020, 2021, and 2022, this is the year. But even with all the maps, books, and trip planning, we couldn’t just take off. Driving to Alaska is no joke and we needed to get our vehicles into shape.

Maintenance and Preparation
For starters, Hank and Allyn welded and installed a spare tire bracket under our Class A motorhome (they don’t usually come with a spare tire, but now we have one) and changed out our uncomfortable original sofa for two recliners that we LOVE! We got new tires for both the motorhome and the CR-V and had both vehicles checked out by our maintenance folks. 

Allyn helped Hank take out the old RV sofa and put in...
...these very comfortable recliners!

Hank drained our RV hot water heater to fix a leak. Then he installed a brand-new toilet in the RV (not his favorite job)! He also took care of getting a car shield for our car while it’s towed behind our motorhome, and made sure all of our insurance policies would cover us in both Canada and throughout Alaska.

Fixing the hot water heater
We got our black and gray water tanks deep cleaned (fortunately by someone else)!
New covers for our steps into the RV
Hank attaching our new car shield. Will be easier from now on.
Our binder of schedules, directions, and activities.

I planned meals and shopping lists, made and printed out reservations and travel directions, and organized all the stuff that we would bring in the RV, including anti-mosquito equipment and 80 days worth of cat food. I also made sure our cats got rabies shots and documentation (necessary to enter Canada with pets). I sewed skylight covers so we can sleep when there are 20 hours of daylight in the north. And we made sure that our house sitters, house guests, mail collectors, and house cleaner had keys and instructions so that our condo would not be left unattended (though this is when we’re really glad we don’t have a yard to care for).

Prevents bites from occurring (we hope)
Head nets keep the bugs off while hiking.
Alleviates itching
Skylight covers so we can sleep

We came up to the RV a couple of times to bring supplies and work on a few mini-projects. And now we’re off on our 80-day adventure! (Okay, spoiler alert. In order to make it a full 80 days [à la Around the World in 80 Days], I had to count two prep days, so here they are!)

Day 1
Hank and I got our motorhome out of storage, verified that we had a full gas tank and propane tank, drove the RV 2 miles, and set it up in our home campground (which is actually 40 miles from our condo), unpacking the third load of stuff from home.

Hank drives the RV out of the storage facility.

Day 2
Back home at the condo, we packed the remaining stuff into our CR-V, along with 2 not-happy cats, and returned to the campground. 

Do we have to go? We like our bed at home!
Don't forget the hiking poles and bear spray!

Here we are at Valencia Travel Village, getting settled. And here are Judy and Allyn, who arrived today in their RV, towing their Jeep. 

Our inaugural dinner at Wood Ranch BBQ

We leave the campground in Valencia tomorrow morning! We’ll meet up with Tom, Ron and June in Dawson Creek, BC (at Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway), as they are taking a different route north from Arizona. In the meantime, we’ll travel up Interstate-5 through CA, OR, and WA, recording any adventures along the way.

If you haven’t previously subscribed to our travel blog (, and you’d like to follow each step of this trip (I’ll publish a new blog about once or twice a week), it’s easy to subscribe by entering your email where it says “Subscribe.” We promise: there are no ads, and we try to keep politics out of our posts. It’s just pictures and text of our travels. You’ll receive an email notification when I post, and you can Read More, scan the pictures, or delete, if that particular post is not of interest.

We hope you’ll join us on this journey, as we travel To Alaska and Back in 80 Days!

Saying goodbye to the California sea lions in our neck of the woods. Can't wait to visit some other sea lion species up north.

14 thoughts on “To Alaska and Back in 80 Days!”

  1. I’m excited for you, Cindy and Hank, your dream trip finally commencing. I’ve loved following all of your trips and diving pictures. Hank and I saw a lot of Alaska via boat and a driving trip. It’s a rugged, gorgeous country, lots of rain keeps it green (and you wet.). When will you go to Harstine? Brad and Chris are closing this year, arriving Aug. 6. We we be there from July 20th.
    Much love and Bon Voyage,
    Aunt Gayle

    • Thank you, Aunt Gayle! We might just miss you at the island, arriving there on Aug. 9th. We hope our upcoming pictures bring back good memories of your travels to Alaska with Uncle Hank.

  2. What an exciting trip! I am love hearing the details of getting ready. We will be following along!
    Wishing you fair weather and safe travels!
    Mindy & Dave

    • Thanks, Mindy! We appreciate the thoughts about good weather and safety and we pray for both of those things. Thanks for joining us on the journey (virtually).

  3. Bon voyage, Cindy & Hank and all! We’ll have your RV pad “cleared for landing” and your expected arrival in August at Harstine Island. Blessings for a safe trip. Ron

  4. Cindy and Hank,
    Enjoy and safe travels. I went to Sitka and Juneau by Holland American ship. But you are going places I can only dream of. What an adventure!! I will enjoy your travel blogs and photos.

    • Thanks for writing, Phyllis. We can’t drive to Sitka and Juneau (so we’ll have to do a cruise in a couple of years), but we are so excited to explore a ton of places we can drive to. Thanks for joining us on the journey!

  5. Cindy, thanks for sharing the blog so we can keep our family posted on our progress. We will have dinner waiting for you when we meet in Dawson Creek on the 10th. Travel safe!

    • We can’t wait to meet our fellow travelers up the Alaska Highway! And dinner in Dawson Creek sounds fabulous! We’ll hopefully have some good photos to share of the Chainsaw Carving Championship that will be happening in Chetwynd that day as we drive to Dawson Creek.


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