Continuing on with the series… If you have been keeping up, the last post was on the timing of our trip. Since we are headed Southbound during the winter there are not many places that are inhabited to ask directions, so a strong understanding of your route is important before you get on the road. I highly suggest picking up a 2015 Milepost before you get too far into your planning, this book is a mile by mile guide to making your trip go as smoothly as possible.
I have traveled two different routes to and from Alaska from the Western entry point of Canada at Vancouver BC. Both of which have their merits and their drawbacks. The two most traveled and discussed routes through the western part of Canada to reach Alaska are the Cassiar Highway and the BC-97 to the Alaska Canada Highway 1. The later of which will be the route for this particular trip, but I would be remiss if I did not tell you about the Cassiar.
The Cassiar Highway also known as the Dease Lake Highway, picks up out of Prince George BC and spits you out West of Watson Lake on the AlCan. It is by far the most scenic approach to the journey you can take without strapping on a pair of hiking boots and going into the wild. The Cassiar meanders its way North, allowing mountains and valleys to guide its path. For many years the Cassiar was mostly gravel (or mud) and not maintained during the winter. Now I am pleased to report there are only a few sections of gravel here and there, and the pavement is not nearly as frost heaved as the Yukon Territory. What makes the Cassiar worth considering is the beauty of the area surrounding the road. There are few if any considering your definition, large towns along this route to scar the scenic route that you have chosen. If you have all the time in the world, a camera, and a car that can be trusted the Cassiar is the road for you. Be warned, it is not a good option in the winter due to the scarcity of open fueling stations and infrequent road maintenance during these months.
The less scenic, but nearly as picturesque AlCan to BC-97 route is the more reliable of the two. For the timing of our trip and the speed at which we are looking to complete it in, this route is our best option. Both highways are as “major” as it gets for the area that we will be traveling. This route has strategically placed fueling stations, frequent road maintenance, and more traffic just incase you need a helping hand on the side of the road. Even though it doesn’t take you straight through the heart of the Canadian Rockies, there are still plenty of amazing pictures and sights to be seen along this route. A great place to stop is the Forest of Signs near Liard Hot Springs, which is a great place to soak your weary traveling bones. Going through larger towns also affords you the opportunity to snag extra supplies at a big grocery store or catch some Z’s in a hotel. Even though this is the road more traveled, never leave yourself over confident and underprepared when it comes to winter travel in a remote area.