2015  HIKING, CYCLING,

& RV TRAVEL ADVENTURES

Denali AKA Mt. McKinley

 

   
 
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   SCENIC DRIVE FROM HAINES TO VALDEZ VIA
MORE OF THE ALASKA HIGHWAY IN THE YUKON

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 17

 
"[The Richardson Highway] is an exceptionally beautiful route -- much of the highway    
is designated an Alaska Scenic Byway -- with magnificent views of the Chugach
Mountains and Alaska Range, and some of the best glacier-viewing in
Alaska, with drive-up access to Worthington Glacier."
 
~ The Milepost, 2015 edition, p. 452
 
 
Some of the most scenic views on our two-day, 697-mile drive from Haines, AK through the Yukon and down to Valdez, AK were on the Richardson Highway portion of the route.

Here is a AAA map section I copied (AAA maps are the best!) that shows the Big Picture of our route northwest on the Haines and Alaska Highways, southwest on the Tok Cut-Off, and south on the Richardson Hwy.:

As the crow flies or the boat floats, it's nowhere near as many miles between Haines and Valdez. Driving over land is a different story.

Our route took us around some huge provincial and national parks, preserves, mountain ranges, and ice fields -- all that green on the map above -- offering great views of some of North America's highest and most beautiful peaks.


These three photos are along the Alaska portion of the Haines Hwy.
between the Takhinsha and Boundary Mountain ranges.


Glacier Bay National Park is just west (left) of here.


I love all the glaciers in this section of the Haines Hwy.

We were happy to have better weather on much of the route from Haines to Valdez than we did in 2012 so we could see more of the mountain peaks and glaciers this time.

TUESDAY:  HAINES, AK TO ALASKA HWY. MP 1269 EAST OF TOK, AK

Route:  North on the Haines Hwy. (AK 7), which becomes CA 3 in British Columbia and the Yukon to Haines Jct. West on CA 1 (Alaska Hwy.) across the Alaska border to the paved pull-off where we finally stopped, about 46 miles east of Tok.

Here are some more detailed maps of this day's drive from The Milepost website. Note that the blue portions are not water, but huge provincial and national parks.

We started at Haines, the bottom map, and traveled to the top map:

Distance:  398 miles, more than we planned to go this day.

Time:  8:23 AM to 7:09 PM, all Alaska Time (we didn't change our watches while in Canada on this day; it's on Pacific Time) = about 10 hours with ten or more stops.

Our intention was to camp overnight at Lake Creek Provincial Campground near Destruction Bay in the Yukon (north of Kluane Lake) but we got there too soon.

Little did we know that the road would be so bad from there to the Alaska border. We had to wait for pilot cars several times (longest was 28 minutes) and had to drive very slowly through several long, rough gravel areas, sometimes in the rain:

 

Our revised goal was to reach Tok, Alaska and stay there overnight. Due to road delays and fatigue we stopped about 45 miles east of there.

We stopped at several rest areas during the day. We got fuel in Haines Jct., YT ($1.289/liter CA) and Beaver Creek, YT ($1.599/liter CA, which was more than we paid at the same station three years ago when fuel prices were much higher!). We should have waited until we were in Alaska to get more diesel but we didn't want to risk running out.

Terrain:  The scenery was absolutely gorgeous along the Haines Hwy., especially the Alaska and British Columbia sections where the mountains had more snow on them. I already showed some pictures from the Alaska section. The next three photos are in British Columbia:

 

 

 


St. Elias Range from the Haines Hwy. near Haines Junction, Yukon

Everything is so green right now and there are numerous wildflowers blooming -- lots of fireweed and lupines along the Haines Hwy. and fireweed and other flowers on the Alaska Hwy.:


I spotted these pretty flowers at one of the rest areas.

Above and below:  Fireweeds on the Alaska Hwy. near Kluane Lake

 

We saw lots of streams, lakes, and wet areas, including these:


Pretty glacial lake along the Haines Hwy. in British Columbia


South end of large Kluane Lake

The Alaska Hwy. along Kluane Lake is beautiful but we noted that the water was much lower than it was three years ago:


Nisling Range silhouetted across Kluane Lake, which is very low now

The scenery was less interesting from Burwash Landing, YT to our rest area, which is above the Tanana River. Unfortunately, trees prevented us from seeing the river there but we could see it from other places along the Alaska Hwy.

Traffic and road conditions:  Traffic was light the whole way. The condition of the Alaska Hwy. in western Yukon seems worse than it was it was three years ago. 

Weather:  Mid-60s F. and sunny when we left Haines. We enjoyed gorgeous weather until it began raining west of Haines Jct., YT. We had rain off and on the rest of the day but the clouds were high enough to see most of the Kluane and other mountain ranges surrounding us. Temps remained in the mid-60s F. all day as we drove north and west.


Rain and road construction:  just deal with it!

BORDER CROSSINGS

This is the second time we've gone through both Canadian and U.S. customs on the same day (the first was the day we drove down to Skagway, AK from Whitehorse, YT). We hit the Canadian border in BC 39 miles north of Haines in the morning, then the U.S. border past Beaver Creek in western Yukon late in the afternoon.

Neither crossing was a problem. Casey charmed the female customs agents at each border.  (Yes, really!)


BC border northbound on the Haines Hwy.

We didn't have to wait at either crossing, which was nice.

At the Canadian border north of Haines the agent took our passports inside the building to scan them, asked us where we're from, where we're going, how long we'll be in Canada, if we have more than $10,000 on us, and if we had any alcohol, tobacco, or firearms. She spent about as much time playing with Casey as asking us questions!

At the U.S. crossing the older woman came outside her window to see the dogs and asked us if we had any treats she could give them (she didn't have treats). Another woman came to the window and gushed over the dogs, too. They ran the passports, asked us about the same questions plus whether we had any food from Canada, and off we went.


U.S. border crossing westbound on the Alaska Hwy.

Both crossings were very easy, thankfully, similar to our experience in 2012 both outbound and going home from Alaska. (Going into New Brunswick in June, 2014, was a very different story.)

Critter count: two rabbits and two black bears, one colored brown. The bears were along the roadside west of the Lake Creek Provincial CG. Jim stopped and I got out to take photos from about 100 feet away:


Two young black bears; one is brown.

We finally got to go inside the visitor center at Sheep Mtn. at the southwest corner of Kluane Lake in the Yukon. It was closed the two times we passed by in 2012.

We didn't see any bighorn sheep on the mountainside but it made a nice break for us and the dogs. Jim and I went inside the visitor center for a couple minutes to see the displays.

The water on both sides of the road at the southern end of the lake was much lower than when we passed through there in June and September, 2012, testament to the low snowfall this past winter.

 
Dry lake bed along the driveway to the Sheep Mountain visitor center; it was under water in 2012.


Continuing northwest on the Alaska Hwy. along Kluane Lake

This drive started so pleasantly but went downhill fast after Kluane Lake with all the road work and poor surfaces where crews weren't working.


Pretty little lake closer to the Alaska border


Vents used to prevent or reduce permafrost damage to the road

It turned into a long, frustrating day but we pushed on so we could get to Valdez in two days and not have to spend a second night along the road or in a campground.

The dogs did great with the long day on the road and we had the laarge overlook to ourselves all night:

Jim rode his bike a couple miles with Casey on the little-traveled highway after we ate a late supper, then began a ride by himself.

Unfortunately it started raining again and he cut his ride short. The truck and camper were so filthy we wished it would rain harder to clean the mud off!

Continued on the next pagethe second leg of the gorgeous drive to Haines

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody the ultra Lab, and Casey-pup

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2015 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

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