The Big Loop Alaska Road Trip

Updated April 2024The Big Loop Alaska Road Trip was originally written in July 2017

This Big Loop Alaska road trip hits some of the highlights of south-central and interior Alaska but this itinerary is very ambitious. Keep it moving, or plan to allot more than a week if you’d like to spend much time in each place.

The Big Loop Alaska Road Trip is one variation of my road-tripping Alaska series. Check the Alaska DOT’s 511 for road construction, delay, and road condition information. Another trusty source of information is the Alaska Milepost, I highly recommend purchasing one before your Alaska road trip!

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Big Loop Alaska Road Trip Map
Click the map above to view in Google Maps

Day 1: Anchorage to Talkeetna to Denali National Park

You’ll likely arrive in Anchorage in the middle of the night as mentioned in previous posts. Grab your rental car, get some sleep at a nearby hotel or hostel, and begin your Big Loop Alaska road trip in the morning after some good rest. Provisions can be picked up before leaving Anchorage or in the nearby community of Wasilla as you take off to the north.

Looking for things to do while you’re in Anchorage? Check out my Anchorage Travel Guide

Where To Stay In Anchorage

Basecamp Anchorage |

The Lakefront Anchorage |

The Hotel Captain Cook | |

Now off to Talkeetna 

Talkeetna is a fun little Alaska town that once had a cat for a mayor. It’s a 115 mile, about 2-2.5 hour drive north from Anchorage.

Take the Glenn Highway north from Anchorage and make sure to follow the signs as you approach the Mat-Su Valley toward the Parks Highway and Wasilla. About 100 miles north of Anchorage you’ll see signs for the Talkeetna Spurr Road turn off, take the exit to the right and follow for about 14 miles where you’ll end up in tiny, walkable Talkeetna.

There’s plenty of places to camp as well as cabins an inn, and a hostel for rent, and there are several little restaurants.

If you can afford it, I would splurge on the Denali flightseeing tour with one of the many air taxi companies based in Talkeetna. Many of these flightseeing trips do include a glacier landing.

I’ve not personally done a Denali flightseeing tour yet, but I have yet to hear a bad thing about it from anyone who’s done it. These flights can range from $220 to $460 per person.

Other activities in Talkeetna include the Denali Zipline, kayaking & rafting tours, and the riverboat trip up the Devil’s Canyon. The drive from Talkeetna to Denali National Park will continue another 2.5 hours 145 miles.

*Note: Air taxi operators will cancel trips due to unstable and/or bad weather.

Where To Stay In Talkeetna


Grace & Bill’s Freedom Hills B&B
| | |

Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge | |

Day 2: Denali National Park

Denali Road Lottery, Denali National Park, Alaska, Savage River
Savage River, Denali National Park

If you only have a day to afford here, I’d suggest a Denali Bus Tour. You cannot drive past the Savage River post in Denali National Park on your own (unless you opt to visit in late September and secure a Denali Road Lottery Permit in May the same year), which is only a few miles past the visitor center.

The entire park road extends 92 miles to Kantishna. To go beyond Savage River by road you will need to book a bus tour, these are offered in narrated and non-narrated shuttle buses.

Non-narrated buses will cost from $26.50 to $34.00 per person (kids under 15yo are free). Narrated bus tours will cost from $80.75 to $194.00 per person (kids 15yo and under range from $33.50 to $92.00 per kid). Click here to visit the park website’s info on buses and schedules.

Camping sites are available from $15.00 to $30.00 per item per night. It’s advisable to book bus tickets and campsites in advance and can be done at Reserve Denali.

A $10 per person pass fee will be charged per visitor at the entrance of the park. National Park Pass holders just need to show their pass to get in. If going into the backcountry you must obtain a backcountry pass at the visitor center- they are free.

What to do in Denali? Check out my Denali National Park Guide for ideas

Want to travel the full length of the Denali NP Road on a backcountry adventure? Click here to book this tour!

Click here to book a Denali NP Walking Tour

Where To Stay In & Near Denali

Camping (tent & RV) in Denali National Park |

Aurora Denali Lodge (Healy) | |

McKinley Creekside Cabins | |

Day 3: Healy and Fairbanks

The Denali to Healy drive only takes 20 mins and is 18 miles away. A fun excursion to take in Healy is a river rafting trip which can be booked either on arrival or in advance.

Continue the drive from Healy to Fairbanks which is another 2 hours and 110 miles. Nenana is a great stop to make in between to break up the trip (you can also go river rafting here as well).

Once in Fairbanks you can explore the downtown area, have fun on the Chena River, or if you’re up for a little more driving you can head out to Chena Hotsprings and have a nice soak in the hot waters.

