Riding the Denali Highway by Motorcycle

September 15, 2013/Jonathan Rundle/2 Comments

My good fortune continued weather-wise as today’s plan takes me across the Denali Highway. It’s Moose hunting season, so the road is busier than normal with hunters, a few RV’s and some teenaged children toting rifles on four-wheelers. Luckily most of the traffic is hunkered down at their camping spots so the dust isn’t bad at all. Considering this road should have had snow on it by now, I’ll happily take some dust.

On the Denali Highway

I can’t get over what a perfect day it was. No need to turn on the heated grips today! The highway is right at the foot of the Alaska Range, but the mountain viewing doesn’t stop there. On a clear day (like mine) you can also see Mount Hayes (13,700 ft), Mount Hess (11,940 ft) Mount Deborah (12,688 ft), the Wrangell Mountains, the Chugach Mountains and of course Mt. McKinley (20,237 ft).

Denali Highway

Denali Highway Tiger 800

My trip originally had me riding all the way to Paxson, staying the night there and then riding back to Anchorage. However, at the Susitna River bridge I was greeted by an Alaska DOT employee informing me that the bridge was closed for repairs for the next few hours, meaning I either had to wait for when (or if) the bridge would reopen – or just turn around there and stay another night near Denali. I opted to stay the extra night in Denali and ride back in the morning. I had read in my research that this work was going on, but I came to ride the highway, so I went as far as I could.

If your travel plans include remote highway travel, visit the Alaska DOT Traveler information line by phone (dial 511 in Alaska) or visit their website.

Denali highway by motorcycleDenali highway by motorcycleDenali highway by motorcycle

About the Denali Highway

Not to be confused with the Denali Park Road, the Denali Highway is a 135 mile long mostly gravel road that runs from Cantwell to Paxson. The road is the second-highest road in Alaska (second to the Dalton Highway). The land around the road is unspoiled Alaskan wilderness. Only the very beginning of the road and the very end of the road are paved. That leaves roughly 110 miles of pock-marked gravel surface. You’ll need to pay attention to those pot holes – a few of them could put you on the ground or pop a tire.

A Couple of Tips

  • You’ll get hungry. Bring some snacks and most certainly bring water.
  • There are no services. And I doubt there was cell reception. Don’t get stuck out here.
  • FYI: stop for too long and you’ll be covered in mosquitoes.
  • Clean your camera lens! I didn’t do this nearly enough.
  • If you keep your camera in your tank bag, remember to protect your glass lcd panel. I let a lens roll into mine and it got a few scratches. That could have been avoided.
  • Be prepared to wave. People on this road liked to wave at me.

Would this road had been fun in the rain? Fog? No and no. It’s all about the scenery. If you have the ability to take this road on a day like the one I had, go for it. You won’t regret it.

Comments (2)

  • Ray Bolton .August 9, 2017.Reply

    How rough is the road. Would it be reasonable to expect an experienced ride to get a goldwing across this highway?

    • (Author) Jonathan Rundle .August 14, 2017.Reply

      The road was not that rough. If you are comfortable with continuous gravel and avoiding some bigger potholes, you’ll be just fine. I imagine you will be a lot more comfortable on your Goldy than I was on the Tiger 800 with a stock seat. I’d occasionally need to stand for some bumpy sections. Thanks for reading!

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