North to Alaska--Fairbanks, Anchorage, and the Cassiar Highway
All roads lead to Anchorage more or less. It’s a good spot to get groceries, fuel and a little R&R. It has things like Costco (http://www.costco.com/warehouse-locations/anchorage-ak-10.html) which has groceries at a semi-reasonable price, a pharmacy and a gas station that serves diesel. There are four Walmart’s and two Sam’s Clubs also. Another option is Safeway with a pharmacy too if you don’t like Costco or Walmart (http://local.safeway.com/ak/anchorage-4701.html?utm_source=G&utm_medium=Maps&utm_campaign=G+Places) All the usual stuff you find in a city of 300,000+ in other words. Big city things to do (https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g60880-Activities-Anchorage_Alaska.html) include the Anchorage Museum at the Rasmussen Center (https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60880-d144677-Reviews-Anchorage_Museum_at_Rasmuson_Center-Anchorage_Alaska.html), Alaskan Native Heritage Center (https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60880-d103028-Reviews-Alaska_Native_Heritage_Center-Anchorage_Alaska.html) and the Alaska Zoo (https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60880-d103262-Reviews-Alaska_Zoo-Anchorage_Alaska.html). If you’re interested in birds and wildlife as I am, you might enjoy Potter’s Marsh (http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=viewinglocations.pottermarsh) for its bird life and the occasional moose. If you’re up for a hike, try the 11 mile Tony Knowles Coastal Trail (http://anchoragecoastaltrail.com/) for beautiful views of the mountains and the seashore as well as a chance to see wildlife.
In addition, you have a couple of other major options from Anchorage, you can fly to Gustavus on the shores of Glacier Bay and explore beautiful Glacier Bay National Park.
Alternatively, you can fly into Katmai National Park or other coastal areas for bear viewing and photography from Anchorage.
In Part 3, we explored Denali State Park and Denali National Park. After visiting Denali, it is shorter to drive north to Fairbanks and then south rather than returning to Anchorage. At least that is our plan as we will be heading home at this point. Two places near each other for viewing wildlife around Fairbanks include Fountainhead Wildlife Sanctuary (http://www.fountainheadhotels.com/experience-fairbanks/wildlife-sanctuary-en.html) and Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Sanctuary, a dairy farm that’s been converted to a wildlife refuge. (http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=viewinglocations.creamers)
After a couple of days around Fairbanks, it’s time for the long drive south on Highway 1 to Tok and Haines Junction, 492 miles to be exact. You have a choice to make at Haines Junction. You can continue on Highway 1 to Whitehorse and Watson Lake. Or if you skipped Haines and Skagway on the way north as we did, you can turn south on Highway 3 to Haines or continue on Highway 1 to Whitehorse and then south to Skagway on Highway 2.
See Part 2 for a discussion of Haines and Skagway. Another option is the ferry that runs between Haines and Skagway (http://www.hainesskagwayfastferry.com/). See link below for a map. https://goo.gl/maps/9eKhzMedG972
When you reach Watson Lake, you again have a choice whether to return to the U.S. the way you came or take Highway 37, the Cassiar Highway. See map below for a link. (https://goo.gl/maps/29RMkvLx2bs) Rather than driving back the way we came, we’ve decided to return on the Cassiar Highway. It’s a good, paved road through some remote country with beautiful views, but few towns and gas stations.
You’re once again driving through British Columbia unless you take a side trip on Hwy 37A to Hyder, AK population 70 or so across the border from Stewart, BC which is the larger of the two boasting around 700 residents. In fact, the residents of Hyder use the Stewart schools, area codes and shopping facilities. Aside from the gold rush remnants, the main reason for the detour to Hyder is one last chance to see bears at the Fish Creek Observation Site just north of Hyder from mid-July through August when the salmon are running. Black bears and brown bears are both present. (http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/r10/specialplaces/?cid=fsbdev2_038787)
The other reason for stopping is the Salmon Glacier which is about 16 miles and an hour’s drive north of Stewart which should give you a clue as to the condition of the road. Once you leave Fish Creek it rapidly becomes a not very well maintained dirt road that takes you right up to the base of the fifth largest glacier in Canada. One of the few you can drive to. It’s advisable to check on the weather conditions at the glacier with the rangers at Fish Creek as it is often fogged in. Check out the photo of the glacier:
(http://www.hellobc.com/british-columbia/transportation-maps/driving-routes/53/salmon-glacier-and-granduc-mine.aspx) At this point, we will be ready to start for home. Lots of scenery still on the Cassiar, but we’ll be focused on covering the long drive back to Nevada as quickly as possible.
I hope you’ve enjoyed sharing my planning process and that it will be helpful in planning your road trip to Alaska. Much more to come as we share the actual journey. Finally, I have published an e-book titled “A Nature Photographers Guide to Alaska”. It includes the planning process, our experiences in Alaska including photographs and photo tips for getting the best shots everywhere we visit. The e-book is on-sale on my website https://flanaganfotos.com.
Thanks for your readership and your feedback.