iking in Alaska offers challenges both on and off the road. By using the existing road system as well as the Alaska State Ferry unique itineraries can be planned by the independent traveler. Many bike trails and less developed roads also provide opportunities for day trips and touring.
Bicycles are also a great way to tour the cities and towns of Alaska. Several shops in Anchorage, Juneau and Fairbanks now offer bike rental services. Unpaved roads such as the Denali Highway, Taylor Highway and McCarthy Road offer excellent bicycle touring opportunities where camping is widely available. Other road systems around Chitna, Cordova and north of Fairbanks also offer less traveled bike touring routes.
Best routes for cycling:
The Seward Highway from Anchorage to Seward has very spectacular scenery, but tends to be windy. Traffic is heavy, but the road has wide shoulders and good visibility.
The Richardson Highway from Fairbanks to Valdez is extraordinarily beautiful, paved, and for the most part has wide shoulders. Winds are TOTALLY unpredictable. There is a danger of high winds in the area of Isabell Pass. If the winds blow hard it will not be possible to make the 82 miles between Delta Junction and Paxson. Be prepared.
The Klondike Highway runs from Skagway to Dawson City. This highway should be run from south to north because there is a consistent south wind. There is a 120 mile stretch between Carmacks and Moose Creek where there are no supplies (only two campgrounds). Dawson City is an absolute must see. The sight of the Gold Rush of 1898, Dawson City still has a lot of the original buildings standing. The Klondike Highway (380 miles) has no shoulders but traffic is minimal.
The Denali Highway between Cantwell and Paxson. This highway is great for the person who wishes to experience a true wilderness experience. There’s very little traffic and great scenery. The only drawbacks are the road is not paved and there are few to no services available on its 135 mile length.
Bike routes to avoid:
The top of the world highway from Dawson City to Tok. It is unpaved, often soft, and when wet becomes impassable. It is also very hilly. Bad road! However, Adventure Cycling includes it on their Northstar route. Their publication The Northstar Bicycle Route says: “The day’s ride from Dawson to the US border is possibly one of the most awesome bicycle rides you will ever encounter…” Craig Williams did it solo in 1988, with 23 miles of very bad road construction to negotiate.
The Glenn highway from Palmer mile 36 to mile 115 is hilly, and has heavy traffic. Bad curves, no shoulders and unrepaired road. You’ve been warned! The alternative route out of Anchorage is to take the Seward Highway to Portage, and then ride the ferry across Prince William Sound to Valdez. Then you can take the Richardson Highway north to the rest of the highway system.
Biking the Denali Highway:
A leisurely pedal is one of the best ways to enjoy the spectacular land along the Denali Highway. Cyclists should be prepared for a rugged ride once the pavement ends 21 miles from Paxson. The road is improved gravel, but that does not preclude long washboard and potted stretches. The high point is Mclaren Summit at 4,086 feet. The summit does not sound terribly high, but it is the second highest pass on an Alaskan road. The highway has plenty of opportunities for camping and limited facilities. Check with the BLM for an update on the services you will find along the way.
Mountain bikers will find ample tracks off the highway. In the Tangle Lakes area, BLM trails are open to bikes and off-road vehicles. The BLM recommends several of the drier routes for mountain biking. The Mclaren River Road follows the West Fork for 12 miles to the Mclaren Glacier. The river must be forded after 4 miles and it can be running high after rains. The Mclaren Summit trail is also good for bikes, along with an eight mile route to Osar Lake. The trail to Landmark Gap Lake is good if bikers don’t mind passing through a brief marshy stretch.
Mosquitoes in Northern Alaska:
Mosquitoes are more than a nuisance in the summer in the north country; they are a genuine problem. Be vigilant. Keep your windows rolled up, enter and exit the vehicle quickly and close the doors, or dozens of the little devils will enter in a minute. Don’t park near water for picnics or overnight, if possible. Beware of walking into the shade. Mosquitoes love the shade. Buy high–quality bug repellent and purchase mosquito coils, available in most general merchandise stores in Alaska. Burn a coil for 20 minutes while you are out of the vehicle; that will kill the mosquitoes. It doesn’t smell too good, though. Don’t become a mosquito dinette: wear a long-sleeved shirt and pants.
See our Mosquitoes page.