The Denali highway was first opened to travel in 1957 after being built in several stages to get supplies to the Maclaren River and Susitna river for the bridge construction from both ends. The final link was between these two rivers. Much of the bridge construction was accomplished during the winter on the ice.
The first 21 miles from the Paxon end to mile 21, Tangle River are paved, though rough in some spots. The balance of the 135 miles to Cantwell is gravel. Depending on maintenance and considering the weather, It can be a very pleasurable drive or, considering maintenance and weather, can be less desirable. TAKE IT EASY, go slow, avoid problems, and enjoy the drive and the views. This highway was rated and the #1 tourist route in the state when it opened. It has been featured in many magazines and rated as one of the best 10 most scenic highways in the world. With the exception of a very few extreme storms it has always been drivable with a standard passenger car May 15 – September 30th.
In Alaska, we have two seasons, July and Winter. The early spring, about May 15 and late fall, Oct 1 are the parameters for summer travel. Any other time you could experience unfavorable conditions and extra precautions should be observed. The road is rarely posted as closed. Signs usually reflect the end of maintenance for the season and to travel at your own risk. The average traveler would not be affected by this due to seasonal activities but it does bear mention Winter travel is only by snowmobile and dog team. There are many features and opportunities for viewing, photography, fishing, hiking etc. as you travel. We suggest you have some sort of guide book, and we recommend “The Milepost” as the oldest, most complete and most dependable resource. It will also list all the business and facilities as you proceed. Gas and tire repair facilities are usually within 20 miles. Caution here as a reminder, no cell service on most of the highway.