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Denali & the Alaska Range
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Denali & the Alaska Range

Introduction

George Parks Highway (AK3) -- Wasilla to Fairbanks

Talkeetna

Denali State Park

Denali National Park and Preserve

McKinley Park (the town)

Healy

Denali Highway (AK8)

National Wild and Scenic Rivers: Delta and Gulkana

Central Richardson Highway (AK4) -- Glenallen to Delta Junction


Central Richardson Highway (AK4) -- Glenallen to Delta Junction

Road Conditions and Attractions—150 miles. Good two-lane road with some tight turns, open year-round. Float access, glacier and lake views, historic trail route, Trans-Alaska Pipeline route, Delta Bison Range.

The central segment of the Richardson offers beautiful scenery in the foothills and uplands of the Alaska Range. Most of the land is BLM-managed with large state and native corporation parcels. The Trans-Alaska Pipeline corridor parallels the highway. The road reaches 3,000 feet at Isabel Pass and is above treeline for many miles, offering great views. Several glaciers come fairly close to the road and are easily seen, though there is no official access beyond highway-turnout viewpoints. The Gulkana and Delta Rivers offer float possibilities (see above), while Alaska’s only wild herd of bison may be seen near Delta Junction.

Glenallen (Mile 115)—See Glenallen, chapter 8.

Dry Creek State Recreation Site (Mile 118)—See Glenallen, chapter 8.

Gulkana Road (Mile 126.9)—Turn east here to enter the small, largely Ahtna Athabascan village of Gulkana (population 100, 59 percent native). The village was originally on the other side of Copper River where once stood a store, roadhouse, and post office. Gulkana is one of the few largely native settlements close to a main highway. There are no businesses. The village is not oriented toward receiving visitors, but makes an interesting detour.

Gulkana, Gakona, and the road junction are located at the confluence of the Gulkana and Copper Rivers. Rafting the Gulkana is popular, in part due to easy put-ins and take-outs along the Richardson Highway (see the appendix for rafting outfitters).

Gakona Junction and Tok Cutoff (Mile 128.6)—See Tok Cutoff, chapter 8.

Sourdough Creek BLM Campground (Mile 147.6)—This is a standard take-out for a Gulkana River float that begins at Paxson or Tangle Lakes (see above). The site and several old outbuildings of the Sourdough Roadhouse are next to the creek, close to the old route of the Valdez Trail.

Paxson Lake BLM Campground (Mile 175)—Turn here and drive 1.5 miles to the campground. This is a good put-in for a 50-mile Gulkana River float to Sourdough (see above).

Paxson and Denali Highway (AK 8) Junction (Mile 185.5)—Here’s where the Denali Highway (AK 8) meets the Richardson Highway (AK 4) and little else. Get some gas, grab a bite, stock up, and hit the road—make sure to do all of those things if you’re taking the Denali Highway to Cantwell.

Paxson Lodge (Mile 185.5), Paxson, 822-3330. $60–$80. Rooms, cafe, bar, RV hook-ups, store, gas, airstrip, post office, gift shop, fishing licenses. RH

Summit Lake (Mile 192 to Mile 197)—This lovely lake sits near the divide between the Delta and Yukon watershed to the north and the Gulkana and Copper watershed to the south. A few B&Bs and a lodge are found near the lake.

Isabel Pass (Mile 197.6, 3,000')—It’s all downhill from here.

Fielding Lake State Recreation Site (Mile 200.4)—Turn west and continue 1H miles to reach campground with trails to the lake and good fishing.

Black Rapids Glacier Viewpoint (Mile 225.4)—To the west you can see the terminus of this 25-mile-long glacier that gathers many smaller glaciers on its way down from icy 12,000- and 13,000-foot summits. Now retreating, in the winter of 1936–37 the glacier "galloped" forward 3 miles, nearly reaching the road.

Donnelly Creek State Recreation Site (Mile 237.9)—Twelve $8 sites are located where Donnelly Creek meets the Delta River. Possible take-out for Delta River runs.

Bison Viewpoint (Mile 241.3)—There are no guarantees, but there’s a fair chance you’ll spot bison from wide-view turnouts between here and Delta Junction. (see chapter 14).

Old Richardson Highway Loop (Mile 247)—Reconnects with the new road at Mile 257.6. Donnelly Dome (3,910') divides the two routes. Access is uncertain; four-wheel drive may be needed.

Meadows Road and Old Richardson Highway (Mile 256.7)—Reconnects with new road at Mile 247. Four-wheel drive may be needed.

Bison Viewpoint (Mile 262.6)—This spot is one of several good points to browse with the binoculars.

Delta Junction and Alaska Highway (Mile 266)—Officially, the Richardson continues on to Fairbanks and the end of the Alaska Highway, but many consider the Delta Junction–Fairbanks stretch to be part of the Alaska Highway. See chapter 14 for Delta Junction and milepost information.