Alaska, North America

Denali Highway Road Trip

Alaska is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and unspoiled places I have ever been. When I wrote the post My 5 Favorite Places to Travel in the World, Alaska made the cut. A few years ago we took a Denali Highway Road Trip, because I wanted to see a little more of Alaska than the places on the main road. I was not disappointed with my views in the least.

Denali Highway Alaska Road Trip

To be sure, this was not the longest road trip we have ever taken, but we had limited time, so we used the two days we had. A little background about us, because we are probably weird to a lot of people, but we go after our dreams, even if they take us awhile.

Our Introduction to Alaska

Awhile back, something like 15 years ago, my husband took his first trip to Alaska for a hunt. I didn’t talk to him for the whole 2 weeks he was gone. When he got home, he talked non-stop about the beauty of Alaska and how much he loved it. This happened 2 more times before I went to Alaska the first time, which was actually on a cruise for my dad’s birthday and not in the same area at all. I thought it was very beautiful where we were though.

The next spring, we decided to take a fishing trip to the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska. Oh my goodness, that place is amazingly beautiful. Again, not in the same place as he hunted, but beautiful all the same. We talked about it and decided to try to buy some land in Alaska.

We put it to a family vote and it passed, yay! He searched online for a piece of land we could buy and with change (as in cents) we had been saving for a couple of years, we bought 8 acres of Alaska, just north of Denali National Park. Mind you, we bought it on the internet, so we really prayed a lot about it to make sure it was the right piece.

Now, our Alaska trips are to our property, working our tails off for a month, building a cabin and camping. We finally got electricity last year, but before that, we did without. We are using trees from our property, so it’s hard, back breaking, wonderful work.

Denali Highway Alaska Road Trip

Anchorage to Paxton

When we went up in 2015, we flew into Anchorage and I decided I wanted us to get to our property a new way, instead of just up the main road. We took 2 days and made the trip from Anchorage to GlennAllen to Paxton then Cantwell and finally up past Healy. It was early June, so it was still chilly and the mosquitos were amazingly annoying.

Denali Highway Alaska Road Trip

                                                          Sheep Mountain

I took probably 500 pictures in those 2 days because there were so many things to see. Sheep Mountain was probably one of my favorite things to photograph. I love all the colors and the ruggedness about it. When the clouds moved, the colors changed. So pretty.

Denali Highway Alaska Road Trip

I took this photo because we were debating about what those poles that stick over the road do. I don’t recall seeing lights on them. Do they measure snow levels? Does Alaska get that much snow? If so, I might be very afraid, since my husband would like to retire there someday.

Denali Highway Alaska Road Trip

I don’t actually know 100% what this is a picture of, besides a river with a snowy mountain. I’m pretty sure it’s the Mount Drum range, but I’m not 100% positive. It’s pretty though. Don’t you think?

Paxton to Cantwell

Denali Highway Alaska Road Trip

This is an abandoned hotel and gas station at the Paxton turn off. It was begging to have it’s picture taken. I took about 50 pictures of it. Love the blue door.

Denali Highway Alaska Road Trip

This is the Denali Highway. Yes, it is not paved. If you come here and are renting a vehicle, ask if you can bring it here first. There are some unpaved roads you can’t take rental cars on. We had a truck.

Denali Highway Alaska Road Trip

Just gorgeousness. I love the landscapes in Alaska.

Denali Highway Alaska Road Trip

Our first caribou spotting. They were kind enough to let me take some photos. I was trying out a new lens that was crazy big. However, I was not super successful with it because my eyes are not awesome and it doesn’t auto focus.

Denali Highway Alaska Road Trip

 

Denali Highway Alaska Road Trip

This place must have a great view. My husband said it’s an outfitter station. A week or so after we were on this road, a man was attacked by a bear near here. He was injured badly, but he lived. Amazing. Watch yourself if you’re out here.

