A road in Alberta at sunset
Photo Credit: Travel Alberta

Tips for Mindful Travelers

North to Alaska - Tips for Mindful Travelers

Embarking on a road trip through Canada and Alaska offers a unique and intimate connection with the places you encounter. Whether it's a breathtaking scenic overlook or a hidden gem off the beaten path, road travel allows you to fully immerse yourself in the beauty and natural landscape of each destination.

However, with this intimacy and freedom comes a greater responsibility. As a road-trip traveler, you have the opportunity to interact with the environment, the people, and the cultures you encounter along the way. It's essential to approach this adventure with mindfulness and respect.

Spanning four regions — Alberta, Yukon, British Columbia, and Alaska — the drive from Canada to Alaska encompasses diverse environments, Indigenous cultures, magnificent national parks, and captivating wildlife. While each region has distinct characteristics, many mindful and sustainable travel principles remain consistent throughout.

Road Safety

When traveling along the highway routes, it's important to prioritize road safety and stay informed about wildfire conditions in the region. Remember to check for road closures, fuel stop locations, and local regulations before setting off on your journey. For example, the law in Alaska is to pull over if you have more than five cars behind you. This helps curb accidents created by vehicles passing when they shouldn’t.

Summer wildfires are common in each region, so it's crucial to be vigilant. Stay updated on wildfire activity and follow any instructions or advisories issued by local authorities. Be prepared for changing conditions, such as reduced visibility due to smoke, potential road detours, and snowfall in the spring or fall. By staying informed, practicing caution and adhering to local guidelines, you can enjoy a safe and memorable journey along these breathtaking highways.

In Alberta, read about road closures, incidents, and conditions and find details on active wildfires. In the Yukon, check highway reports and conditions and learn more about wildfire reports and conditions. In British Columbia, read about Highway conditions and wildfire Information. In Alaska, find Highway information and road closures and wildfire information.

RV on the road in Alaska
Photo Credit: Travel Alaska 

Ethical Wildlife Encounters

When engaging in wildlife encounters, it is essential to follow ethical practices. Familiarize yourself with the local regulations pertaining to wildlife to ensure responsible behavior. Practicing responsible wildlife viewing includes giving animals ample space, being attentive to signs of alarm, respecting nesting or denning areas, and refraining from interfering with orphaned or sick animals. Additionally, it is important to allow animals to feed on their natural food sources and avoid feeding them human food.

During your journey, you may have the opportunity to observe a diverse range of animals, such as bears, bison, foxes, moose, caribou, lynx, various bird species, and even wolves. Watch this bear safety video to get more familiar with encountering bears.

Bear in Yukon Territory
Photo Credit: Government of Yukon, Has G Pfaff

Indigenous Cultures

As you drive through Alaska and Canada, you will encounter a rich spectrum of Indigenous cultures and lands. It is essential to spend some time learning about and appreciating these diverse Indigenous communities, who have deep connections to the land and carry centuries of wisdom and traditions.

Engaging in responsible travel practices and supporting Indigenous communities helps to foster a more meaningful and respectful exploration of these regions. Here are a few ways to embrace Indigenous cultures and ensure responsible travel in Alaska and Canada:

  • Visit cultural centers, museums, and join guided tours led by Indigenous peoples.
  • Support Indigenous communities by purchasing authentic crafts directly from local artisans.
  • Engage in cultural exchange programs to deepen your understanding.
  • Recognize the responsibility to care for the land and keep water and land clean.
  • Understand the significant meaning of the land for Indigenous people.
  • Express gratitude for the abundance the land provides.
  • Support efforts of cultural reclamation and revitalization.

Glacier Bay National Park Tribal House
Photo Credit: Michael S. Nolan, Alamy Stock Photo

Respectful Camping and Outdoor Ethics

There’s nothing more fun than setting up camp, roasting s’mores over the fire, and enjoying an outdoor adventure under the stars. Likewise, there’s nothing worse than arriving at a trashed campsite, finding out there’s a fire ban after you've already stacked the firewood, having a bear lurk around because they've become accustomed to human food, or enduring your camp neighbors' late-night Bluetooth concert.

By following the seven Leave No Trace principles, you can ensure a memorable and respectful camping trip. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  • Plan ahead and prepare: Know your skills, research the area, and pack suitable equipment and clothing.
  • Stick to durable surfaces: Use established trails and campsites to prevent damage to fragile ecosystems. Check out these great hiking safety tips!
  • Dispose of waste properly: Carry out all your garbage, dig catholes for human waste and avoid dumping dishwater in water sources.
  • Leave what you find: Avoid building structures and refrain from taking natural items as souvenirs.
  • Minimize campfire impacts: Use established fire pits, keep fires small, and extinguish them completely before leaving.
  • Respect wildlife: Observe from a safe distance, never feed animals, and control your pets.
  • Be considerate of others: Greet fellow campers, keep noise levels in check, and share the trails courteously.

By embracing these principles, you can have a positive impact on the environment and create a harmonious camping experience for yourself and others.

Camping in Alberta
Photo Credit: Travel Alberta, Roam Creative

Practice Sustainability

One of the best ways to make a positive impact when road tripping is by supporting local communities. By embracing local businesses, farmers markets, and unique regional products, you not only contribute to the local economy, but also enhance your overall travel experience.

Check for certification programs like Wilderness Tourism Association of the Yukon (WTAY) in the Yukon and Adventure Green Alaska Certification in Alaska. British Columbia has an initiative called “Don’t Love It To Death,” that has more resources on sustainable and respectful practices. In Alaska, look for "Made in Alaska," "Alaska Grown," or "Silver Hand Program" stickers indicating local and Indigenous products.

Supporting local communities and businesses not only adds a genuine and personal touch to your road trip but also creates a positive ripple effect. By investing in the local economy, you contribute to the cultural vibrancy of the region and help preserve its unique heritage.

To learn more about being a conscious traveler in each region along the highway routes, visit Travel Alberta, Hello BC, Travel Alaska, and Travel Yukon.

A view of Vancouver, British Columbia in the fall
Photo Credit: Destination B.C., Jordan Manley