Road trip in Alaska: exceptional roads around Anchorage

End of the world three times the size of France, Alaska offers the traveler wild landscapes at will! If the distances remain very long - be careful, here we are talking in miles (ie 1,6 km) - the roads that blend into the background make it possible to rally most of the country's natural resources.

From the glaciers of the Kenai Peninsula in the south to the famous Mount Denali, here are six superb routes to crisscross Alaska in a loop around Anchorage. A road trip of nearly 1800 km, to be done in about twenty days and which is quite eye-catching. On the way !

Seward and Sterling Highway: the Kenai Peninsula, on the Southern roads

South of Anchorage, the Kenai Peninsula, easy to access, is served by two roads: the Seeward highway and the Sterling Highway. Among the essential stops to make in this vast territory, the peaceful village of Hope, 88 miles from Anchorage. On the Seeward highway, take a right at mile 78,9. In this small town which takes shape along the woods Hope Highway, time seems suspended.

There are many hiking possibilities, such as Gull rock et Hope Point, long routes of about 15 km. They offer an exceptional panorama of the surrounding fjords. It is accessed by Porcupine Creek at the end of Hope Highway.

In addition to treks, the village has a library - with wifi access -, a school, some typical cafes, campgounds and bed and breakfasts. It is also quite possible to get out of the Hope Highway and to go down a dirt road to contemplate the cliffs which fall steeply into the sea. Why not spend the night there? You should know that campfires are allowed in Alaska, provided you put them out if they are left unattended.

Let's retrace our steps to continue on Sterling Highway towards the southwest. The road runs along the west coast and ends in the extreme south, at Homer, located some 180 miles (280 km). Welcome to the territory of the elk who do not hesitate to cross the road. So be careful.

If it was difficult to find a living soul in Hope, it is a real return to civilization in Homer, where the long-haul traveler will be able to find something to replenish all kinds of provisions.

After a tour of the city center, you have to extend the path along Homer spit. Souvenir shops and restaurants abound here. It is possible to taste the local wine made from berries, very different from what one finds in France. We will also stop at the tip of this arm of the sea to try to see otters, whales and why not orcas! Or look up to observe the bald eagles.

The more adventurous can join Kachemak Bay, 25 minutes by boat - rental companies are on Homer spit -, an even wilder peninsula, which shelters a national park where the possibilities of excursions are numerous.

One of them leads to Grewingk Glacier (7 miles). How to imagine that such a juggernaut is hiding behind this dense forest? To prolong the pleasure, we can always go to Seldovia, the other Homer, more savage. Most of the inhabitants have their “cabin” there.

Homer is also the best place to get on a plane and get to Katmai National Park in order to see the bears. Just under 110 black bears and 000 grizzly bears live in Alaska. When hiking, it is advisable to make a lot of noise, clap your hands or hang a bell in your bag - which makes people laugh a lot around here - to avoid any encounter with this dangerous animal.

Let's turn back for a final stop on the Kenai Peninsula: Seward, which can be reached by the road of the same name. This other coastal town to the east has many points of interest. People come here to observe cetaceans, especially sea lions near the port, and to indulge in one of the many activities on offer: boat rides, kayaking or paddle boarding for the more adventurous in the Kenai Fjord National Park.

Heading north, take the road on the left at mile 3,7 on Herman Leirer Road. 1890, 1915, 1950… what are these signs along the road? Quite simply the sad observation of the decline ofExit Glacier that we discover 8,4 miles later at the foot of the Ressurection River. In the past, the glacier was almost in front Seeward highway...

Glenn and Richardson Highway: Alaska Mountains and Glaciers

Past the village of Portage on the outskirts of Whittier, where some travelers may choose to take a ferry to get to Valdez, the road continues and runs along Anchorage. It is possible to stop for a day at Eklutna Lake or to Girwood, in the mountains.

We will then go to Glenn highway who links Palmer à Glennallen. The road crosses magnificent farms and ranches where cows graze behind pretty white pens.

But the great attraction of this region is Hatcher Pass where sleeps a gold mine abandoned since 1951, at 1 m above sea level. We reach this exceptional site at the exit of Palmer, on the left, by taking Willow Fishhook Road.

Public chat Glenn highway, at the heart of the chain of Chugach mountains, the road reveals a giant of bright blue ice on one side, covered with moraines on the other, it is about Matanuska Glacier. 18 years ago, this glacier extended to the town of Palmer, tens of miles away. It is reached today by taking a right at mile 000.

