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
This is a typical cabin found in small Alaska
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
Here's a map section from
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.
"PARKS" PARKS HIGHWAY
You'd think the
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
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
ROAD & TRAFFIC CONDITIONS
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.
visiting historical Talkeetna, the staging area for Mt. McKinley/Denali climbers
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the ultra Lab
© 2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil