“The secret is in the dirt”

Let’s just get this out of the way right up front: Denali Highway became an immediate nominee on my top ten list of most scenic highways in the US. Immediate nominee. I’ve been on Going to the Sun Road, Coastal Highway 1 in Big Sur, Trail Ridge in Colorado, Broadway in Manhattan (don’t dismiss it until you’ve tried it!), Windy Ridge to Mount St Helens, and now the Dalton on this trip. Denali Highway is spectacularly beautiful, and I ran out of superlatives to describe it.

Denali Highway
Denali Highway history lesson: it opened in 1957, and was the only highway to Denali until the Parks Highway opened several years later
Central Alaskan Range
You could sit all day and watch the weather go by
Alaskan taiga
Alaskan taiga from the Denali Highway
Denali Highway hilltop
Denali Highway hilltop

We entered on the western side from Cantwell, which apparently is the wrong way to go, as Denali Mountain is then at your back as you travel eastward. It didn’t matter on this day, as the mountain wasn’t out during our passage. We danced with some rain clouds and more slippery construction zones, and even caught a rainbow.

Rainbow on Denali Highway
Rainbow on Denali Highway

We took our time going across, and eventually settled down at the BLM campground at Tangle Lakes. Half of the campground was closed to construction, looks like they’re putting in new sites and tables, and the construction trucks continued deep into evening with an incessant beep-beep-beep signal of reverse drive. The wind had kicked up too. It was the kind of wind that puts whitecaps on the lake and makes your tent flap all night. It also kept the bugs away.

Tankgle Lakes campground
The wind was moving strong through Tangle Lakes campground

TIP: The town of Healy appears to be the tourist capital of visitors heading into Denali National Park. It’s an insane juggle between RVs, tour buses, and cars looking for places to stay and grab some food. But tucked in between the buildings and RV camp are two food trucks, one for Chinese food, the other for Thai. Both had delicious entrees with heaping portions, although a little overpriced. Recommended.

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