Denali Highway in a Compact Car?
Replies: 10 - Last Post: Apr 29, 2012 7:02 AM Last Post By: denalihighwaycl...
Apr 26, 2012 6:22 PM
Denali Highway in a Compact Car?We're off to Alaska in about a month. We just went last year, so we're trying to see some new stuff and old favorites, too. We're driving from Anchorage to Valdez - where we did not visit on our last trip - and then from Valdez to Denali. We went to Denali last year via Anchorage so we drove the Parks Highway. This year, since we're coming from Valdez, we have a couple more options. My dream is to drive the Denali Highway (Highway 8). However, it appears that this may not be such a hot idea in a compact car. Can anyone who has taken this road offer some thoughts? Would we be missing much in the way of spectacular scenery if we drove Valdez-Fairbanks-Denali (not all in one day, mind) instead of taking the Denali Highway?
Apr 26, 2012 9:01 PM
1I haven't driven the Denali Highway in 15 years, so please bear that in mind.
I drove the highway twice, once in a 1972 VW van and once in 1984 Toyota Tercel hatchback. No problems at all.
It's a great drive, it's mostly above treeline so lots of open viewsheds and it's usually pretty empty. It's gravel so the going is slow and the washboard can get annoying. I would be concerned about lingering snow in the high country.
The drive from Paxson to Fairbanks is very scenic as well, so going through Fairbanks isn't a bad option, and there's some stuff around Fairbanks that could be interesting for you if you had an extra day. You could go all the way from Valdez-Fairbanks-Valdez in a long day of driving if you were pressed for time.
Apr 26, 2012 11:28 PM
2I was right there with #1 until that last sentence. You could do a lot of things in a day--as long as that day is 20 hours long--but why in the world would you?
The Denali Highway is fine. Not the most interesting if the visibility is whited out, but otherwise great views of the Alaska range and the interior on a nice, vibratory ride.
Apr 27, 2012 12:36 AM
Apr 27, 2012 6:16 AM
4Remember that if you get a flat tire on the Denali Highway, there will be no tow truck to help you change the tire on the gravel road. Most of the highway is open without any roadside businesses, except at the junctions with the Richardson Highway and the Parks Highway.
When you are in the Valdez area, plan to drive the 60 miles from Chitina into Wrangell-St. Elias National Park to McCarthy and Kennecott, which are two preserved mining towns. The drive is over a gravel road, but in better condition that the Denali Highway. Or, you could fly into McCarthy on a bush plane (Cessna or Piper). There is river rafting on the Kennecott River, glacier walking on the Kennecott Glacier, photography and naturalist tours, guided mountain climbing, and hiking trails. There is the McCarthy Hostel. You must park your car across the river from McCarthy and there may be a bridge across the Kennecott River, or there was a primitive hand-tram when I visited for pulling oneself over the river.
Apr 27, 2012 9:50 AM
5My first post should read "Valdez-Fairbanks-Denali". That's about 10 hours of driving time, so it's long but doable if you have a really cramped schedule.
A would definitely second a side trip to McCarthy if you have a couple days to spare.
Apr 27, 2012 11:45 AM
Apr 27, 2012 12:45 PM
7ha ha - page from the old days by the Yukon river - maybe 1980?
landed up in Kodiak
Apr 27, 2012 2:07 PM
8McCarthy is definitely worth a couple of days. We flew in from Chitina as that road is even less likely to be allowed by rental cars.
Only stayed one day and regretted not staying longer!
Apr 27, 2012 2:39 PM
Apr 29, 2012 7:02 AM
You won't have any trouble on the Denali Highway. We have Alpine Creek Lodge on the highway and all summer we have compact cars stopping in daily. It is an amazing drive and you won't be disappointed! Not sure where one poster got the idea there were no roadside businesses on the highway. There is Tangle Lakes area lodges at MP 20. There is Maclaren River Lodge at MP42, there is Alpine Creek Lodge at MP68, there is the Gracious House at MP82. Alpine and Maclaren are open year round. Have fun! You will enjoy it!
(3 star Hotel)
From US$309.95 per night
(3 star Hotel)
From US$139.00 per night
(0 star Hotel)
From US$24.00 per night