I’ve been writing this post for a while now, and it’s destined to be a long(er) one, in large part simply because it was a long trip. We spent the great part of a week traveling the AlCan highway with kids and pets, making our way from Washington State all the way to our new home in Fairbanks, Alaska. While this was only a week of our long three+ weeks in the car from New Hampshire, it was arguably the most unique part of it, and it definitely warranted a post of its own – not just for the average reader, but for those who might do the trek themselves, as well!
Traveling the AlCan Highway with Kids and Pets
What the heck is the AlCan highway, you ask? Great question! The AlCan Highway, or the Alaska-Canada Highway, was originally constructed during World War II to connect the contiguous United States with Alaska while crossing through Canada. It traditionally starts in Dawson Creek, British Columbia (where the above photo was taken), and it continues straight through to Delta Junction, Alaska. It’s just a bit under 1,500 miles of two-lane highway through just about every type of scenery you can imagine.
The AlCan is famous for its unpredictability. The roads can be good or bad depending on a multitude of factors on any given day. From wild animals crossing (think: bison, caribou, deer, etc.) and raging wildfires, to the roads deteriorating and, ultimately, giving way, it’s one of those trips where you have to be prepared. And, to top it all off, we were doing it with three kids, two cats, and one dog.
Our Route from JBLM on the AlCan Highway
We started our immediate AlCan trek from JBLM where we were spending time with one of our favorite families still stationed there. We had to do a little last-minute detour to Nooksack to visit the animal hospital to get a proper health certificate for Danny. I’ll go into those details later, but just know it was a little detour, and it determined which border crossing we used. We crossed into Canada at Abbotsford with zero issues. We didn’t hit the AlCan until day two, but our route after entering Canada went like this:
- Night 1 – 100 Mile House, BC; we stayed at Big Country Campground & RV Park
- Night 2 – Chetwynd, BC; dispersed camping at Cameron Lake Campground in Hudson’s Hope
***Entered the AlCan Highway***
- Night 3 – Fort Nelson, BC; stayed at Super 8 Hotel
- Night 4 – Watson Lake, BC; stayed at Big Horn Hotel (note, no AC)
- Night 5 – Whitehorse, YT; stayed at Caribou RV Park
- Night 6 – Tok, AK; stayed at Young’s Motel (no AC, but great meals at Fast Eddie’s!)
The first two days were grueling. The roads were good, but the days were long. Our first two days pushed 400+ miles each day, then we decided to slow down and enjoy it a little more. When we stayed in Fort Nelson, it was a shorter day at about 320 miles, and we stopped at that specific Super 8 because it had a waterslide and great pool for the kids to play and get some crazies out.
What to Expect When Driving the AlCan Highway
First and foremost, large parts of the Alaska-Canada Highway have absolutely no service. None. Zilch. We purchased long-range walkie talkies for the trip, and our good friends from our trip to Kansas lent us their satellite phone in case of emergency. We were prepared. I drove the Subaru with my mom, Mieke, and our two cats, Jasper and Steve. Ryan drove in the truck with Spencer and Porter, as well as Danny. We took turns leading our little party, but we took our time.
The name of the game when traveling the AlCan is honestly just to go slow. Respect the road, respect your fellow travelers, and respect the wildlife. We didn’t see a ton of wildlife barring some mountain goats charging across the road near Muncho Lake, a butt ton of prairie dogs, and a single, lone bison lying on a hill. However, that’s not always the case. The roads were by far the worst on our final day in the Yukon Territories after Whitehorse. With huge frost heaves, insane potholes, and large portions of the road being gravel or washed out, it was definitely slow-going. It’s also important to note that there are long stretches without gas stations. We did fine, but if you’re towing something or hauling a trailer, you’ll want to hit every single gas station you can.
Pet Requirements Crossing into Canada & Alaska
We traveled with three pets, and both Canada and Alaska have their own requirements for entering with animals. We did our research ahead of time, and this is what we knew:
- Entering Canada – cats and dogs require up-to-date rabies certificates; must be presented to the border guards
- Entering Alaska – cats and dogs require valid health certificates; these must have a tracking number that can be submitted and searched if needed
Now, both cats received their 30-day land travel health certificates from my sister in New Hampshire. Danny, however, only had a note from her current veterinarian in Idaho, which wasn’t trackable. We caught it the day we were meant to leave JBLM and panicked. We managed to get a last-minute appointment at Nooksack Animal Hospital where we got a 30-day land travel health certificate on the spot. Thankfully, all her other stuff was up-to-date, so we just needed a simple form, and they delivered. I should note that the rabies certificates were checked at the Canadian border, but nothing was checked at the Alaskan border.
Again, this isn’t always the case. If you don’t produce the correct documents, they can very well turn you around and send you right back the way you came. We didn’t want to risk that, so we made sure all our ducks were in a row.
Best Resources for Traveling the AlCan Highway
We did a lot of research when it came to this trip, and we found what we consider to be the best resources possible. My favorite resource of all was actually a Facebook group called “Driving the Alcan – Alaska Canada Highway.” Bear in mind this isn’t your average Facebook group. You’re required to provide detailed answers to questions to even get in the group. There’s no extra BS; the admins shut it down. The files are extensive, and people post daily trip reports, recommendations, etc. – all in real-time. It was so helpful.
Our other favorite resources for traveling the AlCan Highway are the following:
- The Milepost – we used the 2023 edition of this planner, and it has everything from maps to places to stay, phone numbers, wildlife information, and more; it helped us map our entire route and then change said route as needed
- DriveBC.ca – this helped us with daily travel conditions before we hit the road each day
- Yukon511.ca – this offered daily free updates regarding travel once we hit the Yukon Territories; with the fires, this was a godsend
We input our route each day on Google Maps before we lost service, and we just left my phone up and running throughout the day. Only once did that fail us. Then, we used my car’s navigation system (Subaru Ascent), and it worked great.
What You Need Before You Travel the AlCan Highway
There’s a whole mess of stuff that I’d recommend you have before hitting the AlCan with kids and pets, but these are the most important things that we absolutely one hundred percent made sure we had on hand:
- Spare 5-gallon tank of gasoline
- Potable water in a 20L tank for dispersed camping
- Spare tire(s) for both vehicles
- Walkie talkies with long distance range (ours offered a 37-mile range)
- Snacks on snacks on snacks to distract kids
- Roadside safety kit including flares, etc.
- Fluids for the cars including oil, washer fluids, etc.
- MREs or other easy meals
- Bear spray/bear horn
- Camping gear (we were lucky and had all this because of our plans)
There is so much more I could share about this trip, but this post would be eight pages long. Instead, I invite you to explore the routes and opportunities for yourself! Our stays were great, and each were pet-friendly, as mentioned, though the cats slept in the car when we camped. It was simplest and safest, and they had litter and food safely locked in the car. It worked great for us. Ultimately, it was the trip of a lifetime and, because we were prepared, we could enjoy it!
***Please note: the information in this post pertains to summer crossings of the AlCan Highway; I highly recommend seeking additional information and resources for winter crossings***