Home » National Parks » 13 Epic Mileposts on the Amazing Parks Denali Highway

Have you ever wanted to see Alaska? Visit Denali National Park & Preserve or Fairbanks? We rented an RV from Great Alaskan Holidays so we could spend 3 weeks traveling Alaska at our own pace. This was our Alaska dream vacation. The drive from Anchorage to Fairbanks along the Parks Highway has ample adventure opportunities and countless mileposts to explore Alaska’s stunning landscapes. The list of places to stop could be extensive. Nevertheless, we have 13 epic mileposts for you to consider add to your Alaskan road trip itinerary on the way to Denali National Park. They completed the highway in 1971. Today it is the principal route between Anchorage and Fairbanks-Alaska Highway 3.

Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world-13 Epic Mileposts on the Amazing Parks Denali Highway

Journeying North: Exploring the Scenic George Parks Highway from Anchorage to Fairbank

They originally named the Parks highway the Anchorage-Fairbanks Highway. The highway shares a common path with the Glenn Highway for the first 35-miles before the Glenn Highway veers west at the Knik River in the Matanuska Valley. Renamed in 1975 as the George Parks Highway, it ends in Fairbanks, Alaska. The highway covers a distance of 358-miles passing through many smaller Alaska towns. Dominating the landscape are majestic views of the snow-capped Alaska Range and endless spruce forests.

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Alaskan Native Cultural Center

Milepost 0.4: Immerse Yourself in Alaska’s Rich Heritage at the Native Cultural Center in Anchorage

The Alaska Native Heritage Center on Muldoon Road is a great educational and cultural institution. The Center highlights the heritage of Alaska’s 11 major cultural groups, learning how they have lived from past to present day. Spend an early morning walking the grounds or watching the native dancers perform, you can also purchase genuine native crafts from local vendors.

Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Headquarters-Mileposts Parks Denali Highway
Credit: Joint Arthur D. Chapman and Audrey Bendus 8/2009 CC BY 2.0

Milepost 42.2: The Heart of the Iditarod at the Headquarters in Wasilla

If you love dogs, this is a MUST DO stop! Best of all, it is free. The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Headquarters is located 2-miles on Knik-Goose Bay Road. Inside headquarters is a gift shop, dog cart rides, and museum. Often called “The Last Great Race” the museum is a great way to learn. They show an interesting film about the history of the Iditarod. Along the walls, they display memorabilia with the names of many of the distinguished musher winners. Trail rides with an experienced musher in a wheeled cart are an additional charge, with all proceeds supporting the facility.

Woment petting a Sled Dogs in Alaska

Afterward, we cuddled with the puppies! As a teacher, there are a lot of resources, such as lesson plans and supporting materials you can get for your classroom. On the grounds, there is a bronze statue of “Balto” the famous Iditarod husky dog. He was the lead dog heading the team that delivered the necessary vaccine through the snow to Nome. Willow is the official restart location of the famous Iditarod Trail Sled dog race held every March.

Train - Alaska Museum of Transportation and Industry
Train – Alaska Museum of Transportation and Industry

Milepost 47: A Journey into History and Innovation at the Alaska Museum of Transportation and Industry

If you like planes, trains, helicopters amongst other antique transport vehicles, this is a great step back in time. My father always took me to see antique air shows as a kid. I always enjoyed those summer days. Only open during the summer, there is an entire section dedicated bush pilots and the history of aviation in Alaska. We spent a good portion of our time wandering the grounds, looking at the information signs at each exhibit. The armored military vehicles and trains caught my interest, as dad loved these. The museum has an amazing collection of historical artifacts, antique chainsaws, and other relics. However, it seems forgotten, like a graveyard, the harsh Alaskan weather rusting the metal, and peeling the paint of these treasures. This place is a bit off the beaten path, but worth finding.

nancy Lake-Loon-Mileposts Parks Denali Highway
Loon Nancy Lakes – Parks Highway Image by Bernell MacDonald from Pixabay 

Milepost 66.5: Exploring the Natural Delights of Nancy Lake Recreation Area in Willow, Alaska

Between Houston and Willow, this recreation area is beautiful for camping. If you want to break up the 6-8-hour trip to Denali, then this is the ideal spot. This Nancy Lake recreation area also has rental cabins, canoe trails, picnicking, and hiking. You can rent canoes by the hour or day. Several lakes within the park have a tremendous population of loons, my favorite bird. I miss the call of loons living in Florida. You can paddle really close to them, getting excellent pictures. Be forewarned that the mosquitos are ravenous once you reach shore, so liberally use bug spray in the summer months. You can also camp at Willow Creek State Recreation Area at milepost 70.9 on the Parks Highway.

