Exploring the Richardson Highway
The Richardson Highway is a 366 mile route connecting Fairbanks to Valdez. It is Alaska’s oldest overland road. It was originally used as an Army pack trail to Fort Eagle. It was also used by prospectors during the Klondike gold rush. In the 1920s it was upgraded to accommodate auto travel but it remained unpaved until 1957, just 2 years before Alaska became a state.
The road begins in Fairbanks, a city that was founded by a prospector and riverboat captain, Elbridge Truman Barnette. Visit the Pioneer Park next to the Chena River to learn about the early days of Fairbanks. The park includes 35 restored gold rush era buildings as well as many historical artifacts and cultural exhibits.
Along the route, the highway takes you to the top of Isabel Pass which sits at an elevation of 3,210 feet. On the southern side of the pass you’ll find many lakes with lots of opportunities for camping.
Another interesting point along the route is Glennallen, the gateway to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. The park is North America’s largest and it contains the highest concentration of mountains over 14,000 feet. Stop at the visitor’s center for exhibits including historic artifacts as well as native arts and crafts.
The route ends in Valdez, a port town at the end of a fjord off of Prince William Sound. Once home to fur traders and salmon canneries, the city now plays home base to outdoor enthusiasts who come to enjoy the wildlife and glaciers. The harbor area is perfect for those in RVs. You’ll be able to catch a water taxi or a tour boat from your campsite. During the summer you’ll likely catch a glimpse of seals, sea lions and whales in the bay.
The best time to explore the Richardson Highway via RV is during the months of June through early September.
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