There aren’t many roads in Alaska. In fact, only about 20% of this state can be traveled by road. But out of the few roads Alaska can brag about, the Anchorage to Denali drive is by far the most spectacular one. Driving the Parks Highway is one of the most rewarding experiences that you may have when visiting Alaska. Obviously, the road may be taken in the opposite direction as well, from Denali to Anchorage.
Driving from Anchorage to Denali by Bus
We drove this road as part of our Alaska Cruise & Land package. Alaska cruises usually offer two options for traveling to Denali from Anchorage. One is by train and the other is by bus. Driving from Anchorage to Denali by bus is an all-day trip on the Parks Highway. The drive usually takes take between seven and eight hours, depending on how many times you stop. On the way to Denali National Park, the bus makes a few stop at different attractions. The drive is incredibly scenic and very rewarding. Looking ahead as the road unfolds, you have nothing to worry about, just enjoy the gorgeous landscape that surrounds you.
The motorcoach is a very convenient way of traveling from Anchorage to Denali. While you don’t have the option of stopping where you’d like for pictures, or enjoy a beautiful scene at your own pace, you can kick back and enjoy the scenery while someone else is doing the driving. A great alternative to watching the bumper ahead of you. These busses are comfortable and spacious, with oversized windows and restrooms. The drivers are knowledgeable guides and all along the way you receive useful information about the places you see and hear entertaining stories.
What You Will See on the Anchorage to Denali Drive
If you have never driven from the south of Alaska to the interior or far north you are missing some of the great nature views the state has to offer. The Parks Highway goes through mountain passes, along the top of the Alaskan Range before descending again and past scenic vistas that are simply breathtaking.
The Anchorage to Denali drive –more commonly referred to as the Parks Highway— is the newest of Alaska’s main highways. It links Anchorage and Fairbanks and provides the most direct access to Denali National Park. It is a joy to drive with gentle curves, broad shoulders and easy slopes and the scenery is absolutely incredible: huge mountains, forests, meandering rivers and crystal clear lakes.
If the weather is clear, you can see some awesome views of Mt McKinley in the distance at several points along the highway.
Stops Along the Way to Denali National Park
Before entering the Denali National Park we stopped for lunch at a small restaurant on the side of the road. The food wasn’t very good, but view of the mountains in the distance and crisp air on that patio made that much the best we ever had.
Al also stopped at the Alaska Veteran’s Memorial, which is located within Denali State Park. The memorial consists of five 20-foot tall concrete panels, one each to represent the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard, arranged in a semi-circle.
That was my chance to take a short stroll through the forest near the monument and take a few shots of the beautiful Alaskan flora. Alaska also enjoys a great deal of wildlife, but if your stay there is short you might not be lucky to see it. The longer your tour is the more opportunity you will have to see wildlife.
But the pinnacle of this drive is without a question the incomparably beautiful Denali National Park. No visit to Alaska would not be complete without experiencing Denali. The park holds six million acres of lakes, tundra, mountain peaks, and wildlife dominated by Mt. McKinley (recently renamed Denali), North America’s highest peak. You will also enjoy the most beautiful scenery on this planet.
Once you see Denali, you’ll be mesmerized. One day in this gorgeous national park is definitely not enough. But if you want to come back and explore it more, you should just start planning way in advance. Unfortunately, there only lodging option in the park is camping, and those sites fill up pretty quickly. All the other lodging options are outside the park, but the best way to experience Denali’s wildlife is to stay within the park.
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