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"Designated a National Scenic Byway in 2009, the George Parks Highway  
passes through some of the grandest scenery that Alaska has to offer." 
~ from The Milepost book, 2011 edition, p. 388

So we've heard. Unfortunately, it rained all day today and we didn't get any of those grand views.

After spending seventeen days at the Black Spruce FamCamp at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson we pulled out this morning and said good-bye to Anchorage.

We arrived at our new campground in Denali State Park mid-afternoon after a deliberate detour off the Parks Highway to the historic town of Talkeetna. I'll talk about what we did in Talkeetna in the next entry.

Here's a peek at one of the arts and crafts shops in Talkeetna.
This is a typical cabin found in small Alaska towns.

From Anchorage we drove north on the Glenn Hwy. and Parks Hwy. to MP 99, fourteen miles north on the Talkeetna Spur Hwy. to that little town, back to the Parks Hwy., and north to MP 147. The Byers Lake CG is one-half mile east of the Parks Highway.

Denali National Park is farther up the Parks Hwy. at MP 237. We'll be going up there in a few days.

Here's a map section from The Milepost that shows the relationship between Denali National Park and Preserve, Denali State Park, and Talkeetna:

That shows only part of Denali National Park; it's HUGE. Denali State Park is bisected by the Parks Hwy. Its western boundary borders on the national park. Our route today is marked in yellow and it stops at Byers Lake.

If you look at the whole pdf. map on the web page you'll see farther south to Anchorage.


You'd think the Parks Highway is thusly-named because Denali state and national parks are located along this road. Not so -- it's named after George Parks, who was territorial governor from 1925-1933 (Alaska was not a state until 1949). The Parks Hwy. connects the two largest cities in Alaska, Anchorage and Fairbanks.

The name confusion reminds me of the Foot foot bridge across the James River on the Appalachian Trail in Virginia, named after a guy whose last name was Foot . . .

Denali Viewpoint South at MP 134.8 on the Parks Hwy.

The Parks Highway is a National Scenic Byway because it passes through some of the best scenery in the state. Or so they say. Our views were less than superlative today.

This is the beginning of several days of predicted rain in Southcentral Alaska. It was only in the 50s F. and rained the entire day so we didnít get any views of 20,320-foot Mt. McKinley AKA Denali from the highway, the town of Talkeetna, or viewpoints along the way.

Phooey. There are supposed to be great views of the mountain on clear days at several places along our route today. Some of them are noted on the map above.

We have our fingers crossed that sometime in the next three days the clouds will lift long enough for us to get some views of the Alaska Range and Denali before we get to the national park. The High One looks different from different angles. Some of the best views are reported to be from the south and east, right where we were today.

We stopped to read interpretive signs at MP 134.8, Denali Viewpoint South in Denali State Park. We could see the Chulitna River below but none of the peaks in the Alaska Range -- including Denali -- or any of the glaciers on this side of the mountain range:

There's the river but all the peaks are obscured by clouds.

The sign in the next photo was particularly frustrating to us today.

Apparently on a clear day you can see (L-R) Mt. Foraker (elev. 17,400 feet), Mt. Hunter (elev. 14,574 feet), and Mt. McKinley AKA Denali (elev. 20,320 feet) beyond the diagram:


We recommend stopping here even on an overcast day because of all the good information you can get from the interpretive panels.

RVers note that there is plenty of room for big rigs to park in transit at Denali Viewpoint South's parking area. There are even some overnight parking spaces located at this large overlook for a small fee (it's state park property). Toilets and a water pump are available:



Traffic was relatively heavy as we drove north through the Eagle River-Eklutna-Palmer-Wasilla-Big Lake area, then moderate to light the rest of the way.

We saw more large tour buses, mostly from Princess, than RVs going south on the Parks Hwy. today. Princess Cruise Lines has lodges near the parks up here; I assume thatís where they were coming from. There is probably a large ship docked at Anchorage.

Crossing the Matanuska River near Palmer-Wasilla

The roads were all mostly smooth with only minimal construction work. Although the Parks Highway is two-lane north of Wasilla there are plenty of places to pass + passing lanes. At times the speed limit was 65 MPH.

The Parks Hwy. was fairly level until we got to about MP 125, shortly before reaching the state park boundary at MP 132. The hills were not a problem with our 36-foot fifth-wheel coach.

There were lots of bright fuchsia-colored fireweeds blooming along the road most of the way, providing some much-needed color to an otherwise drab, rainy landscape:

Spruce, birch, and aspen trees lined the highway most of the way, too. On clear days they may block some of the views to the Alaska Range.

Cyclists, note that bike paths stretch along the Parks Hwy. from Wasilla to Willow (about 30 miles) and along the Talkeetna Spur Hwy. from the main road to town (about 14 miles). If the weather was nicer we would have considered staying overnight near Talkeetna so Jim could ride his bike. Since it was raining we continued farther north to the campground at Byers Lake in Denali State Park.

I'll write about the campground and park after the Talkeetna entry.

Next entry visiting historical Talkeetna, the staging area for Mt. McKinley/Denali climbers

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the ultra Lab

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© 2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil