Fairbanks, Alaska's second-largest city, is a former gold-rush town with a cutting-edge university-and it still holds onto its fiercely independent roots. Tour old gold mines, take a historic riverboat cruise, or just wander around downtown.
Follow route 3 from near Anchorage to Fairbanks. The speed limit is 60-65 mph which makes the trip about 7-hours from Anchorage, longer including stops. But, thanks to the midnight sun you'll find enough daylight to enjoy some of the scenic highlights and activities along the way. Here are a few of our favorites:
Forty minutes from downtown Anchorage lies Eagle River Nature Center, a gateway to Chugach State Park and a glacial river valley as wild and dramatic as any in Alaska. Enjoy an easy, 3-mile nature walk on the Albert Loop or trek up-valley 5 miles to see plunging waterfalls and 3,000-foot cliffs. In winter, traverse the trails on cross-country skis or snowshoes.
Who can say no to a cool waterfall only a half-hour’s drive from town? One of the most popular “first hikes” for families with small children, the one-mile trail to Thunderbird Falls traverses a handsome birch forest along the Eklutna River canyon to reach a deck with views of a 200-foot waterfall. During winter, the falls can freeze, forming fabulous columns of blue ice.
Dating back to 1650, the park is the area's oldest continuously inhabited Athabaskan Indian settlement. Russian Orthodox missionaries came here in the early 1800s, and you can still see St. Nicholas Church, the oldest standing building in greater Anchorage. Snap some pictures of the colorful Spirit Houses build over the graves of the deceased-a custom that came from the melding More...
Under an hour from Anchorage, this 22-mile drive takes you away from Alaska’s towns and cities, and into Chugach State Park. The road is smooth with twists and turns, and runs alongside Eklutna River, and the beautiful and glacial Eklutna Lake. You can also see Twin Peaks over the trees.
In the Talkeetna Mountains between the towns of Willow and Palmer, Hatcher Pass is a local favorite for recreation or a scenic drive. Hike in alpine tundra dotted with wildflowers and ptarmigan, ski fresh, deep powder, or visit Independence Mine Historical State Park.
From Anchorage, it's a 3-hour road trip (roundtrip). You can also hit Hatcher Pass on the way up to More...
Transport yourself to the Alaska of the past in this museum and historic town site. Check out mining digs as you travel down stairs painted like an old mine shaft. Then learn about the hard-rock gold mining in Hatcher Pass during the 1930s. View artifacts from Athabascans, learn about dog mushing, and walk through a historic dentist’s office. The main museum building, once a More...
This is one of Alaska’s few flat state parks. And because it’s studded with lakes, it’s a great place to take a summer canoe trip or winter cross-country or snowmobile expeditions. The state has created several different loops—complete with portage routes and cabins—that make for easy, multi-day adventures.
Dedicated to the technology that opened the Last Frontier, this museum is a gearhead’s dream. And it’s pretty darned interesting even if you aren’t into trains, planes or heavy machinery. Set on 20 acres, you can wander through old train cars, around commercial fishing boats and cars and explore old farm and oil machinery. Or head inside and learn about Alaska More...
The Official Race Start begins in the town of Willow on the first Sunday in March. Come see the mushers head out on “The Last Great Race” and get a feel for a small-town Alaskan winter. The race begins at 2 p.m., with mushers leaving the gate every two minutes. Several thousand fans show up to cheer on the 60 to 70 dog teams; vendors selling food and souvenirs set up at More...
Hatcher Pass is known for its mining history and scenic beauty. Most traffic reaches the pass from the Palmer side. But the route from the "Willow side" is just as pretty. It's a little rougher around the edges, but easily drivable in summer by most vehicle types. Numerous potholes and hairpin turns near the top of the pass require careful navigation.
Explore the rivers of southcentral Alaska on a float or fishing trip guided by Hell Bent Fishing Charters. Raft along a scenic river hiding away just minutes off the road system. It fits perfectly into a half day or full day, when you want to step out of the hustle and bustle of your vacation and into authentic Alaska.
Surprise! This bridge over the Susitna River appears without warning, so if you want to stop and see this huge drainage, slow down and pull off the road at either end. Alaskans call it the Big Su. We fish it, paddle it, and snow machine its frozen braids. Bush pilots even navigate by this river.
