“A very scenic ride, full of wildlife, harrowing roads with rabid tour buses, couple steep climbs, and long fun descents.
— Travis Holmes
The Park does actively monitor wildlife near roads. Bikers will be held back or shuttled around hazards, i.e. bear on the road.
This is a fantastic trek through the Alaska Range and Denali National Park. The road is paved for a short distance, then becomes gravel for the majority of the ride. This route starts at the parking lot near the Parks Highway and stops at Wonderlake Campground.
This Featured Ride can be completed as an out-and-back or as a point-to-point ride if you purchase tickets on one of the buses. It's also possible to shuttle to the end of the paved section and start your ride from the Savage River Trailhead.
Need to Know
- The tour buses move passengers in and out of the park. Tickets can be purchased round-trip or one-way. Many buses are also equipped with a double bike rack. The racks are older configurations so a 29'er with 2-3/8" tires just barely fit length and width. A wide 27.5 or fat tire bike will be a nonstarter.
- Purchase camp and bus tickets in advance to make sure your travel plans aren't extended beyond your ability and food supply.
- The park requires bearproof containers for all campsites. Storage shelters are also provided so large bulky bear containers do not need to be carried. Food shelters at campsites do have a rack for surplus goods. If you find you don't need everything you brought with you, leave it for someone who forgot something.
- As is typical for Alaska, plan ahead for mosquitoes, white socks, and no see ums.
- Leashed dogs are allowed along the road but not allowed on trails or on buses (plan accordingly if bringing Fido).
This route is mostly an easy trek over gravel roads. The road rolls up and down hills on the way into the park. Sable Mountain and Highway Pass are challenging climbs and the only reason I rated this as anything more than "easy," as they are slow grinds in low gear to the summits. The descents can be quite fun, but riders should be cautious of soft sections of gravel.
On the rare day, Denali peak can be visible form Eielson Visitors Center. The Wonderlake Campground was a completely different approach to tent campsites. It was well worth the effort to get there. Many large Alaska mammals can be viewed along the route, including wolves, brown bear, dall sheep and caribou. We saw a Golden Eagle on our trip out, too.
There are multiple campsites that are available. Schedule your stops and buses in advance to ensure you have a place to pitch a tent. Otherwise, you have to use the backcountry permit, which creates some challenges that I note further down.
After Riley Creek and the DNP Visitor Center, there is little in the lines of amenities on the road beyond the occasional outhouse at a scenic vantage. Campgrounds seemed to maintain a piped water system for washing dishing at the outhouses, even at Wonderlake.
The backcountry permit system
is for those who want the full outdoors experience. You can camp anywhere your permit is good for. That means you commit to camping within a specific range on the road. There are many backcountry units. Your permit is only good for the nights you select in the unit you select. You also have to take a backcountry orientation class so you understand the NPS requirements for camping outside of a designated campsite. There are some basic requirements for campsites and proximity to the road.
The NPS page does offer lots of park information
, and does keep schedules up to date really well.