@theanimal (or others), best way to roadtrip/see Alaska & Western Canada?

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TopHatFox
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Re: @theanimal (or others), best way to roadtrip/see Alaska & Western Canada?

Post by TopHatFox »

Looks like flights to Anchorage are like $1K each from FL, plus the additional requirement of a specific ($$$) vehicle. Seattle prices are more like $300 each, and there seem to be fewer or no gravel highways in BC, the highway to Whitehorse in the Yukon, the highway to Yellowknife in the NW Territories, Alberta, Saskatchewan, or Manitoba. Maybe I'll start with western to central Canada after all, assuming I can take the Seattle rental to Canada (could also fly to Vancouver to avoid that issue).

theanimal
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Re: @theanimal (or others), best way to roadtrip/see Alaska & Western Canada?

Post by theanimal »

You’d eventually be taking the Cassiar or the Alcan to move further north. The Alcan is paved, the Cassiar is gravel. Lots to see on the Alcan and throughout Canada so it would make for a good trip. If you’re able to find someone willing to let you go on the Cassiar a good loop would be over and up through Jasper/Banff to Grand Prairie, AB, then up the Alcan to the Cassiar and back down south to Seattle. Again, I suggest making sure with the rental company that you can take the car to Canada.

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Jean
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Re: @theanimal (or others), best way to roadtrip/see Alaska & Western Canada?

Post by Jean »

From what you say, it looks like alaska is best discovered statically volunteering somewhere, or doing a long hike.

TopHatFox
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Re: @theanimal (or others), best way to roadtrip/see Alaska & Western Canada?

Post by TopHatFox »

Yeah, if you're trying to do Alaska cheap, you're looking at a shit-ton of driving flying into Vancouver or Seattle, doing a giant loop through western Canada + Alaska, then hauling ass back to make your Seattle/Vanccouver flight. Maybe you could half the cost by buying a ticket to Anchorage 6-mo in advance, but I'm sure the tickets to Vancouver or Seattle would be half the cost then too. I think what I learned from this research exercise that, in a way, Alaska is similar to Hawaii in how isolated it is.

I'm curious what the motel/hotel prices are like this time of year in AK and western Canada, when tourists are at their peak or getting there. The NW Lower-48 was ~$200/night during summer time (the only time you can get to everything w/o your own car w/ snow tires), so it required 3 total ppl to make the costs more reasonable.

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Re: @theanimal (or others), best way to roadtrip/see Alaska & Western Canada?

Post by unemployable »

Not sure what your vehicle situation is, but the most cost-effective way to do this trip right now seems to be to visit BC only in your own car, and car camp on public land. BC plus Alaska strikes me as too much driving for not a whole lot of excess return compared to staying in BC.

The BC provincial parks are free; the national parks cost about what the US parks do, but fuel prices will dwarf this. The way I travel, fuel dwarfs all other expenses, so Priority One is to get a handle on where and how much you drive. Map out your itinerary and then multiply by about 1.5 to get "probable actual mileage".

The relative good news is gas in BC looks to be around USD $5 per US gallon (just under CAD 2/liter) right now. That's not much more than what it costs in California. Then if you can car sleep/camp you can reduce your lodging cost most of the way to zero. Speaking from experience, I'll say not completely zero because you may still pine for a hotel room or shower once in a while... although I've become pretty good at poaching showers or otherwise finding them for free.

I was looking at doing a trip like this last year and did some primitive planning. Gas got too expensive for my liking, around US $7-8/gallon, plus the cost of getting there from Colorado.

I think if you spent about a month doing this you'd have no shortage of experiences. You wouldn't have to do the entire Alcan to get the "going back into Alaska" experience. Skagway and the White Pass Trail looked a lot more interesting than anything on the northernmost reaches of the Alcan, anyway.

theanimal
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Re: @theanimal (or others), best way to roadtrip/see Alaska & Western Canada?

Post by theanimal »

In Alaska during the summer, hotels usually start at $200/night. Often more the more remote you are. There aren't many cars available as rentals so prices are very high when demand is high (ie summer). There are many ways to see Alaska at a more reasonable cost to what was proposed above by the OP, none of them involve renting a car and travelling around to hotels. Almost everywhere outside of the cities is public land, meaning you can camp wherever you want in nearly the entire state for free. There are 0 fees for entering national parks and all national parks except Denali will allow you to camp for free outside of a campground and without a permit or registration. Some have free campgrounds. Also there are a few hostels in the bigger cities/tourist towns if you want somewhere cheap to catch a shower or a roof over your head. A lot of us do not have plumbing in our homes meaning there are also plenty of other areas that offer facilities for things like showers. There are lower cost shuttles to just about everywhere on the road system. Not to mention the option of driving your own vehicle north, which cost me about $300 in fuel from the Olympic Peninsula in WA to Fairbanks in a fully loaded car 1.5 months ago. It should be noted that @THF is looking at flights from nearly the furthest spot possible in the country. Round trip flights to Anchorage or Fairbanks from Seattle can be regularly purchased for <$400. I have bought round trip tickets from Fairbanks to Chicago for under $400 as well but more common is $500 with a little advance planning.