Denali Highway Alaska Road Trip

We saw this moose wandering around. We actually saw quite a few moose. Not too close to the road though. Be sure you don’t drive so fast on the road that you miss the wildlife. Sometimes it is hard to spot them.

Denali Highway Alaska Road Trip

We camped here for the night. Great view right?! We had a little stove that we cooked on, so no camp fire. I took this photo at about 10 pm. If you’re cooking or camping, make sure you clean up after yourself well and don’t keep anything with a scent in your tent. Bears have amazing noses and they are hungry, trying to bulk up for the winter. Also, bear spray is something handy to have with you all the time.

Denali Highway Alaska Road Trip

We saw this guy across the stream. It’s crazy to me how much their antlers change over the summer. They get so much bigger and are not fuzzy by fall.

Denali Highway Alaska Road Trip

I thought this was a neat bridge, with all the different textures and colors going on around it. I was actually laying on the ground taking the photo.

Denali Highway Alaska Road Trip

Be prepared to take your time. This crane was doing some repair on the bridge across the Susitna River. We had to wait here about 90 minutes. It put a little wrench in our works, but we watched a few moose for a lot of that time.

Denali Highway Alaska Road Trip

I don’t know the deal with this tree. It doesn’t fit in with what is happening around it. We wondered if someone planted their Christmas tree and it just started to grow. My husband added a fishing lure to the tree, but everything else was already on it.

We Made It

Denali Highway Alaska Road Trip

Then we made it to Cantwell and turned north. Alaska is an incredibly beautiful state, that is about the size of a third of the lower 48 states all by itself. There is loads of area to explore. I really enjoyed our drive on the Denali Highway before the start of our month of hard work. We’re hoping to finish the cabin this year, but hopefully I will be able to get some fun in too.

10 Quick Tips to Survive

Bring all of the food you will need, plus a little extra

Fill up your gas tank before you get to the end of the pavement.

Bring bear spray and know how to use it! If you don’t know, watch this YouTube video.

Clean up after yourself. Bears have amazing noses and you don’t want them in your food.

Don’t leave anything in your tent with scent. Again, bears.

Bring a camera with a zoom lens. You will want it.

Bring enough blankets if you’re camping. It can get cold at night.

Drive slow so you don’t miss the wildlife.

Don’t just look near the road, look off into the distance and near the water.

 

Have you been to Alaska? Do you think a Denail Highway road trip is in your future?

PS I’d love for you to subscribe for my emails. I only send two a month. You can subscribe in the upper right hand of the sidebar. 

Denali Highway Alaska Road Trip

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44 Comments

  • Reply Meg May 4, 2018 at 7:42 am

    This is a beautiful place, I love all your pictures. That decorated tree is hilarious and I love that your hubby added his own touch. The tips are great too. I’ll have to pun thus for future travels.

    • Reply ppadmin May 5, 2018 at 5:57 pm

      It really is a beautiful place. We laughed at that tree too. Such an odd thing to find. I hope you get to go.

  • Reply Michelle May 5, 2018 at 5:43 am

    This looks like such a beautiful drive. I probably wouldn’t be able to get my husband out from behind the camera lens, so I’d be stuck doing all of the driving. LOL!

    • Reply ppadmin May 5, 2018 at 5:56 pm

      Haha! I was the photography, as I usually am. My poor husband had to stop about every 3 minutes.

  • Reply Indrani May 5, 2018 at 11:52 pm

    I would love to do a similar road trip. The chance of wildlife spotting excited me.
    I too wonder what those poles are for. they look like sensors. Great photography by you.

    • Reply ppadmin May 7, 2018 at 5:41 pm

      Thank you. The wildlife in Alaska is so great and everywhere. If I ever figure out the poles, I will tell you.

  • Reply Danila Caputo May 6, 2018 at 2:39 am

    We are in love with road trips, and Alaska has been on our bucket list forever, so this basically sums up two of our favorite things ever! How amazing that you fell in love with Alaska to the point of buying a piece of land! We still haven’t found a place that has inspired us to do so but your experience is inspiring. Especially because you are building a cabin using your own trees! Hats off, I can’t even imagine how hard it can be!

