We made two trips to the Northwest of North America two years in a row: 2018 and 2019. Because of bad weather and slick muddy roads in 2018, we did not reach our Arctic Ocean goal, stopping just short of the Arctic Circle on the Dalton Highway. The safe choice was to avoid crash and injury and return in 2019 at a better time of the year, and hopefully with other ride partners.
2018 California–>British Columbia–>Yukon –>Alaska–>Skagway Ferry–> Bellingham WA–>Oregon–Home
Scenery Weather Gear:
The first year we left late August and returned mid-September. Fall comes early to Alaska. Therefore, with fall color the scenery was beyond spectacular. We were treated to views of snow capped mountains and bright, colorful fall foliage. We were prepared for colder weather so the ride was comfortable. Take a look at our bikes in the photo gallery located below. See the ridiculous looking elephant ears on the end of our handle bars! These are our Hippo Hands. Don’t go to Alaska and Canada without these. We also had heated vests, gortex boots, Klim suits and an extra Gortex outer jacket for the downpours and wind. Also, our pin-lock visors were well used, providing us with good visibility despite the cold and rain. Additionally, for safety we used Garmin InReach trackers with 2-way text communication.
The rain came just about every other day. Consequently, the bad part of rain in Alaska is mud! Thick, slick mud that forced us to bypass the Dempster and to turn around on the Dalton. With only 2 of us my husband felt unsafe leading me through the falling rain on to Coldfoot across mud covered roads full of big trucks with some steep grades. Disappointed but appreciating his wisdom, I vowed to return in a drier season as my goal was the Arctic Ocean.
Despite the weather, it was still a fabulous trip and it felt like we covered almost every road in Alaska except the Dalton. Our travels in 2018 covered the following Alaskan highways: Top of the World, Klondike, Seward, Whittier Tunnel, Richardson, Elliott, Steese, George Parks, Glenn, Tok Cut Off, Chena Hot Springs and the Denali.
The Denali Hwy, Highlight of 2018 Trip:
My favorite was the Denali! I recommend traveling the Denali east to west so that the snow capped peaks of the Alaskan Mountain Range are constantly the back drop of your view. Denali, also known as Mount McKinley, is the third most highest peak in the world. At 20,156 feet, the summit was always in the clouds during our trip. However, the snow covered caps of many of the lower mountains were clearly visible and still quiet majestic.
Denali Highway is not paved but the packed dirt was easy riding. The road is isolated with sparse traffic from over landers and hunters. Services are extremely limited. Plan to be self sufficient. The only place I remember for gasoline was Clearwater Mountain Lodge located at Mile 82. Not a fancy place, it is adequate and will get you out of the rain and cold. Also, the famous Sluice Box Bar is next door and offers food and great drinks. CLICK HERE to see details on lodging and services at his location.
The isolation and the beauty is why I enjoyed the Denali so much. For us the fall foliage was displayed as a colorful blanket lightly draped across the land and surrounded by the snow capped peaks of the Alaskan Mountain Range. Not even the constant drizzling rain could dampen the awe of the striking beauty of the landscape.
Planning the route:
To plan our route we used the famous Milepost Magazine. Here is the link to the latest edition: CLICK HERE to review the Milepost Magazine Additionally we purchased GPX files from a trusted motorcycle tour guide GPSKevin. Kevin makes available on his web site gpx files and printed daily guides for many self guided tours. The cost is minimal and these were very helpful to us in our travels. CLICK HERE to see GPSKevin’s Self Guided Alaska Tour We used these guides plus weather conditions to determine our route as we travelled. Flexibility is important to build into the plan to accommodate weather patterns, fire hazards, mechanical issues, and individual variables that affect the safety and pleasure of the ride. Details of our ride, including lodgings, prices, and routes are embedded in the interactive google map below; click the map link to go to our route on google maps.
Summary of 2018 Ride:
Because of the lateness of the travel season, many businesses in Alaska were already closed and shuttered for the coming winter. Traffic was light, restaurants, hotels, sights were uncrowded. We were always able to find suitable hotels. I refuse to camp in the rain if there is another option. We never used our camping gear. Mosquitos were not a problem. However we did get stung by a few yellow jackets. They swarmmed at every stop across the Yukon and parts of Alaska. We left Alaska on the Ferry out of Skagway bound for Bellingham Washington. We returned to Sacramento with nearly 5 weeks and approximately 8000 miles behind us, with lots of fabulous memories and great photographs.
2019 California–>Northwest Territory–> Alaska–> BC–>Montana–>Idaho–>Oregon –>Home
Based on research of weather patterns we determined the driest time for our trip would be June or July. For 2019, we left Sacramento in late June bound for the Canadian shores of the Arctic Ocean. In addition to a better weather forecast we added 3 riders to share our trip giving us the more secure feeling of riding in a group of seasoned, experienced and capable friends.
Our ride partners are our friends and we have ridden with all of them in the past on different trips and day rides. They are easy going folks and great riders so our ride team for this trip was outstanding. Many days we rode in a leap frog fashion with each rider really doing their own ride, by passing one another and mostly meeting up again in the evening. We carried Garmin InReach and were able to communicate when we had mechanical problems or changing plans.
