Denali Highway

Connects: Paxson to Cantwell, AK
Route#: Alaska Route 8
Length: 134 miles
Road Surface: 15% Paved, 85% Gravel
Season: Closed in winter
Highest Pass: Maclaren Summit, elev. 4,086 feet
Map (1 detailed pdf file available):
Paxson, AK to Cantwell, AK

The 134-mile-long Denali Highway links Paxson on the Richardson Highway to Cantwell on the Parks Highway. Winter snow closes the highway to through traffic from about October to about mid-May, depending on the weather.

Mountain views along the Denali Highway. (Sharon Nault)

The first 21 miles of the Denali Highway from Paxson and the first 3 miles from Cantwell are paved. The condition of the gravel portion of the Denali Highway varies, depending on highway maintenance, weather and the opinion of the driver. Maclaren Summit, the second highest highway pass in the state, represents the only significant grade on the highway.

When the Denali Highway opened in 1957, it was the only road link to Denali National Park and Preserve (then Mount McKinley National Park) until the completion of the Parks Highway in 1972. (Prior to 1957, the national park had been accessible only by railroad.)

Attractions: The Denali Highway has great scenery, off-road vehicle (ORV) and mountain biking trails, fishing, hunting, good bird watching and interesting geography. It also provides access to the Delta River canoe trail at Tangle Lakes.

The MILEPOST® Quick Reference Log
Miles from Paxson (P) shown.

P 0 PAXSON (pop. 16) at junction with Richardson Highway; Paxson Lodge (closed in 2013, current status unknown).
P 0.2 Denali Highway Cabins & Paxson Alpine Tours; lodging, float trips, fishing, birding.
P 7 Paved rest area with stunning view of Alaska Range.
P 20 Tangle River Inn; food, gas, lodging.
P 21.1 Pavement ends, gravel begins, westbound.
P 21.3 Tangle Lakes BLM Campground; 45 vehicle sites, walk-in tent sites and group camping area.
P 21.5 Delta National Wild and Scenic River BLM Wayside and Boat Launch; day-use area.
P 22 Tangle Lakes Lodge; cabin and canoe rentals, pizza. Phone 907-205-9467, email.
P 36.7 Maclaren Summit (elev. 4,086 feet). Second highest highway pass in Alaska.
P 42 Maclaren River Lodge; food, lodging, camping, firewood and tire repair, fishing and canoe trips, scenic jet boat and glacier boat rides.
P 68 Alpine Creek Lodge; lodging, fishing, hunting, ATVing, hiking, snow machining, photography, etc.
P 79.5 Susitna River bridge.
P 82.2 Clearwater Mountain Lodge, phone 907-273-0077 or email; bed & breakfast, bar, baked goods, gas, tire repair, air taxi, air boat tours, 4 wheeler tours.
P 104.6 Brushkana Creek BLM campground.
P 134.4 CANTWELL at junction with Parks Highway; food, gas, lodging, camping.