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Denali Highway, Alaska

Alaska Route 8, Paxson to Cantwell

A Guide to Northern Highways

Click on each photo to greatly enlarge it

Clearwater Creek - Denali Highway, Alaska The Denali Highway (Alaska Route 8) is about 135 miles long and connects Paxson Lodge on the Richardson Highway with the Cantwell junction on the Parks Highway. Once the primary road access to the Denali National Park area, it is used little since the Parks Highway opened in 1971, except when hunting opens in late summer.

The highway is generally open from mid-May to October 1; the exact dates depend on the snowpack, the weather and the highway maintenance budget in a given year. Do not attempt to travel the road at any other time as snowdrifts can block your way. It is paved only for the first 21 miles west of Paxson and 3 miles east to the Cantwell Junction. When driving on gravel, SLOW DOWN when passing another vehicle. Just one small flying rock can damage a windshield and it could be yours! The maximum recommended speed for travel when no other vehicles are in sight is 30 mph.

To get the latest information on the Denali Road condition, phone 511 in the state of Alaska, phone 1-866-282-7577 outside of the state. Or check the web at http://511.alaska.gov

Denali Highway, Alaska - Photo by Sue Thomas Before venturing on this road, be sure your vehicle is in good working order. If you are in a rental vehicle, consult with your rental agency before driving the highway as some rental agencies do not allow their vehicles to travel the Denali Highway. Check your spare tire and see that you have a jack and lug wrench. Carry extra water and sufficient food for an emergency situation. You cannot predict how long it will take to get help if you become stranded. Limited services are available at distances of 20 to 40 miles apart along the Denali Highway.

Bring proper clothing so that you are prepared for any type of weather. It can be hot and sunny one day and cold, rainy and windy the next, and it can snow any month of the year!

  • Camping: Permits are not required for non-commercial camping on BLM-administered lands. All camping is limited to 14 days within a 60-day period. BLM campgrounds fill on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Hiking: Bring topographic maps. USGS topographic maps are available for purchase at the Glennallen Field Office. Most trails are unmarked. Rubber boots are recommended to cross wet spots.
  • Fishing: Lake trout and grayling are found in many lakes and streams. For further information, consult the BLM brochure "Alaska Freshwater Fishing" or contact an Alaska Department of Fish and Game office.
  • Sightseeing: The entire route presents outstanding opportunities for scenic views of the Alaska Range, boreal vegetation, glacial features and wildlife. Look for caribou, moose, fox, ptarmigan, trumpeter swan and other waterfowl. Denali Highway, Alaska - Photo by Sue Thomas
  • Bicycling: The Denali Highway and trails in the area can be rough, and have dust, wet areas and sharp rocks. Mileposts and many trail heads are not marked. Come prepared with adequate maps and repair equipment.
  • Canoeing/floating: Tangle Lakes and the upper Nenana, Delta and Gulkana rivers.

The links below will allow you to explore in much more depth.

Denali Highway Cabins
Located at the junction of the Richardson and Denali Highways, offering year-round riverside cabin lodging, and a wide range of outdoor activities.

Denali Highway - a Mile-by-Mile Guide
A map and detailed guide to services and sights along the highway.

The Denali Highway
Walt Rowland's illustrated guide to cycling, hiking and paddling opportunities in particular.

Driving the Denali Highway
Ellen Isaacs' illustrated story of a trip in August 2000.

Birding the Denali Highway
Tina MacDonald's illustrated report on a very productive June 1998 trip.

Driving the Denali Highway
Bob Neubauer's illustrated story of a trip in the early 1990s.

Cultural Resource Management Plan for the Denali Highway Lands
This 40-page document describes policies for state lands in the Tangle Lakes Archaeological District, and on other state lands in the Denali Highway region.

Rocks, Ridges & Glaciers

Thinking about driving across the scenic Denali Highway from Paxton to Cantwell this summer? BLM has produced a colorful 92-page guidebook, Rocks, Ridges & Glaciers to help you understand the scenery in a milepost-type format.

Copies are available for $10 each at BLM's Glennallen Field Office during weekday hours or you can order your copy by calling the Glennallen Field Office at (907) 822-3217. If ordering by phone there will be a $3.00 postage fee.

Denali Highway, Alaska - Photo by Sue Thomas