Author Topic: Hope, BC to Fairbanks, AK via Prince George, Cassiar  (Read 755 times)

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Offline gfparsons

Hope, BC to Fairbanks, AK via Prince George, Cassiar
« on: March 10, 2014, 01:47:14 am »
I'm planning a trip north from Vancouver, WA in mid May, intending to start my BC portion in Hope, coming up the Fraser River to Cache Creek and then on toward Prince George and taking Highway 16 and 37, the Cassiar Highway up to the Alaska Highway in Yukon.  I'm interested in any tips, such as why google routes me around the Fraser River Canyon onto the Coquihalla Hwy, even though I read about cyclists doing the Fraser River Canyon.  Any advice on cameras would be very helpful.  Also any info on elevation profiles and typical miles/day expectations.  Thanks!  George Parsons

Offline Norsman

Re: Hope, BC to Fairbanks, AK via Prince George, Cassiar
« Reply #1 on: March 10, 2014, 11:55:07 pm »
I assume that Google maps routes you on the Coquihalla because of the tunnels between Yale and Boston Bar.  There is no other reason that I can think of.  There are seven tunnels through that section but only two of them are long enough to cause any concerns and those two have warning lights you can turn on.  I live in the area and would definitely choose the canyon route over the Coquihalla.  It is shorter by about 40km and, I think, much more scenic. According to Ride with GPS the canyon route to Spences Bridge has about 400m more of elevation gain but that is likely to be neutralized by a nice tail wind.  Any time I have ridden in the Fraser Canyon or along the Thompson River there have been strong west winds blowing. The same winds exist on the first part of the Coquihalla but are not as strong and not as long lasting.

If you decide to use the Coquihalla there are a couple of options you can consider.  First the Othello Tunnels trail near Hope.  This allows you to bypass a big climb out of Hope.  This is a decent rail trail but can be a little rough in a few spots and has a couple of gates that cause delays.  I would still use it because the views are fabulous and the elevation saved is significant. Check at the tourist office in Hope to make sure it is open.  There have been some rock slides the last couple of years so make sure you can get through before you go.  The second detour is the Coldwater Road at Exit 256 at the north side of  Larson Hill about 35km south of Merritt. This allows you to use a much quieter and much lower back route into Merritt.

Offline gfparsons

Re: Hope, BC to Fairbanks, AK via Prince George, Cassiar
« Reply #2 on: March 11, 2014, 01:11:24 am »
Thanks Norsman for the insight.  I prefer the Fraser Canyon, tunnels and all, and hope that traffic in May is lighter.  Another question that comes up is the potential for bike repair or parts.  I'm considering bringing along a folding tire but would hope that my Schwalbe Marathons are good for "most" of the trip.  (700x37). 

Offline Norsman

Re: Hope, BC to Fairbanks, AK via Prince George, Cassiar
« Reply #3 on: March 12, 2014, 09:10:38 pm »
There are lots of bike shops in the Vancouver area right out to Chilliwack.  After that it is a bit more difficult.  The main bike shop in Hope closed a few years ago but the bike mechanic is still in town.  If you need something here just ask around.  North of Hope it is pretty sparse until you get to 100 Mile House which has a store.  After that I would assume you could get work done in Quesnel, Williams Lake and Prince George. After Prince George offerings are sparse.  I believe there is a store in Smithers but after that you probably won't find anything until you get into the Yukon.

Offline windrath

Re: Hope, BC to Fairbanks, AK via Prince George, Cassiar
« Reply #4 on: March 13, 2014, 05:58:43 pm »
George -

Is there a reason you prefer the Fraser River route vs going up through Squamish and Whistler and Llilouet to Cache Creek?  Just curious because I rode via Whistler in 2005. 

I cannot comment on your ride from Vancouver to Cache Creek.  After Cache Creek to Fairbanks, it is a nice ride and you should take these factors into consideration:

Leaving in Mid-May, you will encounter below overnight temps below freezing - especially as you get further north.

There are not a lot of huge climbs the entire way.  However, the roads are rarely flat, so you are constantly going up and down short steep little "pain-in-the-butt" hills.  It wears you out a lot.

The roads are mostly paved, but not smooth.  Plan for your bike to roll 2-3 mph slower due to this.

