Photo Credit: Great Alaskan Holidays

Anchorage to Denali National Park Driving Map

How Long Does It Take?

It takes about 4.5 hours to drive straight from Downtown Anchorage to the Denali National Park Visitor Center. But if you have the time, make a day of it! There are lots of things to see and do along the way. Our favorites are highlighted in the guide below.

What Will I See?

  • Mountains Mountains Mountains! Departing Anchorage, the views start right away. The Chugach mountains tower overhead as you make your way north. Then, you'll be treated to views of the Talkeetna Mountains, and if the weather permits, Mt. Denali in the Alaska Range.
  • Small Towns. You'll pass through several small towns as you make your way north. Most are within the first hour of the drive. Beyond Wasilla, the fastest-growing city in Alaska, you'll pass through just a few more small communities, like Willow, Trapper Creek, and Cantwell before reaching Denali. A favorite stopover, Talkeetna, Requires a 20-minute diversion from the main road to reach.
  • Wildlife. Wildlife is never guaranteed, but you have a good chance of spotting moose on this drive, especially if you're on the road early in the morning. Look for them along the Palmer Hayflats, about 40-minutes north of Anchorage. They're also commonly seen in small lakes and ponds. Those same ponds are also a good place to spot Trumpeter Swans.

What Else Should I Know?

  • You don't need to worry about running out of gas. There are plenty of places to fill up along the way if you need to fill the tank. There are gas stations in Wasilla, Willow, Trapper Creek, and Cantwell.
  • The road is well-maintained with several passing areas. As a major outdoor recreation corridor, you'll likely share the road with motorhomes and large tour buses in the summer.
  • If you're in a motorhome, there are lots of great places to camp along the way, as well as campgrounds in and near Denali National Park. If you need to rent an RV, see our list of rv and campervan rentals.

Show Map

Driving Guide

Anchorage to Talkeetna Turnoff (Glenn Hwy 1 and Parks Hwy 3)

Difficulty: Easy Distance: 1 mile Elevation Gain: 100 feet

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 set­tle­ment. View the col­or­ful Spir­it Hous­es built over the graves of the deceased, along with an Ortho­dox Chris­t­ian Cross — a cus­tom that came from the meld­ing of the cultures.

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 com­mu­ni­ty cen­ter for bas­ket­ball games and church ser­vices, now tells…  ...more

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 Pio­neer­ing women, gold min­ing and avi­a­tion. Only four miles from down­town Wasilla,…  ...more

This unique mar­ket is locat­ed in Wasil­la, about 60 miles north of Anchor­age. You’ll find cre­ations of over 80 Alaskan artists and chefs that make for per­fect sou­venirs or gifts for friends back home.

Season: May - Sept Call for rates

Expe­ri­ence the best of remote Alas­ka with a stay at this rus­tic, fly-in lodge locat­ed south of Denali Nation­al Park, with end­less activities. 

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. Anoth­er unique fea­ture of this park is its most­ly decid­u­ous for­est. In the last cen­tu­ry, fires burned the big spruce trees; in their…  ...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 the Wil­low Com­mu­ni­ty Cen­ter. There’s usu­al­ly a shut­tle from Wasil­la, and…  ...more

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.

Season: May 15 to Sep 15 $99 per person 3 hrs

Go for a relax­ing 3‑hour float trip down gen­tle Wil­low Creek as you take in the gor­geous scenery of the Alaskan back­coun­try. Depart­ing from Pio­neer Lodge, just off the Parks High­way south of Tal­keet­na, you’ll board a raft with up to 6 oth­ers and an expert guide. Then just kick back, or grab a pad­dle if you like: You can expect easy-glid­ing Class I and II rapids on this gen­tle river.

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 rail­road bridge cross­es the water on the east­ern edge of Denali…  ...more

It’s Mile­post 98.9. Why should you care? Because if you make the turnoff — right where the wood­en griz­zly stands on its hind legs — you’ll be on your way to one of Alaska’s funki­est lit­tle towns: Tal­keet­na. In fact, dri­ving this 14-mile path — the Tal­keet­na Spur Road — is kind of like fol­low­ing the white bun­ny down the rab­bit hole of Alas­ka. One rea­son: that huge moun­tain that you’re always in the shad­ow of. Yes, this is where climbers base…  ...more

Sam­ple deli­cious syrup and sweets made from birch trees at Kahilt­na Birch­works in Tal­keet­na — the world’s largest pro­duc­er of birch syrup. Stop in to shop, or for a tour of the facil­i­ty at mile 1.1 of the Tal­keet­na Spur Rd, just off the Parks High­way. You’ll also find Alaskan food prod­ucts (many wild har­vest­ed), botan­i­cals, and func­tion­al art like pot­tery, tiles, birch bark and wood crafts. Prod­ucts are also avail­able online. 

Season: May 11 to Sep 16 $150 4.5 hours

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.