Our friends travelled on stricter budgets and nearly always camped. We did a combination of camping vs hotels depending on the weather. Despite different travel styles we were able to still travel together and had the support of one another for difficult sections of the ride. A great advantage for our friends was the ability of more camping to save money. One rider completed the 5 week trip for just under $2000! He accomplished this by camping all but 1 night and eating mostly freeze dried food purchased at Walmart.
I know my husband wished I would have camped more. I agreed to eat some freeze dry stuff but really think most of it is disgusting and would just rather go without. The worst part of the camping was the HUGE mosquitos that hit us hard on this trip. It did rain some and my final rule was if it was raining– I was not camping.
The Dempster and the Ice Road, Highlights of the 2019 Trip:
The most fabulous part of this trip for me was the Dempster Highway and the ice road beyond to the Arctic Ocean. The Northwest Territory of Canada beyond the Arctic Circle was not how I envisioned it would be. There was almost no snow. Instead there were rolling hills covered in green grass and wild flowers.
We had perfect weather and it did not rain on us a single day on the Dempster. The weather was warm and the sun never set. It did rain to the north of Eagle Plains the day prior to our arrival there. Riders traveling south were haggled and distraught. Some related horror stories of thick, slimy, black mud that was near impassable. There were stories of crashing and evacuations. Indeed we saw some mangled motorcycles and saw some helicopters that scouted the region.
We rode from Dawson City to Eagle Plains the first day. It was at the hotel bar in Eagle Plains that we met southbound riders full of terrorizing stories of the mud ahead. However, with 24 hours of sunshine, the mud dried quickly. We decided to push on from Eagle Plains as the forecast was sunshine for days ahead.
From Eagle Plains we travelled to Inuvik on our second day. We camped 2 nights in Inuvik at a great place in town with restaurants in walking distance of the campsite. WE were able to unload the bikes, leaving a lot of our gear at camp for our third day of the trip to the Arctic Ocean.
With lighter bikes, it was a thrilling ride from Inuvik to Tuktoyatuk. The new road, built on top of a permafrost ice layer, was curvy, sometimes with deep gravel or rolling marbles. Fast speeds, above 70 mph, really helped in staying high across the gravel and not sinking down with the heavy bike and losing control — ride fast, brake, skid, turn, open throttle and do it again. Often there were graders that pushed and sifted the road into a fine soft dirt—whoa!! Yep, I nearly lost it but managed to recover without going down. It was a BLAST!!
The Arctic Ocean is beautiful. It was a moving experience to stand at the top of the world and gaze off and see the end of the earth. We left Inuvik bound for Eagle Plains for the 4th day of the Dempster experience. Arriving Eagle Plains before noon, we found there were no hotel rooms left. Feeling great we decided to head south for the afternoon. We rode 500 miles of dirt that day and made it to Dawson City for supper.
Alaskan fires drove us back to Canada:
Unfortunately, fires were burning across Alaska in 2019. Therefore, we decided against doing the Dalton as fires were burning in Livingood and the forecast was for rain and a muddy ride on the Dalton. Smoke obscured many of the gorgeous sights we had seen clearly in 2018. After a couple of days in Fairbanks changing tires we went on to Chena Hot Springs. However, the fires still burning across most of Alaska forced us to change our travel itinerary.
The only place in Alaska reporting clear skies was Valdez and McCarthy. Therefore we headed in a south eastern direction on the Richardson Hwy. We enjoyed Thompson Pass, Worthington Glacier, beautiful waterfalls and some off-road riding to McCarthy and the Kennecott Mines and Glacier.
Because we were ahead of schedule by more than a week, Jon and I cancelled our Ferry. Instead, we rode across British Columbia Canada, Montana, Idaho and back south to Sacramento. We were able to see Alberta’s rolling hills of bright yellow canola blossoms and the blue lakes of Jasper and Banff.
After entering the USA at Montana, we crossed Glacier National Park and rode south. We met up with family in Idaho who joined us for a fabulous moto camping trip and a challenging, steep and rocky ride across Idaho back roads.
Returning to Sacramento nearly 5 weeks later, we had covered about 9000 miles. Of this we had completed over 2000 miles of dirt. Beautiful scenery, great weather, good buddies, and fabulous riding worked together to give me the best ride of my life. This is one ride I wish I could do every year. But, Jon says we have other places to go so his answer is No, we can’t do it again for a couple of years.
GPX files are divided into Weeks 1 through 5. Click on the File of Interest to download the gpx file for viewing details in Basecamp.
***DISCLAIMER***: These free GPX files are for planing and should not be used realtime as your primary navigation during your ride. While some loops and turn arounds have been removed, there is no guarantee that all dead ends and extraneous data has been removed. Be sure to plan your rides carefully. Carry paper maps and commercially available gps units and tracks to ensure accurate navigation and safe riding.
Week 1 Sacramento, Hyder, Watson Lake to Faro Canada CLICK HERE
Week 2 Faro, Dawson City, Inuvik, Tuktoyatuk, Chicken, Tok, Fairbanks CLICK HERE
Week 3 Fairbanks, Chena, Valdez, McCarthy, Whitehorse, Watson Lake CLICK HERE
Week 4 Watson Lake, Jasper, Banff, Glacier Nat Park, Sandpoint ID CLICK HERE
Week 5 Sandpoint, Boise, Off-roading Idaho, Reno, Sacramento CLICK HERE
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