Last week we asked our readers what they wanted to hear about in our next newsletter and the response was Alaska. With that kind of response, it got our fearless leader Phil Freeman thinking about getting back out on the Alaskan roads, and one road in particular – the Denali Highway. This highway touches several adventures on our calendar, so sit back and let Phil give you his veteran insight into one of the best roads to ride in Alaska.
I have to admit, the first time I rode the Denali Highway, I was intimidated. After all, where else will you ride a 120 mile dirt road through the untouched wilderness? However, when I was halfway across it, I began to love it, and it has been that way ever since.
The Denali Highway is one of the oldest roads in Alaska and was the original entrance to Denali National Park. It boasts having the highest point in all of the Alaskan road system. The word “highway” is an Alaskan-ism. It’s just a maintained dirt road, which happens to parallel the Alaska Range at or above treeline and be surrounded by jaw dropping vistas with few buildings along the way.
It’s been 25 years since I first traversed it. Since then, I must have been down it literally 100 times and each time I do, I get this giddy elation, as if I am going home. There are few roads in the world where you can see so much vast unadulterated wilderness.
On a good day, you can see the tallest mountain on the continent from there – Denali. You can see peaks of 14,000 and 15,000 feet along the Alaska range, with enormous glaciers spilling out, far in the distance. You can see herds of caribou, and even the dominant volcanic peaks of the Wrangell Range to the south. You can see literally hundreds of miles in all directions, with not a soul in sight. There is so much space out there, you lose your sense of scale and you realize what Alaska really means.
Any time I talk to a motorcycle traveler, I tell them to make sure to ride this road. No one is ever disappointed. Many of our organized adventures feature it, and for good reason. The Prudhoe Bay Adventure advances north by way of it. The Best of Alaska Adventure flirts with it. It is a cornerstone of the Northern Lights Adventure. The Alaska Backcountry Adventure features it, to the point that we explore the remote mining roads that are connected to it, bringing you even further off the grid and into natural grandeur.
But you don’t have to join our organized adventure to enjoy this precious part of Alaska. You can ride it yourself on one of our rental motorcycles – and many do just that.
However you go, the most important thing is that you do just that: GO. Go and ride the Denali Highway.
Stay out there, whether camping or at a remote lodge like Clearwater Mountain Lodge. Drink up the scenery, listen to the blaring quiet, feel the overwhelming natural expanses around you. If you are to experience Alaska, then please, start your planning by setting your goal on this epic road.
There are a few resources that we recommend when planning your Alaskan adventure. I am very proud of the book – The Adventurous Motorcyclist’s Guide to Alaska – I helped co-write on Alaska based on my experience riding throughout the great state. You can also pick up a Butler Map on Alaska, as well as The Milepost: Alaska Travel Planner.
It’s a journey worth taking and I hope to see you out there on it one day.