Our Denali Adventure tour is a superb way to leave civilization behind and experience Alaska’s stunning terrain on two wheels.
After acquainting ourselves with Anchorage, we’ll set out on the Glenn and Richardson highways, moving from lush farmlands to glacial mountain landscapes. Turning west, we’ll pick up the gravel Denali Highway for 140 miles to Cantwell before taking the George Parks Highway to Denali National Park, home to Mt. Denali and its snowy, 20,320-foot summit. We’ll enjoy a full day of exploration in the park before returning to Anchorage on the scenic Alaska Railroad. Primitive campgrounds and rough roads will reward you with sweeping vistas and the untamed wilderness of the north. By facing these challenges, you’ll gain more than your fair share of enduring memories.
"I thoughly enjoyed all aspects of the trip, but I most enjoyed the great group of fellow participants."
Day 1. Anchorage, Alaska, 0 miles
You'll meet your group and tour leader at the Spenard Hostel, an ideal location for bike assembly, map meetings, and easy access to downtown Anchorage, known during the summer months as "The City of Flowers." After distributing group gear and discussing cooking rotation, we'll head to bed while it's still light out, dreaming of our upcoming Alaskan adventures.
Day 2. Anchorage to Palmer, 53 miles
After breakfast, group photos, and quick bicycle safety checks, we'll follow the bike path out of Anchorage and then head onto the Old Glenn Highway. Today's ride is mostly flat with minor elevation changes so we'll be able to concentrate all our energy on spotting wildflowers and watching hawks, eagles, and falcons as they glide overhead. We may even spot a moose, black bear, or grizzly. Tonight we'll camp alongside the Matanuska River.
Day 3. Palmer to King Mountain Recreation Area, 31 miles
Our ride today will follow the Glenn Highway and the Matanuska River corridor, a popular route for trumpeter swans as well as cyclists. The corridor will take us through some of the most productive farmland in the state of Alaska, where farmers grow enormous vegetables during the brief summer months. We'll complete three good climbs today before settling in for dinner and rustic riverside camping at King Mountain Recreation Area.
Day 4. King Mountain Recreation Area to Grand View Park & Café, 35 miles
We'll give our legs a workout today as we tackle several major climbs, including some short eight-percent grades. When we reach Long Lake, we'll perhaps be rewarded with ripe berries and certainly with stunning views of the 27-mile-long Matanuska Glacier, located in the breathtaking Chugach range. Riders will have the option to trek around on the Matanuska Glaciers with Mica Guides. We'll end the day's ride at the Grand View Café, where a cold, pre-dinner beer or a warm slice of pie might tempt you.
Day 5. Grand View Café to Mendeltna Creek Lodge, 45 miles
The first bit of our ride today will be uphill to Eureka Summit (3,322 feet), passing Sheep Mountain Lodge, locally famous for its homemade oatmeal-raisin cookies and cinnamon rolls. In the afternoon, we'll have an easy ride to our evening destination at Mendeltna Creek Lodge and Campground. Gold in the creeks draining from the Chugach Mountains brought prospectors to this area in the late 1800s, so keep your eyes peeled!
Day 6. Mendeltna Creek Lodge to Glennallen, 49 miles
Our ride today is mostly flat or downhill, which is lucky for us because we'll want to use all of our energy and senses to take in Gergie, Arizona, and Buffalo lakes and the awe-inspiring taiga. Should you want an excuse to climb off your bicycle and stretch your legs, there should be plenty of wild berries ripe for the picking. Make lots of noise if you do -- this is bear country. By the time we cruise through Glennallen, known for its natural beauty and great fishing, the Wrangell Mountains will dominate the skyline.
Day 7. Glennallen to Paxson Lake campground, 61 miles
From our starting point today, we will turn north onto the Richardson Highway, Alaska's first road. Created in 1898, the highway was improved to serve automobiles in the 1920s and fully paved in the 1950s. The highway features spectacular views of the Alaska and Chugach ranges. We will camp along picturesque Paxson Lake.
Day 8. Paxson Lake to Tangle Lakes, 33 miles
Along with some challenging climbs, today's ride offers stunning views of the Alaska Range, which runs from Cook Inlet to the magnificent Denali. As we pedal along the Denali Highway, we'll get a chance to experience the true remoteness of Alaska, brilliant, wide-open sky, and the freshest air imaginable. We'll also have the opportunity to spot Arctic terns, cliff swallows, bald eagles, and several species of loons.
Day 9. Tangle Lakes to Crazy Dog Kennels, 21 miles
At the very start of the day, we will transition from paved to hard-packed gravel roads. We will cross McLaren Pass, the second-highest pass in Alaska and the highest on the Alaskan Highway System. At the summit we can take a break to wonder at Alaska's beauty before enjoying a screaming downhill to the McLaren River, just a few miles from the Continental Divide. We will stay at a working sled-dog kennel on the banks of the McLaren River.
Day 10. Crazy Dog Kennels Layover Day, 0 miles
The river at this location is fed from the nearby McLaren Glacier in the Alaska Range. With the kennel right there, sled dog rides will be available, weather permitting. Petting the dogs will be a necessity. With the long days, there is ample light for enjoying the evening too.
Day 11. McLaren River to Gracious House, 39 miles
Today's ride along the Denali Highway features first-rate scenery the entire way, with essentially no traffic and no major climbs. You'll want to keep on the lookout for wildlife as this route is home to bears, pikas, moose, caribou, beaver, and foxes, just to name a few. We'll cross the Susitna River, then make camp and cook dinner in the presence of glistening glaciers.
Day 12. Gracious House to Cantwell, 52 miles
After a few short, steep climbs today, we'll be rewarded with views of the towering Alaska Range, 12,300-foot Mt. Deborah, and permafrost-stunted, boreal forest made up primarily of black spruce trees. After we cross the Nenana River, we'll be treated to one of the grandest vistas on Earth: North America's highest peak, Denali. With approximately 80 percent of its 20,320-foot elevation rising above the surrounding landscape, Denali's base-to-summit elevation is actually greater than that of Mt. Everest.
Day 13. Cantwell to Denali National Park, 31 miles
We'll bid farewell to the Denali Highway today, switching back to pavement on the George Parks Highway, our road to the monster cinnamon rolls at the McKinley Creekside Roadhouse. Today's ride is mostly downhill, so we'll enjoy a speedy ride to Denali National Park and our celebration dinner.
Day 14. Denali National Park Layover Day, 0 miles
Spend the day in Denali to explore this incredible piece of Alaska. You'll have your pick of shuttle bus tours, wildlife tours, rafting, hiking, and cycling throughout the area. Hopefully we will be among the 30 percent of visitors to whom Denali reveals itself, given the ever-changing weather in the park.
Day 15. Denali National Park to Anchorage Train, 0 miles
On this, our last day, we head back to Anchorage around noon on the scenic Alaska Railroad. The conductors will actually slow the train down if they spot bears, sheep, eagles, or salmon swimming upstream! We'll arrive in Anchorage around 8:00 PM, with photographs and memories of our epic journey to last a lifetime.