Recently a woman contacted me with questions about driving to Alaska on her own. As editor of The MILEPOST travel guide, I field a lot of questions about driving to Alaska. This woman had traveled in an RV, by herself, throughout the Lower 48, but she was concerned about the remoteness of Alaska. After learning she couldn't cross the border into Canada with her handgun, she decided not to come. And that's a shame, because I travel the North by myself, as do my colleagues at The MILEPOST, and it is a great experience.
I have camped throughout Alaska and western Canada on my own in my VW van. Judy Nadon, our Canadian MILEPOST field editor, travels the North every summer pulling a Lil Guy trailer (Lil Rascal-size), driving some really remote roads in the Yukon Territory and Northwest Territories. Assistant editor Claire Torgerson also travels in Alaska and Canada on her own (if you don't count her black lab, Trudy), and she tent camps. My experience, and the experience of other field editors traveling solo, is one of finding beauty in the land and camaraderie on the road.
You will generally find a helping hand if you need one in the North. I had a flat tire on the South Klondike Highway one summer not long ago, and while I knew how to change a tire (critical here in the North, where the nearest roadside assistance may be more than a 100 miles away), I could not get the bolts undone. A couple from Whitehorse stopped and helped, and I was soon on my way again. Driving up the Alaska Highway last September by myself, I would pull off the road to get photos, only to have passersby stop and ask if I needed assistance.
I prefer camping because it is 1) more economical, 2) allows for more spontaneity, and 3) makes it easier to meet other travelers. As Claire says, "Most of the fellow travelers I meet while on the road or in campgrounds have a 'we're in this together' type attitude. A quick hello and friendly smile, and before you know it we are laughing over highway experiences and giving each other tips about what to see and do."
>> The MILEPOST recommends all travelers – whether solo or not – use campgrounds rather than turnouts along the highway. You will see RVers parked overnight in roadside turnouts, often in groups of vehicles, but campgrounds offer more security and better facilities.
>> If you're in a campground and feel uncomfortable about your neighbors, look around for a different site next to a family or couple in an RV. Feel free to introduce yourself and explain you're a little bit concerned about your environment and traveling alone. People respond protectively to single women travelers, including private campground owners, who are usually happy to assign you a site near the office or adjacent a caravan, where you'll have more company.
>> Many Alaska state and federal campgrounds, as well as Canada's government campgrounds, have campground hosts. In the Northwest Territories a couple of years ago, I was the only camper at the Sixtieth Parallel Territorial Park and at Sambaa Deh Falls Territorial Park. I'll admit to being a bit unnerved at first, until I realized how irrational that fear was. Both parks had resident hosts, and there was nothing to be scared of because there wasn't anyone around (except the hosts) for miles.
If you travel the Dalton Highway on your own, as field editor Sharon Nault has done several times, you'll experience the real North, a remote wilderness where musk oxen, caribou, grizzlies, and moose roam. Part of that experience is also the fellowship of the road. Motorists passing in the other direction wave a greeting; truckers gather for meals at the "trucker table" at Coldfoot's café, and chances are you'll meet and greet the same group of travelers – in trucks, in campers, on bicycles and motorcycles – as you make your way up the Dalton to Deadhorse and Prudhoe Bay.
For solo travelers who are interested in hitting the trails and enjoying the state beyond the road system, here's what Melissa Bradley at The MILEPOST has to say: "I've hiked alone many times. The keys to success are bear spray, bells on your backpack, and the occasional song to interrupt the silence. Folks along Alaska hiking trails are a friendly bunch, so be sure to factor social time into your hiking plan."
Solo travelers have plenty of opportunities to join groups on other adventures in Alaska, tours that take anywhere from an hour to a day, and none of which require double-occupancy. Here are just a few suggestions:
For everything you need to know about traveling the Alaska Highway, from northern British Columbia through the Yukon Territory to the hinterlands of Alaska, get yourself a current edition of The MILEPOST.