Practical tips and advice for cycling in Alaska based on my own bike touring experiences there. Links are included to blog posts written when bicycle touring in Alaska.
Bike Touring in Alaska
It was back in 2009 that I was last cycling in Alaska. I suspect that not a great deal has changed. It's a big place, it's cold, and there are only a few main roads. It's also an outdoor adventurers paradise, and a great destination for bicycle touring. If plenty of wild camping, challenging terrain, and a sense of remoteness are your thing, you're going to love it!
A Guide to Cycling in Alaska
As my experiences of cycling in Alaska followed a route from Deadhorse, through Fairbanks, and on to Canada, I can't comment about Denali, perhaps Alaska's most famous national park. Instead, all the information here was gathered whilst cycling along what is known as the Pan-American Highway. If you do want to find out about other parts of Alaska though, this 10 day itinerary for Alaska is ideal further reading.
For this cycling guide, I've broken the information down into sections I think you will find most relevant if you are planning a bike tour in Alaska. For other questions relating to cycling the Pan-American highway, you might want to check out this blog post.
When to go
Unless you specifically want to cycle in the snow (and some people do with their fat bikes and spike tyres), there's really only a narrow window of time to choose from. Without going into too much analysis here, June and July are your two best months to choose from. If you are cycling south on a Pan-American cycling trip, then June is probably the best of the two.
Even in June, you can still expect the odd cold night up in the north. Although I never experienced any, my guess is that snow might also be randomly possible, especially given how crazy the planet's weather is over the last few years. Weather wise, rain can always be an issue, and some of the rough roads turn to sludge when this happens. If you are cycling in Alaska in June, you will also experience the phenomenon of 24 hour sunlight. It goes without saying that the further north you are, the colder it becomes, no matter what time of year you are there.
Where to stay
Private rooms in motels and hotels are not cheap, and especially so in Deadhorse. Hostels are an affordable option, and the Warmshowers network has several kindly hosts in the state. Really though, camping is going to be the number one choice when bike touring in Alaska. You can choose from official sites, or wild camp in the more remote areas. Wild camping will also help you to reduce costs when bike touring – something most cyclists on the road for any length of time are keen on!
Food and Drink
When planning your cycling route in Alaska, you may have to consider how much food to carry with you. There are several stretches of road, where it is advisable to carry 2 or 3 days worth of food. If you are budget conscious, you might want to carry more, as prices are obviously higher for food the further away from civilisation you get. Don't expect a full range of groceries in small settlements and towns. Sometimes it's just a case of eating what's there. Here's a good idea of what food to stock up on for bike touring whenever you get to a bigger place. Taking a cooking stove is a good idea.
Water is available from lakes and rivers, although will need to be filtered before drinking. Tap water is potable, but it's worth checking first. In the more remote areas, it's worth thinking ahead in order to work out how much water to carry.
It's going to pay to be reasonably self-sufficient in terms of spares and tools when cycling in Alaska. Outside of Anchorage and Fairbanks, you won't be seeing a bike shop. A bicycle tool kit like the one below should cover most situations.
Roads and traffic
There's a mix of roads to experience when cycling in Alaska! Perhaps the most notorious, is the Haul Road or Dalton Highway. This is an unsealed rough road with a number of hill and mountain passes. Having a bike capable of cycling along rough roads is definitely going to help! Back onto the sealed roads though, and cyclists will find the roads relatively smooth, with a slight shoulder to use, and little traffic. Roadworks can (or at least were) an issue from time to time.
Dangers and annoyances
The two main dangers and annoyances when cycling in Alaska are bears and mosquitoes. And to be honest, I'm not sure which one annoyed me the most. Probably the mosquitoes actually. They were vociferous, and seemed to collect in huge gangs, waiting for me to leave the tent in the morning! I saw bears a couple of times, but took all the correct precautions in terms of keeping food away from my tent etc. I also carried some bear spray which I never used, and discarded at the border with Canada.
My blog posts from cycling in Alaska
Here's the links to my blog posts about bike touring in Alaska:
Cycling in Alaska Day 1 – Biking from Deadhorse to Happy Valley
Cycling in Alaska Day 2 – Biking from Happy Valley to Galbraith Lake
Cycling in Alaska Day 3 – Biking from Galbraith Lake to Random Roadside
Cycling in Alaska Day 4 – Biking from Roadside to Marion Creek
Cycling in Alaska Day 5 – Riding from Marion Creek to Arctic Circle
Cycling in Alaska Day 6 – Cycling from Arctic Circle to Five Mile
Cycling in Alaska Day 7 – Riding from Five Mile to Elliot Highway
Cycling in Alaska Day 8 – Cycling from Elliot Highway to Joy
Cycling in Alaska Day 9 – Joy to Fairbanks
Saturday in Fairbanks – A day to rest the knee
Back on the Bike! Cycling in Alaska from Fairbanks to Salcha River
100 miles in the bag – Cycling in Alaska
Cycling in Alaska – Riding from somewhere I can’t remember to Tok
The Story of Spam Singles – Cycling from Tok to Northway Junction in Alaska
If you have any questions about bike touring in Alaska, or would like to add some information, please leave a comment below. It would be great to hear from you!