"Parks Highway (Wasilla to Fairbanks)" Top 5 Page for this destination Alaska Travelogue by PA2AKgirl
Alaska Travel Guide: 7,084 reviews and 15,575 photos
Although Denali State Park and Denali National Park (as well as state recreation areas, lakes, trails, etc) are on this road, it's not named the Parks for that reason. It's named after George Parks which is really the correct title of this highway. No one calls it that. It's just The Parks. Technically, the road starts a little south of Wasilla in the Mat-Su Valley but distances are measured from Anchorage. So when you get on the road and see that you're already 35 miles in, it's not because it goes really fast. You'll remember that when you see Fairbanks is still well over 300 miles away. And you'll again be reminded when it takes 5-6 hours to get there (with minimal stops).
Like all the highways here, this road is an amazing drive. If you're unable or don't want to drive the whole length, you can take the train which stops at all the major highlights on the way.
You'll first go through Wasilla and may stop a lot at all the traffic lights. This is the fastest growing area in Alaska and it shows. Lots of strip malls, lots of construction, chain stores, etc. However, there's a lot to do in this area too--I'll get around to building a Wasilla page sometime this summer.
After you leave Wasilla, you'll head toward Willow which is somewhat more representative of the remainder of the drive (not in reference to the scenery but to the services) Here, you'll get your first great view of Denali/Mt. McKinley if it's a nice enough day.
About 100 miles north of Anchorage, you'll arrive at the Talkeetna Spur Road. TAKE THIS! Talkeetna is a cute town with friendly people and lots to do.
Shortly after you get back on the Parks to continue your northward progression, the scenery becomes almost unbelievable. In parts, it really doesn't look real. I had a difficult time choosing a picture to represent this area. It runs along Denali State Park and Denali National Park. It's a perfect section to get great views of wildlife, mountains, flowers and just overall outstanding scenery. I'll have to build more pages for this region because one photograph cannot do it justice. Plan to spend some time here--like maybe a few days if you can. I say this not just because it's large but because it might be cloudy and waiting for a clear day to view Denali from both parks is worth it.
Once you've reached Nenana, the end of the highway is almost in site. While it's no longer a scenic byway, there's still a lot to see. Nenana is a cute town along the Tanana river. You're now getting into areas that are worth visiting for culture and history.
There are a few turnouts between Nenana and Fairbanks that give you great views of the bogs and mountains in the distance on the west side. A couple miles later, one from the east shows the Tanana river valley and if it's really clear, Denali/McKinley to the south. At sunset, the views are particularly wonderful.
Also along this stretch, there is a place called, "Skinny Dicks Halfway Inn"...you can get an idea of this place by the name, probably.
The last area before reaching Fairbanks is Ester. There are lots of gold dredges and camps near Fairbanks. I like this one for the preservation of the history. It looks old and they keep it open only for visitors
Arrive in Fairbanks. In the summer, there's a lot to do. In the spring and fall, we didn't find all that much in the city that appealed to us. Winter is cold and I can get that here. But it's a place to spend the night and continue your trip. It's the 2nd largest city in Alaska and prices are better here than in the smaller towns.
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Written May 9, 2016
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