Author Topic: AK Bike Routes  (Read 8734 times)

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Offline PinkFatBike

AK Bike Routes
« on: November 13, 2010, 02:41:06 pm »
There are several road trips that are very do-able and extremely scenic, but not well publicized.
1) The Denali Highway between Healy to Paxson is a 3-day, 350 mile route on a gravel road. Incredible scenery, very little traffic, no facilities, camping required.  Best with a support vehicle.

2) The Fireweed400 race route between Sheep Mtn (mile 110 on the Glenn Hwy) and Valdez is 200 miles on a paved 2-lane highway with very good shoulders and very low traffic.  Again, stupendous scenery including a glacier, raging river, waterfalls, and a big mtn pass.  Plenty of roadhouses and one town along the way.  Check out the race's website.  Their 2-day touring event is supported by aid stations, you really don't need a support vehicle.  You can return to Anchorage via ferry to Whittier, pay someone to get you through the tunnel, then bike back to Anchorage.

Biking to Sheep Mtn from Anchorage would be possible except for a 10-mile stretch of shoulder-less highway that, in my opinion, is extremely dangerous (hilly, no sight distance, high traffic volume).  If you have vehicle support to transport you over this portion then you have a great trip ahead of you.

3)  You can extend the trip to Valdez by continuing on to Cordova by state ferry.  The ferry arrives in the evening, so for the first night, stay in a B&B in Cordova (recommended) or camp on the beach (not the nicest).  If you are really organized, you can rent the US Forest Service Cabin at mile 20 for the first night.  Bike on the Copper River Highway ( a gravel road with almost no traffic) to the very clean and relatively new US Forest Service campground.  It is located on the Copper River opposite a glacier that calves throughout the summer - spectacular.  You can bike across the old railroad bridge (now pedestrian only) 20 more miles until the railroad right of way disappears into the brush.  Return to Anchorage via state ferry.

4) Get on a plane and fly to Nome.  From Nome, there are 3 gravel roads emanating outwards into the beyond.  Carry as much food as you can on your bikes, camp on the beach or tundra or river banks.  Bug repellent required.  Return to Nome for re-supply, then do another road.  You practically have the back country all to yourself.

5) From Anchorage, bike to Denali National Park along the 2-lane highway with good shoulders and moderate amount of traffic.  Camping at pullouts will be required, towns too far apart.  In the park, bike as far as you can on the 80 mile gravel road.  No supplies in the park.

Of course, all these bike routes come with endless sunlight.  However, our weather can be cold and wet.  Bear encounters are possible in the more remote areas such as the Denali Hwy, Nome, and Copper River Hwy, especially at the rivers during salmon spawning seasons - bring bear pepper spray and study up on bear avoidance strategies.

I hope these ideas inspire you to come on up !

Offline janetanorth

Re: AK Bike Routes
« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2011, 07:17:01 pm »
i'm from fairbanks and this is perfect advice! get out there and pedal our wonderful state.

Offline waynemyer

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Re: AK Bike Routes
« Reply #2 on: December 14, 2011, 03:26:03 pm »
Zombie Thread! Thanks for advice PinkFatBike. I am planning on a three-week Alaska tour in 2013 and this was Anchorage to Denali is exactly a route about which I was wondering.
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Offline LawDog

Re: AK Bike Routes
« Reply #3 on: February 02, 2012, 02:31:33 pm »
Good post. I've biked the Fireweed, and that stretch of road between Sheep Mountain and Valdez is biker heaven. The only thing that can diminish your spirits is the amazing headwinds coming at you on the way south to Valdez. Those ~10 miles along the cliffs  on the way to Sheep Mountain (that are not safe for a cyclist) would be fabulous on a bike if only you didn't have to worry about cars. I'd love to hug those curves at 30 mph on the downhills.

I've driven across the Denali Highway, and very much want to return to ride it by bike. For a really long bike tour, you could ride from Valdez, up through Glennallen, on to Paxson, then take the Denali Highway west to Healy, and then head south back to Anchorage from there. That would be a glorious route, but you'd better have a lot of vacation weeks banked or be retired.

I had never considered Nome. I'll have to look at that as a possible destination.

I also want to figure out how to island hop along the southeast by ferry. Our marine highway system isn't very clearly organized, so organizing such a trip seems to require great logistical feats of planning.

I recently found myself in Unalaska for a few days of work, and I think it would be a really interesting place to mountain bike. There are less than ten miles of road, but several gravel trails lead out across the island. There are no trees and the vegetation is low and easily traversed. You probably wouldn't want to pedal across the delicate sections of taiga, but you could walk short stretches until you found a path again. The island is littered with bunkers that are left over from WWII, which could make for interesting shelter if a storm rolled in. (Which happens a lot out there.) I don't think Unalaska/Dutch Harbor is really a prime cycling destination. But if you are ever headed there for other reasons, I think it could be a really neat place to explore by bike. If you go, my recommendation would be to buy a low-end mountain bike (maybe $300-400 bucks) and sell it there before you fly out. Lots of people in Dutch Harbor get around by bike (or by simply walking), but the bikes are old and crappy and sell for far more than they are worth. (You'll see POS Huffys and Next bikes going for $200 to new cannery workers.) There is no bike shop on the island.

