Alaska: 10 Things You Have To Do

A young couple gets an early jump on their bucket list

Heath Padgett  |  07.26.2015

Heath Padgett is a writer and film maker who left his job in software sales to pursue a more adventurous career. Combining a love of travel and his career transition, he decided to go and work a job in all 50 states. Four days after his wedding, Heath and his wife Alyssa hit the road in a 1994 RV and toured across America while they fulfilled two bucket list items- filming a documentary and visiting all 50 states, all within their first year of marriage. Their story has been shared on CNN, Fox and Friends Morning Show, Huffington Post Live, Yahoo!, Business Insider and The Daily Mail.

During this past year of RVing across America, my wife and I created a rule. If we were ever given the same suggestion from two different people about a place we should visit or attraction we should check out, then we would go. We stayed true to that rule since we began full-time RVing 14 months ago. When multiple people offered up suggestions of visiting Hearst Castle along the west coast, we went. When several people told us we had to visit Crazy Horse up in South Dakota, we took a tour. However, early on during our travels we noticed one suggestion that came up more than any other one.

“You should make the drive up to Alaska. It’s the most beautiful RV trip I’ve ever seen.”

We heard this, over and over, and over again.

It only was a matter of time before we had to make the drive ourselves. So, one month ago we piled into a 2004 Winnie Minnie with my entire family and made the extremely hyped up drive to Alaska.

It did not disappoint.

The drive from Seattle, Washington where we began our journey to the edge of Alaska spreads over 2,000 miles. When people told us to make the trip, they offered up an advance warning saying that we would need at least two weeks to make the drive through British Columbia and the Yukon. They were right. If I ever do it again, I will spend a couple weeks making the drive up from Canada, but for the sake of time, we made the 2,000-mile trip in just five days. We could’ve made it across the border even faster if needed, but we stopped as often as possible to catch views like this.01

02After a couple weeks spent driving around and exploring Alaska, I felt I had to share some of the highlights of our journey and make a list of ten things you have to when RVing to Alaska. I really struggled to narrow the list down to ONLY ten places, because this list could easily be 100 items long. But for the sake of this blog, here are the ten things I would recommend that you HAVE to do when RVing to Alaska.03#1. Warm up in Liard hot springs. This hot springs you’ll find tucked away by Muncho Lake in British Columbia on the drive up to Alaska. These hot springs didn’t have as much hype as Chena Hot springs, which are located outside of Fairbanks, however after visiting both of them we would absolutely recommend Liard Hot Springs. These springs are much more secluded from the road and while there is a bathroom facility, stairs, and benches nearby, you feel like you are really in nature. (The multiple “watch for bears” signs help too). Chena Hot springs was nice, but a lot more crowded as it’s a resort as well.

04#2 Drive the Seward highway south of Anchorage. After visiting all 50 states, I can confidently say that hands down this is the most beautiful drive in America. Once you leave Anchorage, you’ll drive through winding roads next to lakes and mountains with little waterfalls sometimes running right onto the edge of the road. The road hugs mountain bases and up above you, you’ll see patches of snow. You’ll see massive glaciers in the distance and the road leads directly into snow-covered mountains just across the water. Plus, the Turnagain Arm (AKA the body of water to the right) is known for sightings of beluga whales and bald eagles.

05#3 Camp on the water and mountains in Seward. Just look at this view. The RV park in town is waterfront and minutes away from restaurants and shops. Fishing charters and boat tours depart from Seward daily. It’s the perfect stop on your way to Homer or Kenai Fjords National Park.

06#4 Flightseeing tours of Mt. McKinley. We took a helicopter up to the base camp on Mt. McKinley (locals call it Denali) and it was one of the coolest experiences of our lives.

08Through a connection working for the national park, we were able to stay the night on the glacier and take a plane back to the mainland the next morning.

07There are multiple flying services that will take tours around the mountain range and it will run you around $500 a person, but it is absolutely worth every penny.

10#5 White water rafting. There are tons of places to go white water rafting in Alaska and the water is FREEZING, but you’ve gotta do it! You get up close and personal in glacier fed waters and it’s the adventure of a lifetime. There are options for big rapids and for scenic floats, and whichever you choose will not disappoint! We started the day on the scenic tour and asked to upgrade to the big rapids because we loved it so much! We ended up spending 9 hours on the water.

09Plus, if you’re feeling really brave, you can jump in the water and swim around. Don’t worry, they’ll hook you up with this thing called a dry suit and you won’t feel a thing!

Alaskaglaciers#6 Watch the glaciers break and fall off into the ocean. A short drive south of Anchorage, there are several boat tours you can take out into the fjords where you can see the glaciers break off and fall into the water. You’ll also see whales, seals, and icebergs floating in the water. Some of these companies also have a “no seasickness guarantee” because of the water being so calm. So even if you get motion sickness, you don’t have any excuses! :)

Alaskafishing#7 Salmon, halibut, snapper–fishing is the thing to do in Alaska. While most people encourage you to fish down near the southern part of Alaska, you can find fishing just about anywhere throughout the state, especially when the salmon are running in the later part of the summer.

