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“Good road with fine views of snow covered Alaska Range”
Review of Richardson Highway

Richardson Highway
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Denali Highway Photography Tour
Ranked #1,280 of 807 things to do in Alaska
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mims florida
Level 6 Contributor
820 reviews
395 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 602 helpful votes
“Good road with fine views of snow covered Alaska Range”
Reviewed October 4, 2012

We have been staying in Fairbanks for nearly 2 weeks so thought we would drive east and use the Richardson Highway. The sun was out , it was 60F in October, and we had the road much to ourselves. It follows the Chena River and at mile post 346 is a worthwhile stop to see the Flood Control Project for Fairbanks. We found out at the Fairbanks Community Museum(known as the Dog Mushers Museum on Tripadviser) about the terrible flood of Fairbanks in 1967 so it was interesting to view the massive 5 mile long dam .now in place to stop any further flooding. The mountains of the Alaska Range get ever closer as one passes Delta Junction and we enjoyed the scenery a lot. There is a very good gift shop called Knotty in Salcha Milepost 32 which serves excellent Alaskan ice cream.

Visited October 2012
3 Thank gwgMimsFlorida
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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31 reviews from our community

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English first
Level 6 Contributor
464 reviews
247 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 234 helpful votes
“The drive from Anchorage to Valdez is beautiful”
Reviewed September 5, 2012

When the Glenn Highway from Anchorage gets near Glenallen, AK, the view of Mt. Drum (12,000 feet) and Mt. Sanford (16,000 feet) gives you a clue of what you are in for when you drive the Richardson Highway to Valdez. Mt. Blackburn is even a bit higher, and the mountains (though not as tall) in the Thompson Pass on the way to Worthington Glacier are some of the most spectacular I've seen (glaciers everywhere). The Horsetail and Bridalveil waterfalls along the highway after Thompson Pass are very pretty. Be aware that there will be a number of places along the highway where you'll have to slow down to cross dips and roadwork. It's no problem, but just be aware so you're sure to slow down, because they mean it when they say 'dip'.or 'bump'.

Visited August 2012
11 Thank garbagecollector
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Oregon Coast
Level 6 Contributor
1,048 reviews
429 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 2,679 helpful votes
“North of Delta Junction (Alaska Highway)”
Reviewed August 20, 2012

Many people think that the Alaska Highway goes all the way to Fairbanks, but it actually ends at Delta Junction. If you are driving northbound and continuing on to Fairbanks as we were, you then drive the last 100 or so miles on the Richardson Highway.

We made the obligatory stop at the Delta Junction Visitor Center and of course took a picture of the sign!

This stretch of the Richardson is mostly flat with lots of straight road. The day that we drove it was drizzly with low clouds so we were not able to see any of the surrounding mountains. I felt this section of the road was only moderately scenic, not spectacular.

Just north of Delta Junction we saw where the Alaska Pipeline crosses over the Tanana River - that was very interesting. Also along this stretch are a couple of historical parks, each containing an original roadhouse. As we drove farther north there were some good views of the Tanana River. Several of the rest area / turnouts have information about the Gold Rush era. There are a couple of lakes just a short way off the highway.

As we continued north, we came to Eielson Air Force Base. No stopping and *no photos* are allowed as you drive past the base. Then the town of North Pole is next with the famous Santa Claus House, but we weren't interested in stopping as we had no children with us!

Finally we arrived in Fairbanks!

Visited June 2012
1 Thank half-Brit
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level 6 Contributor
7 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 60 helpful votes
“Richardson Highway Sights by MilePost”
Reviewed February 27, 2012

The most beautiful way to drive between Fairbanks and Valdez or Anchorage is undoubtedly to take the Richardson Highway (Alaska Rt. 4. Note, Alaskans do not use the numbers, but rather the names of the highways). The descriptions run from Fairbanks to Valdez or Anchorage. The description of the Richardson is current as of July 2009; the highway is in excellent shape.

The mileposts are posted in green on the side of the highway and are numbered from
Valdez (MP 0) to Fairbanks (MP 366).

MP 357 Badger Road interchange, 3 miles up Badger Road is the clean and orderly Riverview RV Park on the banks of the Chena River.

MP 349.5 North Pole exit with a last chance at a big-town grocery store or gas. Santa Clause House is nearby for souvenir shopping or sending postcards from North Pole.

