1. Turnagain Arm
This amazing stretch of road spans from Anchorage towards Girdwood, running alongside the Cook Inlet. Being right along the waterside is enough in some places to classify a beautiful drive but add the towering mountains around it as a backdrop to an already stunning waterscape, and you have a stretch of road that is unrivaled on the planet. Stop at Beluga point to look for whales, or near Girdwood to watch the bore tide at the right time of year, or keep heading South into the Chugach National Forest, which is an amazingly beautiful section of road. No matter what you do though, Turnagain arm will take your breath away.
2. The Old Denali Highway
The original access to Denali National Park was named #2 on National Geographic’s must do drives of a lifetime, and for good reason. This stretch of road is home to Alaska’s wildlife, mountain ranges with glaciers tucked into their valleys, and miles of open tundra that help you see the scope of Denali’s wilderness. Be warned, most rental car companies don’t allow drivers onto the highway because the road is mainly gravel and can be rough in areas. Local outfitters do offer tours and rentals that will gain you access to its remote access. My favorite part is that you can get incredible views of Denali from the sections of road nearest to Cantwell!
3. The Sterling Highway
The Sterling highway runs all the way from the Chugach National Forest to its terminus in Homer. If you have any plans to do a halibut fishing charter during your trip, you will probably find yourself on this highway, and while so much of the road is beautiful, the climax is when you find yourself racing along the seaside bluffs approaching Homer itself. To the west on the ocean’s horizon, you can see the towering volcanos of Augustine, Illiamna, and Redoubt, a stoic reminder of your geographical relation to the Ring of Fire. Continue along far enough and you will reach the end of the highway in Homer, but not before cresting a hill overlooking Kachemak Bay, and its state park clad with mountain and temperate rainforest.
4. Hatcher Pass
Hatcher Pass is a mecca for Alaska’s rock climbers, because of where it is nestled in the Talkeetna Mountains. Running for 49 miles through the Mat-Su Valley between Palmer and Willow. It will take you to fantastic locations for camping, climbing, fishing, mountain biking, and of course hiking. During this drive you will hit heights close to 4,000 ft. in altitude. As with all roads in Alaska, this leads you into some of the most remote areas of the state, so be prepared when you make your way out there, especially in the winter.
5. Glen Highway
The Glen Highway is the gateway to Hatcher Pass but continues along further towards Valdez. This stretch of road is 135 miles long and includes sweeping views of Mountain Ranges, glaciers like the Knik, and Matanuska, and offers several summer and winter activities like camping, hiking, snow machining, and cross-country skiing. If you continue for long enough, you will find yourself at the intersection of the Glen and Richardson Highway, which will carry you on to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. At 13.2 million acres – the same size as Yellowstone National Park, Yosemite National Park, and Switzerland combined, makes it North America’s largest national parks.