Alaska Creek Parks Highway
Willow Creek-Parks Highway

Milepost 71: Discovering Willow Creek Campground

This is a small rural community. Willow Creek flows out to meet the lower Susitna River near Willow as it ascends from the Talkeetna Mountains. The river is clear, cold, and fast running in the spring. Native populations of Rainbow Trout, Dolly Varden, and Arctic Grayling are abundant in this river. We overnighted at Willow Creek Resort, a small campground located directly beside the Parks Highway. The bare-bones campground is a flat gravel lot with a few sites along the edge of the creek. There is direct access to the water with a few trails leading further along the creek. The amenities include unmetered showers, laundry facilities, full hookup utilities, and fishing tackle rentals. The campers were also incredibly helpful. We wanted to get rid of a frozen rainbow trout, so our neighbors traded us moose burgers for dinner.

Man with a rainbow trout stocked lake in A;laska
Nice Rainbow Trout!

Casting Tranquility: The Allure of Willow Creek Fishing

Spending some time on any river fishing is a must-do in Alaska. The rivers of Alaska are freezing at this time of the year. We took off our shoes to cross the river to gain better access to the shoreline. We had a few hefty bites but did not get any fish to the shore. I wish we had good waders and wading boots to fish the creek more effectively. A lightweight fly rod is best for fly-fishing. Evenings in Alaska seem to last forever at this time of the year. The sun never sets, but only reaches the horizon before rising again. The solstice is upon us this evening, however; we are too tuckered to stay up and enjoy it.

Kashwitna Lake-Parks Denali Highway
Kashwitna Lake-Parks Denali Highway

Milepost 76.4: Serenity at Kashwitna Lake along the Parks Highway

This is simply a paved pullout on the north side of the highway outside the small town of Willow. The no-frills rest stop has no restroom facilities, but it is a serene and relaxing place to take-a-break from the driving. The best part of stopping at this location is that they stock it with rainbow trout, so if you like to fish this is ideal. You can easily spend about an hour fishing at Kashwitna Lake from the shoreline. We had no bites on this cloudless, sunny day. Alas, you just never know when the fish will take a fly.

Mount Denali-Talkeetna
Mount Denali-Talkeetna

Alder and willow bushes hug the shoreline, but we find a place to make a few casts. A small floatplane base uses the lake, and we watched a few planes take-off and land. Luck is with us today as we get our first glimpse of the mountain. We take our first photographs of Mt. Denali on this clear morning before heading back onto the highway. Denali dominates the horizon at every turn of the highway.

Talkeetna Sign with us
Talkeetna Alaska

Exploring Milepost 98.7: The Gateway to Adventure on Talkeetna Spur Road

If you have the time to visit Talkeetna, drive the 14-miles into town. This old mining town is known for its eclectic style. The famous Nagley’s general store, the quirky gift shops, and the Alaska railroad “Hurricane Turn” flagstop service. The Hurricane Turn (6.5 hrs) allows riders to disembark/embark anywhere in the isolated backcountry to access their remote cabins. The train has panoramic views of Mount Denali and the Susitna River before making the turnaround at Hurricane Gulch. They stop the train for wildlife sightings and mountain sightings. What a hidden gem this train excursion is. Next time I would like to camp overnight along the rails. We only stayed a few hours wandering the riverfront park and looking for a uniquely Alaskan gift.