When you get to the Cassiar, you might be hitting there when the bears are active and have not moved to higher elevations.  And, there are no services for the first 100 miles of the Cassiar (when going north).

The bugs are terrible the entire way - drove us crazy.

As mentioned by others, there is not much in the way of bike shops after Smithers until you get past Watson Lake (north end of the Cassiar).

There is much more traffic northbound when you are going and the shoulders are not wide.  On 97, there are a lot of "chip" trucks that don't move much.  That all ends when you get to the Cassiar even though it is shorter than the Al-Can.  Lots of RV going north at your time as well.

My ride is recorded on www.windrath.info if you want to see our day-to-day stops and pictures.

It is a great ride with outstanding scenery.

Enjoy.

Paul

Offline gfparsons

Re: Hope, BC to Fairbanks, AK via Prince George, Cassiar
« Reply #5 on: March 29, 2014, 02:20:39 am »
Paul,

Thanks for the additional information.  I looked at the Whistler route, but figured the elevation gain would be a lot more than the Fraser route.  Is that correct or not?   I'm having trouble finding an accurate source of elevation gain for some of these routes. 

Offline Norsman

Re: Hope, BC to Fairbanks, AK via Prince George, Cassiar
« Reply #6 on: March 29, 2014, 03:18:05 am »
The climb up Duffy Lake Road from Lillooet Lake is quite steep - I think over a 1000 metres of elevation gain in about 15km of riding.  Some sections have a 13% grade.  There are no sections approaching anywhere that steepness with the Fraser Canyon route.  Both routes have some great scenery but I still think the canyon route has more to offer in both scenery and facilities.

Offline windrath

Re: Hope, BC to Fairbanks, AK via Prince George, Cassiar
« Reply #7 on: March 29, 2014, 06:32:42 am »
GF -

You are correct that the elevation gains are significant going the Whistler way - Tour de France kind of steep.  I think it is more scenic though than the Fraser Valley.

One of the most surprising aspects of my ride from Fairbanks to Vancouver (2005) was the fact that there No climbs that I considered significant other than the climb out of Lillooet.  BUT, in either direction, the road is seldom flat.  you are either going up or going down for short distance (100-300 yards) and these little ups and downs are steep.  SO, you really get beat up each day and don't have any climbing stories to tell anyone.  :)

Each way has advantages.  if you are hoping to avoid elevation, Fraser Canyon makes sense and you will pick up more traffic.

Good Luck - it is an awesome ride - especially the cassia Highway.

Paul

Offline gfparsons

Re: Hope, BC to Fairbanks, AK via Prince George, Cassiar
« Reply #8 on: June 26, 2014, 05:10:39 pm »
I completed this trip in about 30 days (2 layover days), around 1600 miles starting in Bellingham, WA and going as planned up the Fraser Canyon, Prince George, The Yellowhead Highway to the Cassiar, up the Cassiar, then taking the Alaska Highway to Jake's Corner, ending in Skagway.  Took the ferry from Skagway back to Bellingham.

The time of year made a difference.  (5/15 - 6/13)  Fewer mosquitoes up north, but cold camping - freezing temps on several occasions on the Cassiar.  Wore my leg warmers and jacket much of the ride past Meziadin Lake Provincial Park.  The riding temperatures were comfortable, however and the rain was not that heavy or frequent.  Traffic was moderate on Fraser Canyon - Cariboo Highways as well as the Yellowhead.  The Cassiar was beautiful with light traffic. 

Had about 7 bear encounters, most reasonably benign, although a bear at Bell 2 persisted in hanging around my campsite for awhile.  Hills are sometimes steep, but headwinds were a bigger issue for me, once I turned West toward the Cassiar from Prince George.  The Alaska Highway, from the Cassiar Junction had strong headwinds on my ride to Rancheria.

I strongly recommend this route.  Skagway's Sojurn Hostel, is a great place to stay and affordable at $32/per night.  The ferry to Bellingham is also a bargain where you "camp" on chaise lounges in the Solarium, which has heaters in the roof panels and is open to the sea for wonderful sightseeing.  I call this the "poor man's cruise."    Feel free to post with any questions.