The Chena Hotsprings Resort is 62 miles northwest of Fairbanks and should take roughly 1 hour 15 minutes each way. Entrance costs are $15 for adults, $12 for kids 6-17yrs (must be accompanied by a parent), and $13.00 for Seniors 60+ yrs.

Several campgrounds are available around Fairbanks including one right in the middle of the city along the Chena River. Camping can also be had further outside town at Harding Lake and a number of other areas.

Not sure what to do in Fairbanks? Read my Fairbanks Travel Guide

Where To Stay In Fairbanks

Billie’s Backpacker Hostel | |

Pike’s Waterfront Lodge
| | |

Sophie Station Suites | |

Day 4: North Pole and Delta Junction

Fairbanks to North Pole is a 20 minute drive, 15 miles away. North Pole’s only attraction is the Santa Claus house which is a fun stop if you’re traveling with kids.

Expect the drive from North Pole to Delta Junction to take about 1.5 hours for the 82 mile journey. There are a number of activities to explore in Delta, click here for more info. Camping is available nearby.

Where To Stay In Delta Junction

Trophy Lodge | |

Delta Wild & Scencic River, Alaska, Delta River, Delta Alaska, Delta River Alaska, Alaska
South of Delta Junction

Day 5: Tok

Delta to Tok will take you 1 hour 45 minutes to drive the 110 miles without any stops, but will likely take you longer as you sightsee your way down the highway. Look for camping near to to Tok for the evening. It’s a good idea to continue south from Tok to camp for the evening to take some of the drive time off for tomorrow.

Where To Stay In Tok


Hyde Away Inn B&B | |

Day 6: Matanuska Glacier (Glacier View)

Matanuska Glacier, Big loop Alaska roadtrip, Alaska road trip, Alaska roadtrip, one week in Alaska
Matanuska Glacier

Tok to Glacier View is 3 hours 40 minutes and 215 miles. You’ll take a left off the Glenn Highway around Mile 102 and follow the road to a house where you’ll pay your entrance fee.

The main attraction today will be Matanuska Glacier. You can once again visit the glacier for $25 per person (a family owns the only access road to the glacier). Or you can explore the glacier by a guided trip.

Where To Stay Near Matanuska Glacier

Camping near Matanuska Glacier

Eagle Hotel | |

Pioneer Motel | |

Day 7: Back to Anchorage, fly home

The drive from Glacier View to Anchorage will take roughly 2 hours to travel the 105 miles to complete your Big Loop Alaska roadtrip adventure.

*Note: You can easily start and end this trip from Fairbanks, rather than Anchorage!

Have Any Questions About The Big Loop Alaska Road Trip?

Ask in the comments sections below.

Want More Ideas For One Week In Alaska Itineraries?

Check out the following posts in the ‘One Week In Alaska’ series:

7 thoughts on “The Big Loop Alaska Road Trip”

  1. This is great THANK YOU! if we wanted to do FAI to ANC then back to FAI is there a preferred order? We land late on a Thurs so starting Friday AM from FAI. Thank you!

    1. Either direction is fine, I’ve done the Denali Hwy both ways now. Most people seem to opt to go from Paxson to Cantwell since you’ll have a view of the Alaska Range as long as the weather is clear.

  2. Thanks for all your helpful info! We are planning on roadtripping in Alaska next June and I wanted to check your thoughts on taking Hwy 8 from Paxson to Cantwell. I know it’s not paved, but are the sights worth it? Is it reasonable to do in a van so long as the weather is good? Anything else that would be helpful to know about the road? We can go around through Fairbanks as a back-up plan, but I just wanted to find out if it was even reasonable to consider in the first place.

    1. Hey Emily,
      I do have one of these itinerary posts that includes the Denali Hwy, you can check it out here. The Denali Hwy is definitely worth the drive, it’s absolutely gorgeous. My parents just recently did it this summer and spent 3 days camping between Cantwell & Paxson and had a grand time. In June it should be no problem driving the road. My best recommendation for it is to just drive along a bit until you see an area you want to explore and get out and check it out. It’s not heavily trafficked so you won’t have huge crowds to contend with either.

  3. Out of curiosity, how, exactly does a town manage to have a cat for its mayor?

    Also, all of these Alaska road trips sound amazing! I’ve yet to visit but it’s high in my list. When I do go, I think I’ll be combining all of your suggestions into an epic month log adventure!

    1. Hey Diana,
      Unfortunately I wrote this before I left to travel Tajikistan and Stubbs passed away from old age 🙁

      That sounds great, a month will give you a good amount of time to check out Alaska!

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