Planning Your Time
The primary sights of Interior Alaska are on the road system and provide ready access. Starting from Anchorage, one could drive to Denali National Park, spend two or three days there, and then on to Fairbanks for another day or two, followed by a return through Delta Junction and Glennallen in another two days. That is a lot of driving for one week, however, at over 1,000 miles, so you might be better off sticking to a few select areas.
Talkeetna is a delightful destination, with outstanding vistas across to Mt. McKinley and a quaint historic downtown filled with mountaineers and outdoor enthusiasts. Several air-taxi operators offer Mt. McKinley flightseeing trips that often include a glacier landing. Farther north is the Denali Highway, a partly paved, mostly gravel 126-mile route that cuts east to west along the magnificent Alaska Range.
Denali National Park is always a favorite of travelers and Alaskans. The big draws are 20,320-foot Mt. McKinley (often obscured by clouds), a grand landscape of open tundra and boreal forests, and the chance to watch grizzly bears, moose, wolves, Dall sheep, and caribou. Private cars are not allowed on the road, but shuttle buses into the park provide a wonderful way to see the land or to access remote areas for hiking and camping.
The city of Fairbanks is Alaska’s second largest, and home to two large military bases and the University of Alaska. The striking University of Alaska Museum of the North is notable not just for its natural history, art, and cultural collections but also for the memorable building with its high glacier-like entrance. Other local attractions include tourist-friendly paddle-wheel riverboat tours down the Chena and Tanana Rivers; Pioneer Park with its mix of historical buildings, fun-rides, and a great salmon bake; and a visit with St. Nick at Santa Claus House in nearby North Pole.
A few miles north of Fairbanks is Gold Dredge No. 8, which operated until 1959 and is now open for fascinating tours. Chena Hot Springs Resort is an hour’s drive east of town, with outdoor and indoor pools, wonderful northern lights viewing all winter, and a year-round ice museum filled with intricately carved works of ice art.
North of Fairbanks, the challenging Dalton Highway crosses the Arctic Circle and parallels the Trans-Alaska Pipeline all the way to Prudhoe Bay. The town of Eagle is accessible via an arduous 160-mile dead-end road off the Alaska Highway, and because of its remoteness it still has many artifacts and historic buildings from the 1890s gold rush.
© Don Pitcher from Moon Alaska, 10th Edition