Talkeetna Turnoff to Denali National Park

Season: May 20 - Sept 10 $89+ 2 hr - Multi-Day

Tal­keet­na Riv­er Guides has offered expert­ly guid­ed raft­ing day trips for over 20 years. Float through the remote wilder­ness of Denali State Park, just a stone’s throw away from Denali Nation­al Park’s wild south side. Choose the two-hour Tal­keet­na Riv­er Nat­ur­al His­to­ry Float Trip, the four-hour Chulti­na Riv­er Raft Tour, or an overnight or mul­ti-day excursion.

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, Denali (Mt. McKin­ley) can be seen from numer­ous loca­tions on the high­way and…  ...more

Season: Mid-May to Mid-Sept $99+

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.

One of the best Denali (McKin­ley) view­points on a clear day. Also pic­nic sites, bath­room, and 9 campsites. 

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.” 

Difficulty: Easy

This trail fol­lows Trou­ble­some Creek .3 miles down to where it enters the broad, glacial grav­el bar of the Chuli­tan Riv­er. Mar­vel at the Ent-like Grandad­dy Cot­ton­wood, just five min­utes down the trail. The trail’s end has been swept away by floods, so it can be con­fus­ing, but the adven­tur­ous can keep going onto the Chulit­na’s grav­el bar to look for wildlife, tracks, or views of Denali. The large-leaved plants along the trail are Cow Parsnip and  ...more

Difficulty: Difficult Distance: 4 miles

This is the south­ern­most trail that leads to Kesu­gi Ridge. On aver­age, it takes a hik­er 4 hours to get above the tree­line. This trail is often closed due to flood­ing as well as bear activ­i­ty for the safe­ty of its hik­ers. Please check with Alaska’s Depart­ment of Nat­ur­al Resources to make sure that the trail is open to hik­ers before start­ing this trip.

Difficulty: Difficult

Dur­ing peri­ods of clear weath­er, this route through Denali State Park offers sim­i­lar ter­rain and scenery to Denali Nation­al Park — includ­ing unpar­al­leled views of Denali — with­out the cum­ber­some per­mit­ting process. This trail sys­tem offers many options for start­ing and end­ing points, as there are four trail­heads along its length. 

Difficulty: Easy Distance: 5 miles

2019 UPDATE: Trail, day use area, kayak tours & rentals, and pub­lic use cab­ins are open, but the main camp­ground will be tem­porar­i­ly closed begin­ning in 2019 due to the dan­ger posed by trees infest­ed with spruce-bark bee­tles. Rot­ting trees have been top­pling. State parks plans to reopen the camp­ground after the haz­ardous trees have been removed. This is one of four trails that lead to Kesu­gi Ridge. From the Denali State Park camp­ground at  ...more

73 camp­ing sites, 3 pub­lic use cab­ins, and hik­ing trails. Guid­ed day hikes, kayak rentals, and kayak tours available.

Difficulty: Moderate Distance: 3 miles

This trail is the north­ern­most trail that pro­vides access to Kesu­gi Ridge. On a clear day, Lit­tle Coal Creek Trail takes you to amaz­ing views of Denali (Mt. McKin­ley). It also gives you those views in the short­est amount of time, about 1.5 hours, of any of the access trails to Kesu­gi Ridge.

Difficulty: Moderate Distance: 3 miles

This is one of four trails that lead to the high Kesu­gi Ridge along the Parks High­way about an hour north of Tal­keet­na. The trail begins in a forest­ed area and ends up above the tree line look­ing down on muli­ple drainages. The view at the top is won­der­ful, so bring a cam­era! It takes about 2 hours on aver­age to get above treeline. 

Fan­tas­tic views of Denali (McKin­ley) on a clear day. Pic­nic area, bath­rooms, and 20 campsites. 

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 upper but tip­py on the low­er sec­tion. There are three forks of 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.

Blue­ber­ries and moun­tain views dom­i­nate Broad Pass. Watch for moose and cari­bou, too. And berry pick­ers in the fall. This is the high­est point on the Parks Highway.

Season: Year Round $125+ per person 2-4 hrs

Expe­ri­ence the thrill of the icon­ic Alaskan sport of dogsled­ding from vet­er­ans of the Idi­tar­od and Yukon Quest races! Oper­at­ing in sum­mer and win­ter from Cantwell, about a 30-minute dri­ve south of Denali Nation­al Park, the pri­vate tours will be just you and your group, led by expert guides. Win­ter tours can involve learn­ing to dri­ve your own dog team or rid­ing out to see the north­ern lights. In sum­mer, the excit­ed dogs pull a side-by-side on  ...more

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. 

Season: Jun 01 to Sep 11 $895+ per night, meals all-inclusive

An exclu­sive lake­side oasis with hide­away cab­ins acces­si­ble by car and only 7 miles south of Denali Nation­al Park entrance. In addi­tion to lux­u­ri­ous accom­mo­da­tions, you can enjoy the art gallery, arti­san bak­ery, and spa­cious lawn with a camp­fire cir­cle and a love­ly view of the Alas­ka Range.

Season: May 15 to Sep 15 $315+ 45 - 70 mins

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.

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