All road trips have their magic, but the drive from California through Canada to Alaska is one of most incredible on-the-road adventures on the planet. And it's easier than ever before. Not too long ago, you had to deal with vast stretches of unpaved gravel highway in Canada where you were certain to damage at least one windshield per trip. The road isn't a freeway today, but it's paved and well-maintained – and nature puts on a spectacular show the entire way. If you are thinking of driving to Alaska from California, preparation paves the way. Can you do it? Which route to take? How far is it? How expensive? Here's all the information you need to move forward.
Can you drive to Alaska from California?
You can drive to Alaska from anywhere in the United States, including California. The road leading to Alaska is called the Alaska Highway or Alaska-Canada Highway (Alcan), and it officially begins in Dawson Creek, British Columbia in Canada. To get to Alaska from California, just drive north and connect with the Alaska Highway. There are several great alternatives you can consider.
Beautiful and more beautiful
The state of Alaska refers to these two routes as the Rocky Mountain Route and the Gold Rush Route, but travelers call them both beautiful. To take the Rocky Mountain Route from California, drive north on any route you like. The Pacific Coast Highway is particularly beautiful. Then head east toward Montana and enter the province of Alberta, Canada.
The route from Alberta starts in Calgary, then passes through wild, beautiful country, following the Canadian Rockies. You'll pass Banff National Park and see legendary Lake Louise with its awe-inspiring wildlife including bear, eagles and mountain sheep. You drive up Icefields Parkways, frequently listed as one of the most stunning drives in the world with its line-up of enormous glaciers, to Jasper National Park. In time, you connect with the Alaska Highway.
The alternate route follows the course of those participating in the gold rush. From California, you head north to Vancouver, a major staging point for prospectors’ journeys north. From there, you pass through gold rush towns like Dawson City, as well as through territory central to First Nation history. Expect mirrored lakes, exploding waterfalls, steaming hot springs and wildlife galore.
Both routes take you into Alaska on the Alaska Highway. Follow it up to the central Alaskan city of Fairbanks.
Given the size of both California and Alaska, statistics about a trip north depend on exactly where in California you begin the trek and where you end up. If you are heading from Los Angeles to Fairbanks, you'll travel at least 3,059 miles. This can blossom into a far longer journey if you give in to the siren songs of side trips along the highway.
How long you take depends on how long you have for your road trip. The route to Alaska is great evidence for the saying that the journey is the destination, so you don't want to rush through. But if you did drive straight through, you could probably do it in about 60 hours. It would cost you less that $400 in gas to buy memories for a lifetime.