Motorcycle Bucket List – Denali Highway

The weather forecast was predicting sunshine and +65°F days, so it could not have been a more perfect time to go. I decided to ride from east to west so the road would end facing Denali. In order to accomplish what would be a 687 mile ride and have a day to catch up on chores over a three day weekend, I packed my camping gear, spare tire tubes, clean socks and undies Thursday night so I could blast 199 miles out to Copper Center after work on Friday.

Stopped along the Matanuska River for photo ops.
Also stopped for a Conex which had fallen off of a truck.
Another photo op further along the Matanuska River.

My friends Tom and Kimberly were the gracious hosts who fed me, gave me a room to sleep in, and pets to snuggle with. Their newest is Lucy Cat.

Pre-ride safety meetings are sometimes boring.

Late Saturday morning, nearly noon, it was time to wander on. The sky was clear, so I meandered 13 miles the opposite direction just to admire the Wrangell mountains across Willow Lake.


For those who don’t know, Denali Highway is 135 miles long, and 111 of those miles are unpaved. Although most of it has been improved since my last jaunt 2 years ago, there are still roughly 14 miles of potholes to dodge just east of the Susitna River. I actually really enjoyed riding around and through them, but it did take my attention away from the mountains.

Stopped beside the Maclaren River.
Susitna River Bridge

There’s a lodge/bar/campground a mile west of the Susitna River (Clearwater Mountain Lodge / Formerly Gracious House). I posted my tent there for the night. It’s still camping if you eat chef prepared meals and take a hot shower, right?


This turned out to be the same weekend MotoQuest was at the Clearwater Mountain Lodge with a tour group.

Sunday morning, I packed up my kit, refueled at their pump, and continued along the remaining 45 miles of dirt and gravel.

This particular section was incredibly smooth.
Caribou jaw.
I flagged down some passing tourists so I could get a decent non-selfie picture of myself. It turned out alright!
Denali is covered in clouds.
I was sad to see the road return to pavement, but all good things must come to an end.
Back on tarmac, I pulled into the Denali Viewpoint North lot to use the restroom. Andy and Tammy came across the Denali Highway behind me two-up. These Aussies have been touring the world on their 1150 GS for several years. They ride for a few months, park the bike, return to Oz, and eventually come back to wherever the motorbike has awaited their return.
I told them to “look like you love each other.” Convincing, no?
Andy has never heard a KLR before, and was convinced something must be wrong with the one I’ve been riding.
“Nope. That’s just what they sound like.”
We talked for about an hour at that viewpoint. I’ve been invited to ride with them on one of Andy’s motorcycles in Australia. I will take them up on it.

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