    • Reply ppadmin May 7, 2018 at 5:42 pm

      We’re enjoying the experience and planning. It is exhausting though. I can’t wait to see it when it’s done. I hope you get to Alaska soon. So beautiful.

  • Reply Brooke May 8, 2018 at 1:58 am

    Looks beautiful and peaceful! I always wanted to visit Denali Park-even decided to go work a summer there when I was 19 but at last minute went to Hawaii instead as a friend of mine was living there and convinced me to come stay with her. But-Alaska is still certainly on my list. It may be one of the few places left without too much traffic or that is too hot-in a decade or two.. ! 🙂

    • Reply ppadmin May 8, 2018 at 8:31 pm

      We love it there so much, but totally get picking Hawaii too. I also love it there. Alaska is such a beautiful place, with so many untouched areas still. Well worth the trip.

  • Reply Janine Thomas May 8, 2018 at 3:55 am

    It looks like a wonderful road trip with so much to see along the way. I can’t say that the tree is the prettiest I have ever seen, but it did make me smile. Alaska would be wonderful to visit, but it really is the other side of the world for me 🙁

    • Reply ppadmin May 8, 2018 at 8:32 pm

      It’s really well worth the journey, if you can do it. So beautiful. You’re right. The tree wasn’t the prettiest, but it’s a fun memory for sure. I hope you get to experience Alaska someday.

  • Reply Archana Singh May 8, 2018 at 4:21 am

    It’s so nice to know that you went to Alaska several times and your first trip was for your dad’s birthday. That’s really a special trip. Looking at your pics and vivid description I totally understand why you love Alaska so much

    • Reply ppadmin May 8, 2018 at 8:33 pm

      It’s such a wonderful place, that we look forward to going to each year. I think it runs through my husband’s veins. It’s getting that way for me too, but I’m a little slower with it.

  • Reply Karla Ramos May 8, 2018 at 10:22 pm

    I loved that you used the term “unspoiled”. I think more places should be preserved rather than develop. Alaska is indeed a breath of fresh air from all the man-made tourism. The landscapes are breathtaking. Congratulations and good luck with the cabin!

    • Reply ppadmin May 15, 2018 at 5:12 am

      I agree with you so much. I really hope it stays that way. Thank you.

  • Reply Claire May 9, 2018 at 2:04 am

    Alaska looks absolutely stunning! The scenery is incredible but I think the isolation would freak me out a little bit – and the bears! I’d love to see a caribou in real life though 🙂

    • Reply ppadmin May 15, 2018 at 5:09 am

      I kind of like the isolation. Where we are is not so far that we can’t get help if we need it, but far enough that you don’t see other people without going after them. We haven’t had any problem with bears, but you have to be smart about it.

  • Reply Violeta May 9, 2018 at 7:29 am

    The Denali Highway road looks awesome! I had no idea it wasn’t paved. Nonetheless, it seems doable without the need for an off road vehicle.

    • Reply ppadmin May 15, 2018 at 5:07 am

      Yes, it’s a really good road. We had a 4 wheel drive truck, but didn’t have to use the 4 wheel drive function at all.

  • Reply Vicky and Buddy May 9, 2018 at 8:25 pm

    Road trips are always fun, especially when you have such amazing scenery around you. It’s obvious that you love it since you keep going back so often. I’d be a little worried about bears, but your tips help make me feel a bit better about it.

    • Reply ppadmin May 15, 2018 at 5:06 am

      I was pretty worried about bears the first time we camped there, but now I just make sure I clean up after myself and sleep with bear spray and a firearm next to me. So far so good.

  • Reply Burcu Basar May 11, 2018 at 11:39 am

    Such a well crafted blog post. Photos, maps and everything. I have been to Denali but took the train there as opposed to road trip. The christmas tree looks interesting as well!

