Plans went awry this summer. I was going to challenge myself with 2 big bike races, the Dirty Kanza Extra Large and the Trans South Dakota. Due to COVID and travel restrictions, I was unable to do either. So instead, I biked local roads. I ended up biking all of the roads that leave from Fairbanks – a sum total of 5! I also rode most of the classic gravel rides that are close to home. I used my hardtail mountain bike on most of them since I don't have a gravel bike and because they were often part of a bigger adventure that I was on. In the style of David Letterman, I am doing my top 10 biking roads that I did in the Interior.
10. Richardson Highway – August 1 – 139 miles with 5526 feet elevation gain
I biked from Donnelly Creek Campground back home. Although the highway south of Delta Junction is beautiful, the portion from Delta Junction to Fairbanks is less scenic and fairly flat and that’s the majority of what I rode this summer. The closer you get to Fairbanks, the busier the road gets with constant noise and traffic. If you want to bike this road, start in Delta Junction and bike south towards Valdez. That part is amazing!
High points – Views of the Alaska Range and ice cream at the Knotty Shop.
Low points – Too much traffic.
9. Chena Hot Springs Road – August 29 - 101 miles with 3224 feet elevation gain
This road is 56.5 miles long and ends at Chena Hot Springs. It has good pavement but half of it has no shoulder. The first half has rolling hills, but the second half is basically flat so you can really cruise! I think the second half is more scenic. My plan had been to bike from home to the hot springs and back, but I wasn’t feeling it that day, so Eric picked me up on my way back to make it a century ride. I left early, so didn’t have too much traffic until later in the day. Best time to do it is as part of the annual Chena Hot Springs Ride (which was unfortunately canceled due to COVID this year).
High Points – Biking along at over 20 mph on the flats. Chance to soak in Chena Hot Springs at the end.
Low Point – Too much traffic and no shoulder.
8. Parks Highway – July 22 - 128 miles with 6439 feet elevation gain
This road is also 100% paved and quite scenic. I’ve done it the past 4 years with friends as a century ride to 49th State Brewing company. Heading south from Fairbanks, the first half is very hilly. The second half is much flatter although it trends uphill and there are usually headwinds. Nenana is about halfway, so a good place to stop and rest and refuel. This time I was totally loaded for bikepacking on my mountain bike so was much slower. It was cool and rainy the day I did it. I rode from home to the Riley Creek Campground in Denali National Park.
High Point – Minimal headwind for the first time ever!
Low Point – 2 flats in less than 24 hours - this did convince me to finally go tubeless on my mountain bike.
7. Steese Highway – June 27 - 155 miles with 9390 feet elevation gain
I’ve biked out to the Chatanika Lodge and back endless times, but I had never done the entire road all the way to Circle. The ride up to Eagle Summit is great! Central to Circle is not worth it unless you really want to see the Yukon River. I had great weather for this ride. Paved to about mile 60 then gravel which was good until after Central.
High Point – Amazing scenery from 12 Mile Summit to Eagle Summit
Low Point – The road conditions from Central to Circle really deteriorated and there was so much traffic with fast cars throwing up dust. Found out later, there were 2 funerals going on in Circle that weekend.
6. Nabesna Road – July 25 - 40.3 miles with 1955 feet elevation gain
This road starts at mile 60 of the Tok Cut Off and is 42 miles long. The first few miles are paved. We had a cabin at mile 20 so Eric and I only rode from there to the end of the road and back. Great biking. Fairly flat. Minimal traffic. Several stream crossings that sometimes can be impassable during times of high water.
High Points – Great scenery and had fun on the stream crossings although we got wet feet! And we ran into friends also out biking the road!
Low Points – Didn’t get to bike the entire road.
5. Murphy Dome Road down to Chatanika River and back – June 20 – 80 miles with 8483 feet elevation gain
If you want a lot of climbing on gravel, this is the ride for you. I started at my home, climbed all the way up Murphy Dome by way of Lincoln Creek Subdivision, then down the 14-mile trail to the Chatanika River. Then it’s a long climb back up but a fast descent back down Murphy Dome Rd. The road down to the Chatanika River is the best part. You have views down into the Minto Flats and the riding is not too steep or technical.
High Points – Great views up high on Murphy Dome Rd. Love climbing on good gravel.
Low Points – I got caught in a pretty good rainstorm on the way back.
4. Elliot Highway - June 6 - 155 miles with 11,490 feet elevation gain
I've road biked to Wickersham Dome many times but had never been to Manley at the end of the road. Well worth going. The first half is paved but turns to gravel after you pass the Dalton Highway turn off. Most of the ride is very hilly but incredibly scenic. Once you pass the Dalton Highway there is almost no traffic. I think I saw about one car/hour!
High Points – Great riding on ridges with great views and almost no traffic
Low Points – Manley store has limited hours and was closed when I got there. I think the Hot Springs is available if you call, but I didn’t have time to do this.
3. Denali Highway – Aug 22 – 100.7 miles with 6535 elevation gain followed by 100 miles with 4682 feet elevation the next day.
I love the Denali Highway. It is a 135-mile mixed surface road ( some gravel, some chip seal and more pavement every year) that runs from Cantwell to Paxson. Big expansive vistas with mountains, glaciers and rivers. I was there during hunting season so lots more traffic than usual. I was a week early for prime fall colors. This is a must-do ride.
High Points – amazing scenery
Low Points – would recommend not going during hunting season
2. Petersville Road – Sept 10 – 50 miles with 3684 feet elevation gain
Okay, technically this road is not in the Interior but close enough. It starts just north of Talkeetna off the Parks Highway. It is about 35 miles one way to Cache Creek with the first 10 miles paved. This road is very fun to bike. Lots of little ups and downs and swoopy curves. Lots of potholes but easily avoidable on a bike. More fun to bike than to drive. There are many ATV trails to explore that take off from the road, too. On a clear day, there are amazing views of Denali and the Alaska Range. We drove to Gate Creek Cabins at mile 10, where we spent 3 nights. If you have time, hike up into Peters Hills for even more amazing views of Denali. Maybe it was the perfect weather or the colors but I really loved biking this road.
High Points – Great gravel riding, amazing views and spectacular fall colors.
Low Points – We had such a perfect weekend that I can’t think of any low points except it was a little chilly early in the morning.
1. DENALI PARK ROAD - May 29 – 66 miles with 6663 elevation gain followed by 66 miles with 4537 elevation gain the next day.
Love, love, love the Denali Park Road. It’s an amazing place to ride your bike. I go down and ride every year. This year I rode to Eielson Visitor Center and back over 2 days. Early in the season you can drive to Teklanika and do an out and back from there. You can also catch a bus in and then bike out. Or get a permit or campsite and bike in and camp and then bike out the next day. The entire road out to Wonder Lake is 85 miles one way. I always see wildlife and often I’ve timed it right to see Denali. This year I had the best of everything.
High Points – Wildlife and views of Denali
Low Points – Dusty from buses and cars passing. Bus drivers are extremely courteous and slow down. It can be windy and rainy, although I lucked out with weather this year.
Really Any Road in Interior Alaska is the best
Old Murphy Dome Road, Goldstream, Farmer’s Loop and all the other paved roads, gravel roads and ATV trails that abound in interior Alaska. Overall, we have amazing roads with minimal traffic and awesome scenery. I’ve biked close to 5000 miles this year, all on local roads and trails. And I’ve enjoyed almost every mile of it. So get out there and ride your bike!