Denali Highway

Denali Highway, one of the America's top drives

Located in Alaska, the Denali Highway (Alaska Route 8) is one of the most scenic highways in the entire United States. Watch out for potholes and stretches of 'washboard' road if it's been raining.

How many miles is the Denali Highway?

The road is 135 mi (217 km) long. It’s mostly gravel and runs from Paxson on the Richardson Highway to Cantwell on the Parks Highway. 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.

Can you drive the Denali Highway?

The road was opened in 1957. Check weather forecasts before leaving home, and remember that it becomes cooler and often more prone to storms at higher elevations. Only the easternmost 21.3 miles (34.3 km) and westernmost 2.6 miles (4.2 km) 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. Washboarding and extreme dust are common, and the recommended speed limit is 30 mph (48 km/h). Travelers can expect easy, gentle inclines with safe visibility. Do bring at least a spare tire, with the nature of the road flats can happen.

Is the Denali Highway open?

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. Winter snow closes the highway to through traffic from about October to about mid-May, depending on the weather. 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.

How long does it take to drive the Denali Highway?

The road is a spectacular piece of Alaska road. You can drive the highway in a day, but it’s recommended at least one overnight. It’s lightly traveled. Depending on when you drive it, you may see only a few dozen cars the entire length of the road.