Driving Through Denali Highway - Mostly gravel is it worth the drive?

On our way back from our fishing trip to Chitina, our friends invited us to make a detour. A long detour! I never been to this road before so I didn't know what to expect but I was excited. 

Our drive through Denali highway started from Paxson Junction on Richardson highway to Cantwell then back home to Fairbanks. 

view of gravel road and the mountains on Denali Highway

How far was the detour?

From Paxson Junction (Denali highway) to Cantwell is about 135 miles. Then Cantwell to Fairbanks is 152 miles. The detour going back to Fairbanks using Denali highway was about 287 miles. However, if we didn't take that road, Paxson Junction to Fairbanks is only 175 miles. 
The map of two route going back to Fairbanks

Was the drive through Denali highway worth it?

Oh yes! The road is long, remote, and mostly gravel but it was memorable and fantastic drive. Awesome views of mountain ranges, rivers, lakes, glaciers, and valleys. However, the only wildlife we saw was HUMANS.

View of a glacier from the road

Overnight Camping at Tangle Lakes Campground

We spent a night at Tangle Lakes campground, milepost 21.5 about 34 minutes from Paxon Junction. Nice campground but there are no trees around. The campground was pretty full when we arrived there but we were able to find an available site. A good stop to rest for a night. 

The lakes are beautiful! We saw few people fishing and some were enjoying the lake with their kayak. The campgrounds also have nice hiking trails. 

Tangle Lakes Campground Sign
21 miles from Paxson to Tangle Lakes the road is paved

The traveling crews at Tangle Lakes Campground
Traveling Crews at Tangle Lakes Campground. 
Such a memorable time spending with family and friends

Tangle Lakes Campground
Tangle Lakes Campground

wildflowers, mountains at Tangle Lakes campground,
Tangle Lakes Campground

The following day we continue our driving on Denali Highway. It was a cloudy day but it was an awesome trip. The views are simply amazing!

Entering Matanuska - Susitna Borough

view of lakes and mountain ranges

View of a house and a gravel road
Just before we crossed the bridge to Maclaren River Lodge

We stopped at Maclaren River Lodge and had their famous homemade pie and ice cream.  It was delicious!

Inside of Maclaren River Lodge
Maclaren River Lodge

View of the bridge and the river from Maclaren Lodge
View of the river and the bridge from Maclaren River Lodge

Homemade pie and ice cream at Maclaren River Lodge
A must stop for this when driving through Denali highway. Homemade pie and ice cream so delicious!

View of Maclaren Glacier from the road
Maclaren Glacier

view of the Susitna river and Susitna Bridge
Spectacular view of Susitna River and the bridge crossing the river

stopped on the side of the road to get out and stretch

Susitna Bridge
Susitna River

Kids walking on the bridge over Susitna River
We walked the long bridge over Susitna River

Susitna River
View of Susitna River from the bridge

View of the valleys, dark clouds, and rain
Clouds played a big role on this trip but it was still a fantastic drive through Denali highway

Alaska Mountain Range on a cloudy day
Even with clouds covering the Alaska mountain range, it still is beautiful! 

Sign Post with a boy says Wrong Way

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