Photo Credit: Ed Boudreau

Anchorage to Talkeetna Driving Map

Parks Highway Driving Tour (North)  (3:08)

Just two hours north from Anchorage, Talkeetna is a town with authentic pioneer feel and modern tour and lodging facilities. You'll find gorgeous flightseeing, world-class fishing, and the staging ground for climbing expeditions. Take in a slice of Alaska's past-and have a drink-at the historic watering hole, the Fairview Inn.

Talkeetna is actually closer to Mt. McKinley than the entrance of Denali National Park. If the mountain's out, you'll get spectacular southern views of North America's tallest peak. There are a number of scenic highlights and activities on the drive up-here are a few of our favorites:

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Driving Guide

Anchorage to Talkeetna Turnoff

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.

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 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 of the cul­tures. Up for a walk? It’ll pay off with a glacier…  ...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 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 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

$225+ 3-9 hours

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

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 — 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

Season: May 13 to Sep 13 $125+ 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.

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