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George Parks Highway

If you arrive in Alaska by air, Anchorage is likely to be your first stop. Being the largest city in Alaska, it offers a good transition point between civilization and wilderness that makes up much of the rest of Alaska. So you will find McDonald's, suburban sprawl, traffic jams on multilane roads, etc, there. Having experienced all of the above and some of the Anchorage downtown, we soon responded to a call of mountains jutting out around the city. But just before you leave the city, you may want to do a gear check and stock up on supplies. Some items are much more expensive elsewhere in Alaska if they are available at all.

Traveling by road, you can head south on the Seward Highway toward Kenai Peninsula (more on that later), or north on the Glenn Highway, that some 30 miles north of Anchorages forks off the George Parks Highway. This highway provides the most direct connection from Anchorage to the second largest city in Alaska, Fairbanks. Completed in 1971, most of its 360 miles are not at all similar to seemingly endless strip malls that constitute the town of Wasilla, which is perhaps best known as a real start of Iditarod, a grueling 1100 mile long dog sled race from Anchorage to Nome on the coast of the Bering Sea.

But soon enough, you will find yourself driving through vast forests along Susitna River. In places, the highway parallels the Alaska railroad, that runs from Seward through Anchorage to Fairbanks. A dirt road over Hatcher Pass at the southern end of Talkeetna mountains to the east is a convenient way to get above timberline for nice mountain views. Suitable camping spots abound along the Hatcher Pass road. While cooking dinner, we heard numerous gun shots, and shortly after a local carrying an arsenal passed by. At least no grizzly bears showed up for dinner.

Talkeetna is another side trip a few miles from the George Parks Highway. The town serves as a base for mountaineering expeditions up Denali (Mt. McKinley), at 20320ft, the highest mountain in North America. As access by road to the mountain is virtually impossible, most mountaineers opt to be flown from Talkeetna onto a glacier at the foot of the mountain.

Past Talkeetna, the Alaskan range looms on the northern horizon. That is if you can see it for the weather. The highway climbs almost imperceptibly toward Broad Pass, 2300ft, which marks a dividing line. To the north, the rivers drain into the Yukon River, and those to the south to Cook Inlet. For miles around the top of the indistinct pass, the highway runs above timberline providing great views of the Alaska Range, before it enters a canyon of Nenana River. The entrance to Denali National Park is close to the north end of the canyon and a few miles down the the river the highway emerges into a flat plain north of the range.


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Distances from Anchorage Eskimo Hatcher Pass Carnation on vacation Talkeetna Alaska Range
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Denali? Cycling on Broad Pass Gull Alaska Range Caribou Evening Alaska Range
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Evening Alaska Range Evening Alaska Range Evening Alaska Range

Last updated: September 7, 2002
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