Talkeetna lies at the end of a spur road near Mile 99 of the Parks Highway. The town maintains a Wild West vibe with a small, unpaved downtown area surrounding a central green. Lucky is the traveler who gets a few sunny days—Denali looms distantly over the town. Mountaineers congregate here to begin their assaults on Denali in Denali National Park; those just off the mountain are recognizable by their tanned faces with white "raccoon eyes" resulting from their sunglasses. The Denali mountain rangers have their climbing headquarters here, as do most glacier pilots who fly climbing parties to the mountain. A carved pole at the town cemetery honors deceased mountaineers.
Talkeetna is a must-visit if you're driving between Anchorage and Denali or Fairbanks. Talkeetna has quirky locals and a pebbly shore along the Susitna with fantastic views of Denali on a clear day. Be sure to visit the West Rib Pub and Grill (907/733–3354www.westribpub.info), on Main Street in the back of Nagley's Store (in business since 1921 and a minimuseum of sorts). You're likely to hear tales of the former mayor of Talkeetna, Stubbs, an affable orange cat who served as the town's leader for 19 years before he died in 2017. Grab a seat out back and wash down the delicious chili, burgers, and fries with a local microbrew.