12#8 Get up close and personal with wildlife. When you make the trip up to Alaska, you will likely have to stop for wildlife to cross the road. Maybe a bear. Probably a moose or two. Some goats and sheep. Definitely some buffalo.

11Remember to always keep your distance (unlike the man in the picture below who is European and didn’t understand English) and stay in your vehicle. I watched a man scramble up a hill after getting charged by a bison protecting her young. Don’t be that guy!

#9 Cross the Arctic Circle. You can find several plane services that will take you on guided tours and cross into the Arctic Circle up to Prudhoe Bay. You can also drive across the Arctic Circle in some places. They’ll even give you a little certificate that says you’ve been there!

Denalihike#10 Hike around Denali National Park. Alaska is known for its rugged beauty. We took an easy 2-mile hike around a small lake to give us a taste of the Alaskan wild. There are also hikes and drives to give you the best views of Mt. McKinley. There are multiple short, long, easy, and difficult hikes throughout Denali National Park to provide something for everyone.

I know they call Alaska the last frontier, but if I were to come up with my own name for the state I’d call it “The Adventure State”. Because there are an endless amount of adventures you can go on while visiting. If you’re looking for a wild and beautiful adventure, Alaska is the real deal.


Similar Articles


Comments

Please add your comments below. All fields are required and all comments must be approved before appearing on the site.

21 Comments

  1. Janelle Posted on 07.30.2015

    I had no idea you could cross the Arctic Circle! This is a fantastic, comprehensive list of not just destinations but experiences too. I actually would’ve loved to read all 100 items on your list! :)

    Alaska has been my dream for years. It’s SO RAD that you got to experience the state via driving, flying, boating, and walking. It seems like that’s the way to go! Get a piece of it all.

    How long would you say is ideal to spend adventuring around Alaska? Do you have an opinion on Alaskan cruises?

  2. James Posted on 08.03.2015

    Thanks for sharing this! Watching y’alls story really makes the idea of buying an RV more appealing!

  3. Heath Padgett Posted on 08.03.2015

    Hey Janelle!

    First of all, you definitely need to visit Alaska :). As far as time length, I would recommend a month at the very least. We did it in 2 weeks and I felt a bit rushed. The more time, the better (if you can).

    As far as cruises go, I’ve heard from multiple people that Alaskan cruises are quite amazing. I myself haven’t gotten to go on one, but definitely think it would be worth looking into. :0

    safe travels either way,

    Heath

  4. Charles Gupton Posted on 08.07.2015

    Alaska is a place I’ve had marginal interest in seeing until recently, mostly because I couldn’t justify flying there to poke around and leave. But now that we’ve bought an RV and plan to live some significant time on the road my interest has been newly piqued. Your post has definitely tickled that interest even more. I’m going to bookmark and print it out to remember your suggestions! Thanks for sharing and I wish you the best in your adventures!

  5. Heath Padgett Posted on 08.13.2015

    Charles!

    Can’t recommend Alaska enough. You would have a blast :).

  6. Charlea Baker Posted on 09.04.2015

    Great suggestions, would love to see your list of 100! After longing to see Alaska for decades, we packed the RV and spent three months exploring the state during the summer of 2008. (The year of terrible gas prices!!!) We also took the time to experience Canadian adventures along the Alaskan highway and all around the Yukon. Alaska is too amazing and spectacular to do in a rush. We felt sorry for the folks on the big ship cruises who were whisked here and there and just did not get an opportunity to poke around hidden back corner gems and bask in the beauty. Alaska is a trip every American should do once (at least) in their lives. (p.s. So happy that the magnificent Denali has been re-christened with its indigenous name.)

  7. fred reichard Posted on 09.04.2015

    HAVE BEEN TO MANY OF THESE PLACES FROM SYRACUSE,NYIN ALASKA..NOT AN INSULT TO THOSE WHO CAN DO THIS ((BUT TAKES A SUB STANTIAL AMOUT OF MONEY))GLAD WE DID IT .

  8. Regina L Hollis Posted on 09.04.2015

    My husband and I took our 24 ft. Winnebago View to Alaska via Canada as our retirement trip in 2009. We drove to Prince Rupert, BC from Louisville, KY then put our RV and ourselves on a ferry. We got off to camp for a few days at several of the stops along the way before putting the RV back on a different ferry (all part of the price). After we traveled up the Lynn Canal, we disembarked at Haines, Alaska, drove down the Kenai Peninsula, hiked to the top of the Harding Ice Fields near Exit Glacier. We drove that loop from Seward to Homer, then from Anchorage to Denali where we camped and hiked for 3 days, before heading north to Fairbanks, back through the Yukon to Seattle, WA. We did many of the things this young couple recommended…not bad for two 60+ year olds. We would highly recommend this trip and we totally agree about Liard River Hot Springs. We camped in that park for one night, enjoyed the springs along with several First Nation People, two moose and even saw a couple of bears at the springs. Grizzly Bears, Dall Sheep, Caribou were everywhere in Denali. Black Bear and moose plentiful elsewhere. Eagles were as common as Crows back home. We spent over 6 weeks (late May through mid July) and put over 10,000 miles on our RV but this was the most spectacular trip we have ever taken. We would do it again and hopefully will.

