The Alaska Department of Transportation has declared it to be summer, with the opening of the Denali Highway on Thursday. Following delays caused by heavy snow, the Denali Highway is now open from Cantwell on the Parks Highway to Paxson on the Richardson Highway.
“We usually have the highway open by May 15, but lots of snow and wind on the Richardson Highway side this year slowed down progress,” the department wrote in a Facebook post. “Be sure to check 511.alaska.gov before you travel and be prepared with extra supplies. Have fun out there this weekend and be safe!”
According to a news release put out by the department, work to clear the road began in mid-April, with crews removing snow, thawing culverts and completing repairs.
The 135 mile road offers one of Alaska’s most celebrated scenic drives. Vast portions of it are above the treeline and views of lakes, mountains and glaciers abound.
If you start at the Parks Highway and drive the road east, you’ll pass by viewpoints for Mt. Denali and The Alaska Range. Continuing on, there are various trails, lakes, camping spots and lodges, if you’re planning on prolonging your trip. As you near the Richardson Highway, you can stop to view the Wrangell Mountains and the Delta River.
The road is mostly gravel, so driving speeds range between 35-55 mph. If you’re planning a trip, there are a few things to bear in mind.
As of Thursday, conditions on the highway included a narrow section between miles 42 and 60, where drivers should use caution and travel slowly. The department advises that all drivers prepare by bringing extra food and water, clothing and footwear for changing weather and a first aid kit.
For the latest road conditions, visit 511.alaska.gov or call 511.
Contact staff writer Alistair Gardiner at 459-7575. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMoutdoors.