Not too horribly far north of Denali State Park is the sparse but spread-out enclave known as Cantwell. The Tesoro Alaska gasoline station is one of the few outlets in this section of the Parks Highway. If you can't get a campsite in Denali State Park, try your luck at one of the private campgrounds a little east of the main intersection on AK-8, or just pull over into a real turnout and set up camp.
This is the end of the road in April, due to road maintenance and snow melt off. Private vehicles can drive into the park up to mile 30, it is gated off, but we walked another mile towards the bridge, other people had bikes. It's a nice time to go. There are no tourist buses, dust. The 3 day pass was obtained at the Muir Science Center for $20.
The day we drove into the Park the only wildlife we did encountar was this wolf off the side o the road about 100ft looking and foraging for wildlife. He was not intimidated by the other vehicles or people trying to snap a picture of him/her.
As a young girl growing up in Alaska, I was born in Fairbanks Alaska and my dad was an engineer, so I grew up along the Denali Hwy. It was then a dirt road and was not connected to Anchorage. We lived in Healy, Slim Creek, Cantwell, East Fork Chulitna most of the spring and summer times in construction camps along with other kids from camp, we built forts in the woods, climbed trees, watched red salmon, fished for lake trout, grayling and pretty much lived a good life. Here is the cabin we lived in for periods of time in the summer.
While driving into Cantwell off the Denali Hwy, we encountered some domestic Caribou licking the salt off the road. They were not in a hurray to get off the road. I lived in Cantwell in 1971 - 1972, and not much has changed.
Hard to explain the beauty of this great mountain. It's a great view from any angle. As you drive into Willow which is 85 miles north of Anchorage you begin to see just how big this mountain is, and get excited at the thought of getting closer to it and how small we really are. I couldn't help start snapping shots out of the truck window being a tourist on a blue sky day!
The first thing you notice is the great open vastness and the beauty of the pristeness of everything around you. There is no evidence of man made items, tracks, road trails, trash, very clean. There are restroom stops appropriately set in the park and maintained. The road system in April was only to mile 30. At times you can see the great one, but towards mile 25 there is a stop you can pull over and capture a great shot of the mountain.
Despite joining the Union so late as 1959, Alaska saw some action during World War II and as the point of the United States closest to the Soviet Union was of prime concern during the Cold War. Near the Byers Lake trailhead stands the Alaska Veterans Memorial, which commemorates the participation of all the armed services and distinguishes the small handful of Congressional Medal of Honor recipients from the 49th state.
At Milemarker 179 of the George Parks Highway (i.e. a dozen or so miles north of the park), Hurricane Gulch is reckoned one of the most beautiful in the state, but the drive along this highway passes several that are similar. For those who have seen advertisements for tourism in our 49th state, wonderful shots depicting the Alaska Railway trains going over a breathtaking valley are often shot at Hurricane Gulch. While photographing the ravine from the trains are welcomed, commuters will find prohibitions against standing on the bridge for the same shots off the highway.