Alaska Road Trip: Fairbanks to Anchorage [Part 4]
Note: This travel post is part of a 12-day trip that departed from Seattle and included Canada, Fairbanks, and Deadhorse, before ending in Anchorage, Alaska. Our kids were ages 2 and 5.
Part 1: Complete Trip Itinerary
Part 2: Driving the Alcan (Seattle to Fairbanks)
Part 3: Driving the Dalton Highway (Deadhorse + Prudhoe Bay)
This post –> Part 4: Driving the Parks Highway (Fairbanks to Anchorage)
George Parks Highway (AK-3), Fairbanks to Anchorage, Alaska
We have relatives in both Fairbanks and Anchorage so we’ve done this drive a number of times. At this point, we just wanted to get to my in-law’s house so we put the pedal to the metal and gunned it for Anchorage. However, if we were to go the tourist route, we’d divide this trip into two days and spend the night at the campgrounds at Denali National Park. We also like both the visitor center and the yellow bus rides at Denali so plan for several hours worth of activities.
Also, if you have cash to spare, a ‘flightseeing’ tour of the mountain on a clear day is something not to be missed. Denali is often shy, cloaked in her own personal weather system; catching her in full alpine glory is a sight to behold. Now, if the weather is lousy, skip it. You won’t see anything and buzzing around in a small plane in horrible weather is not my idea of a good time. There are many, many small planes in Alaska…and lots of small plane crashes too.
If you’re south of Denali and need a place for the kids to let off some steam, stop at the Wild Woods Park in Talkeetna. It’s consistently voted one of the best public (free) playgrounds in Alaska.
Near Willow (2 hours from Anchorage) is a small community perched on the shores of Nancy Lake. We are the fortunate souls that have access to a cabin here and it happens to be a particularly beautiful little bit of paradise. If you have a canoe or kayak, it’s a great spot to drop in a line and spend the afternoon fishing. In the winter you can snowshoe or snowmachine on the lake. I’ve never visited the South Rolly Campground or rented one of the public cabins, but it might be a nice spot to relax for a bit before heading south.
Closer to Anchorage, our kids particularly like the Reindeer Farm and the Musk Ox Farm, both located in Palmer. Also, a hike around Hatcher Pass (and the fascinating Independence Gold Mine) pairs well with the farm visits. Depending on your level of interest in old mining towns and hiking, Hatcher Pass can be an all-day activity. The restaurant Turkey Red in Palmer is a nice spot for a bite to eat after a day of exploring. As with all eateries up here, expect to pay about 10-15% more for food and beverages.
Hatcher Pass, outside of Palmer
And if you’re passing through Palmer in late April, check out the Alaska State Fair. Those pig races are not to be missed. Yee-haw!
Kayaking on Nancy Lake near Willow, Alaska
Drive: Fairbanks to Anchorage. 361 miles. 6 hours.
Activities: Denali National Park bus tour. Reindeer Farm. Musk Ox Farm. Hatcher Pass.
Eat: Turkey Red (B,L,D). $$
Stay: Nancy Lake Recreation Area (South Rolly Campground).
And that is where our saga ends. We spent five days in Anchorage before flying back to Seattle. The camper stayed in Alaska, awaiting family members that are going to drive her home later this year.
Next up: Things to do in Anchorage with Children
Feeding baby musk oxen
Feeding reindeer at the reindeer farm
Some of the abandoned buildings at the former gold mine in Hatcher Pass