Upon leaving Skagway, we headed back north on the gorgeous South Klondike Highway, and east onto the Alaska Highway. From there we had a choice. Continue on the Alaska Highway all the way to Dawson Creek, or head down the Cassiar Highway?
The decision was almost made for us as the Cassiar closed the night before we were to travel it due to a wildfire, but luckily it reopened to alternating one-way traffic just in time for our journey. In order to see new sights as much as possible, we opted to give it a try. Some quick stats: The Cassiar Highway is 450 miles long and connects the Alaska Highway in Yukon to the Yellowhead Highway in British Columbia. It is very remote. It is a two-lane, at times narrow and curvy road that is paved, but we wouldn’t call it good. There are lots of frost heaves, pavement breaks, and potholes, meaning you have to really be paying close attention the entire drive. There were some good sections, especially at the southern end, but the road as a whole was challenging, yet doable. Another thing to consider is that the Cassiar Highway has zero cell phone reception (at least on Verizon), and when we say zero, we mean there was maybe a mile or two of reception at each end, but absolutely nothing in the middle, not even a quick moment while rolling through a small town. So for approximately 448 miles, we were disconnected from the world!
All along the way are RV parks and Provincial Parks for camping. We opted to stay in three of the Provincial Parks along the way, and the camp sites at each were phenomenal. Each time, we lucked into lake-side sites with gorgeous views and quiet nights. We stayed in Ta Ch’il a PP (formerly known as Boya Lake PP), Kinaskan PP, and Meziadin Lake PP. As we said, all three were amazing, but our favorite was Boya Lake. There we had the best weather, the least amount of smoke, and the color of that lake was astounding! Check out the pictures above to see our sites at all three.
The drive along the Cassiar was amazing with mountain views, lakes, rivers, and gorgeous forest. We made many stops along the way to enjoy the scenery. We had heard that there was a ton of wildlife in the area, too, but sadly we didn’t see any of that. One stop of note that wasn’t scenery related was Jade City. This is a business where they process and sell the jade that they cut at their nearby mine. We really enjoyed seeing the jade in the various states of processing and the staff were great at answering our questions and explaining the processes to us. The polished jade ends up the same color as many of the area lakes we have seen! Also of interest, this mine and processing facility were featured on a television show called Jade Fever for several seasons! Since we don’t have cable we haven’t seen it, but maybe you have!
From the Cassiar, we took a side trip to Stewart, BC and Hyder, AK. We loved our entire trip along the Cassiar, but this side trip was probably the highlight of taking this route for us. The drive into the area was gorgeous. There were huge mountains and waterfalls all along the road and a great view of Bear Glacier. We even saw a black bear along the way! The weather wasn’t the greatest with rain and low clouds, so we weren’t able to see as much of the mountains as we would have liked, but what we did see was amazing. It reminded us a lot of our time in Seward when we could see the base of the mountains and we knew that they must be gorgeous…if we could only see them! The drive out did allow us a bit more (but not a complete) view, so all was not lost. This side trip also marked our final goodbye to Alaska for this trip. Hyder was our last stop in the state.
Stewart and Hyder are located at the end of the Portland Canal which is the longest fjord in North America at 90 miles long. Stewart has a boardwalk out over an estuary near the water that we enjoyed walking. There wasn’t a ton of activity while we were there, but we did see a bald eagle fly in and perch on a log. We had also heard about the Fish Creek Wildlife Viewing Area in Hyder where they say you can often find bears feasting on salmon. We were there near the end of the salmon run, so we knew our chances were not great, but we tried really hard, anyway. We made three stops at various times of day to this area, but alas, it was not meant to be. The bears must have already gotten their fill of the salmon for the year. There were still lots of salmon in the creek, though, so it was a great time watching the salmon swim and spar with each other. There were lots of dead salmon around, too, so be glad we can’t add the smell to the blog!
The absolute, undeniable highlight of this section of our trip, though, was Salmon Glacier. The road getting there, however, is abysmal. Literally, it is the worst road Heather says she has ever been on. There are potholes the size of moon craters and so. much. washboard. There is a huge gold and silver mining operation along the way and the heavy equipment has just destroyed the road, but still we carried on and we made it to the glacier! Salmon Glacier is the world’s largest glacier you can drive to, and we were totally unprepared for what we saw. We stopped at the overlook of the toe of the glacier and got a great glimpse of a small portion, but when we arrived at the summit with the main view point, it was completely socked in with clouds. We were so disappointed! We were ready for a grand payoff for bouncing 16 miles down that horrible road, so we decided to wait it out. Waiting out the clouds has worked for us in the past in other places (remember Crater Lake?), so we crossed our fingers and settled in. We waited and waited, and just when we were about to call it and head back down the mountain, the clouds opened up and we were rewarded with the most spectacular close-up view of a glacier we have ever gotten. Words just can’t describe it, and pictures don’t do it justice, so you will just have to make your own trip someday! Really. It is worth it.
We finally finished our Cassiar Highway journey – complete with the Stewart and Hyder side trip – yesterday, so now we have some big decisions to make. We have been so focused on getting to, traveling around, and getting out of Alaska for the last few months that we have made absolutely no plans for what we will do next. Should we explore Canada some more, or head on back to the lower 48? If we head back to the U.S. do we go west? South? What states do we want to see? Are there national parks we should hit? Do we revisit some of our favorite places or stick with new? So many questions, and for now, no answers. We are both pretty indecisive, so if you have a recommendation to get us moving in the right direction, let us know in the comments!
Until next time!