Author Topic: seattle to alaska or alaska to seattle -- pros and cons  (Read 1077 times)

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Offline nordquse

seattle to alaska or alaska to seattle -- pros and cons
« on: June 20, 2013, 04:19:41 pm »
hello from seattle.  just joined the forum.  planning solo bike trip :( , want to head up to alaska.  most reports googled come down from alaska.   wouldn't prevailing winds be south to north? any reason why riding up would be less aesthetic than riding down?


Offline geegee

Re: seattle to alaska or alaska to seattle -- pros and cons
« Reply #1 on: June 20, 2013, 10:13:57 pm »
I cycled solo from Vancouver up to Fairbanks in the summer of 2008, awesome trip. Wind was really not a big factor. I rode up Vancouver Island to Port Hardy then took the ferry up to Prince Rupert and then on to Skagway. Going up White Pass to the Yukon takes you from sea level to 3,292 feet in 14 miles, but the views are spectacular:



I saw a few cyclists going the other way but none going my way, especially going up the Klondike and the rugged Top-of-the-World Highway. There are stretches of unpaved road, but if you go up that way, you'll ride high along the ridge of mountains to get to the northernmost point of entry by land back into the USA:





A water filter really came in handy as there were few services along the way so brought at least a couple days worth of dried food and took my water from rivers and streams. The river banks are steep and slippery, and the water often runs fast and silty so a cloth bucket came in handy to fetch water:



I remember when I got to Tok, AK it felt like such luxurious civilization. I enjoyed the Yukon the most, awesome landscapes and interesting people. I could have cycled down to Anchorage from Fairbanks, but as a treat I took the Alaska Railroad which is one of the must-ride scenic trains in the world.

Offline nordquse

Re: seattle to alaska or alaska to seattle -- pros and cons
« Reply #2 on: June 20, 2013, 10:52:05 pm »
thanks geegee.  last big tour was in 03, riding across australia.  time to get back in the saddle  ;)

Offline windrath

Re: seattle to alaska or alaska to seattle -- pros and cons
« Reply #3 on: June 24, 2013, 09:18:35 pm »
A group of us rode from Fairbanks to Vancouver in 2005.  We started on Memorial Day and ended right around July 4th.  Rode east on the Alcan Highway to Watson Lake, then down the Cassiar Highway to the Yellow Knife Highway to Prince George.  From there we headed south to before turning off towards Lillouet and through Whistler.  All toward about 2,000 miles. 

We had significant head winds from all the way.  Not a lot of big climbs though - mostly short steep up and does the entire way since the road construction was fast and just went over whatever the terrain was.  The biggest climb we had was out of Lillouet towards Whistler and it was steep.  BUT, it was even steeper coming from Whistler towards Lillouet.  The paved road is rough and slows you down 2-4 mph.  We did not have any trouble finding water and food nor campgrounds.

I think your biggest decision is what route you plan to take to get to the Yukon.  You can head east and take the Alcan all the way or you can do what we did and include Whistler and the Cassiar highway.  Let me know if you want more info as I have all of our campground, daily mileage, etc..

I believe the south to north has steeper climbs along with a favorable tailwind if the weather is nice.

Good Luck.


Offline nordquse

Re: seattle to alaska or alaska to seattle -- pros and cons
« Reply #4 on: June 25, 2013, 07:07:40 pm »
thanks for the info windrath

Offline windrath

Re: seattle to alaska or alaska to seattle -- pros and cons
« Reply #5 on: June 27, 2013, 05:33:24 am »
Nordquse -

Another aspect of the ride that was surprising to us was the amount of tourist traffic coupled with the logging trucks.  If you ride early in the summer (June), the tourist traffic will be mostly heading from south to north and it is significant.  Obviously, later in the summer, the traffic will be heading south.  The volume of logging trucks was  very heavy on the Yellowhead highway and then from Prince George south.  Was not heavy from Fairbanks to Watson Lake nor Watson Lake along the Cassiar Highway.

The roads are fairly wide, but that does not mean you won't get tired of the logging truck zooming by all the time.

BTW - very few travelers - tourist or logging take the Cassiar for various reasons - mostly the amount of unpaved and limited services  We loved it.  Same holds true for the section of Vancouver through Whistler and over to Lillooet.


Offline lukethedrifter

Re: seattle to alaska or alaska to seattle -- pros and cons
« Reply #6 on: June 29, 2013, 10:25:58 am »
Did the trip (Seattle to Fairbanks and then some) back in 1988 with very little riding or camping experience.
To be brief about it, I rode from Seattle through the San Juans- ferries involved, obviously- to Vancouver Island on to Vancouver. From there pretty much followed the Fraser River up to Prince George then west until I hit the Cassiar Highway. Back in 88 there weren't a ton of tourists but there were a lot of logging trucks who seemingly had no interest in sharing their road. The side trip to StewartBC/HyderAK is well worth it. I had the most incredible tail wind climbing back up over the pass on the return trip, probably did 25mph UP the pass.
Along the way, the locals pretty regularly warned me about the bears and my need for a weapon. Especially once I got into the Yukon. A few miles up the road from Watson Lake I ran across a cyclist heading south from Alaska on his way to Tierra del Fuego. ( I wonder if he and his partner ever made it?)
Took the Robt Campbell Hwy up to the Klondike Hwy then on to Dawson. iirc I took that route and the Cassiar route after reading about them in a booklet from bikecentennial. The Top of The World Highway into Chicken, Ak was probably my favorite part of the entire ride.

There's plenty more of course. It was completely life changing. One of these days, I'm going to do it- or rather something similar- again.

Sold my Anchorage to Seattle plane ticket the night before in the Seattle youth hostel- back when you could do that- and stayed an extra month and a half in Homer then hitchhiked home.