The summit area is a must stop attraction, a place unique even in Alaska for its stunning views and easy access to alpine tundra. Several pullouts offer room to safely park in a long the shoulder, but you’ll find off-road parking at the Osar and Maclaren Summit trailheads on either side of the highway just before it begins its descent. What might you do?
- Embark on an ambitious day hike (see details below.)
- Commando or stealth camp for the night. People often park campers along the Osar Trail inside the trailhead area.
- Walk out one of the trails for 10 to 20 minutes and return—you don’t have to go far to experience the extraordinary scene.
- Ignore the trail and embark cross country over the tundra, perhaps climbing toward the dome rising to the east. Each step improves a view that landscape photographers will find irresistible. Smell the chill of coming winter in the breeze. Stoop to sample endless crowberries and alpine blueberries in season.
At 4,086 feet, the summit forms the second highest highway pass in Alaska. In clear weather, you maybe knocked breathless by a panoramic view of the Alaska Range and the Maclaren River valley. Mount Hayes (13,832’) dominates, looming over the river, with the Maclaren Glacier gleaming in the distance. But Aurora Peak, Mount Shand and Mount Geist may also be seen.
This windswept highland marks one of three major divides traversed by the Denali Highway between Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea watersheds. Only few miles back, above Landmark Gap and the Tangle Lakes country, run off flowed north via the Delta River into the Tanana-Yukon river systems, ultimately bound for the Bering. But here every drop runs south, carried by the glacier-fed Maclaren to the Susitna River, bound for upper Cook Inlet just west of Anchorage.
Vegetation at this elevation is low-growing alpine tundra. Wildflowers bloom in abundance during the short Alaska summer (June and July). Look for pikas, ground squirrels and ptarmigan.