The George Parks Highway, more commonly known as the Parks Highway, is one of the most important and scenic highways in Alaska. At over 300 miles long, it connects Anchorage, the largest city in Alaska, with Fairbanks, the largest city in the Alaskan Interior and the gateway to the Arctic Circle. Completed in 1971, the Parks Highway is one of Alaska’s most significant commercial arteries, allowing motorists to travel between two of Alaska’s most important cities by car or bus. It also offers a direct land connection to Canada via the Alaska Highway near Fairbanks.
The Parks Highway is noted for its scenic beauty and its abundance of national parks and wildlife reserves, making it a top destination for tourists in Alaska. Here are some of the most important stops along the Parks Highway.
Located just north of Anchorage, Wasilla is one of Alaska’s oldest cities and a major tourist draw in the region. It is home to the Old Independence Mine, a historic gold mine where tourists are allowed to pan for gold in its streams. Wasilla is also home to a museum focused on the life of Dorothy G. Page, known as the “Mother of the Iditarod.” As a service center for the region, Wasilla is a good place to load up on snacks and other supplies before you head out into more remote territory.
Nancy Lake State Recreation Area
Further north from Wasilla is the Nancy Lake State Recreation Area, a popular park for outdoorsmen. The lake offers gorgeous views and plenty of fishing, camping, and canoeing. In addition to plenty of camping places, Nancy Lake State Recreation Area has 13 cabins available for nightly rent.
This sleepy town is best known as the restart location of the famed Iditarod dog sledding race. It’s also home to the Miner’s Last Stand Museum, a museum focused on the history of gold mining in Alaska.
Talkeetna is located 14 miles off the Parks Highway and is famed for inspiring the TV show Northern Exposure. It’s known for its offbeat taverns and restaurants and is also a good place to refuel and grab last-minute supplies.
One of Alaska’s most unusual tourist attractions, the Igloo is an abandoned hotel that was constructed during the 1970’s but left to crumble after its owners were unable to conform to building codes. Many tourists like to stop and take pictures due to its size (80 feet) and decaying appearance.
This small town is famed for the Cantwell Music Festival, which takes place every year the weekend after Independence Day. It’s also the start point of the old Denali Highway, a gravel road that offers scenic views of mountains and glaciers.
Denali National Park
Formerly known as Mount McKinley, Denali is both the tallest mountain in the U.S. and the tallest in North America. While summiting Denali is a strenuous experience for even experienced climbers, Denali National Park offers a number of sightseeing tours geared towards every type of tourist. At the park, you can enjoy fly-fishing, pack rafting, heli-hiking, and a number of other activities, and the park also has a number of restaurants and other attractions.
This small community is home to the Anderson Bluegrass Festival, which occurs every year at the end of July and offers camping for visitors.
Monderosa Bar and Grill
Located near the northern end of the Parks Highway in a small log building, Monderosa Bar and Grill is one of Alaska’s most famous restaurants, purporting to serve the best burgers in the state.
George Parks Monument
Many people mistakenly believe that the Parks Highway is named for the number of parks located along it, but it’s actually named for George Alexander Parks, who served as governor of the Alaska Territory from 1925 to 1933. Parks was the first governor of Alaska to actually live in it and he is best known for his intimate knowledge of the territory and its residents as well as his efforts to revolutionize air travel in Alaska.
The George Parks Monument is located a little over ten miles south of Fairbanks and offers information on the man and his accomplishments. You’ll also get to enjoy a scenic view of the mountains while you’re there.
Traveling the Parks Highway is one of the top items on many Alaskan tourists’ wishlists. Its importance as a land connection between Anchorage and Fairbanks cannot be understated, and it offers numerous attractions for every type of tourist, from gorgeous national parks to interesting museums to good cuisine and cultural activities. Whether you’re interested in outdoors activities, Alaskan history, or you simply want to soak in some of the most beautiful sights in the world, the Parks Highway has many things to offer you on your trip.