Denali Highway--Go or No?

Old Feb 2nd, 2002, 04:21 AM
Posts: n/a
Denali Highway--Go or No?

Posted this yesterday, but it seems to be among the missing today...

We'll be driving from Valdez to Denali and can't decide on which route to take--Denali or Glenn Highway back towards Anchorage. Although Denali Highway is shorter, what would it really be like to drive in July by car?

Is it that much more scenic to warrent driving for hours on dirt? What is a realistic estimate of speed on that road or time it would take from Valdez to Denali?

If it should be a two day trip, are there any suggested places to stay?

Your help has been very much appreciated as we plan this trip. Thanks.

Old Feb 2nd, 2002, 07:07 AM
Paul Rabe
Posts: n/a
Get a copy of The Milepost for the most up to date info (mine is the 1993 version). A brochure I have on the Denali Hiway states it "is about 133 miles long" and "The maximum recommended speed for travel when no other vehicles are in sight is 30 mph."

There's no question but that the Denali Hiway is more rugged and riskier than the paved hiway through Fairbanks. If weather is bad, you could be stuck in the mud for over a DAY and be forced to spend a fortune to get it out. I wouldn't drive it in the rain.

The main attraction of the DH is that it is so desolate and isolated that you never know what you might encounter. You may twenty moose, or you may see nothing. You may see gorgeous scenery, or you may see nothing but fog.

Whether or not to travel this dirt road depends on your capacity for adventure. If you like your traveling into the unknown, the DH is a way to get there. If you prefer more certainty, it isn't. It's basically personal taste.

On a two day trip, a good place to stop would probably be the Tangle River crossing; it's where the pavement ends and there are two lodges there. The owners will probably give you a lot of good advice on traveling the last 110 miles safely and with maximum enjoyment.
Old Feb 2nd, 2002, 07:15 AM
Posts: n/a
If you are driving a rental be sure to check with the renter to determine if there is a prohibtion of driving on dirt or gravel roads.
Old Feb 2nd, 2002, 08:08 AM
Patrick Jentges
Posts: n/a
I drove the Denali Highway in June of '98. We left from Cantwell at the west end of the DH and drove through Paxton on the east end of the DH and continued on to the Sheep Mt. Lodge on the Glenn Hwy. It was a rather full day of driving. I averaged somewhere between 25 and 40 mph on the gravel portions of the road. Weather was good and the road was dry. We had no problems with driving our rental car over the gravel road. Most of it was in good condition- a few areas of wash board and potholes- but you need to pay attention to the road. The remoteness and lack of cars is a unique experience. The scenery is beautiful. If you do see something of interest, chances are you can stop anywhere on the road without worrying about other cars. If weather conditions are good and you're sure the road is good it may be worth the 4-5 hour drive. We would probably drive it again.
Old Feb 2nd, 2002, 06:31 PM
Alan Cleveland
Posts: n/a
Will your insurance company cover the loss to damage in a rental car when most rental car companies will, in writing, leave you stranded on the Denali? Think about it. And, if your insurance company will back you up regardless of existing rules, will you allow me to drive your car into the ocean free of obligations? Clouise, you posed a great question. But, you failed to recognize a couple of factors. #1. Who is responsible for your car when you break an axle, or shatter the windshield? #2. The Denali Hwy connects the Richardson Hwy to the Parks Hwy. Neither of which terminate in Valdez. #3. Each direction of travel offers unique viewing experiences. If you take the Denali, what will you have missed on the Glenn? Nelchina, Gunsight, Lake Louise, Tazlina Glacier, Matnuska Glacier, Sheep Mountain, King Mountain, Wolf Country USA, the Musk Ox Farm... That's a lot to sacrifice on a shortcut that takes as long if not longer than staying on the pavement. If however you are intent upon crossing the Denali, rent from Affordable Car Rental ( which is the only "new car" rental agency that will offer
ANY type of coverage on the Denali.
Old Feb 3rd, 2002, 04:08 AM
Posts: n/a
Forget about Denali Highway (it is not a highway)but a dirt road with plenty of potholes and if your car breaks down you will be there for many hours. Been there done that and wouldn't recommend to anyone.
Old Feb 3rd, 2002, 06:52 AM
Posts: n/a
Thanks for everyone's comments. You seemed to have confirmed what I was also thinking about not going on Denali Highway. In fact, all of that driving doesn't sound like a fun way to spend a vacation, so I think we may just hang around Glenn Highway area and maybe go up as far as Denali State Park, which I hear is quite scenic.
Old Aug 8th, 2002, 05:56 AM
Posts: n/a
Thought I would update the Denali Hwy info.

We were there in late July and I was determined to drive it because of all the great things I had read here.

The day before, we read in the Anchorage newspaper that it had not been maintained since early June because of budget cutbacks.

We gave it a try anyway. The scenery was fabulous, we were away from crowds for the first time, the weather was beautiful BUT the road was horrible. 15 miles an hour was driving fast on this road. After an hour, with great disappointment, we turned around. I'm still glad I saw just a little bit of it though.

We drove down the Glenn Hwy to Mananuska Glacier and back and the scenery was great there too.
Old Aug 11th, 2002, 02:07 PM
Alan Cleveland
Posts: n/a
Many stranded motorists on the Denali Hwy this year. Expect flat tires, and chipped glass. If you're fortunate, you won't break an axle.

Have heard reports of a washout at the McClaren River, and of 3' potholes and frost heaves.

Edgerton Hwy is not doing much better this year. It is taking the grader 4 or 5 days to complete that section from Chitna to McCarthy....and, when it rains, it all falls apart again. There is a new yuppie crowd in the area, so, every weekend the road gets excessively overused by people who are racing to "recreate."
Related Topics
Original Poster
Last Post
United States
Apr 29th, 2015 07:18 PM
United States
Oct 17th, 2006 10:57 AM
United States
Jul 27th, 2004 08:32 AM
United States
Dec 19th, 2003 01:49 PM
United States
Jul 7th, 2002 10:49 AM

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell My Personal Information