The term ‘scenic drive’ takes on a whole new meaning when you step foot into the last frontier. Our road trips are always epic and never sub-par. We are spoiled with vast displays of endless beauty and enormous amounts of wildlife that only make the picture come to life that much more. For stunning vistas of snow-capped mountains, bright wildflowers, sandy beaches, piercing blue glaciers, robust farm-country and rich history; you gotta check out these 16 beautiful byways in Alaska that are perfect for a scenic drive. Get ready to fuel up!
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Skilak Lake Loop
Accessible from the town of Cooper Landing or Sterling on The Kenai, Alaska's Plagyround - Skilak Lake Loop truly has something for everyone. End your Kenai River float at Jim's Landing, put in on uppper or lower Skilak Lake via boat or kayak, view tons of wildlife including bears and moose, go mushroom or berry picking, enjoy a day of fishing or wake-boarding on Hidden Lake or take a hike down one of the many trails along the loop. Or just stay in your car and drive the entire loop and stop along the way for the most epic photo ops of your life.
2. Turnagain Arm
The best part about the incredible Turnagain Arm is that it's so easily accessible to the largest and most populated city in Alaska. From Anchorage heading towards Seward you will experience huge snow-capped mountains in Chugach State Park, mudflats that are multiple miles wide and endless scenic wonders. Dall sheep and brown bears are often spotted alongside the road in the mountains, bald eagles can be found soaring high in the sky, pull into Beluga Point and don't be surprised if you see a beluga whale.
3. Pasagshak Bay Road
Located on Kodiak Island, the Pasagshak Bay road is a 17-mile one-way excursion from the Chiniak Highway. Along the way you can enjoy fishing beaches, rivers, surfing spots and the most breathtaking island life views.
4. Hatcher Pass
Nestled in the beaming Talkeetna Mountains, you will find this phenomenal byway between the towns of Palmer and Willow. Along the way your eyes will be feasted on awe-inspiring views, thick alpine tundra, beautiful wildflowers, lots of wildlife and tons of different bird species. Oh and we can't forget the adventure hounds! If you're into outdoor activities, this is the place for you. Skiing, snow-machining, hiking and people flying around in parachutes.
5. Arctic Valley
Just a hop, skip and a jump from Anchorage is access to this incredible road that takes you high above the city lights. The drive up is about 45 minutes but you could easily spend all day on this journey if you get out to enjoy a hike or an epic photo-op. Berry picking and wildlife viewing are also very popular in Arctic Valley!
6. Denali Park Road
Hop on a bus and head towards Kantishna on this epic 92-mile road. Or if you're a local, put in for the road lottery and you might get lucky enough to drive the road by yourself at the end of the summer! Enjoy the largest mountain in North America, Polychrome Pass, Wonder Lake and wildlife including bears, wolves, coyotes, moose and so much more! Go during the fall and you will be blow away by the endless amount of striking red color (otherwise known as fireweed).
7. Nome-Council Highway
Head east for 72 miles and enjoy great birding opportunities and stunning coastal views. Some of the most popular stops on this road include the 'Last Train to Nowhere' and the 'Safety House' which is the last stop on the Iditarod dug mushing trail race. For beauty, inspiration and history - this is the byway for you!
8. Chiniak Highway
This windy, curvy 42-mile road on the island of Kodiak is sure to blow your mind. Along the way you will be delighted by views of streams, fishing areas, beaches and inlets. Get out and put your toes in the water or catch a wave in the surf.
9. Eklutna Lake
Drive 22 deep miles into the Chugach State Park on this winding road that runs alongside Eklutna River and the (stunningly beautiful) glacial Eklutna Lake. Accessible in under an hour from Anchorage, you will truly be cutting yourself short if you don't make this adventure a priority on your bucket list this summer.
10. Matanuska Glacier Scenic Byway
Between coastal and interior mountains is this breathtaking scenic byway that will take you directly up to the largest glacier in the United States accessible by car which stands 27 miles long and 4 miles wide. This is the perfect place to take a day-drive from Anchorage or the Mat-Su valley.
11. Old Glenn Highway
Drive just under 20 miles on this old country road that will make you feel like you're traveling back in time to the simpler days in Alaska. Enjoy stunning farm-country, access to state parks and recreation sites and even a petting zoo (or a few) along the way. From Anchorage heading to Palmer, take the Old Glenn Highway for a feeling of calm and simplicity.
12. Exit Glacier Road
From the town of Seward on The Kenai, Alaska's Playground, is this eight mile long road leading up to the trail that takes you to Exit Glacier. Feast your eyes on tall mountains, wildlife and some of the best camping spots in the entire state of Alaska.
13. Monashka Bay Road
Head northwest for 12 miles as Rezanof Drive in Kodiak becomes Monashka Bay Road. Along the way you will be spoiled with views of incredible sandy beaches, hiking trails, tide pools and endless vistas. Pull over and explore some of those areas and make a day out of it. Hey, you only live once!
14. Nash Road
This somewhat secluded road in the town of Seward on The Kenai, Alaska's Playground cuffs the lowland fringe at the head of Resurrection Bay. Along the way you will experience access to a part of the Iditarod Trail, places to fish and camp, hiking trails and stunning beach access.
15. Nome-Taylor Highway
Also called Beam Rd. or Kougarok Rd. - this is the spot to go to see trees (and plenty of them)! Be prepared to drive 85 secluded miles on a gravel road and make sure to stop along the way and experience Salmon Lake and Pilgrim Hot Springs up close and personal.
16. Portage Valley
Located off the Seward Highway as you head towards the town of Whittier is the breathtakingly beautiful Portage Valley. Feast your eyes on the stunning Portage Glacier, mountain views and wildflowers along the way. Or take the tunnel to Whittier and enjoy a day of fishing fun.
Did we leave any of your favorites off the list? Let us know if you can think of any other epic byways in the last frontier that are perfect for a scenic drive!