There are other places in North America that have pretty mountains and more animals. The allure and unique factor of Alaska is the wildness and vast expanses of untrammeled land. Even in Canada that is not the same with more services and more people, until you get to the northern provinces where it starts to become more comparable. It might be similar travelling to BC but I definitely wouldn't consider it the same. I'm obviously biased.

ETA: Info about national parks
Last edited by theanimal on Fri May 26, 2023 11:04 am, edited 2 times in total.

TopHatFox
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Re: @theanimal (or others), best way to roadtrip/see Alaska & Western Canada?

Post by TopHatFox »

Yeah, BC + AB are very different than YT, AK, and NT. NU literally has 0 roads, dirt or otherwise. Probably wouldn't be reasonable to drive all the way to AK from south FL. $300 to Seattle or Vancouver is a steal by comparison, time-wise especially. Flight and rental car for 16-days probably non-negotiable, but will be split by 3 ppl, so not that bad.

Hm, it'd be good to camp to avoid $200 summer hotels. I have a Walmart tent, sleeping bag, & mat. Will bears eat me in my sleep? :) And how do I find these camping spots to put them in an itinerary? Can I "shower" at the camps via a bucket and sponge from the back of the car? Hotels are nice in that I can show up at 1 AM, and in 10 minutes I'm in the room sleeping. Camping arrangement usually aren't as straightforward, with figuring out where the hell the campsite is, which one your campsite is, what the rules are for each campsite, etc.
Last edited by TopHatFox on Fri May 26, 2023 11:11 am, edited 1 time in total.

theanimal
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Re: @theanimal (or others), best way to roadtrip/see Alaska & Western Canada?

Post by theanimal »

Think of it differently. I mean it when I say nearly all land outside the cities is public, meaning if you see a river that has a pretty gravel bar or a nice opening in a stand of birch trees or some open tundra that you like you could just set up camp there. If you're not familiar with an area, the best approach is to look at land ownership maps and see who owns what. Caltopo has this feature. The quick and easy solution is to look at an app like iOverlander or freecampsites.net. After a few weeks of living in a tent, you'll be a pro at setting it up. Mrs. Animal is the expert in our house having lived out of a tent during her years working on trails. She can set ours up in under 2 min!

You can do whatever you want regarding your shower option. Bears are more afraid of people up here than they are in areas like Montana or Canada. There are less bears and a lower bear density the further north you go. Buy some bear spray and don't leave your food out in spots where they could get them and you should be ok. It'd be worthwhile to read up or watch some videos on travelling in bear country.

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Re: @theanimal (or others), best way to roadtrip/see Alaska & Western Canada?

Post by TopHatFox »

Wow, that's super different than most of the Lower-48. If you set up a tent in FL not in downtown (where all the actual homeless ppl are), others will think you're homeless and call the cops on you.

So I can just drive off the highway a little at, say, 7 PM, and plop a tent? Is that even legal in places like Utah or Colorado? Is it only in land designated as BLM? (i.e., land not owned by a state or national park, where they have a bunch of rules of pre-registering & paying for a permit, or land owned by private individuals, where they can kick you out or maybe even arrest you for trespassing if they're so inclined).

Is it OK to just leave all the food inside the trunk of the car in a cooler + re-usable bags? Yeah, an app showing common BLM camping spots would be good. Tried & tested, just like hotels/motel reviews.
Last edited by TopHatFox on Fri May 26, 2023 11:20 am, edited 1 time in total.

theanimal
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Re: @theanimal (or others), best way to roadtrip/see Alaska & Western Canada?

Post by theanimal »

Yes, it's legal in other areas and occurs in much of the west. Alaska just has more of it. 63% of the land is federally managed in the form of national parks, wildlife refuges, national forest and BLM. The state owns ~26%. Natives about 10% and less than 1% is privately owned.
TopHatFox wrote:
Fri May 26, 2023 11:13 am
Is it OK to just leave all the food inside the trunk of the car in a cooler + re-usable bags? Yeah, an app showing common BLM camping spots would be good. Tried & tested, just like hotels/motel reviews.
Yes. Check out the app and site I mentioned in the previous post.

