Said to be the model for the 90s TV series, “Northern Exposure”, the quirky little village of Takleetna is about a two-hour drive north of Anchorage. Main Street Talkeetna resembles a combination of rugged backwoods village, hippie haven and kitschy tourist town. The village gravel airstrip intersects with residential streets, and small aircraft can be found in the driveways. Bordered with towering spruce and birch trees, Main Street contains rustic log structures and historic buildings like the Talkeetna Roadhouse and Fairview Inn. Moose sculptures, folk art, shops and galleries line the street. Those who walk to the end of Main Street are treated to a splendid view of Denali. Nagley’s Store on Main Street supplies both tourists and residents with groceries, souvenirs, ice cream and liquor. The store’s exterior is adorned with moose antlers and snowshoes. Nagley’s Store is also the former headquarters for Talkeetna’s esteemed mayor, an orange stub-tailed cat named Stubbs. Although Mayor Stubbs position was honorary, he purrrrfectly embodies Talkeetna’s offbeat vibe. After surviving a dog attack, a plunge into a vat of cooking oil, and throngs of adoring tourists, Mayor Stubbs passed away in the summer of 2017 at the advanced age of 20.
Denali is the United States’ AND North America’s tallest peak. Measured from base to peak, Denali is the WORLD’S tallest mountain entirely above sea level. The mountain summit is over 130 miles from downtown Anchorage, but is visible from the city on a clear day. While traveling north from Anchorage to Denali National Park, clear views of the mountain are frustratingly elusive for the first hundred or so highway miles. However, if the skies are right, the majestic peak will come into view about 50 or 60 miles south of the park. Those who are moved by a beautiful sunset or a walk along the beach will likely experience an emotional reaction upon their first close-up view of Denali. Talkeetna is home to a few outstanding vantage points for viewing Denali on a clear day.
Just south of the village, Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge is the only full-service lodge on the Alaskan road system to provide unobstructed, panoramic views of Mt. McKinley and the Alaska Range. In fact, Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge was designed and constructed around the spectacular view. Situated on 650 elevated acres south of town, the lodge features two large viewing decks facing the mountains, providing a great opportunity for photos, or just to sit and enjoy the view. Six evenings a week, Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge hosts a 15-minute flag retreat, featuring patriotic music and the lowering of the Alaska and US flags to the Alaska State Song and the Star Spangled Banner, respectively. The nightly ceremony concludes with some words honoring American soldiers and veterans. The lodge interior is rustic and comfortable.
Although Mt. McKinley comes into full view about 60 miles south of the peak, roadside pulloffs to stop and absorb the scenery are somewhat scarce. For those visiting Talkeetna, there is a pulloff just south of the village across from the entrance to Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge. For those driving north on the Parks Highway, the Alaska Department of Natural Resources has established two scenic pulloffs, both with ample parking. Denali Viewpoint South is located at mile 135.2 of Parks Highway and provides spectacular views of Mt. McKinley, Mt. Foraker and the Alaska Range Foothills. A short modestly-strenuous trail leads to another beautiful vantage point. Denali Viewpoint South provided us with our best view of the mountains. Denali Viewpoint North is located at mile 163 of the Parks Highway, and provides another gorgeous view from a different perspective.