  9. Lewis Posted on 09.04.2015

    Were I to go again: I would drive the Alcan on week days only. You are escorted through the constructions on weekdays. No escort on weekends, and some folks have a tendency to treat it like a race track. The only time we had flying gravel damage to our rig was on the weekend. Still was well worth the trip.

  10. Mary Bailey Posted on 09.04.2015

    My husband and I have lived in Alaska for 37 years. We just bought our first RV and we are headed outside to see the United States. We have been to all the Alaskan locations they mentioned and can endorse their recommendations. We have a summer home in Seward and a cabin in Talkeetna and a home in Anchorage and we would just add that the people are more than half the adventure. Great folks live in this Greatland so talk to strangers and be prepared to be amazed. We are looking forward to exploring and finding new sites outside BUT we will always come home to this great state!!!

  11. Gary Gernstein Posted on 09.04.2015

    I drove up here (Alaska) from North Carolina in 2008. I’m still here and I do a good bit of travelling through the state from April through September in my Sunstar. I appreciated your article and the pictures. I have been fortunate to meet a lot of RV’ers from all over the world and that seems to be the consensus. They all wish they had more time to explore this incredibly beautiful and wild state. To all your readers, I hope you get that chance to come back up this way and stay a little longer.

  12. mike arnold Posted on 09.04.2015

    We just bought our Class A rv and took our 1st trip from SF to Oregon.
    We have lots of ideas for future adventures. Beside Alaska, what other top
    Destinations or attractions would you recommend?
    Keep having fun

  13. Lowell Jacobson Posted on 09.05.2015

    would like to motor to Alaska. Wondering if you need to take a tow car?

  14. Bill Posted on 09.06.2015

    We have a class A Winnebago and have been wondering about traveling Alaska/Yukon however I have heard some horror stories about the roads and highways. One story I read had the RV owner spending $5000.00 on front end repairs and two tires. Reading these articles in Alaska I haven’t seen one road issue. Really….what are the roads like in both Alaska and the Yukon, Thanks!

  15. Bob Posted on 09.08.2015

    We traveled to Alaska earlier this summer in our class C. We traveled with a group of 24 RVs after meeting them in British Columbia. The trip was a blast and we want to go back soon. We did not have a tow car, but many in the group did and gave us needed rides to places that really enhanced the trip. We were sorry we didn’t have a tow car and would take one next time.

  16. Heath Padgett Posted on 10.31.2015

    Hey Lowell, we didn’t take a tow car and it worked out fine. Alaska is big, so it’s not like having to drive a 29 foot RV around will really hinder you all that much. A tow car in my mind is always a little bit of an added stressor, but we know people who took theirs along. Just make sure to get a rock guard.

  17. Heath Padgett Posted on 10.31.2015

    Hey Mike Arnold!

    Congrats on the new RV purchase. The number one trip (if you haven’t already) would be to take your RV and head south to LA and do the whole Pacific Coast highway. The state parks on that route are incredible. We drove our 29 foot class c all the way up and it was no problem (but a little scary in parts). We did see a few big 40 class a rigs but I’m not sure I would chance it in all of those places (unless it’s shorter). The other recommendation would be driving up in the northeast during fall. Some of the most beautiful sites I’ve ever seen!

  18. Dennis & Carol Hill Posted on 04.28.2016

    Full timing since 2000 and driven to Alaska 5 times in all sorts of RVs up to 43′. Going again in 2017 in a 25′ class C with no tow, maybe a small cycle. Have always spent 2 1/2 months at least. Like to boone a few days at a time then full hook up if possible. Check out toursaver.com. Outstanding deals and highly recommend it to save money and still get to do a lot. See ya up there…

  19. PAT SHORT Posted on 11.26.2016

    LOOKING FOR A GOOD BLOG DISCUSSING TRAVELING COAST TO COAST AS WELL AS TO ALASKA. WE ARE ON THE WEST COAST WITH FAMILY ON EAST COAST AND WORRIED ABOUT SOME OF THE SEVERE WEATHER CONDITIONS WE MIGHT FACE.

  20. Bob Thaller Posted on 11.30.2016

    We are “travel addicts”. We went on a six week WIT RV tour to Alaska the first year that we had a motor home. We spent a month in the state visiting all ten of your favorites and many many more. Since then, we’ve been to many wonderful places on our bucket list, but none could match Alaska. Not only does Alaska have extraordinarily beautiful scenery and wild animals, but traveling there in an RV is a wonderful adventure.

  21. enjoyingourview Posted on 02.07.2017

    Great comments! We can’t wait to drive our 25′ View from FL to Alaska this summer. Should we be making RV campsite reservations in advance? 2 years ago we visited serveral Ntl Parks in the summer and survived without them.