Alaska Great Northern Adventure
Why choose between a bike tour or a cruise through the Inside Passage to Alaska when you can have double the fun and double the adventure with this new tour! After three days of cycling in the North Puget Sound region, we’ll board a ferry for a 2.5-day maritime adventure through the Inside Passage of coastal British Columbia, en route to Haines, Alaska.
From Haines, we’ll climb up and over Chilkat Pass on a route used during the Klondike Gold Rush and then turn westward in Canada’s Yukon Territory and head for the Interior of Alaska, where we’ll explore Denali national and state parks and the towns of Fairbanks and Talkeetna, both rich in Alaska history. We’ll end our journey with a ride aboard the Alaska Railroad to Anchorage, capping off our connected tour of over 1,000 miles of spectacular cycling in Washington, British Columbia, the Yukon, and the Interior of Alaska.
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Week 1. Redmond, Washington to Haines, Alaska
We’ll meet in Redmond for an orientation meeting at a motel adjacent to the beautiful East Lake Sammamish Trail, where we will divide up the group gear and pore over the maps and cue sheets for our epic adventure. We will head northward on a series of paved trails and progressively quieter roads as we head away from the Seattle area toward the North Puget Sound region, camping near lovely Lake Stevens and at the aptly named Bay View State Park. On the fourth day of our adventure, we will ride along scenic Chuckanut Drive and arrive in the small city of Bellingham mid-day, which should give us plenty of time to visit the local bike shops and outfitters for any last-minute bike adjustments or supply purchases before boarding the Alaska Marine Highway System ferry in the late afternoon.
We will spend three nights camping on the ferry, in areas sheltered from the wind and with tents duct-taped to the deck, for an unforgettable experience. The ferry will take us through the Inside Passage of British Columbia and Alaska, with spectacular views of the small islands, mountains, glaciers, and wildlife on our way to Haines. Enroute, the ferry makes relatively quick stops at Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg, and Juneau, and, depending upon the exact ferry schedule, we may have an hour or two to go ashore. After 2.5 days, we’ll disembark in Haines, gather our bikes and group gear, and head out on the beautifully remote Haines Highway.
Week 2. Haines to Tok, Alaska
Haines to Tok, Alaska. We will quickly go from coastal Alaska to British Columbia and the Yukon Territory as we climb over Chilkat Pass, at just over 3,500 feet, on our way to Haines Junction and the Alaska Highway. At Haines Junction, we will take a well-deserved rest day and then turn west and take the Alaska Highway to the Alaska border, passing alongside gorgeous Kluane Lake and some of the tallest mountains in the Yukon, as we head toward the crossroads town of Tok.
Along the way, we will enjoy expansive scenery and camping at a combination of public and private campgrounds in some remote and beautiful areas, including the Lakeview Campground in the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge, with mirror-like lake views of the surrounding mountains. On occasion, when campgrounds are not available, we will stay indoors in basic cabins or hostels, and eat at roadhouses when groceries are not available. Once we reach Tok, we will have a layover day to rest and take advantage of the services, such as a nice café or two, as we recharge, resupply, and continue our journey deeper into the Interior of Alaska.
Week 3. Tok to Fairbanks, Alaska
We will depart Tok on a dedicated bike path that parallels the Alaska Highway for quite a few miles. After the bike path ends, we have just three more days of travel on the Alaska Highway and then the Richardson Highway before we reach Fairbanks, Alaska’s second-largest city. In Fairbanks, we will have a layover day to explore many unique features of the area, such as a gold dredge and riverboat with historic ties to the 1902 Gold Rush. There will also be an opportunity to examine the Alaska pipeline and see the role that Fairbanks plays today in arctic resource exploration. Another highlight is the role that the University of Alaska plays in scientific investigations of the Northern Lights, and there will be an optional bike ride to visit a rocket launch facility that is used for these scientific purposes.
Week 4. Fairbanks to Anchorage, Alaska
From Fairbanks, we’ll ride south along the Parks Highway, with spectacular views of the mountains of the Alaska Range, as we approach Denali National Park after just two days of riding. We will camp inside of the park and have two full days to explore this amazing place by cycling, hiking, and riding a tour bus. With a little luck and good visibility, we should see North America’s tallest peak, Denali, along with wildlife including moose, caribou, bighorn sheep, and bears. To increase the likelihood of seeing “The Great One,” we will spend several additional days in this spectacular area, continuing our ride south on the Parks Highway and then turning back north on a spur road to the unique town of Talkeetna.
Soon after exiting the national park, we will enter Denali State Park, which sports a brand-new hilltop campground with yet another vantage point to view the majesty of Denali. We will turn off of the main highway onto a beautiful 15-mile-long bike path that leads us directly to Talkeetna, where on a clear day there is an unimpeded view of Denali from the Riverfront Park, where we will camp. We will have a celebration dinner in Talkeetna on the final night of the tour, and then enjoy this beautiful artisan community before taking Alaska Railroad’s Denali Star in the late afternoon of the next day, bound for the city of Anchorage, our final destination. The three-hour train journey features some great scenery and will provide time to reflect on our great northern adventure with the companions in our group and fellow travelers.