The Susitna River winds its way over 313 miles of Southcentral Alaska; this old More...
Sample delicious syrup and sweets made from birch trees - like maple but not maple -at Kahiltna Birchworks in Talkeetna—the world’s largest producer of birch syrup. Stop in or shop online to experience this unique, local spin on a tempting treat. Located at mile 1.1 of the Talkeetna Spur Rd, just off the Parks Highway
There’s still gold in Alaska, and you can learn from Denali Gold Tours what it takes to pan for the shiny flakes in pristine water near Trapper Creek. Spend a half-day or full-day in the gorgeous Alaska countryside with your guide, who will share old-timer panning techniques and stories from the dramatic days of Alaska’s gold rush.
Trapper Creek is a major intersection of the Parks Highway and Petersville Road, with gas stations, restaurants, and a post office. Known locally as the southern gateway to Denali State Park, Trapper Creek only had 423 residents at last count. Excellent outdoor recreation opportunities in both the summer and winter draw visitors from all over the state. Of course, More...
This lodge offers spectacular views of Mount McKinley and is situated within Denali State Park on the banks of the Chulitna River. Rooms offer nine-foot ceilings and fans; some offer amazing mountain views. When you’re not in your room, relax in the Great Room with its huge stone fireplace and floor-to-ceiling windows. Or, step outside and stroll one of the three nature trails, either on your own or on a guided, park ranger-led walk.
Geographic features are often named on a whim. This mountain was called Mt. McKinley for many years, named after a US President. In 2015 the mountain was renamed Denali, the Athabaskan word meaning “the high one.”
The Chulitna River flows to the south out of a huge valley from Broad Pass, one of only two breaks in the Alaska Range Mountains, where the highway, the train, the geese, and the river, all pass on their way to Cook Inlet. It offers a chance for a float of 75 miles and can take as little as 3 days in kayaks but can be a nice 4 or 5-day trip. Canoes and kayaks are fun on the More...
This bridge is the connection between southcentral Alaska and the interior of the Territory. The bridge represents an engineering marvel for the day and age it was constructed, and is as strong today as when it was constructed nearly a century ago.
Here is the junction of the Parks and the Denali Highway. The Denali Highway is approximately 135 miles long stretching from Paxson to Cantwell, connecting the Richardson and Parks highways. Before the Parks Highway was completed in the early 1970s, the Denali Highway was the only road access to Denali National Park.
Denali Air flights see the majestic mountain a whopping 90% of the time, thanks to the company’s experienced pilots and its location just outside the park. And, everyone is guaranteed a window seat. Listen to your pilot narrate while you enjoy the views.
In a strip of restaurants pumping out good meals, 229 Parks stands alone as creating fine dining-quality meals using the freshest, highest quality ingredients. They are committed to quality, and the menu changes often to reflect what is fresh or in season. That could be berries, mushrooms, fish or greens. Their salads are excellent, as are the entrees. If you order small plates, you'll get to sample more of the menu! They also do pastries and coffee for breakfast.
Mention Healy and inevitably the conversation veers toward the Usibelli Coal Mine. It lies just a few miles east of the highway and employs nearly 100 people year-round. They send their coal to power plants around Alaska and export it to Pacific Rim countries. Healy school children nicknamed the mine’s dragline “Ace-in-the-Hole.” The dragline is the largest mobile More...
This village on the south bank of the Nenana River, where the railroad meets the river, served as home port for old paddle wheel riverboats that plied interior rivers for many years. The last surviving riverboat from here is now on display in Fairbanks, but the town still remains, and is still a supply center for many people up and down the Nenana and connecting rivers.
Come visit and you might see up to 15 different kinds of mammals—from beavers to red foxes, flying squirrels, snowshoe hares, and even moose—and several species of birds. Throughout the Sanctuary’s trail system there are 14 interpretive signs, so you can learn how the birds, fish, frogs, and mammals survive in interior Alaska’s tough climate.
Alaska’s road to modernization a century ago was a dramatic journey, and the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum explores that journey in fun, vivid detail. On the grounds of Wedgewood Resort—a member of the city’s premier, locally owned hotel group—the museum showcases dozens of historically significant pre-World War II automobiles, and offers visitors a trip back to Alaska’s rugged and exciting formative years.