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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


Talkeetna

Location/Climate: At confluence of Susitna, Chulitna, and Talkeetna Rivers, 80 air miles north of Anchorage. 4°F–68°F.

Population: 330 (1.6 percent native).

Travel Attractions: Base for Denali climbs, flightseeing, Denali-region drop-offs, rafting, charming town.

Getting There: Scheduled rail service from Anchorage and Fairbanks; vehicle access via George Parks Highway and Talkeetna Road.

Information: Talkeetna/Denali Visitor Center, Talkeetna Spur Road at Mile 99 Parks Highway (AK 2), Talkeetna, AK, (800) 660-2688, 733-2688, www.alaskan.com/talkeetnadenali, open 8 to 8 daily in summer.

Talkeetna is one of my favorite Alaskan destinations. Resist the urge to speed past the extra miles of the Talkeetna Spur Road on your way to Denali or Anchorage. Located at the confluence of three rivers—the Talkeetna, Chulitna, and Susitna—the town is the traditional base for mountaineering expeditions to the Denali massif. If you visit in May or June, you’re likely to meet wild-eyed, sunburned climbers with stories to tell. It can be a bit awkward to elbow into the unique camaraderie of climbers, but they are, in my experience, universally nice folks.

Talkeetna is charming. Main Street features cafes, shops, and a handful of motels; B&Bs are scattered about, and a town campground is right on the river.

Things to See and Do in Talkeetna

Denali Flightseeing—The trips offered by Talkeetna companies can’t be beat. Four companies operate from the Talkeetna airport just south of town: K2 Aviation, Doug Geeting Aviation, Hudson Air Service, and Talkeetna Air Taxi. Each has offices at the airport, in town, or along the Talkeetna Spur Road (see the Appendix). Prices are usually based on a per-person rate for groups of a certain size. All are good.

Museum of Northern Adventure—An enjoyable mix of Alaskana can be found at this easy museum, located in the renovated, 70-year-old Alaska Railroad building. Check out the life-size wax dioramas. There’s also a gift shop. Main Street, Talkeetna, 733-3999. Open in summer daily 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and in winter, afternoons and by request; $3.50.

River Trip—Whether by powerboat, raft, kayak, or canoe, the three-river junction at Talkeetna lends itself to some great trips (see the appendix for guides and outfitters).

Talkeetna Historical Society Museum—Don’t miss the 144-square-foot scale model of the Denali massif or the climbing displays in the old railroad Section House. There is also an old one-room schoolhouse with heritage displays, and an early trapper’s cabin. The museum is dedicated to bush-pilot legend Don Sheldon and mountaineer extraordinaire Ray Genet—both long-time Talkeetna residents. One block south of Main Street, just west of Talkeetna Spur Road (Airstrip Road), 733-2487. Open daily in summer 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., call in winter; $1.

Where to Stay in Talkeetna

Latitude 62°, Mile 14 Talkeetna Spur Road, 733-2262. Motel, restaurant, bar. Rooms $50 and up.

Swiss-Alaska Inn, East Talkeetna (by boat launch, look for signs), 733-2424. $80–$110. A quiet motel with retaurant. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Talkeetna Motel, P.O. Box 115, Talkeetna, AK 99676, 733-2323. Motel, restaurant, bar. Rooms $65–$100.

Talkeetna Roadhouse, Main Street, 733-1351. Rooms $50–$100, hostel bunks for $21. A Talkeetna fixture. Classic roadhouse and restaurant; homemade bread; good food, music, and company. RH

Three Rivers Accommodations (books several unhosted homes and cabins), Three Rivers Building, Main Street, 733-2741. Can match custom lodging to needs, interests, and budget.

Where to Eat in Talkeetna

The Deli, Main Street. The only pizza in town—and it’s good.

Sparky’s, Main Street, 733-1414. Sandwiches, ice cream.

Petersville Road

If you’re ambitious, turn west at Mile 115 of the Parks Highway and head down Petersville Road to the mining area around Petersville, located in the foothills of the Alaska Range below Denali. The road winds through the forested, swampy flats of the Chulitna basin and is maintained as far as the Forks Roadhouse at Mile 18.7. Beyond this point, four-wheel drive is generally recommended and the road is not plowed in winter. Homesteads and a few small subdivisions are found along the way.

If you can get in as far as the mines, you’ll be a rugged hike away from the Kahlitna Glacier and the remote southern reaches of Denali National Park and Preserve. Inquire at the Talkeetna Visitor Information Center or in Trapper Creek about conditions and options. Respect all trespassing and private property signs in the mining area.

For food and lodging on the Petersville Road, try Forks Roadhouse, Mile 18.7 Petersville Road in Trapper Creek. This historic roadhouse offers a bar, meals, and lodging, 733-1851. Dorm bunks $25, rooms $45, cabins $60.