When considering and researching driving to Alaska, we didn’t find much about taking a fifth wheel RV or a big rig on the Alaska Highway. Plenty of sources referenced class C motorhomes, camper vans, and truck campers, but could we take a fifth wheel?
The answer is yes, you can drive a fifth wheel on the Alaska Highway, and that’s exactly what we did after many months of preparation. Our truck and rig needed a good wash after the trek (but not as badly as it needed it after our trip on the Dalton Highway).
We found the first half of the road to be fantastic, in much better shape than many of the highways we’ve traveled in the Lower 48. The second half, however, left a bit to be desired. We had heard that the road worsened near Destruction Bay in the Yukon Territory. Indeed it did. The highway became littered with large patches of bumpiness.
Being early in the season (toward the end of May), we also encountered numerous construction zones, most of which consisted of gravel. In a number of places, we had to wait for a pilot car to lead us through the areas under repair.
Once we crossed into Alaska, the road became even worse, with lots of waviness from frost heaves, wide-open potholes, and more construction. The road continued to be challenging until about 40 miles outside of Tok.
8 Tips for Success
Adverse road conditions can be harder on fifth wheels and big rigs than they are on camper vans, truck campers, and class C motorhomes. Additionally, smaller vehicles allow for more spontaneity and easier parking.
With a 42-foot fifth wheel in tow, we have to be more calculated and plan our stops. Fortunately, most of the gas stations along the Alaska Highway are uncovered, unlike in the contiguous U.S., so we had no trouble pulling in to get fuel. Here are our top tips for success on the Alaska Highway.
1. Set your odometer to 0 in Dawson Creek.
This will enable you to follow along with The Milepost book and/or the Alaska Highway book you can pick up in Dawson Creek, British Columbia, at the visitor information center that details the many turnouts along the way where you can stop for lunch or camp overnight. The visitor center also offers a list of gas stations along the Alaska Highway that are noted by mileposts.
2. Know your metric measurements.
You likely know the height and width of your rig in feet and inches. In Canada, you need to know those measurements in meters, as that’s how overpasses and bridges are marked. Our rig is 13 feet, 3 inches tall, which converts to 4 meters and 4 centimeters.
3. Be prepared for fueling differences.
Fuel prices look inexpensive in Canada, but that’s because they’re per liter rather than per gallon. One liter is equal to 0.26 gallon, so you can roughly determine the price per gallon by multiplying the cost times four. Keep in mind the price is Canadian, which, at the time of this writing, is $1.32 (CAD) to $1 (USD).
If you’re used to topping your diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) at the pump in the U.S., be aware this option is a rarity in Canada. We carried a container of DEF with us to ensure we didn’t run out.
4. Watch your speed.
It’s best not to be in a hurry on this remote highway. You’ll get better gas mileage going at a slower pace, and it will be easier to stop if you come across something of interest — or happen upon wildlife. Enjoy the journey and make the most of it.
The posted speed limits are in kilometers per hour, not miles per hour. It didn’t take us long to learn that 50 kph is 30 mph, 70 kph is 45 mph, 90 kph is 55 mph, and 100 kph is 60 mph.
5. Regularly scan the horizon for wildlife.
Spotting wildlife is one of the highlights of driving the Alaska Highway. Keeping your eyes peeled gives you more opportunities to see black bears, bison, moose, porcupines, bighorn sheep, deer, and more. We quickly realized that black blobs from a distance tended to be bears (although some black blobs were culvert openings) and brown blobs were bison.
6. Don’t be afraid to use the other lane.
Because the highway is remote, you can use the entire road to avoid taking your rig over bumps unnecessarily. Just be sure you check both behind and in front of you before moving into the oncoming lane.
7. Download playlists and/or podcasts.
Knowing that our SiriusXM radio is satellite-based, we expected it to work on the Alaska Highway and even into the 49th state. Because Canada and Alaska are much farther north than the SiriusXM satellites, our radio wasn’t able to see them and left us in silence. We had heard that might happen, so we went prepared and downloaded some Mike Rowe podcasts ahead of time.
8. Keep snacks handy.
The Alaska Highway is not like most highways in the contiguous United States, with gas stations and restaurants every few miles. It’s quite remote, leading through very small towns and villages that may or may not have food available. Be prepared: Have snacks on hand and easy-to-make meals at the ready. They’ll come in handy when your tummy’s rumbling and no restaurant is in sight.
It’s also wise to have some Canadian cash on hand in case you stop at a small establishment that doesn’t take credit or that’s experiencing internet issues.
The Alaska Highway is a great adventure for vehicles of all shapes and sizes, offering beautiful scenery and plentiful opportunities to meet amazing people.
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This is the travel blog of full-time RVers Bob and Lana Gates and our truck, Gulliver, and fifth wheel, Tagalong.