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“In search of open spaces...”
Review of Denali Highway

Denali Highway
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Denali Highway Jeep Excursion
Ranked #199 of 781 things to do in Alaska
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Owner description: Located midway between Anchorage and Fairbanks, this highway leads to some interesting tundra hikes.
Kent, Washington
Level Contributor
86 reviews
28 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 102 helpful votes
“In search of open spaces...”
Reviewed 28 July 2014

We drove the Denali Highway on a wet, rainy July day en route from Denali to Valdez. This drive has been on my bucket list for a long time, and while I was disappointed that the rain and clouds kept the full views from being out there, the experience was tremendous.

The short version: 135 miles from Cantwell to Paxson. Maybe 23 miles are paved. There are (I think) two places to fix tires and get a bite to eat -- one looked sketchy, the other (Maclaren Lodge) was great. We were in a 4-door sedan, front wheel drive, and had no problems at all. As dirt roads go, it wasn't bad at all -- a few rougher spots, but we did 35 most of the time.

Due to our long drive and the nasty weather, we didn't get to stop much, but even the few pull-outs we took were breathtaking. Early on we came down a hill and about 35 yards from the highway a moose was belly-deep in a pond having brunch. It looked at us once, but mainly just sat there and ate its grass for the fifteen minutes we were there. No other cars came by. The only sound was the wind and the moose.

The road is travelled, mostly (that day, at least) by motor homes and campers (aka Tundra Whales). The Tundra Whales mostly were polite, but we had one or two very large ones that kicked up rocks and felt entitled to the center of the road. Drive aware, pull over and stop if needed, and you should be fine.

In some ways, beyond the moose, the most transcendent spots for me were the Maclaren River Valley and the Tangle Lakes Archaeological Area. I wish we'd had more time in each. The folks at the Maclaren Lodge serve a decent lunch (the only lunch in the area), offer lodging, boat rides, copious advice, wifi (for a fee), and a view of the Maclaren Glacier, about 15 miles away, pouring out of the Alaska Range. Tangle Lakes has several maintained trails across habitats that humans have been living and working in for over 10,000 years...as well as areas more dedicated to contemporary sportsmen and ORV folks. For most of the drive, it felt like we were alone with earth and tundra and rock and the ancestors.

This isn't for everyone. No cell service, long stretches where you see no other drivers, very, very few services...and a sense of the scope of the universe that I've never felt in more crowded climes.

Visited July 2014
6 Thank davenpeggy
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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78 reviews from our community

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English first
Level Contributor
14 reviews
6 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
“Long, bumpy, 130 miles at 25mph, but beautiful”
Reviewed 14 July 2014

We took this highway as it was our only chance to do so to go to Denali. We had to pack a lot into little time. We rented a Toyota Yaris which handled all roads very well. We recommend purchasing fix a flat tire spray before you head on this road along with bear spray and using your human voices for all stops. This is a wilderness route and wildlife are the residents even though you may not see them. Have your camera ready for pictures as there is so much beauty no matter the weather. If someone is photography or stretching or...., use your voices, sing a song, wear bear spray at all times, and ring your bear bells.......as you must always remember wildlife can be very close and not seen. My husband loved the drive but it was bumpy and my lower back really felt it. Once you end the highway, head to the closest lodge, you'll need a good stretch. We passed only a few rvs, bicycles.

Visited July 2014
3 Thank Tim J
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Basking Ridge, New Jersey
Level Contributor
25 reviews
25 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 36 helpful votes
“I wish I could give more than 5 stars”
Reviewed 27 March 2014

We drove Denali Highway from Denali NP to Wrangell NP.We left around 7:30am in the morning and got to Wrangell around 9:30pm. So it is about 14 hours drive. We kept stopping during the drive coz it is just so amazing. It is a wild and lonely drive. The weather was not very good that day, but the view was still extremely stunning to me. I rated this as one of my 3 top experiences in Alaska along with McKingley Summit Tour and Katmai NP. We drove a standard SUV and we made it. Everybody should try it.

Visited July 2013
6 Thank chachaSH
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Heidelberg, Germany
Level Contributor
9 reviews
3 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
“Very long drive”
Reviewed 5 March 2014

If you have a lot of time and at least a driver to change it is a nice drive. But if the weather is bad you will have some hard time with this dirt road full of pod holes filled with water. I believe driving into the Denali park is more sceenic to see. So only recommended for good drivers with patience. Careful there is no road service on the whole 130 Miles and the insurance of most rental care companies does not cover the denali highway.

Visited September 2013
1 Thank Dolorenz
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Iowa City, Iowa
Level Contributor
129 reviews
37 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 59 helpful votes
“30th Anniversary Alaska Tour”
Reviewed 22 September 2013

While car rental companies may not recommend this, our motorcycle rental company said it is a must ride. The scenery along the road is unbelievable. We rode on a clear day and you could see Mt McKinley on the west end and the rest of the highway had constant spectacular views no matter which way you looked. The highway is 130 miles long from Cantwell to Paxson with 110 being dirt and gravel. My wife did not have a lot of off-road experience on motorcycles and was a bit nervous, but she handled it very well. We traveled in July and most of the road had a very good base and was probably better than our gravel roads in Iowa. The occasional fresh gravel and washboard sections kept our speed down to about 30-35. The other traffic on the road was very courteous and often slowed down or stopped as they approached oncoming traffic. We had more issues with slower traffic that we would come up on which was very dusty. There were camping and restroom stops spaced adequately along the way. In our option a must see.

Visited July 2013
6 Thank as3dgfad6
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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