MP 341 Eielson AFB, built in WW II and used during the Cold War as a base for the aircraft that refueled the B-52’s in the air. You could judge the seriousness of the world news by how few refuelers were on the ground.

MP 322 Remnants of the Salcha Roadhouse from the Richardson Trail days.

MP 275 Tanana River bridge and Pipeline suspension bridge next to highway. Rika’s Roadhouse and river landing. Still active.

MP 265 Delta Junction, full services.

MP 261 Fort Greely, currently location of missile defence system. Formerly the Cold Climate Research center for the US Army.

MP 246 Donnely Dome, worth a few hours hike on a clear day for magnificent views.

MP 238 Donnely Campground and a bit south of that the “one-building town” of Donnely on the east side of the road. Donnely seems to be on all road maps, but I have never seen more than one abandoned building there.

MP 225 Marker telling about the surge of the Black Rapids glacier that almost blocked the Delta River valley back in the 1930’s. The gravel toe of the glacier is visible across the river.

MP 227 New lodge at Black Rapids and remnants of the old Black Rapids Roadhouse next to the road. The gravel air strip next to the highway is being overgrown by weeds and willows. One example of a "bush airstrip".

Heading south you pass the Black Rapids training center for the U.S. Army. At times you used to see troops practicing glacier travel in the adjacent mountains.

MP 216.7 Cross Lower Miller Creek. Proceed around the hill on the river side and pull into

MP 216 Denali Fault – Pipeliine Viewing area (just south of the hill). Good views and informative signs tell how the pipeline was designed to withstand a major earthquake, as it did in 2002. You can tell which way the earth shifts in an earthquake by looking at the sliders. Cross Miller Creek and about half a mile to the south there is a parking area to the east, used as a trail head for hikes into the adjacent mountains for climbers and hikers wishing to view the glaciers and valleys.

MP 210. The highway has been rebuilt to put this pull out on the south (east) side of the road. Pull in to get a view of Rainbow Ridge. Books say the reds and greens are volcanic stone, the yellows and pastels are siltstone and sandstone. View in the opposite (west) direction shows the raised pipeline on a hill crest.

MP 197 Richardson monument & turnout east of the highway. View of the valley where the Arctic Man competition takes place every spring. What is Arctic Man? Think northern NASCAR on snow.

MP 195 Summit Lake – small settlement, former location of Summit Lake Lodge.

MP 185 Paxson. Old lodge under new management. Takeoff point to Tangle Lakes 20 miles east on the Denali Highway, or Cantwell, 134 miles. Check for rooms at Paxson or at Tangle River Inn. On a clear day drive at least 8 miles east on the paved Denali Highway to enjoy the views, and enjoy them even more with the clacier views on the way back to Paxson.

MP 170 Meier’s Lake Roadhouse – sadly appears closed in 2009.

MP 157 Pullout with views of Wrangel St-Elias mountains.

MP 147 Sourdough Roadhouse. Rebuilt recently, looks well worth a try. Adjacent campground is recommended over Dry Creek campground at MP 118 unless you want a real Alaska mosquito experience.

MP 127 Turnoff to Gulkana 2 miles to the east. Worth a stop if you are hungry or thirsty.

MP 115 Glennallen, all services, turn west onto Glenn highway for access to Anchorage.

MP 106 Take the ‘old highway’ to Copper Center, passing through an Indian settlement, then the park headquarters for Wrangel-St. Elias National Park, and on to the Copper Center Roadhouse, a 2 story log building offering rooms and meals. Be sure to stop in for at least a cup of coffee! Option to head into Chitna and McCarthy-Kennekott area.

MP 100 The ‘old highway’ rejoins the new highway.

MP 70 Tonsina Roadhouse

MP 29 Worthington Glacier turnout. The most road-accessable glacier in Alaska.

MP 26 Thompson Pass Famous for beauty and record snow falls.
Rough distances:

Fairbanks – Delta 100 miles

Delta - Miller Creeks (the earthquake zone) - 50 miles

Miller Creeks – Paxson 35 miles

Paxson – Tangle Lakes 20 miles

Paxson – Glennallen 75 miles

Glennallen – Copper Center 15 miles

Copper Center – Valdez 100 miles

Valdez – Anchorage 300 miles

Glennallen – Anchorage 180 miles

The heart of a gold rush, Fairbanks is great for the riverboat tour, the Pioneer Park with the old, original cabins. Often unmentioned as you approach Fairbanks from Denali Park, is the town of Ester, with gold fields with the Malamute Saloon.

