Anchorage to Fairbanks (Parks Highway)

Anchorage to Fairbanks

Drive North in Alaska  (3:02)

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.

Fairbanks has a variety of accommodations; from well-known chains downtown to others quietly tucked away from town. Visitors traveling by RV have a wide variety of campgrounds & RV parks to choose from as well.

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:

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Points of Interest

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 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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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

Season: Year Round $60+ per person 2.5 hrs

Pilot a util­i­ty task vehi­cle (UTV) — an ATV that’s ful­ly enclosed — with fam­i­ly and friends as you splash through rivers, take in stun­ning views, and even pan for gold on this unique, 3‑hour excur­sion with Hatch­er Pass ATV Tours out of Willow.

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.

Season: May 15 - Sept 15 $79+ 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. 

Talkeetna Turnoff to Denali National Park

Season: May 11 - Sept 14 $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.

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 $189+

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.”

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

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

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.

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: 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

Season: Year Round Winter $139+ | Summer $200+

12-room, local­ly owned lodge 30 min­utes south of Denali Nation­al Park at the inter­sec­tion of the Parks and Denali High­ways. This year-round accom­mo­da­tion pro­vides sim­ple but well-appoint­ed rooms away from the main activ­i­ty of the park entrance.

$365+ 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.

Denali National Park to Fairbanks

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.

Season: Year Round Free

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. 

Season: Year Round $18

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.