It's hard to pick the highlights on what is essentially an entirely jaw-dropping road. From the gates by the train station at Denali straight through the 92 miles to Kantishna, expect to be amazed.
There's always the possibility of spotting wildlife. Be sure to have your binoculars and camera at hand when you're riding the Denali Backcountry Adventure.
So, settle in and enjoy the view! Here's our list of eight key spots:
- First view of Denali. At Mile Post 9, you'll get your first viewpoint of the tallest peak in North America. This is where the spruce forest opens up into a vast taiga forest. On a clear day, you can see the giant mountain that's 72 miles away.
- Teklanika: There are a number of impressive bridges on the Denali Park Road, including Savage River and Sanctuary River. Mile Post 30 is the rest stop that offers a chance to stretch your legs and soak in the views of a wide riverbed. From here, the road starts to narrow.
- Polychrome: This gorgeous kaleidoscope of colors formed by volcanic rock at the top of a spindly, curvy section of the road is arguably the most thrilling stretch. The Denali Backcountry Adventure stops at the overlook at Mile Post 46. Watch for grizzlies, moose and caribou far below. They're far enough away you'll be unlikely to disturb them here—a great chance to observe the natural world at its most pristine.
- Toklat River: The road drops back down to 3,000 feet here as it crosses the Toklat River at Mile Post 52. Glacial rivers converge here in a sediment-rich braided stream that opens into a broad U-shaped valley. A great spot to see wildlife, including caribou.
- Stony Hill Overlook: By the time you reach Mile Post 61.95, the views of Denali will have only gotten better and better. From atop a high mountain pass on Stony Hill, you can see the road stretch towards Denali below you, and you can often see the entire peak from summit down to its base here as well!
- Eielson Visitor Center: You can't miss a stop at Mile Post 66. Here, at 3,700 feet, the view is incredible—you're only 33 miles from the summit of Denali. And there's also outstanding opportunities to learn inside the visitor's center. Take a short walk through the high alpine vegetation, where each plant and flower that grows is miniature and mighty.
- Wonder Lake: At Mile Post 85, this is Denali's shiniest gem. Aptly named, the lake is a highlight that relatively few visitors see. It's long and narrow, a remnant of glaciers having advanced and retreated. Moose tend to gather here at dusk and dawn.
- Kantishna: Let your mind drift back in time to when this little settlement was a hotbed of activity 100 years ago. A short but exciting gold rush here was an impetus to the creation of Mt. McKinley National Park.
And now that you’re here, take some time to relax along the banks of Moose Creek at the Denali Backcountry Lodge. And prepare yourself for the wonders that await on the journey out!