From Fairbanks you can take the 60 mile one-way road to Chena Hot Springs. Chena Hot Springs is a great place to spend a night in a camper or a cabin and offers hot soak, a beautiful drive and great hikes along with likely moose close by.

If you are only in Fairbanks for a day, rent a car and take a day trip from the University Museum to Musk ox Farm (Large Animal farm today), out along Farmers Loop past the permafrost houses and sunken radio station, along Goldstream Road to Fox, perhaps a stop for lunch at the Turtle Club, Chatinika Gold Camp and the abandoned gold dredge across the street, and then return to Fairbanks along the Steese Highway and stop to look over the detailed pipeline display on the roadside. Summer of 2009 the large permafrost ice lens exposed on the cliff a few hundred feet north of the pipeline display has shrunken but still exists. Who knows what will be exposed by melting in 2010?

At first blush Pioneer Park may seem like a tourist trap, but it is an open air museum with original cabins from Old Fairbanks and has the riverboat Nenana there as well.

Heading out of town on the Richardson toward Delta you will pass through North Pole. It is best known for the all-year ‘Santa Clause House’. It is a good stop for shoppers and a chance to send postcards from North Pole, Alaska. Further down the road you pass by Chena Lakes Recreation Area, the product of a flood control project. Along the road to Delta you will be passing through old gold mining country and paralleling the pipeline. Plan on stopping several places to enjoy the scenery and to take a break.

You will go about 100 miles to Delta Junction. 5 miles south of there you will pass Ft Greely, where some of the missile defense facilities are located. Once in Isabelle Pass you pass "Galloping Gertie", the Black Rapids Glacier on the other side of the river valley. In the 1930's this glacier surged forward and almost cut off the river.

About 50 miles south of Delta keep your eye open for the Denali Earthquake fault south of Lower Miller creek and north of Miller creek. You will see the pipeline with broad beams under the pipe so it can slide from side to side. You are also at the foot of the Castner and Canwell Glaciers, which will provide some hiking opportunity if you wish to see them close up and without a tour guide. As you leave there the next mountain ridge to the left is Rainbow Ridge. When the road makes a turn to the right (west) and leaves the ridge, there is a turnout on the left shoulder. Stop there and look back to see why they named "Rainbow Ridge" as they did.

About 76 miles from Fairbanks, the Paxson area is a great place to stop. Glennallen is fine, but it is a 'big town' down in the forest. You will see more staying up in the Paxson area with the more open transition of tundra and taiga (boreal forest).

In the vicinity of Paxson there are two high quality places for overnighting. Just a few hundred yards up the paved portion of the Denali Highway are the "Denali Highway Cabins" or "Paxson Alpine Cabins" www.denalihwy.com and just another 15 miles south along the highway is Meier's Lake Roadhouse - Atwater's Chateau Motel (closed in 2009).
Tangle Lakes/Denali Highway

This little side trip will take you up into high, glacier formed territory and at 16.4 mile you enter the Tangle Lakes Archaeological District, with over 400 archaeological sites in the area (nothing for tourism that I am aware of, however).

It is easy to picture this terrain as typical of Europe and the northern USA as the glaciers were retreating and ancestors were chucking spears at mastodon and deer. Looking out at the colorful tundra with the mountains and glaciers, lakes and rolling landscape in front of you, it is easy to imagine the days when these great beasts roamed very similar areas. Then you are rewarded with the beauty of the drive back to Paxson as you head east, back to the main highway.

From Paxson to Glennallen you may well experience what permafrost does to highways. Take it easy and enjoy the rolls and the bumps. Oh, you may encounter a bit of the same permafrost at work north of Healy after you cross the green (?) bridge at Rex and proceed to Nenana. Look for the leaning power poles as well, with braces to hold the poles up in the warming permafrost.

Then on the drive down you can always stop in Glennallen for information & lunch.
Copper Center

Heading south of Glennallen to Valdez, cut off onto the "Old Highway" and drive to Copper Center. You will pass through an Indian village along the way you would bypass if you stayed on the main highway. Your reward is a cup of coffee, a meal or an overnight at the romantic (this is a good time to be nice to your wife, yes?) night at the historic Copper Center Roadhouse. It is a beautiful place with great people.

The newer Princess Lodge gets rave reviews from visitors. The room, the view and the friendly service are worth what you pay - little more than what you'd pay elsewhere for ho-hum lodging.

Visited September 2011
49 Thank Since_71
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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