How is the drive from Anchorage to Fairbanks?

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#1
Maryland
260 Posts
Joined Aug 2007
We are flying into Anchorage for a Southbound Radiance cruise next June. My husband used to live in Fairbanks, so he wants to take me there. He doesn't like to plan as far in advance as I do!! I see through mapping it, the distance is 360 miles and mapquest/googlemaps show it as 6 hours. Are we really going to be driving 60 mph there? I just want to know what I'm getting in to. I wanted to plan a stop or two on the way up and another on the way back so I'm trying to figure out times...
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#2
Anchorage, Alaska
3,003 Posts
Joined Jan 2003
Much of the way the speed limit is 55mph and a two-lane road. You can normally count on some construction along the way during the summer. Although you might be able to make it in 6 hours the bigger question would be why. If Denali is out you may want to at least stop for some gawking. An overnight at the park entrance would allow you to take a shuttle back into the park. Certainly a highlight of an Alaska visit for many. From there Fairbanks is only a couple hours.
#3
Maryland
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Joined Aug 2007
Thanks. Not doing Denali on this trip, but I would like to make some stops along the way and venture into the small towns. This sounds like it will be manageable!
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#4
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Joined Oct 2008
I always figure 5 hours from Anchorage to Denali and another 2 hours from Denali to Fairbanks. Very rarely do I get under those driving times. Google Maps and Mapquest mileage within Alaska is accurate but driving times simply are not.

If you want to make stops, you have to add to those 7 hours. I would probably take an overnight at least in one direction if you are driving there and back.

So if you make stops for meals and gas, that could add 2 hours to the trip. Then if you stop for sightseeing or to drive into Talkeetna, you certainly have to add another 1-??? hours. You are looking at a 10-12 hour drive each way.
#5
Syracuse, New York
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Originally posted by rjeffler
Thanks. Not doing Denali on this trip, but I would like to make some stops along the way and venture into the small towns. This sounds like it will be manageable!
"Small towns" are few, and miles of unoccupied space. I suggest you get a copy of THE MILEPOST, which will offer way more.

I would allow at least 8 hours for the drive. Brief stops are going to be needed. You may also want to consider leaving Denali Park as a possibility? Have you been to mainland Alaska before? How much time are you allowing?
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#6
Idaho
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We did this exact drive last summer and it took 7-10 hours.
We made several stops(gas, food, photo ops) and had to stop for construction several times.
The only towns we stopped in were Denali and Talkeetna (which was around 30 minutes off the main road). There really aren't any other small towns to stop into. Curious why you don't want to see Denali as you will go right through it and it is the number 1 attraction in Alaska.
#7
Maryland
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Joined Aug 2007
Just got back from our trip to Alaska. After reading the comments, I was a bit worried that we weren't spending a day or more at Denali NP. I can say, I didn't miss anything! I think we got extremely lucky, but I'm OK with that. The day we drove north to Fairbanks it started as rain, changed to snow and then back to sunny weather by the time we reached the shops at Denali. Stopped there for lunch and then back on the road.

On the return trip, we got really lucky!! :-) The mountain was out for all to see and we were nearly by ourselves on the road. We left Fairbanks at 4:30 am (not unusual for my family) so that my husband could get to a work meeting in Anchorage that afternoon. We were able to see the mountain from all kinds of angles along our ride. We were also almost totally by ourselves most of the time. So, if we saw something, he would hit the brakes and put the car into reverse on the highway. Saw a moose that way as well. Got so many great pictures of Denali that I don't regret anything we did!

I did a full review (links in my signature) while we were in Alaska if anyone cares to read it.
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#9
4,186 Posts
Joined Oct 2008
Originally posted by rjeffler
Just got back from our trip to Alaska. After reading the comments, I was a bit worried that we weren't spending a day or more at Denali NP. I can say, I didn't miss anything! I think we got extremely lucky, but I'm OK with that. The day we drove north to Fairbanks it started as rain, changed to snow and then back to sunny weather by the time we reached the shops at Denali. Stopped there for lunch and then back on the road.
So you never really went into the park even by car or better yet by bus and you say you didn't miss anything? That makes little sense. If you thought what most call "Glitter Gulch" as Denali NP, you were sadly mistaken. And yes, you can see Denali the mountain (also known as Mt. McKinley) from multiple spots on the Parks Highway. But that is not the same as seeing Denali NP. In any case I am glad you enjoyed your drive.
#10
outside of Anchorage
1,745 Posts
Joined Apr 2005
It appears that it is taking...(with road construction)....about 5 hrs to get from Fairbanks to approximately Denali......So plan lots of time......this was last week, and it will go on for the rest of the summer....
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#11
Bloomington, IL
58 Posts
Joined Aug 2005
Originally posted by laughing husky
It appears that it is taking...(with road construction)....about 5 hrs to get from Fairbanks to approximately Denali......So plan lots of time......this was last week, and it will go on for the rest of the summer....
Can anyone confirm that it takes this long right now? We'll be driving from Denali to Fairbanks July 21 and it looked to be an approximately 2 hour trip without delays or stops. Hard to imagine construction could add so much time, but would like to be prepared!
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#13
Syracuse, New York
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Originally posted by ilgander
Can anyone confirm that it takes this long right now? We'll be driving from Denali to Fairbanks July 21 and it looked to be an approximately 2 hour trip without delays or stops. Hard to imagine construction could add so much time, but would like to be prepared!

All you have to do is be unlucky and just miss a pilot car, and yes, you can be waiting an hour. This has personally happened to me, several times. There is no way to predict.
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#14
Maryland
260 Posts
Joined Aug 2007
Just did it two weeks ago... When we went through mid-day, we had a longer wait. We are REALLY early people, so we left Fairbanks at 4:30am on our way back to Anchorage and missed one of the construction sections all together - Not that it wasn't there, but there were no workers, so we were able to drive it on our own. Unfortunately, the next one had the flag man and we had to wait.

If you miss a pilot car, it can be 30 minutes until it returns.
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#15
Northeast US
955 Posts
Joined Jan 2011
Affirming what's been said. We spent 5 days visiting Denali NP in early June (this year) while staying up in Healy (about 15 miles north of the NP), and there was a massive construction project going on. They supposedly start working at 7 a.m. We were always earlier, and only had brief waits (as well as SLOW speeds) at the 1-way lights. Supposedly, they stop at 7 p.m. Well, not so much - though we delayed our returns until after 7, several times we had lengthy waits. Also, the one time (on the first day, when we didn't have the information) we were earlier than 7, we had a 1/2 hour wait. And that was just for 1 15-mile stretch.
Also, clarifying some of the earlier comments - a lot of the road has a 65 mph limit. Be warned that, if it is raining and the highway is wet, there are many sections where water accumulates in the groves made into the roadway by the traffic. That slowed us down on the return trip to Anchorage, even though there was no construction south of Denali.
#16
4,186 Posts
Joined Oct 2008
Originally posted by ilgander
Can anyone confirm that it takes this long right now? We'll be driving from Denali to Fairbanks July 21 and it looked to be an approximately 2 hour trip without delays or stops. Hard to imagine construction could add so much time, but would like to be prepared!
Normally 2 hours. Took me 3 hours one day earlier this month. Someone else I know said it took him over 4 hours.

Please don't rush around thinking you can drive much faster than anyone else . For sure don't plan on a 2 or 3 or even 4 hour drive from Denali to Fairbanks if you are planning a flight departure at the airport upon arrival in Fairbanks.