Denali Cycling – Lodge Based

Trip Length5 Days
Group Size4–12
Activity level
Starting from
$3,899 for REI Members
$4,289 for non-members
DeparturesJun 2024-Jul 2024

Spend 5 days on a journey along one of the most spectacular cycling routes in the United States.

What started as the first road accessing Denali National Park, the Denali Highway was replaced in 1971 by a more direct route for the over 600,000 annual park visitors. As an unintended benefit, the diversion left the 135-mile Denali Highway as one of the most magnificent and lonely byways in Alaska.

With the Alaska Range as our backdrop and a landscape dotted by flowing rivers, open tundra, and ancient archaeological sites, we’ll spend an unforgettable 5-days riding the Denali Highway. We’ll travel from one quintessentially quaint Alaska lodge to another. Our days will be spent on a journey through miles of unconstrained and spectacular wilderness. Our nights will be spent sharing stories from the road over a hearty meal and an ice-cold beverage. By the end of our journey, we’ll have a deep understanding of how one of the most rugged yet beautiful places on earth continues to leave such a profound mark on even the most seasoned global adventurers.

Looking for another way to explore Alaska? Come discover the wild and remote corners of America’s largest national park on our Alaska Hiking Plus– Wrangell - St.Elias adventure!

With the diversion of traffic to the Parks Highway, the Denali Highway became one of the most magnificent and lonely byways in Alaska.

Trip Highlights

  • Ride the 135-mile Denali Highway from Paxson, AK to Cantwell, AK
  • Travel through open tundra with endless views of peaks, glaciers, and rivers
  • Explore the Tangle Lakes Archaeological District
  • Learn about the rich and complicated human history of the Denali region
  • Keep an eye out for wildlife including bear, moose, marmot, and numerous bird species

Activities

This trip is rated Moderate Plus [3-4]. Participants should have gravel riding experience and be comfortable in the saddle for up to 6-8 hours per day with variable climbing grades with approximate elevation gains of up to 4,340' per day. Daily rides are typically around 40 miles, with one day being just over 57 miles. While two shorter sections of the Denali Highway are paved, the majority of the route is on gravel road with some prolonged climbs. Elevations along the Denali Highway range between 2,000' up to 4,000'. Vehicle support will be available throughout the trip when needed.

  • Cycling

What's Included

Four nights accommodations; all meals as noted in the daily itinerary; bikes, any park entry fees.

Accommodations

Remote and rustic lodge, cabin, or cottage accommodations, 4 nights

Your Adventure Itinerary

Itinerary map for Denali Cycling – Lodge Based

Important Note: This trip travels exclusively on the Denali Highway, which is not part of the Parks Highway leading to Denali National Park. As such, we will not be inside Denali National Park for any segment of our cycling journey.

Day 1

Enjoy a warmup ride along the historic Richardson Highway

Welcome to the Last Frontier! Our group meets this morning for introductions and an orientation to the days ahead. This will also be our time to fit bikes and ensure everyone’s well equipped for our ride. We’ll then jump in our shuttle vehicle and transfer to the start of today’s ride along the Richardson Highway. What began as a trail used during the gold rush, the Richardson Highway eventually grew to be the first main long-distance road into Alaska’s interior. With plentiful scenery to act as a distraction, the highway will also provide an excellent warm up for the days ahead. This evening we’ll enjoy our first meal together while sharing our goals for the upcoming journey. Lunch and dinner included.

Cycling on paved road: 42 miles, elevation gain/loss: 3,400'/2,800’. Transfer: 3 hours.

