Cycling in Denali National Park

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I have been so busy getting ready for Alaska summer, prepping my garden to plant my starters and now working on grad school applications that I just now have time to breathe and share with you all this ridiculous bike trip I recently took.

 

It started as two. I saw some great pictures of my friend biking in Denali and wondered why I hadn’t done it. So I convinced my friend do it with me. We set a date for a long day trip down to Denali, which is only two hours away. I sent out an email to the LOL all-female biking group I’m in and the Fairbanks Cycling Club to see if anyone else wanted to join us. I ended up coordinating an entire trip down, carpooling and all, and we ended up with 9 people total. My friend said my detailed emails were so ridiculous and helpful, I should always be the one coordinating trips like this.

 

We all met up at 7:00am in the local grocery store parking lot. Bathroom breaks, coffee-fixes, going over the plan for the drive down, etc… and we were off. We managed to make it to the visitor’s center at the Denali Entrance around 10:15am, regrouped, got our passes and went over the plan to meet at Teklanika campground at 29.1 mile on the Park Rd. We chose the last day you chose drive in to Teklanika without a campground pass. We also managed to choose the only day in the past 2 weeks that it was sunny and warm. We would likely be doing this true Alaskan-style – which we did.

 

We regrouped at Teklanika Campground at 29.1 mile. The plan was to hit the Park Rd and ride over Sable Pass and crest Polychrome Pass and stop at the overlook for lunch, then head back. Roundtrip it was approximately 34 miles. I just finished a Triathlon and was training for another, had been cycling quite a bit, but this would still end up being the toughest ride I had ever done. It ended up raining, snowing, hailing and did I mention I love going really fast downhill? The catch is, I love doing it on pavement, not dirt and gravel. That was a little unnerving for me but once I got comfortable, it wasn’t so bad.

 

I did this ride on my 2014 Specialized Arial hybrid. 34 miles in the rain and mud was probably equivalent to 60 miles on my road bike. Some of the musts on my pack list included TWO extra tubes, travel pump, patch kit, plenty of layers prepared for rain, snow and wind (the passes are definitely windy), snacks, extra water, and a camera. My funny story on layers is that I was a layer short for wind pants. I had two layers on, but should have brought an extra wind layer – my cross-country ski pants would have been idea. I ended up borrowing a very stylish blue pair from a friend in the group for the windy ride back down Polychrome Pass. It made for some laughs and a hilarious picture-op.

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Denali is a most awe-inspiring place to be. It is peaceful; it is overwhelming larger than you, and even when it’s snowing with no sign of big Denali in sight, it is still one of the most beautiful places in the world to be. We saw one grizzly, caribou, and plenty of birds. I’m pretty sure the Ptarmigan were laughing at me when I was chugging up Sable Pass on the way back.

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If you are a cyclist, make sure Denali, any part of it, is on your to-do list. I’m still debating on if I’ll do it again on days that are beautiful, sunny and clear. The adventurous possibilities are really endless. Biking the Denali Highway and biking Anchorage to Seward are also on my list. This was the toughest ride for me to date and I would absolutely recommend it to anyone. We did it Alaska style – rough and tough. You might want to check the weather first.

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 #fearless2014

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5 thoughts on “Cycling in Denali National Park

    • Awesome! I hope your trip was great. I heard there was mixed weather in Denali this weekend. Denali Hwy is on my list for sure. How long did it take you? Three days? Advice is definitely welcome. 🙂

      • Got smashed with 50-60 mile an hour winds on the passes, almost got blown off a cliff, had to hide out at Wonder Lake for 2 days with 4 inches of snow. But having said that, Great trip. Had to abort most of our plans due to the weather. Sometimes its like that. 🙂
        As for Denali Hwy, we took 4 days to cycle from Paxson Lake to Denali National Park. If you could find a good weather window then do it and enjoy. No supplies on route, however, Maclaren Lodge will offer basic meals and Tangle Lodge has awesome food. So many great campsites near the road and most of the traffic on the road was very friendly towards us. Enjoy. Any other info, let me know.

      • Denali is definitely like that! It is amazing even in horrible weather. That is what is incredible to me. I remember heading towards Polychrome, cresting over Sable Pass, starting to head down the other side and everyone was way ahead of me. My legs was relieved to have a break and the wind felt more like a breeze being so hot from climbing the Pass. It was just me and the entire park out there. It was so peaceful and surreal. It was one of the moments during the trip that made it all very much worth it.

        Thanks for the advice. I may have to pick your brain when it comes time for me to take my trip! How were the road conditions?

      • Yes, I agree. Even though nothing went to plan I enjoyed everything about the experience. When on the Denali Hwy I spoke with a bus driver who takes tours through the area, he advised that the Hwy was in the best condition he has seen in the last 20 years. A lot of work was done on the road last year after they had such a bad snow year. So it doesn’t get any better than it is now. Get out there and do it!

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