TopHatFox
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Re: @theanimal (or others), best way to roadtrip/see Alaska & Western Canada?

Post by TopHatFox »

OK cool, I think the strategy will be fly and rent a car in Vancouver sometime this summer or early falll, buy a bunch of food & groceries from Walmart, and sleep + bucket-shower on BLM land at night while parading around the national parks and attractions for 16 days. I think I'll get one of those blow-up camping mats cause the regular matts suck to sleep on.

This is actually way better than my usual build-a-hotel itinerary & split it with 3 ppl. Way more flexible too. My previous trips have been with a parent or two to show them all the US has to offer pre-death, so it would've been rude af to make the parents camp since they're nearing 70.

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Re: @theanimal (or others), best way to roadtrip/see Alaska & Western Canada?

Post by Frita »

Flying into/out of Seattle may be quite a bit less expensive than Vancouver BC. The Amtrak Cascades train goes along the coast, is very scenic, and can cost as little as $35 US one-way with advanced purchase.

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Re: @theanimal (or others), best way to roadtrip/see Alaska & Western Canada?

Post by TopHatFox »

@Frita, yeah, but I'm not sure if I can take a car rented from Seattle into Canada. Flying and renting from Vancouver (or Calgary) fixes that issue. My guess is any rental car company based in Canada will already be well-versed in Canadian law and road-trips. Then again, it's likely Seattle car rental companies get asked "but can I take it into Canada" all the time.

Trains are cool, but road trips are far superior in that you can go anywhere with a reasonable road. Still, $35 sure is a steal! An Alaskan cruise would be pretty unique too.

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Re: @theanimal (or others), best way to roadtrip/see Alaska & Western Canada?

Post by Western Red Cedar »

TopHatFox wrote:
Fri May 26, 2023 8:33 am
Yeah, if you're trying to do Alaska cheap, you're looking at a shit-ton of driving flying into Vancouver or Seattle, doing a giant loop through western Canada + Alaska, then hauling ass back to make your Seattle/Vanccouver flight.
I've noticed for trips like these, and a lot of travel generally, there tends to be a correlation between expenses and available time. The more time you have, the cheaper and more creative one can make the trip. One of the downsides of a steady paycheck and a good job, is that it is a bit more challenging to take the time to travel slowly and frugally.

----

In terms of booking flights and your potential dates, keep in mind potential wildfires. There are already hundreds of fires in BC and Alberta this year. It makes planning trips in the west a major hassle.

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Re: @theanimal (or others), best way to roadtrip/see Alaska & Western Canada?

Post by TopHatFox »

Wildfires are definitely a concern, especially with so few major highways up north. I think using BLM land instead of hotels/motels will help greatly with flexibility; if a part of the itinerary is blocked off, I can act on a different one and sleep wherever I end up.

Do fires slow down by August or September? No fires + no snow is ideal for a rental car itinerary.

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Re: @theanimal (or others), best way to roadtrip/see Alaska & Western Canada?

Post by Western Red Cedar »

August and September are peak fire season in the PNW and Western Canada. I'm not sure about Alaska, but they've been affected by fires more in the last year to two.

Also, many rental agencies allow you to take vehicles into Canada, but you typically need to provide an itinerary, passport, and possibly other documentation. Not all will allow you to do that though.

TopHatFox
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Re: @theanimal (or others), best way to roadtrip/see Alaska & Western Canada?

Post by TopHatFox »

Interesting, yeah so looks like flying into Vancouver or Calgary is less of a PITA and worth an extra $100 compared to Seattle
Last edited by TopHatFox on Fri May 26, 2023 12:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.

theanimal
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Re: @theanimal (or others), best way to roadtrip/see Alaska & Western Canada?

Post by theanimal »

Alaska fire season ends mid to late July. June to early July is peak fire season.

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Re: @theanimal (or others), best way to roadtrip/see Alaska & Western Canada?

Post by TopHatFox »

Wouldn't Sep be too cold for fires in AL, BC, YT, & NT? Won't be driving through PNW

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Re: @theanimal (or others), best way to roadtrip/see Alaska & Western Canada?

Post by Western Red Cedar »

I don't know about YT and NT, but late July to September is peak fire season for WA, OR, ID and MT. I'd include AL and BC in that range, but things might change depending on how far north you go. It isn't really about temperature, it is more about precipitation and how dry things are.

It could be totally fine, it is just another variable that makes planning trips a little challenging in the west. Every year is different. I personally hate camping in the smoke and try to avoid it, but some people don't seem to care much.

If you travel north from Alberta or stayed west of the cascades in BC from Vancouver you might limit some of the concerns with fires.

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