North to Alaska - Road Trip Like a Local
Whenever you’re planning a trip, local knowledge is the key to a remarkable and authentic itinerary. It’s no different when you’re road tripping on the highways of Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon Territory, and Alaska. Whether you want the inside scoop on what attractions are a must, where to get the best views, or where to grab a delicious meal - those who work, live, and play in the destination know it best.
We’ve gathered travel tips for your dream road trip north to Alaska. Choose from the Rockies Route, Inside Passage Route, or Gold Rush route, and keep these words of wisdom in your back pocket.
As the largest state in the United States, Alaska offers countless opportunities to road travelers who are interested in history, culture, adventure, wildlife, and more. So where to start? Along the Gold Rush Route, plenty of attractions have even residents coming back year after year.
- Chena Hot Springs Resort: A top getaway for Alaska residents from miles around, Chena Hot Springs is a natural, warm oasis, no matter the season. Located near Fairbanks, the resort provides massage therapy as well as indoor and outdoor hot tubs and pools fed by natural hot springs. Get ready for a relaxing stay, no matter if you choose a lodge, cabin, yurt, or camping. If you visit between August and April, you might even see the northern lights!
- Denali National Park and Preserve: Driving the Parks Highway to Denali National Park offers expansive views of Alaska’s natural beauty and wildlife. If the sky is clear, you might just see the highest peak in North America - Denali, with some of the best views of the mountain from the Parks Highway. Once you get to the park, travel the only road that goes inside the park by bus for hiking and scenic views. Be ready for wildlife crossings and bring your binoculars to view mountain goats, caribou, and bears. From July to September, pick berries by the visitors center and stops along the way.
- Hatcher Pass: “My favorite destination for travelers driving the highway is Hatcher Pass,” Salmon Berry Tours owner Mandy Garcia says. Just north of Anchorage in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Hatchers Pass is a must see for residents and travelers alike. The area is known for Independence Mine State Historical Park, open June 18-Sept. 30. With convenient car and RV parking, find gold rush history exhibits with optional tours and two popular hikes from Independence Mine. Garcia recommends berry picking in the fall for a delicious roadside snack.
Discover more Alaska favorites at TravelAlaska.com.
Between nature, history and culture, the Yukon has it all — including the Golden Circle route, which is a must for its gorgeous views, according to Whitehorse locals. If you’re sticking to the highways through the cities of Whitehorse and Dawson City, check out these other favorites on your journey north.
- Dawson City Midnight Dome: A transparent dome sits centered between Tombstone Mountain and Klondike gold fields. “No matter what time of year you visit Dawson City, the Midnight Dome offers spectacular 365-degree views of the north and the northern skies,” Klondike Visitors Association staffer Annie Ibbitson says. Ibbitson especially recommends visiting for the summer solstice celebration or early spring and in fall when aurora borealis lights up the night.
- Red Mammoth Bistro: Imagine a cozy cafe atmosphere and a steaming cup of Yukon coffee before you hit the road. “When you're in Dawson City, a visit to the Red Mammoth is a must,” Ibbitson says. This charming cafe has locally sourced sandwich and breakfast options to keep you going for a full day of adventures ahead.
- Yukon Wildlife Preserve: While you very well may see wildlife along the side of the highway on your travels, you will have nearly-guaranteed sightings of moose, elk, wood bison, foxes, and more at the year-round Yukon Wildlife Preserve about 30 minutes outside Whitehorse. Other areas to spot wildlife: boreal forests, south-facing slopes, open alpine areas, and natural water sources. Whitehorse Visitor Information Centre Travel Advisor Marie Desmarais highly recommends reading through the Yukon Wildlife Viewing Guide, which details where to look on each highway.
Find more travel tips for traveling in the Yukon at TravelYukon.com.
If you start your road trip in Alberta, you’ll likely have Banff and Jasper national parks, two of Canada’s most beautiful preserved wilderness areas, on your radar already. But some stops along the side trip routes from Calgary and Edmonton can’t be missed. Do as the locals say.
- Banff Gondola: Located at the top of Sulphur Mountain is the renowned Banff Gondola. With breathtaking views of the Bow Valley, six different mountain ranges, and the city of Banff, there is no shortage of natural beauty that is certain to leave you speechless. Feel free to take a stroll along the boardwalk to the Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station National Historic Park and end your day with a bite at the Sky Bistro. Enjoy the magic of summer with live music, rooftop cocktails, and beautiful sunsets.
- Jasper National Park: As the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies, Jasper National Park is known for its diverse wildlife and expansive network of hiking trails. Additionally, guests visiting the park can explore the various activities available for visitors such as fishing, kite surfing, horseback riding, and more. Locals recommend not rushing your time in the park, so spend the night. The park features multiple lodging options for visitors.
- Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology: Boasting the largest dinosaur skeleton collection in the world, the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology in the town of Drumheller was established in 1985 to showcase various geological findings to the public. The museum offers a range of creative and innovative educational programs, providing information about the prehistoric past. Locals recommend this museum to guests interested in exploring Alberta’s paleontological history. With exhibits like Dinosaur Hall and Burgess Shale, there is something for everyone to enjoy.
Learn more about the places you need to visit at TravelAlberta.com.
The beauty of British Columbia is best viewed outdoors, whether it be hiking trails or a beer trail or just relaxing in a hot spring. Each route cuts through a different part of the region, offering a variety of opportunities to experience what residents are raving about.
- Liard Hot Springs: Considered to be the second-largest hot spring in Canada, Liard River Hot Springs Park is a popular stop for travelers wanting to take in the lush boreal spruce forest. Open year-round, this hot spring is the perfect way for travelers to relax and unwind after a long day on the road. Go for a dip in waters with temperatures ranging from 42°C to 52°C or take a hike and immerse yourself in the stunning views throughout the forest. But be sure to watch out for moose feeding in the swamps
- Othello Tunnels, Hope: “The Othello Tunnels are a stunning hiking destination featuring railway tunnels carved through a granite mountain in the early 1900s,” says Joss Penny, executive director of the BC Lodging and Campgrounds Association. “Though currently closed for renovations due to flood damage, this picturesque site is well worth the visit when it reopens. In the meantime, a trip up to the Hope Slide is a great back-up. The slide is easily accessed from the highway and offers picnic benches.”
- BC Ale Trail: Already known for its wine regions, this province’s BC Ale Trail provides visitors with self-guided itineraries for exploring the local craft brewery destinations here. “I like to stop at microbreweries along the way to sample beer and find food trucks or cafes,” Penny says. “I use the BC Ale Trail’s website to locate the breweries.” With over 180 locations to choose from, the BC Ale Trail makes it easy for visitors to plan their own adventure.
Learn more tips at HelloBC.com.