The journey of a thousand miles may begin with just one step, but this five hundred mile trip began more like a 400 meter sprint. With just three days available in June to squeeze in a summer trip, we quickly packed the truck and trailer, rounded up the children, and set out for the Denali Highway with hopes of clear skies and fair weather. From our home just outside Fairbanks, our trip would take us south on the Richardson Highway, across the Denali Highway, and back north again on the Parks Highway.
We headed out the door to a light rain shower and cloudy skies. None the less, we held out in hopes of clearer skies – and we were certainly rewarded.
No trip on the Richardson Highway is complete without a stop at the IGA Food Cache in Delta Junction. This part grocery store, part deli, and part restaurant offers amazing food on the go. We filled up our bellies, topped off on fuel, and continued south towards the Alaska Range. Fairer weather just south of Delta Junction let us know that we were in for a great day.
Passing under the iconic Alaska Pipeline as we left the pavement of the Richardson Highway for the dirt roads and trails of the Coal Mine Lakes area.
We decided to drop the trailer and explore the area for a bit. Donnelly Dome sits in the background. Donnelly Dome is a prominent landmark in this area.
The trails in the area provided easy access to dozens of small lakes, some of which are stocked by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
The beauty of the Alaska Range was seemingly never ending and made it difficult to put the camera down
Unable to resist the natural beauty, my wife Stacie opted to run – rather than ride – for the rest of our afternoon on the trails.
Even though we were only hours in our trip, we felt worlds away from our daily grind
After exploring the area, we reconnected our trailer and set up camp along one of the many pristine lakes in the area.
After cooking dinner over our Biolite stove, I took the opportunity to top off our cameras. The Biolite has become one of my favorite pieces of camping equipment; I find myself continually amazed that a device that creates electricity from fire is so affordable.
With the appetizing aroma of BBQ beans over the Biolite stove, we stayed vigilant for any unwelcome camp guests. This .308 caliber AR-10 is the last step of many bear deterrence measures that we carry.
As day two began, we packed up and began the Denali Highway leg of our trip. Our two year old son and four year old daughter took in the views as they took a break from their car seats at this pull out at mile marker 6.5
This bridge is the largest on the route and crosses the Sustina River.
The Gracious House, located at Mile Marker 82, offers fuel, lodging, and services along the Denali Highway. Unfortunately, they were closed due to a family emergency, but they were kind enough to leave a note on the gate directing that those in true emergencies could still contact them for assistance.
This true Alaska buggy was left in the bush along an unmarked trail.
Our campsite for night number was just off the road, but still provided solitude and endless beauty.
The “downstairs” annex portion of our CVT roof top tent makes a great evening play room for the kids.
On the third morning of our trip, we came towards the end of the Denali Highway and the end of our 72 hour adventure. On a side note, thanks to the widened track width of my long travel suspension, I have learned to close my side view mirrors on gravel roads. My tires have demonstrated amazing marksmanship in their ability to peg rocks right into the glass of the mirror.
Chase Kilfoyle is an active duty military officer stationed at Fort Wainwright, Alaska. Chase, his wife Stacie, and their two children enjoy exploring the outdoors in their 2006 Toyota Tacoma, which is a never ending build that can be found on TacomaWorld.
You can follow Chase and family’s Alaska adventures on instagram at @chaseoutdoors.