We went to Alaska this past summer (2019) and wanted to share my thoughts. We traveled as part of a caravan-which I recommend-in a 44í class A with a toad so my observations are based on this.
We crossed at Montana/Sweetgrass and onto Edmonton where the caravan actually started. The caravan ended in Fairbanks 42 days later and we traveled on our own across Canada to Winnipeg and then crossed at the North Dakota /Pembina crossing.
In no particular order:
Do not listen to horror stories about road conditions. These people have never driven it or the last time they drove it was in the 40s. The entire length of the AK highway has been paved since the 90s. That said there is always construction somewhere. Like anywhere else slow down and follow the directions. A few times we had a pilot car.
The road is good to excellent with few potholes until you get about 30 miles north of Whitehorse. There the frost heaves and other road defects start, some stretches worse than others. You just have to go slow. It is all part of the adventure.
The rural roads in AK are similar. Frost heaves, potholes, and construction. The roads within towns and cities are fine.
Anytime you leave a paved road surface you will be on gravel/dirt/mud that will be full of potholes and will be bumpy and rough. This applies to rest areas, parking lots, fuel stations, etc.
Although the caravan made all our reservations I was really surprised that we would be able to fit in almost any spot in any campground. Most were wide open with few trees and were easy to maneuver with a big rig. This applies along the AK highway. Campgrounds in AK were similar but some were tight and we faced the usual restrictions that we did in the L48.
Expect 30A everywhere. There are are few 50A but they are rare. At one place some sites were 20A. Most wonít have sewer but will have a dump station. One place had just opened and their water was still frozen and their dump station was being replaced so we had 30A only.
Your RV will be filthy at all times. Almost no one will let you wash your RV at your site. Some will have a wash area on a per minute basis (usually $1) or a flat fee. Road dirt, construction areas, especially those that have been wetted down, and rain will keep things dirty.
Most of the campgrounds along the AK highway were outposts. These consist of an RV park that has cabins or hotel rooms, a restaurant and gas all in one spot.
Expect pay showers everywhere you go. This starts in Canada and some parts of the US before you even get to the AK highway.
We were in AK during a heat wave. The electrical grids in AK cannot handle a heat wave. Nearly everyone had a problem at some point and ran their generator. Lack of 50A worsened this.
We have ATT cell phones and a US only Verizon hotspot. Our cell phones have the Canada plan. They roam on Bell/Telus and Rogers. In areas with cell service it was excellent. I was really surprised. Fast LTE and good cell signal. Overall better that the L48.
The Verizon hotspot did not work anywhere in Canada nor did we expect it to. It worked fine in AK everywhere except Tok. In Tok we are on 3G which was absolutely useless. ATT was also weak in Tok.
Camp Wifi: Short answer-forget it. Long answer-the further north you go the weaker and more expensive it will be. If it is free or metered it will be useless. We did not try any pay options. Internet is either DSL or satellite so you are already limited.
DirectTV does not work in Canada. It doesnít work in AK either unless you have a large fixed mounted dish bigger than the one used everywhere else.
Hulu does not work in Canada if you have a US account. I assume Netflix is the same.
A friend called South Carolina from a landline payphone using a credit card. It was $10/minute. This was in Watson Lake.
There are huge stretches that have no cell service.
There are no truck stops like you are used to outside metro areas of Canada. There are plenty of ďCardlockĒ stations which can accept big RVs but the problem is they almost exclusively accept only their brand fleet credit card or other fleet cards they have reciprocity with. No consumer cards and you cannot get a fleet card for personal use-I tried. Most of them are unmanned, including the Flying J I used, or are only manned during business hours. That said we did find a few that took consumer cards. Someone called ahead and we were advised that the attendant had to be there to start the pumps. The Flying J took consumer cards.
Since most card lock stations are out you will need to fuel at regular stations, some may have truck lanes, or at the outposts along the AK highway. You can fit into any outpost station as they also service the semis.
The most expensive diesel fuel was at Tetsa River at $1.89/L which is US $5.42/gallon. They had a sign on the unleaded pump (see pic) that said ďNo SnivelingĒ. The best price was at Costco $.99/L or $2.87/gallon in Grand Prairie. The pump area itself was OK but it was a nightmare getting through the insane parking lot traffic with a big rig to get to the pump. Never again.
There is no DEF at the pumps anywhere north of the metro areas. Walmarts do not sell DEF in Canada. It is readily available at gas stations, stores, NAPA etc. but it is very expensive compared to WM.
Almost no one posts their fuel prices on a sign along the AK highway. Those that do tend to be a little cheaper. Apps like Gas Buddy are useless as many stations are not listed and those that are donít have current prices. This is especially true where there is no cell service. Almost all fuel is unbranded along the AK highway.
Over and over we heard donít bother with Canadian money just use your credit card they will do the conversion. While this is true I realized I needed Canadian money when I wanted to buy a $.25 post card and did not want to charge it. I wound up going to the exchange booth at the Edmonton Mall and exchanged US$100. They only accept cash; you cannot charge the amount you want to exchange. Before I did this I went to an ATM but declined the outrageous fees. Make sure your card does not charge transaction fees and is activated for Canada. I did not find any stores, even those near the border, that accepted USD$.
RCMP presence along the AK highway is extremely scarce. We did see quite a few as we drove through this area a day or so after this happened:
AK Highway Murders
Rest areas along the AK Highway
There are plenty of places to pulls off to rest, take pictures, walk the dog etc. These come in varying sizes ranging from one or two cars to a multiple RVs and semis. They all are gravel/dirt and will be rough. Those with toilets will be pit toilets with no power, water or sewer.
Bonus trip to the Northwest Territories
This was the highlight of the trip on our way back down. We took Liard Highway north into the Northwest Territories so we could get the decal for our map. This is between the Tetsa River Lodge (where we bought that expensive fuel) and Fort Nelson.
The Liard Highway is 85 miles one way to the NWT border. It is two lane, paved and in excellent condition. There were a few frost heaves that were marked and they were very rough. There is NOTHING on this highway except a few roads that I assume lead to oil fields. Surprisingly there is good cell service in the middle but not on either end. We probably saw ten cars total on both ways of the trip.
The welcome area is suitable for pictures but not overnight parking. It is fairly narrow and on a slope and would be hazardous in the dark especially with a slide out. I found this field just north of there on Google:
Nortwest Territories Field
Plenty of room and it was just us and the mosquitos. We spent one night. In the morning a herd of Bison walked right through our camp sight. It was awesome. See pic.
Lessons for next time
I would buy or rent a satellite phone. The last RV in our caravan had one and although I donít think it was ever used it was a security thing. Once the caravan disbanded we were on our own outside of cell areas.
Exchange more money for Canadian. Although some in our group used cards for EVERYTHING I found it a PITA not to have some Canadian $ for small purchases and tips.
Stock up on DEF at WalMart in the L48.
Useful link to convert fuel prices: