RV Alaska This Fall: Tips and tricks

Denali National Park as seen from the Park Road one fine autumn day. Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

The majority of Alaska visitors (and many residents) make their explorations of the Last Frontier between May and August, when days are long and attractions, open. For Alaska RV enthusiasts, the summer months are also perceived as the “only” time one can hop behind the wheel and roam the highways of our state. 

RV travel in Alaska can be perfectly delightful in the fall. Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

Since picking up our Great Alaskan Holidays coach in early May, AK Fam has determined to spend as much time as possible learning about this popular form of travel, and now, in September, I think we’ve nailed it. But the chance to RV Alaska just a few more times before snow falls, however, was too tempting to skip, so we’ve taken to the road to offer our best tips and tricks for an RV adventure among the changing leaves and falling Termination Dust

Hiking Savage River Canyon in Denali National Park. Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

Why RV Alaska in the fall?

  • Space, people, space. There’s space on the road, in the campground, and around the parking lot of Costco. Why waste it? 
  • Cost. We paid regular summer rates of $40/night at Denali National Park over Labor Day weekend, but from mid-September through April, camping at Denali’s Riley Creek Campground is FREE. And other Alaska RV destinations are often offered at a slashed rate, making attractions (also offered at shoulder-season rates, too) more affordable for families. 
  • Color. Oh my, what a marvelous riot of color we saw last weekend in Denali. An Alaska RV trip means gazing upon the yellows and reds of a 49th state autumn in comfort, or hopping out at a trailhead and hiking among the sweet-smelling fall leaves before continuing on your way. Try Ke’sugi Ridge in Denali State Park or one of Denali’s many trails near the entrance area. 

A dutch oven, locally-sourced produce and meat, and a can of 49th State Brewing Company beer made for a great stew. Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO RV Alaska 

There are a few details, however, of which families traveling by RV in Alaska should be aware. Weather, equipment, and clothing are the most important, especially when attempting a lengthy outing with kids in tow. Here’s what we discovered while in Denali for four nights and five days: 

  • Use the closet space for warm things. RV closets are created to hold gear, so take advantage of the space and load up with clothing layers that begin with non-cotton bases and end with waterproof rain coats and pants and appropriate footwear. Don’t forget extra socks, hats, mitts/gloves, and fleece layers once they become wet or dirty, as no kid should ever have to stop playing outdoors because he or she is waiting for socks to dry out in front of the heater. 
  • Cook for comfort. I brought my dutch oven along on this trip, knowing that hot comfort food would be a superstar option on the chilly fall nights in Denali. We simmered an Alaska-grown stew, roasted a pork roast, and baked biscuits, all in this heavy pot that has traveled the length and breadth of Alaska. Find some great camp cooking recipes on our Pinterest board “Good Food.” 
  • Heat ’em up on the inside and outside. Go ahead, build the campfire but make sure you have plenty of starter paper, kindling, and wood to keep that sucker burning until all the marshmallows have been roasted and the cocoa drunk up. Speaking of cocoa, try adding a touch of cinnamon to their hot chocolate cups for a spicy way to end the day. 
  • Prepare for rain or snow in Alaska. Our Coleman canopy shelter is a fantastic tool when rain or wet snow begins to fall at the campground. We place it near the entry of the RV and over the picnic table so everyone has a dry space to sit or a spot to keep boots and shoes dry and out of the RV stairwell. 
  • Take extra towels. As an afterthought last weekend, I grabbed three extra towels from my linen cabinet (not the good ones, mind you), thinking they might be handy. Were they ever! Wiping up muddy dog paws, drying off picnic benches, and lots of miscellaneous who-knows-what tasks. 
  • Skip storing most items behind the front wheels. We were warned against this practice during our Spring Adventure Package trip in 2016, and heeded it again during our drive up the Parks Highway. The front wheels of an RV have an annoying habit of splashing copious amounts of rainwater into the storage unit behind the front wheels, making for really soggy contents if you are not careful. Thus, the only things we kept there were the blocks for positioning the RV and the tie downs for the dogs. Anything else will be sopping by the time you reach your destination. 

Marshmallows over a campfire during our RV Alaska adventure.  Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

We hiked, swung in our hammock, visited the fabulously-uncrowded Denali National Park visitor centers, and reminded ourselves that fall in Alaska is definitely our favorite time of year. Even more so when we’ve got our cabin on wheels. 

*Great Alaskan Holidays GOOD DEAL ALERT: Right now, you can rent any size RV from Great Alaskan Holidays (valid through September 30, 2017) for four nights at a rate of $500. And there’s no prepayment, either. Check it out and join us on the road!*

~ EK

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