The unpaved road leads to the reception of the site where one can opt for a walk alone or accompanied by a guide, with, for the latter option, the possibility of exploring this white tongue even further and entering ice caves. Thrills guaranteed!

After this refreshing break, we are halfway to Glennallen, where we cross the Richardson highway which connects Valdez to Fairbanks. In Glennallen, take a right to reach the peaceful and isolated village of McCarthy in the heart of Wrangell St Ellias National Park and Preserve, a national park the size of Switzerland!

Denali and Park Highway: Under America's Roof

From Glennallen, take the Richardson Highway north to reach Paxson, where one of Alaska's most spectacular roads begins: Denali Highway, an axis 134 miles long, of which only 15% is asphalt, which connects Paxson à Cantwell.  

When it opened in 1957, it was the only road that connected eastern Alaska to Denali Park. After the first 21 miles from Paxson, the asphalt gives way to earth and the firs which are more discreet reveal the mountain range Alaska Range which rises to 4 m above sea level (Mount hayes).

As for wildlife, if moose are scarce, due to a lack of trees, arctic squirrels abound. Be careful. Between mile 15 and mile 22, the road crosses the very large - 226 acres, or 660 hectares - site of Tangle Lakes. A succession of lakes that can also be better seen from the Landmark Gap Trail whose ascent begins at mile 24,6. The MacLaren Summit Trail allows you to penetrate inside this still preserved tundra and to approach a little closer to the MacLaren Glacier.

At mile 132, the concrete takes back its rights and announces the end of this extraordinary road trip. AT Cantwell, you have to turn right to reach the Denali National Park, whose entrance is at mile 237,4 on the Parks Highway which connects Anchorage to Fairbanks, 27 miles north of Cantwell.

Inside Denali Park - where you have to stay at least three days to appreciate the extent of its beauty - culminates the highest peak in North America: the mount denali (6 m). It is rarely seen entirely. The best solution is to go to Wonder lake, accessible only by bus from the park entrance. Mount Denali was once called Mount McKinley after the 25th US President William McKinley. Some travelers attempt to climb this extraordinary peak every year.

We also come to Denali to appreciate its flora and fauna very rich. We meet golden eagles, elks, caribou, bears, foxes and even squirrels. But if nature has been so well preserved here, it is because the car is prohibited there after mile 23. Those who wish to go deep into the heart of this natural wonder must take the bus or go on a trek.

153 miles separate Denali from Talkeetna, a village which is a good last stop for a trip to Alaska, as it has been able to combine tourism and authenticity. The cafes - the oldest, the Fairview Inn, dates from 1923 -, souvenir shops and all kinds of wooden houses line the main avenue in a very polished decor.

In Athapaskan - an Amerindian language - Talkeetna even means "place with many souvenir shops". Either way, this is the perfect place to get your fingertips from Mount Denali by air. You can take a city walking tour around Talkeetna to learn more about its history, before heading on Anchorage 120 miles (200 km) to the south.


Prepare your trip with our Alaska online guide

How to get there ?
Icelandair offers several flights per week from Paris with a stopover in Rekjavik. Find your plane ticket.

Or sleep ?

Where to eat ?
Roadhouse: on the main avenue, in Talkeetna. This restaurant - which is also a bed and breakfast - is one of the oldest in the city. This large wooden house with its unmistakable red facade offers the most famous breakfast in town, which can be taken indoors or on the outdoor terrace which overlooks Talkeetna's only main avenue. 907-733-1351

La Baleine Café: 4460 Homer Spit Road Bldg. This adorable little café on Homer Spit offers hearty snacks made with freshly caught fish (salmon, halibut, etc.) in a burger (Alaskans like it well done!) Or in a salad. Local beers too. 907-299-6672 ..

Where to book a van?

Tom Janezich of Alaska Family Motorhomes offers RV and RV rentals for touring Alaska. Kitchen utensils, bear spray, mosquito repellent, stove and cooler are provided free with the vans. Bed linen is optional. Unlimited mileage. 5737 Old Seward Highway. 907-223-9351.

How to see bears without risk?

Smokey Bay Air, 2100 Kachemak Drive, in Homer. This local airline offers to meet bears in their natural environment (and to avoid tourist platforms). The company also offers short flights to Seldovia or the surrounding area. Duration of the excursion 5 hours with 2 hours of return flight. 235-1511.

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