Denali Mountain viewed from the south viewpoint
Denali Mountain

Milepost 135.2: Capturing Denali’s Splendor from the South

Denali comes from the Athabaskan word meaning “the high one.” Mt. Denali, at 20,310 feet, is often obscured by clouds, but not today. She is usually covered in snow year-round. The Denali view south is inside the Denali State Park, which is enclosed within the larger Denali National Park & Preserve. The 324,240-acre park straddles the Parks highway, the Talkeetna mountains on the western side, and the Alaska Range on the east side. They manage the park for recreational with remote camping opportunities.

Sspruce buds flushing in the spring

There is a large parking area above the Susitna River valley. The braided river covers the valley floor. The paved lower viewing platform has informational signs overlooking the valley. If you do the very short five-minute hike up the top platform, you will get an unobstructed view of Denali. Luckily we had a clear ceiling, the view was stunning. The best photographs can be made using a 300mm telephoto lens. The educational board detailing the heights and names of all the peaks was fun trying to match the actual mountains with what we could see on the sign. There are free viewfinders, however, we always carry binoculars. Denali Viewpoint South Campground has campsites available for those wishing to stop and enjoy the views a little longer.

Byers Lake Denali Reflection
Byers Lake Denali Reflection

Milepost 147: Embracing Tranquility at Byers Lake Along the Scenic Route

Byers Lake Campground lies along the shoreline of Byers Lake. Our first hike of the day was around Byers Lake. The Byers Lake Loop trail, which was a very level 5-mile hike along the lakeshore. This is a great family activity to do after dinner in the land of the midnight sun. The raw, natural beauty of this area is awe-inspiring. Trumpeter swans spend their summers on the lake. We saw a few on our evening walk.

Campsite along an Alaska Hiking trail

If a longer hike is what you are looking for, you could try the Cascade Trail starting at the Byers Lake parking lot. The 8.4-mile out & back trail takes you above the tree line along the Kesugi Ridge again, gorgeous Denali views. The trails in Denali State Park are dog-friendly. Remember, this is bear country, so bring bear spray

The best fishing is in the rivers at the outlet/inlet of the lake. Arctic grayling and Rainbow Trout will readily take a fly. To catch larger fish, try the rivers and streams further in Denali State Park. Our overall experience was exceptional!

Hurricane Gulch, Parks Highway, Alaska
Hurricane Gulch Credit: Joint Arthur D. Chapman and Audrey Bendus 8/2009 CC BY 2.0

Milepost 181: Crossing the Majestic Hurricane Gulch Bridge on Alaska’s Scenic Route

Constructed by the American Steel company nearly a century ago (1971) they considered it an engineering marvel. The 550 foot Hurricane Gulch Bridge a steel arch bridge. If you have a fear of height, this may not be the best stop for you. The bridge stands 296 feet above hurricane creek (not to be confused with the railroad bridge with the same name). There is a parking lot on the south side of the bridge for drivers to pull into and take pictures. The views from the bridge are really impressive. We could see downstream white water. It is very dramatic looking over the edge to the bottom of the canyon.

Parks Hwy-Fairbanks-Denali National Park View
Broad Pass is the highest point on the Parks Highway

Milepost 194: Vast Wilderness of Broad Pass on Alaska’s Scenic Route

Broad Pass is the highest point on the Parks Highway with an elevation of 2,400 feet. The pass is a large, flat alpine tundra meadow with views of the Alaska Range to the northwest, and the Talkeetna range to the southeast. The mountains of the pass divide the Chulitna and Nenana River basins and separate the Susitna and Yukon River systems. There are lots of pullouts on both sides of the highway where you can take splendid photographs of this beautiful plateau. Many locals frequent the valley in the late summer for the bountiful blueberry harvest. Several hiking trails can be accessed here as well.

