Denali HighwayAn Opportunity to Travel the Denali Highway

So far in our journey, we hadn’t had time to visit Denali National Park. Since Sarah didn’t have a vehicle, part of our adventure included taking her to see the sights as well. This plan looked great in Arizona whilst perusing maps at the breakfast table.

In reality, it proved much more difficult than we had expected. For one thing, I had forgotten the immense size of Alaska. I also tend to gloss over things like map legends and scales. Of course, I also didn’t understand how bad the roads really slow a person down. On the ‘outside,’ (lower 48), one sees a 60-mile distance on a highway and calculates one hour of travel time.

In Alaska, 60 miles of highway can take anywhere from 60 minutes (barring moose encounters and no traffic) to seven hours. For this reason, we hadn’t attempted the 250-mile trek to Denali yet.

After breakfast Judy informed us that she wouldn’t need Sarah for the next two days because the lodge didn’t have any bookings. We could squeeze a trip to Denali in during our last week together in Alaska!

We started at four, when Sarah finished work for the day. It took almost two hours to make it to the Denali Highway turnoff. From there, we drove 20 miles on decent paved road before stopping for sandwiches in the trailer and pie at the Tangle River Inn.

Highway is a Relative Term

The next 114 miles of the Denali Highway ranged in quality from a nice gravel road to a badly potholed driveway. Tundra stretched out on either side, dotted with small lakes, majestic mountains and an occasional habitation. The road traveled across eskers (narrow ridges of gravel deposited by a stream flowing on, within, or under a stagnant glacier) and dipped into valleys.

We watched porcupines waddle across the road and stopped for an occasional photo when the rain clouds lifted. A vixen and her three kits stepped out in front of us, and we stopped the truck to watch them. Ten minutes later, they wandered off in the brush on the other side of the road and we moved on.

Denali Highway

By 11:30 pm we reached the outskirts of Cantwell, a small town 31 miles south of the park entrance. We found a nice pullout and went to bed. As I drifted off to sleep, I realized that my wound-up attitude had started to unwind.

It didn’t matter that it had taken us five hours to drive 114 miles. Where else in the world can you stop in the middle of the highway for ten minutes to watch a fox family? How often do highways lead through tundra at a mere 3000 feet elevation?

How many places does one feel safe camping in a roadside pullout? Alaska had worked its charm on me and made me realize that looking for the upside of downsides makes life a lot more relaxed.

Looking for the upside of the downsides makes life more relaxing. Click To Tweet

I’ll try to remember that the next time I get my knickers knotted over how something isn’t turning out the way I expected. Life, after all, has many opportunities for enjoyment. I can choose to partake in the joy or whine about the roadblocks.

Beauty Tip #26: Learn to look for the upside in the downside.

Q4U: How has looking for the upside ever changed an experience that seemed negative for you?


  1. Anita, what a great adventure; very much enjoyed the blog tour! So glad you took the opportunity, and love the close up pictures of the fox family. My little boy just came up to see the foxes too.

    1. Aren’t they sweet! Thanks for stopping by, Christina! If your little one likes animals, some of the other posts have great photos of bears, otters and moose.

  2. Great blog! I still have yet to drive it, but I’ve always planned to! Hope you will actually film that, it would be great! Only problem should be the length and having to stop at Coldfoot for the night so you don’t drive from Fairbanks to Prudhoe in one trip.

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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