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Richardson Highway or Tok Cut Off

Richardson Highway or Tok Cut Off

Old Aug 18, 16, 2:27 am
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Richardson Highway or Tok Cut Off

I'm finalising route for for my third trip to Alaska and need some advice. I did the Google Search and FT search before posting but found a lot of general advice about routes rather comparison of the two.

Current plan is as on the picture:


When driving from Valdez, which route has nicer views: Tok Cut Off and then Alaska Highway and Richardson Highway to Fairbanks or Richardson Highway from Valdez to Fairbanks?

I'm interested in nice views, photo spots and possibly some light hiking. I'm taking my trip on third week of September.

I already drove on Parks Hwy, Glenn Hwy and around Anchorage and Fairbanks so I don't have any doubts about these part.

Last edited by Richmond_Surrey; Aug 19, 16 at 8:31 am
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Old Aug 18, 16, 4:11 pm
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Valdez to Fairbanks via Richardson Highway is shorter than the Tok Cut-off and goes more directly through the Alaska Range, so it has spectacular in-mountain scenery. Short hikes possible in the Tangle Lakes area-requires a short detour onto the Denali Highway, not approved for rental cars. Hikes to glaciers possible directly from the Richardson Hwy as you go through the Alaska Range.

Views from the Tok Cut-off are into mountains to the east in Wrangell - St Elias National Park. Nice, but you are not as much in the mountains. For photos people have taken along these routes, I'd suggest using Google Earth and turning on the Photos box under Primary Database. Then zoom in along each highway and click on the photo icons.

The third week of September is pretty late in the season. Expect near freezing temperatures and watch out for early snow.
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Old Aug 19, 16, 1:10 am
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Thanks, I will look for more pictures from Richardson Highway. I'm fully aware of possible weather conditions. I know there were some snow blizzards in late September in Fairbanks in previous years.

Is there a particular date when rental companies are changing tyres to winter ones or are cars on all seasons all the time? I rented a rear wheel drive and hope it will have useful tyres. If not, I will have to swap to something else on site.

Unfortunately Delta is not flying to Fairbanks and I was limited to this airline to use my partner airmiles.
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Old Aug 19, 16, 8:19 am
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I can't see the image (could you describe it in words?) so don't know how this fits in with the rest of your plans, but I'll just say that the Richardson Hwy to and through Thompson Pass/Worthington Glacier gets my vote for most beautiful road in Alaska, even better than along Turnagain Arm.



Edited to add - Oh, you said when driving FROM Valdez. How are you getting to Valdez in the first place, and are you heading to Fairbanks regardless, i.e. a big counter/anticlockwise loop from Anchorage using the ferry to Valdez?

Last edited by Gardyloo; Aug 19, 16 at 8:24 am
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Old Aug 19, 16, 8:25 am
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I fixed picture sharing on Google.

Ok, my initial route is: Anchorage - Valdez - Tok - Fairbanks - Denali - Talkeetna - Anchorage. I thought about skipping going to Tok and instead, directly from Valdez to Fairbanks if road is more picturesque.

Unfortunately I can't take ferry to or from Valdez due to dates, no ferries. I'm going anti-clockwise, because I have to wait until Denali is open to everyone after 21st of September. If I go clockwise, I will be in Denali during lottery days and won't get access to the park.

Last edited by Richmond_Surrey; Aug 19, 16 at 8:35 am
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Old Aug 19, 16, 10:50 am
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Originally Posted by Richmond_Surrey View Post
I fixed picture sharing on Google.

Ok, my initial route is: Anchorage - Valdez - Tok - Fairbanks - Denali - Talkeetna - Anchorage. I thought about skipping going to Tok and instead, directly from Valdez to Fairbanks if road is more picturesque.

Unfortunately I can't take ferry to or from Valdez due to dates, no ferries. I'm going anti-clockwise, because I have to wait until Denali is open to everyone after 21st of September. If I go clockwise, I will be in Denali during lottery days and won't get access to the park.
Okay, so you're driving the Glennallen - Valdez section of the Richardson twice, got it.

In that case I'd just take the Richardson all the way to Fairbanks. The time/scenery tradeoff for the Tok cutoff isn't worth it IMO.

None of my business, but are you using miles/Avios for the trip? If so (or even if not) I always advocate people getting off the highway system at some point, so I'll just throw out the idea of taking a couple of days to fly up to Nome from Anchorage. You could get a vehicle and drive out some of the roads into the Seward Peninsula. Look at http://www.alaska.org/destination/nome/scenic-drives and/or http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm...ewardpeninsula regarding this very off-the-beaten-path option. A round trip from ANC to OME is around $300, or 15K Avios. Hotel and car expenses will be comparable to Anchorage. Daylight will be shorter of course, but not terribly different than Fairbanks.

Nome is a fascinating historic town, there's a lot of wildlife on the Seward Peninsula, and there will probably be some daft underwater gold miners still walking around the bottom of the Bering Sea in September. Autumn color on the tundra will be stunning.

Anyway, just a thought.
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Old Aug 20, 16, 3:04 am
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Thanks for the suggestion but the point of this trip is to get to Fairbanks and the area. I want to see it without snow :-) I spent there some time this winter and want to see it again at different season.

I'm flying to ANC because I couldn't use Alitalia airmiles to get to FAI and I wanted to use them before they expire. I'm sure I will be back to Alaska and try another route and see more places and use Avios or cash for other destinations.

I will read Milepost and check what's there to see on Richardson Highway and plan a stop for a night. Thanks again :-)
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Old Aug 20, 16, 8:07 pm
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Originally Posted by Richmond_Surrey View Post

Is there a particular date when rental companies are changing tyres to winter ones or are cars on all seasons all the time? I rented a rear wheel drive and hope it will have useful tyres. If not, I will have to swap to something else on site.
Maybe there are exceptions, but in I don't think in general studded tires are put on rental cars, just all season tires. September would be too early in any case. I would just be careful. The first snow of the season can make for difficult conditions, and that is close to when it would be expected.
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Old Aug 22, 16, 2:46 am
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I never seen studded tyres on normal rentals in Alaska. I drove in winter and I assumed that car had winter tyres but could be all seasons too. I will ask about it when collecting the car.
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Old May 7, 17, 5:48 pm
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Originally Posted by Richmond_Surrey View Post
I never seen studded tyres on normal rentals in Alaska. I drove in winter and I assumed that car had winter tyres but could be all seasons too. I will ask about it when collecting the car.
I believe out of Anchorage, Dollar, Thrifty, and Budget offer studded tires on a very small selection of their fleet--and standard cars only, no vans or SUVs. They charge around $20 per day for the "upgrade" to studded tires.

Highly doubtful they'll have any studded tires available so early in the season. Studs aren't even legal in Anchorage until September 15, and very few people put studs on that early because the local weather simply doesn't require it until much later (and the more time studs are on, the faster they wear out).

Standard tires on rental cars are always factory OEM all-seasons. They do not put anything special on for the winter (other than the above-mentioned studded tires available for a fee). All-seasons are fine for most normal driving; I never bothered to put studs on the two last cars I owned while I lived up there and never really felt that it compromised anything. But then again, I didn't really ever leave Anchorage in the wintertime. If I did, though, a rental SUV was sufficient for me to feel protected.

(Note that AWD/4WD does not help with stopping, so while a big, heavy SUV often feel safer to drive faster, it really isn't. The AWD/4WD can help you get out of being stuck but doesn't prevent you from sliding off the road in the first place, so keep speeds and following distances down!)
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