Thinking of motorcycle touring in Alaska? Here is top tips for what to expect, how to do it and the best motorcycling roads! Alaska is one of our favourite places for a truly great motorcycle adventure!
Alaska at a Glance
Culture shock: 4 / 10. Reindeer sausage and gun supermarkets may surprise you, but at least you’ll understand the lingo.
Road conditions: Paved roads are normally good condition but there’s plenty of opportunity to go off the beaten track on gravel/dirt. If you do, watch out for wildlife – especially bears
Experience level: Low / Intermediate – if you stick to the black stuff, Alaska is easy riding, but the dirt roads should not be taken lightly and should only be attempted if you have some off road experience.
Why you should go
Alaska feels like the last wild frontier. Heading north to Prudhoe Bay is some of the most remote riding in the world. The scenery is stunning, the roads are deserted, it’s truly “out there”. There’s certainly a spine-tingling feeling when a bear ambles out onto the road, or a herd of caribou graze alongside you or you get to see the Star Wars-esque muskox! For foodies, reindeer sausage is a must – try Gwennies in Anchorage for a huge Alaskan breakfast with loads of reindeer sausage and Alaskan wild salmon fresh caught on cooked on a BBQ is simply delicious. Wash it all down with an Alaskan Amber beer, of course!
What’s it like to ride there?
Alaska State Law is that you must wear a helmet if you are a passenger, but not a rider aged 18 or over. Having said that, your travel / medical insurance company may not pay out if you don’t use a helmet and then sustain any head injury, so beware. Driving standards are as good as in Europe, although there are differences in speed limits. Other rules you may not be familiar with are: 1) you’re not allowed to filter or “lane-split” 2) turning right on a red light is accepted, providing you’ve properly checked for oncoming traffic. Once outside of residential areas and on the open road, the general speed limit is 65mph, but always check signage. There is so little traffic on the road compare to Europe, you’ll feel like you are on your own. If you are heading off on the dirt, usual caution.
The Dalton Highway is a classic adventure road and a mecca for overland bikers. Plus who wouldn’t want a Gobblers Knob photo or straddling cross the Arctic Circle for that matter!! It stretches 414 miles north from Fairbanks and ends at Deadhorse near the Arctic Ocean. Originally built as a supply road to support the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, the majority of it remains a dirt road, so treat it with respect and get out of the way of the huge trucks that head up and down it regularly to service the pipeline. If its dry, the cloud dust and stones the trucks churn up are pretty dangerous and although the road is often treated with calcium chloride, a chemical compound that helps to keep the dust down. The downside is that the surface quickly turns into a sludgy mud soup when wet.
Aside from that, take the Taylor Highway to Chicken and onto the Top of the World Highway, taking you to the border with the Yukon Territory, Canada and onto Dawson City. The Seward Highway south from Anchorage to Seward is stunning and then for dirt lovers there is the Hatcher Pass! You’d be hard pushed to find any dull scenery in Alaska.
Getting your bike to Alaska
If you’re going to be there for longer than four weeks, or will be heading down to Canada, use your own bike. The average cost of airfreighting a medium sized motorcycle into Anchorage airport is around £1,600 one way (pre-COVID). It is easy to do the Customs clearance yourself without the need for an agent. Alternatively, bike hire is available, but as the season up there is very short, rental prices are high – think around US$180-215 per day if you want to ride a BMW R1250GS and extra premiums if you want to take it up the Dalton Highway – which rental companies often will not allow.
What documents you’ll need
Your current passport must be valid for at least six months beyond your date of entry. UK citizens qualify for the Visa Waiver Scheme, provided you can show immigration officials your return flight out of the USA. However, before you go, you will need to complete the ESTA online. Those planning to ride overland out of the US to Mexico, will need a USA visa.
Driving Licence and International Driving Permit
Take your Driving Licence for your country of residence. If you are not from USA or Canada, make sure you have an 1949 International Driving Permit, which for UK citizens can be obtained from main UK Post Offices. Check requirements here. Other nationalities can check with their own driving organisations.
Vehicle Registration or Title Document
As a UK citizen, you must travel with your original V5C Vehicle registration document (aka log book), which you will need to clear your bike through Customs. Other nationalities will need the equivalent registration document and / or title document.
Temporary Vehicle Import
To take your own bike to the USA, you must have got a Non-resident Temporary Importation Approval in advance from the US Environmental Protection Agency. Customs will need to see your EPA Approval, EPA 3520-1 Form, HS-7 Form, and a raft of other documents in order to release the bike. Customs allow you one year to ride your bike in the USA, by which time it must be re-exported. Our preferred freight agent, Motofreight, can provide advice (and ship your bike).
To be legal, you must have third party cover to ride your own foreign registered motorcycle in the USA. Don’t go asking your local insurer about this. Despite the huge growth in international registered bikes going beyond Europe, UK/EU insurers run scared. You’ll need a specialist broker. Try Motorcycle Express, based in the USA.
Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel to cover your medical or repatriation costs in case of illness or injury. UK citizens can consider Campbell Irvine who are adventure travel specialists. Tell them are you touring by motorcycle.
When to go
It is often said Alaska has four seasons; June, July, August and Winter. So, it is a very short window of opportunity to ride there. Even in what we consider to be peak summer, snowfall is not unheard of. If you are riding to the Arctic Circle, you can experience snow and freezing temperatures in July one year. Then on the same day the following year, you get sun burnt! Take kit and clothing for every eventuality.
We are passionate about travel by motorcycle and whether you decide to travel with us for two weeks or five months, our aim is to give you a great touring experience, supported by years of relevant expertise. Book our extended North America Tour with us today and enjoy motorcycle touring in Alaska, and more!