The Denali Highway (Alaska Route 8) is one of most scenic drives in the United States. With a length of 135 mi (217 km), this gravel road leads from Paxson on the Richardson Highway to Cantwell on the Parks Highway, in Alaska, USA. The road was opened in 1957.
The road's design, providing stunning panoramic views, is very curvy and fun for a leisurely ride. Of the 135 miles of the road, the first 21 miles on the eastern end, and first 2 miles on the western end, are paved. The rest of the road is gravel, not dirt, hence there effectively are no stretches of mud but there can be sharp rocks. The road is lightly traveled.
The weather on this zone is harsh and highly unpredictable and it does not take much time for the bright sun shine to change over to moderate to heavy snow fall. The highway is now little used and poorly maintained, and closed to all traffic from October to mid-May each year. Only the easternmost 21.3 miles (34.3 km) and westernmost 2.6 miles (4.2 km) are paved. A sudden drop in the temperature, even in summer, can trigger winter-like conditions.
Check weather forecasts before leaving home, and remember that it becomes cooler and often more prone to storms at higher elevations. The first 21 miles of the road are paved, and the entire 135 miles is two lanes wide. The route quickly climbs from the boreal forest to access the tundra and taiga along the foothills of the mighty Alaska Range. From the Paxson elevation of 2,750 ft., travelers eventually climb to the Maclaren Summit at 4,086 ft., the second highest road pass in Alaska. Many rental car companies will prohibit driving the Denali Highway, but a number of companies do allow travelers to take their cars on this road.