Biking to Denali: Anchorage to Trapper Creek

Sunset over Susitna, from the cycle path in Chugiak:

By coincidence of low traffic volumes and ample shoulders for snow removal, most Alaskan roads are quite agreeable to cycling.  The road to Denali in particular, along the Parks Highway, is a safe and enjoyable ride even for the first-time cycletourist.  In town, naysayers will warn of grizzlies and long stretches without supplies.  The reality is a pleasant 3-6 day pedal with enough services and scenery to make a perfect getaway from town.  At the park entrance, you can visit the park interior in several ways: on foot, by bike, or by bus.  The best approach may be to combine a bus ride with a hike into the backcountry, or a bike ride with some day-hikes.  Biking the Denali Park Road is highly recommended, and the camper buses can transport several bikes so that you only have to ride one direction or part of the distance

Leaving Anchorage, cycle paths shuttle you out of town alongside the Glenn Highway to Eagle River, and along the Old Glenn Highway to the town to Chugiak, about 25 miles out.  Here, you ride the broad shoulder of the Glenn Hwy for about 20 miles, crossing the Knik River plain until the path resumes in Wasilla alongside the Parks Highway.  This is a good place to pick up any forgotten supplies, but it is not the last place to buy food, so there’s no need to overpack (the grocery at the Talkeetna turnoff is well stocked).  The path continues through town, and passes within several blocks of the Alaska Bicycle Center if any repairs or parts are needed, which is located near the skate/bike park off Lucille St. (on W. Nelson Ave.)  Follow the path on either side of the Parks Highway through Houston and on to Willow, at mile 68.  The path ends, and from here to Denali the road has a broad shoulder and a rumblestrip, which acts as a buffer to traffic.  Only a short section south of the Talkeetna turnoff has a narrower shoulder, although is it safe, even with higher traffic volumes found during summer months.  Overall, a pleasant escape from town, even if the full trip to Denali doesn’t suit your schedule.

Lael joined me on the ride out to the cabin in Willow, as far as the bike path goes.  I’ll be riding solo for a while, as she is off to Europe.  She packed all her gear for the two night trip into a Carradice Lowsaddle Longflap, a Revelate Gas Tank top-tube bag, and an Inertia Designs frame pack.

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4 thoughts on “Biking to Denali: Anchorage to Trapper Creek

    • Mick, neither trip is difficult, and is entirely comprised of wide highway shoulders of bike paths near Wasilla and Anchorage. If you are looking for the long way round, consider adding the 135mi Denali Highway, which is mostly fit/gravel. Technically, you gain about 2000ft between Anchorage and Denali, but that’s not much over the distance. There is a train from between Anchorage and Denali if you wish to ride only one direction. Also, make time to visit the park. Buses run into the park many times daily and can shuttle you bike if you’d like to ride out. The park road is also mostly gravel, except for the 14mi near the entrance.

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