Lupine in Spring Alaska
Lupine in Spring Alaska

From here, the highway descends into the town of Cantwell. The town is only 25-miles from the entrance to Denali National Park. Easy access to lodging, campgrounds, dining, and other services. The Cantwell Food Mart has a Chevron gas/diesel station for you to fill your gas tank. Gas is expensive in Alaska. Yes, they pump it out of the ground, however; they do not refine it. Thus it is more expensive than the lower 48. In some sections of the Parks Highway, gas stations are few and far between. Be proactive and plan to have at least a 1/4 tank to spare.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: The Denali Park Road will be closed at Mile 43 of the 92-mile road this summer because of a landslide near Pretty Rocks. Due to road construction, the Denali Park Road will be closed in 2022 and 2023

Denali-Teklanika River

Milepost 237.4: Venturing into the Heart of Nature at Park Road, Denali National Park & Preserve

Nowhere else in Alaska is nature’s grandeur showcased better than in the park. They often refer Denali National Park to as the last frontier, and for good reason. There is only one road into the park, and much of it can only be accessed via the park shuttle buses. It takes about 5 hours to reach the end of the 92-mile gravel road, culminating at Kantishna. This vast wilderness is best explored by getting off the bus and venturing onto a hiking trail, any hiking trail. Most trails will give you sweeping views of the Alaska Range and some days the mountain will show herself.

Denali History Tour Moose
Denali History Tour Moose

To explore the park, consider staying at least a few days. There are many commercial campgrounds along the Parks Highway, yet staying in the park is best. Reservations need to be made early, as they are booked quickly. Backcountry permits, campground reservations, and bus ride tickets are available at https://www.reservedenali.com/. We stayed in the Riley Creek campground for two days and found it a great central location for all our ventures into the park.

Nenana River-Parks Denali Highway View
Nenana River-Parks Denali Highway View

Milepost 240: Crossing the Nenana River Bridge–A Gateway to Denali

There is an excellent rest area beside the Nenana Canyon Bridge in Denali Park. There is a large parking lot, clean restrooms, and access to a pedestrian bridge over the river. The path follows along the cliff-sided canyon created by the river with spectacular views of the Alaska Range. We walked along the pedestrian bridge, peering over the railing at the grey-colored water rushing past giant boulders jutting from the river bottom. The glacier-fed Nenana River is a popular destination for whitewater river rafting the Class III to Class IV rapids. If rafting is not your idea of fun, there are many other types of excursions to suit your taste. We took advantage of the multiple hiking trails in the park during our stay.

Nenana River Rafters
 People Going down the River in Alaska. Photo by CC0 / Public Domain 

Denali Park is located 1-mile down from the Park, sometimes referred to as Glitter Gulch. It is home to loads of businesses, tour companies, and hotels. This is a very touristy area. The log cabin mall comprises different T-shirt stores and restaurants, the dirt parking lot fills quickly and can be difficult for RV parking. We found a small restaurant to eat since, after the long drive, we were starving. Everything is a bit pricey, so I advise visiting a Fred Meyer store when the opportunity arises. They have everything you could need for your RV camping trip.

Taiga Forest Alaska
Taiga Forest Alaska

Milepost 358: Welcoming You to Fairbanks – The Golden Heart City of Alaska

The Parks Highway ends in Fairbanks, intersecting with the Richardson Highway. Enjoy panning for gold, the Chena hot springs, or visit the North Pole. Stroll Pioneer Park, the authentic gold rush ear buildings or ride the Riverboat Discovery sternwheeler. Take the Dalton Highway heading north for a deeper, quintessential Alaska experience. The Richardson Highway continues to Valdez or veers onto the Glenn Highway or the Tök Cut-Off to other destinations in Alaska.

Chena River Fairbanks
Chena River Fairbanks

Final thoughts: 13 Epic Mileposts on the Amazing Parks Denali Highway

The beauty of the Parks Denali Highway lies not just in the miles covered, but in the moments cherished. Every milepost is a marker of exploration, a reminder that adventure awaits just around the bend. From Anchorage to Fairbanks, you’ll traverse a tapestry of landscapes–from serene lakes to rugged bridges, and from ancient cultures to contemporary museums. The Parks Denali Highway beckons, and the epic tales of your adventure will forever be etched in the story of this legendary road. Alaska is a magical place. Our RV journey through Alaska has been exhilarating and very much a spiritual journey. 

If you are loving Alaska outdoors–share your adventures with us by writing a comment below. We hope these epic mileposts on the amazing Parks Denali Highway make your quest more enjoyable.