If you love to drive and you like beautiful scenes, then taking the road from Cantwell to Paxson is one of the best drives in Alaska, just beware it is 135 miles of dirt roads! By taking the Denali Highway from Cantwell to Paxson, it will take several hours to drive considering it is a dirt road. It is a chance you take with a vehicle and most rental companies will tell you, if you’re in an accident, it will not be covered by insurance. Also a lot of rental car companies will tell you that the vehicle is not allowed on dirt roads. You will definitely need to have your vehicle in top knotch and carry an extra tire. I was lucky enough to find a gas station to fill up at before I ran out of gas, however many times it was very close to finding one. This area is off grid, so you will not have cell service or internet. It is a straight shot considering the roads, so chances of getting lost are very slim. I traveled through Alaska solo, but I would advise on having a travel buddy. You will not see many people along this route, in case you run into trouble. I was so lucky to be able to drive this stretch multiple times as I was in Alaska twice for three seasons in two years during the spring, summer and fall.
Driving the Denali Highway, it takes about 4 hours, depending on the speed you drive. There are many mountains to go up and around within the Alaska Range, and it was mostly dirt road with some huge holes and washboard or ripples. You can dodge most of the potholes but the ripples are rather daunting and it surely will destroy your alignment. Just beware, it is probably more difficult in a camper.
At the end of the Denali Hwy, you will reach Paxson. Paxson is equally as beautiful and the views, you can see for miles. Hwy 3 will end into Hwy 4, and you take a left toward Hwy 2 to Fairbanks, there you will find the Alaska Range mountains. I had turned around after most of the mountains stopped, which wasn't a very long drive, but it was stunning.
There was a specific strip along the river that the road followed. Along this area there were several families of bald eagles. I would sit and watch them for hours. There were young to old and to watch how they interact as a family you could see the tier of hierarchy. I remember one elder that was worn and tattered. His feathers were really beat up and you could tell he didn't feel the energy as he once did. We both would just admire one another from around 15 feet apart from one another. He didn't seem daunted, yet it seemed as if he was as curious as I was as to what I was doing there. He was precious.
I wish I could say I had seen a lot of wildlife here, but I cannot. I did however see amazing colors as it was during the fall. See for yourself with the photos I have. There was also light dancing around the sky and the hues were phenomenal. I keep saying there is something about the sky in Alaska and I think I finally figured it out. If you are familiar with painting and adding a whitewash to a color...that is what it seems like. Clouds? Well I wrote a page worth documenting how I see all of the colors and explaining how it was so luminous. The sky itself is white at a distance, then changes to a bold blue above your head. I don’t remember that where I grew up in North Carolina. I would actually love to hear how people do describe the sky in their version. It kinda reminded me of a marble with such depth to it. If you look at photographs from other people who are in Alaska and you’ve been there, you will be able to see what I’m talking about. It’s like the clouds are translucent.
There were several times driving on a narrow road going around corners and there is no railing at all. If you look down, it will grab your stomach and you just hope, 1) no earthquake at that moment in that spot and 2) no erosion since the last passing of the vehicle ahead of you. I feel you will not regret your decision if you should drive the Denali Hwy. It is quite an amazing experience. You will want to bring along food and drink for several days, in case anything happens and you can camp as there are tons of perfect camping spots. If you have any questions about this journey, please email me as I will be glad to answer any questions you may have.
On my TikTok page, you can view categories of videos. There are many of Alaska, if you would like to view them either click on the highlighted link in the first sentence, or. open your camera on your phone and scan this code, then click on the yellow button.