Highway 3 - Anchorage to Denali

Introduction:

What? : The 240 miles highway 3 driver from Anchorage to Denali park do not have a lot of “famous” tourist attraction. Additional 127 miles drive north of Denali will bring you to Fairbanks.


 

We did not stop along the way, we tried to schedule our arrival to Denali as early as we can. We want to set bus reservation for the following day and hike at the park section near the RV campground.

If you are not in a harry you can break this long drive into two days and spend the night at the town of Talkeetna (reserve RV campground in advance).

 

Thunderbird Falls:

Thunderbird Falls Trail is almost 2 mile out and back trail, located 26 miles north of Anchorage on hwy 1.

The short popular trail will take you up the hill to the waterfall viewing platform. Usually there are many other hikers on the trail.

http://dnr.alaska.gov/parks/maps/thunderbirdfallsguide.pdf


 

Talkeetna:

Situated on the way to Denali National Park, 114 miles north of Anchorage, on a side road from hwy 3.

This is a small town with population of less than 1000 people. The local story is that this town was the inspiration for the Cicely Alaska in “Northern Exposure” popular TV show.

The town has a great view of Mt. Denali and the mountain ridge (if you are at the right time with good cloud-free visibility). On our way north it was all cloudy and rainy so there was not any view.

Talkeetna is the probably the best places to get a plane ride to explore mount Denali and the nearby glaciers, you can find few companies that offer such flights.

At town, you can visit the Mountaineering Ranger Station, Talkeetna Historical Society Museum or hike at the nearby lakes and river front parks.

There are many fishing and other outdoor activities options (include river rafting and zipline) at this colorful small town and the visit here is recommended.

Coming late at the day we did not find anywhere to sleep at Talkeetna so we decided to keep driving without getting into town (that is on a side road and not on the main hwy 3), with that change we manage to arrive early to Denali the following day.

 

Denali Viewpoint:

Along hwy 3 there are 2 good locations to stop on your way and enjoy the Denali ridge view.

Denali Viewpoint South, 136 miles north of Anchorage.

Denali View North, 164 miles north of Anchorage.

When we went up north the weather was cold and cloudy, so we did not had any view but when we went back south 3 days later the sky were clear and we saw the amazing Denali mountain towering above the surrounding mountain range from both viewing points.



 

Hurricane Gulch Bridge:

Great place for a short stop to stretch your legs and check out the deep gorge view below the bridge.

There is parking lot on the south side of the bridge and nice viewing point over there. Pedestrian crossing are not allowed at all on the narrow bridge, be careful this is a busy highway.


 

Broad pass Alaska

Broad Pass is located about 203 miles north of Anchorage. This is relatively interesting landscape with flat surrounding, “small” forest trees, narrow lakes and the views of Denali. The area is known for the abundance of blueberries and their easy accessibility that attract Moose and Caribou.

 

Denali Highway (Alaska Route 8):

Denali Highway is 135 miles in length, that leads from Cantwell on hwy 3 to Paxson on hwy 1. Opened in 1957, it was the first road access to Denali National Park (from highway 1).

 

We did not drive this road so descriptions below was gathered from few sources.

It starts with a paved section but after few miles it change to a well-maintained gravel road, rain can transform it to muddy with driving difficulties.

If you are planning to use it with your rented RV (“cut” from Valdez to Denali without the need to reach Fairbanks) please make sure that your RV insurance cover this road (probably not !). For RV I will recommend taking the longer “official” paved road through Fairbanks.

Not sure this is recommended road for all but looks like it doable for any car (we did not try to use it).

 

This is relatively lightly traveled road without any service or cell reception along the way, you will be on your own and if you will get stack (flat tire, stack in the mud or engine problem) help can be slow and expensive.

 

Because much of the route lies at the open tundra so the vista is fully open. Miles of rolling tundra punctuated by shallow lakes in between with snow cap mountain ridge and wide river drainages.

The road climbs some foothills of the central Alaska Range and along its length you will passes through three of the main Interior Alaska river drainages: The Copper River, Tanana/Yukon and Susitna drainage. In good weather, there are stunning views of the peaks and glaciers of the central Alaska Range.

You can drive the highway in a day, but it is highly recommended at least one overnight, there are four lodges operated along the highway.

 

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