EVEN THE NEWEST Alaska visitor will quickly spot the lack of major freeways running through the state. With a mere handful of options available for a true road trip, Alaska nonetheless presents a wealth of destinations for those hardy souls who believe in seeing the state from the ground up. Driving is one of our favorite modes of travel, because we are in complete control of our itinerary - when we stop, how long and where. Even today, with gasoline prices choking wallets and bank accounts, the quintessential family road trip remains a signature summer event for many, many families.
Alaska’s road systems are a bit unique, requiring drivers to be prepared, vigilant, and flexible. We utilize the Alaska Department of Transportation’s 5-1-1 system, a comprehensive map and click-by-click description of road conditions and delays around the state. A quick check of the website lets us know how many DVD’s or books to pack so we can wait out construction-season delays. Additionally, our family travel “backseat kit” includes food, water, a sleeping bag, first aid kit, bug spray, a lighter and cash. In the event of a major delay, breakdown, or other incident miles and miles from the nearest repair station or town, we won’t starve, die of thirst, freeze, or be eaten by mosquitoes. And, when we do need help in a small, remote Alaska town, we’ll have cash to pay for goods and/or services in a place that doesn’t have credit card capabilities.
Gorgeous scenery around every corner
Where does our family like to roam? Anywhere and everywhere, but we do have favorites. Below are a few excellent choices for families, broken down by geographic area:
Southcentral: Anchorage to Seward, Homer, and/or the rest of the Kenai Peninsula. What I like about this trip is the bounty of options for stops along the way. The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, Turnagain Pass hiking, the little communities of Hope and Moose Pass, while the destination cities of Homer and Seward, themselves, offer plenty of family fun. A nifty companion to this road trip choice is utilizing the Alaska Audio Guides’ Seward Highway CD and companion map, through which kids can learn a ton of interesting information, mile-by-mile, and thus drive parents nuts with this knowledge forever after (kidding).
Dirt, wood or pavement, Alaska's roads are great for summer family cruising
Interior: Fairbanks to Denali National Park. Attention northern parents! Denali NP is not just a drive-by. Yes, we know the Park’s periphery, better known as “Glitter Gulch” can be full, full of tourists, but there are many quieter options for wild Alaskan family fun. Stop in to the Murie Science and Learning Center and take a guided nature walk, let the kids complete their Junior Ranger Badge, then perhaps take a rafting trip down the mighty Nenana River. While you’re driving around, take time to stop and let the kids photograph their impressions, or sketch the landscape in their journals.
Hop on the ferry for a watery road trip!
Southeast: Take the ferry. That’s right, the ferry. The Alaska Marine Highway is the only designated water National Scenic Byway in the United States, so why not take advantage of the incredible opportunity for a little family togetherness while experiencing some of the 1,500 islands making up the Inside Passage, or taking time to investigate ancient Native Alaskan culture and the Gold Rush of the late 1800’s. Leave the car at home and take advantage of AMHS’s summertime “See Alaska Pass,” picking three destinations from among several, saving 25% of the usual ticket price. Kids under six are free, and children 6-11 are half the adult fare. Not a bad deal.
Explore your state this summer, and do visit AKontheGO.com for more road trip facts and tips.