    • Reply ppadmin May 15, 2018 at 5:05 am

      I want to take that train one of these days. I’m secretly hoping our truck is too full one time when we go to Anchorage.

  • Reply Michelle June 23, 2018 at 5:49 am

    Alaska looks so gorgeous. I would love to visit one day but am not sure I could survive the cold! LOL! It looks like you all had a great trip. Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply ppadmin July 10, 2018 at 12:10 pm

      It’s so beautiful and peaceful. If you go in the summer months, it’s perfect. I actually got overheated in June this same year. My husband had to take me for ice cream to cool off.

  • Reply Nicola June 23, 2018 at 8:18 am

    This sounds amazing. I’ve always wanted to try a roadtrip like this.

    • Reply ppadmin June 25, 2018 at 5:29 pm

      It was a nice one, but very short. We had fun though.

  • Reply budgettravellove June 23, 2018 at 12:00 pm

    Awesome post! I would love to travel to Alaska, and see caribou! Thanks for sharing 😊

    • Reply ppadmin June 25, 2018 at 5:31 pm

      Alaska is such a beautiful place in the world. So many untouched places. I hope you make it there.

  • Reply Kylee June 23, 2018 at 2:15 pm

    What a goregous place to hike and camp! Always wanted to visit Denali.

    • Reply ppadmin June 25, 2018 at 5:32 pm

      It is so beautiful and you can see lots and lots of animals. I hope you get to visit soon.

  • Reply Sylvia June 23, 2018 at 2:59 pm

    Lovely story and your pictures of the landscapes Alaska has to offer are quite charming. I hope your cabin will be finish so you can focus on enjoying this natural gem. Keep safe (#bears)

    • Reply ppadmin July 10, 2018 at 12:12 pm

      Thank you. Alaska is a really fantastic place, full of rugged beauty.

  • Reply Kimmie Conner June 23, 2018 at 3:02 pm

    Ahhh this is BEAUTIFUL! I would LOVE to visit Alaska. I find it incredible you bought land, built the cabin yourselves, and just recently got electricity! what a fulfilling adventure.

    • Reply ppadmin June 25, 2018 at 5:33 pm

      It has certainly been an adventure. It’s hard to leave each time we go. Hopefully we will be there full time when we retire. Or mostly full time. I’m thinking a beach in the coldest months.

  • Reply Hallie June 23, 2018 at 5:58 pm

    Those are great tips at the end. What an amazing way to see Alaska. I’ve considered the cruise as the best option for me… with a toddler at the moment. But maybe a bit later when she’s older and not so needy… or looks like bear food, we could do this. Just stunning.

    • Reply ppadmin June 25, 2018 at 5:34 pm

      The cruise was a lot of fun. I would like to take a train across Alaska one of these days. We are driving up this year. I’m so excited!

  • Reply Lena June 23, 2018 at 6:34 pm

    Alaska really seems like an amazingly beautiful place. So much nature and animals so close you can almost touch them. Seems like a great place to get away from it all.

    • Reply ppadmin June 25, 2018 at 5:35 pm

      It is a great place to get away from it all. No matter how hard we work, it sort of resets us for the next year. It’s a beautiful, peaceful place.

  • Reply Aurelia Teslaru June 23, 2018 at 6:35 pm

    I would love so much to visit Alaska one day! Definitely adding this place to my travel bucket list! Thanks for sharing

    • Reply ppadmin June 25, 2018 at 5:35 pm

      I’m happy to hear that. I hope you get to go. You will not regret it.

  • Reply Candice June 25, 2018 at 9:21 am

    So stunning! I’ve always wanted to visit Alaska. Your post is so thorough and a pleasure to read! Best of luck with your new property and the cabin!! 😀

    • Reply ppadmin June 25, 2018 at 5:38 pm

      Thank you. It is stunning and a place you don’t want to miss.

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