Alaska (6) Denali Highway – July 2017

Denali Highway. This will be a short post, but important just the same. Important you say? To whom? Well, not to you or me, but maybe someone with a lower threshold.


Some of the questions I have received about our trip have been about about camping by the side of the road. My bride tells me that so far we have spent about $11 per night for camping on average (not including fuel, food etc.), but this post is not about camping costs – it is about really gorgeous places to stay if you are not wrapped around having water, electric and all kinds of niceties, but instead look for tranquility, flexibility and solitude.


As you may know, we just left Denali National Park (Chapter 5) and as we were leaving the park we were really unclear where we were heading. A short ways down the road was the Denali Highway, and so we said, hey, let’s check this out! Good call.

Campsite – day 1

The Denali Highway is about 140 miles long and connects Cantwell with Paxson, AK. You are probably familiar with Cantwell because there is a convenience store and gas station there. Duh. You may not be familiar with Paxson, since there is nothing there. Did I mention there is just about nothing in between either? When I say nothing in between, what I am referring to is civilization, not beauty. Lottsa beauty.

Looking down from near our first night campsite

Essentially the road parallels the Maclaren Glacier (to your left as you go west to east), the Maclaren Valley, the Maclaren River. Starting to see a theme? And you cross over the Susitna River. How’d that get in there?!?


The Denali Highway is 98% gravel road, and many parts of it, if you are towing, will limit you to go 10-15 MPH because of the washboard road. I still highly recommend taking this road!


We camped two nights on the road between Cantwell on the west side and Paxson on the east side (we headed west to east on this road). We could have made it in a day, but we really didn’t want to.

Rather than giving you the blow by blow, just peruse these pictures from our two nights, three days traversing the Denali Highway. You decide.



This bird hovered over a pond like a helicopter – before zooming in for a fish


No joy this dive


Weather arriving
Denali Highway – the good part


Bridge crossing the Susitna River
Foothills towards the Maclaren Glacier
Maybe this road isn’t for everybody
Lunch break
Second night campsite, looking down into the Maclaren Valley


While we didn’t stop to stay, we did visit the Tangle Lakes area – this will clearly be on our target list for next time we get up this way.

Next stop: Valdez.

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