Learning Landscapes
Print Page
Denali Highway
Scenic Drives > Denali Highway (AK) 
A 135-mile, mostly gravel road between Cantwell and Paxson, Alaska.
The Denali Highway parallels the south side of the Alaska Range for its entire 135-mile length between Paxson and Cantwell. Although it was once the original travel route to Denali National Park, today it is often overlooked by many motorists. Nevertheless, this highway rewards the leisurely traveler with outstanding scenery, good opportunities to view wildlife, and best of all, wilderness in all directions. The highway also provides access to the Gulkana and Delta Rivers at Tangle Lakes, which straddle the highway 22 miles west of Paxson. 
Begin your trip at either end of the highway at Cantwell or Paxson.
Visitor Activities
Wildlife viewing, hiking, rafting, canoeing, floating, fishing, archaeological site, all-terrain driving, snowmobiling, mountain biking, berry picking, picnicking, geologic sightseeing, and scenic drives.
Special Features
Dramatic views of the Alaska Range, with some peaks exceeding 13,000 feet in elevation, provide a constant backdrop to the north. Many geologic features that are reminders of the last major ice age can also be observed.
Permits, Fees, Limitations
The Denali Highway is open for travel generally from mid-May–early October. Visitors should not attempt travel during any other time, as snowdrifts can block the road.
Camping and Lodging
BLM maintains campgrounds at Brushkana Creek (Mile 105) and Tangle Lakes (Mile 21.5). Campgrounds are on a first-come, first-served basis. Fees are charged at Brushkana Creek. Camping is limited to 14 days in a 60-day period. Lodging is available at Paxson, Cantwell, and at roadhouses located at Miles 20, 22, 42, and 82.5, respectively
(reservations suggested).
Food and Supplies
A limited selection of food and supplies can be obtained in the Paxson area, the Cantwell area, and roadhouses located at Miles 20, 22, 42, and 82.5, respectively.
First Aid
Limited medical services are available at clinics in Delta Junction, 81 miles north of the eastern terminus of Denali Highway along the Richardson Highway (State Highway 4); Cantwell, at the western terminus of the Denali Highway; and Glennallen, 82 miles south of the eastern terminus of Denali Highway along Richardson Highway (State Highway 4). The nearest hospital is located in Fairbanks. Alaska State Troopers maintain posts in Delta Junction, Cantwell, and Glennallen, but they can take a considerable amount of time to respond to an emergency call along the highway.
Additional Information
The Denali Highway is open for travel generally from mid-May–early October, except for snowmobilers. Other travelers should not attempt to drive the highway during any other time, as snowdrifts can block the road. The first 21 miles west of Paxson are paved; thereafter, the highway is gravel until the last 3 miles east of Cantwell. The maximum recommended speed for travel when no other vehicles are in sight is 30 miles per hour. Drivers are cautioned to avoid windshield damage from flying gravel by slowing down when passing oncoming vehicles.
A loop trip from Fairbanks is 436 miles and a loop trip from Anchorage is 600 miles, so travelers should allow several days for these trips. Limited services are available, so drivers should make sure their vehicles are in proper working condition and that they have adequate fuel before beginning their trip. They should also be prepared for all types of weather; it can be hot and sunny one day and cold and rainy the very next. It can snow in any month of the year.
Contact Information
BLM - Glennallen Field Office
P. O. Box 147
Glennallen, AK 99588
Tel: (907) 822-3217

Denali Highway Map

Denali Highway photo

Many ponds along the Denali Highway were created by blocks of ice left behind by melting glaciers; these now provide important habitat for both migrating and nesting waterfowl. (Dennis R. Green, BLM volunteer, Alaska State Office)

Last updated: 10-23-2009