Day 2

Ride through open tundra and the Tangle Lakes Archaeological District

A 40-mile van transfer gets us to the start of our journey along the Denali Highway. For over a century tiny Paxon, Alaska has served as a welcome outpost for road weary travelers and continues to serve as the launching pad for an epic adventure along the Denali Highway. Departing Paxson we’re quickly immersed in the vast and open tundra of interior Alaska. On clear days this area provides jaw-dropping views of the Alaska Range, the Wrangell Mountains and the Gulkana Glacier. Today’s ride also takes us through the Tangle Lakes Archaeological District. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this area is known to have been inhabited by early humans over 10,000 years ago and contains over 500 archaeological sites. After a remarkable day in the saddle, we’ll enjoy a hearty meal and a warm bed at our comfortable accommodations. All meals included.

Cycling: 41 miles on a mixture of paved and gravel road, elevation gain/loss: 4,340'/4,120’. Transfer: 1 hour.

Day 3 

Ride through Crazy Notch, aside Waterfowl Lakes and over the Susitna River

Starting with Crazy Notch, which was formed by the recession of the Maclaren Glacier, today’s ride will travel through a landscape carved by eons of glacial activity. Evidence of the amazing impact glaciation has had on this area is everywhere and our guides will provide a fascinating tutorial throughout our journey. Along the way we’ll also keep an eye out for wildlife who frequent this section of the highway, including trumpeter swans, bald eagles, moose, and caribou. We’ll finish the day with a ride over the Susitna River bridge, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, and which provides passage over the river as it flows 300 miles from the Susitna Glacier south into the Cook Inlet. All meals included.

Cycling: 37 miles on gravel road, elevation gain/loss: 2,290’/2540’.

Day 4

Celebrate our 135-mile journey in the shadow of North America’s highest peak

Our last 58-miles of the Denali Highway rewards us with some of the most spectacular scenery we’ve experienced so far. On a clear day we’ll enjoy jaw dropping views of the Alaska Range and its crown jewel: Denali. Even in inclement weather this section of our ride is breathtaking and provides peek-a-boo moody views of Mount Deborah, Mount Hess and the Susitna River valley. The area is also notable as the location of a small gold rush outpost – the Valdez Creek Mine, which can be seen in the foothills of the Clearwater Mountains. We finish our incredible journey in the town of Yidateni Na’ – Cantwell, where we celebrate our accomplishment with a delicious dinner among new friends. All meals included.

Cycling: 58 miles on a combination of gravel and paved road, elevation gain/loss: 3,425'/3,900’.

Day 5

Stop at the National Park Visitor’s Center before transferring to Fairbanks

This morning we visit the Denali National Park Visitor’s Center. As the gateway to six-million acres of protected wilderness and North America’s tallest mountain, the Visitor’s Center provides a wealth of fantastic interpretive resources. For those interested in extending their adventure into the park itself, there is also a bus stop, railroad depot, and countless transfer opportunities to nearby communities where an extended adventure into the park can be arranged. For those of us continuing to Fairbanks, we’ll enjoy a picnic lunch in route to Fairbanks, where we plan to arrive back this afternoon. Breakfast and lunch included.

Please note that due to National Park restrictions, commercial activity, including hiking and cycling are prohibited.

Transfer: 3.5 hours.

Itinerary map for Denali Cycling – Lodge Based

Gear List

The key to staying comfortable while on an active trip is layering. To get maximum comfort with minimum weight, you need versatile layers that mix and match to create the right amount of insulation, ventilation and weather protection. Try to bring only what is necessary—this will help you and the field staff.

Already booked this trip? Sign into your online traveler profile for a more detailed list of what you'll need.

REI members can shop for gently used gear online or at most REI stores. Members can also trade in pre-loved used gear online or at any REI store in exchange for REI gift card credit. Check out Re/Supply at REI to learn more.

We provide

What to pack

Contact Us

Feel free to give us a call at 1 (800) 622-2236 should you have any questions regarding the gear list. The staff at our stores and Direct Sales ( 1 (800) 426-4840 ) will also be happy to help you with gear questions. Or check out REI Expert Advice , which has great information to help you prepare for your trip.

Trip specifics may change over time. Reviews reflect the version of the trip that was active at the time the reviewer took it. Please review the itinerary as described above and call our team for any additional details.