Offline jamawani

Re: AK Bike Routes
« Reply #4 on: February 02, 2012, 08:21:06 pm »
Support vehicle ?!?!?!?
I'm shocked!  Shocked!!

Offline briwasson

Re: AK Bike Routes
« Reply #5 on: February 04, 2012, 02:17:24 am »
Good suggestions by the OP. But, a few clarifications:

1. The Denali Hwy is a very nice road, with great vistas, little traffic, and almost no services. From Paxson (on the Richardson Hwy) to Cantwell (on the Parks Hwy) is only about 130 miles or so, and onto Healy adds another 20 or so. Figure 150 miles one-way, not 350 as the OP wrote (probably a typo).

2. I wouldn't say the Glenn Hwy is "low traffic," unless you are riding it in the winter, early morning or after dinner when all the RVs are parked for the night. It's a beautiful road, though, with lots of varied scenery. Some serious ups and downs, though! I was once driving back to Glennallen from Anchorage and came around a turn and almost plowed into a German bike tourist, who was stopped in the middle of the road on a hill because he was tired. After making sure he was OK, I suggested he might want to move over to the shoulder!

3. Glennallen to Valdez along the Richardson is a great route, really beautiful, especially when you get closer to Valdez. Be sure to swing by the old gold rush town and Native Alaskan village of Copper Center en route.

4. From the Rich Hwy, south of Copper Center, a nice ride (although not "grand" like the Glenn or the Rich to Valdez) is along the Edgerton Hwy to Chitna (paved), and then on the McCarthy Road (dirt) to McCarthy/Kennicott. The McCarthy Rd is not for the ill-prepared, though! You are going right through the middle of Wrangell-St. Elias NP with very few services.

Offline PinkFatBike

Re: AK Bike Routes
« Reply #6 on: April 22, 2012, 12:29:17 pm »
Update on the Copper River Hwy Bike Trip:  Unfortunately, the Copper River Highway is closed until at least 2015.  This mighty river has taken out Bridge 139, one of 20 spanning the many river braids.  When the bridge is replaced, I recommend you rush out there and do the bike ASAP.  The road is expensive to maintain and one day the state may abandon it altogether. 

Offline hirundo

Re: AK Bike Routes
« Reply #7 on: August 19, 2012, 11:34:45 am »
My Milepost (2005 edition) shows several lodges on the Denali Hwy: Tangle River Inn mp 20, Maclaren River Lodge mp 42 and Gracious House at mp 82. They offer the cycling tourist overnights.  There are camp sites, too.

Offline hirundo

Re: AK Bike Routes
« Reply #8 on: October 20, 2012, 08:29:52 pm »
I just recently found  this part of the forum. Not sure how I missed it 'til now.
Our tour plan starts the way the Alaska Randonneurs Big Wild Ride starts: Railroad to Whittier from Anchorage, ferry to Valdez, tandem road bike up the Richardson to Paxson, the Denali hwy to Cantwell, on to Denali Park. railraod back to Anchorage.
 You Alaska hands can answer a few questions I hope.
What is the grade up to Thompson Pass? Calculation from the topo looks like 8%. Any other noteworthy grades or road features? What should we not miss? How bothersome are the mosquitoes? Where should we eat or avoid--recognizing of course the limited choices? Kackona (sp?) is on our list. And we plan on staying in lodges, etc, not camping. Our daily mileage looks tobe in the 50 to 60 mile range, somewhat less on the Denali Hwy. No  rest days alotted yet. Suggestions for a great place to spend an off day? A great place is priority over the need for a day off the bike.
Recent phone calls to several places on the route have raised our enthusiasm.
Any  thoughts on gear, planning, bike shops, sights to behold,availability of water, prevailing winds would be valued.
Thanks

Offline Timmy

Re: AK Bike Routes
« Reply #9 on: January 16, 2013, 06:09:38 pm »
Hey there!
This summer I am looking at doing the ride like the moive "Pedal to the Midnight Sun" From Seward to Prudhoe Bay

My question is it better to do it south to north or north to south? What are the earliest or best start dates for each? If possible, I would like to cross the arctic circle on or near the summer solstice.

Also, looking for the best deal for a shuttle to or from Prudhoe Bay/Fairbanks

Any info you guys have would be great

Thanks
Timmy
« Last Edit: January 17, 2013, 12:34:39 pm by Timmy »

Offline LawDog

Re: AK Bike Routes
« Reply #10 on: February 01, 2013, 02:28:38 pm »
My question is it better to do it south to north or north to south? What are the earliest or best start dates for each? If possible, I would like to cross the arctic circle on or near the summer solstice.
From a social/psychological perspective, I would want to start at the north end. At the beginning of the trip, you will be gung ho and full of energy. And you'll need it. But trying to time it so that you hit the arctic circle at solstice probably won't work. You can't even reliably expect all of the snow to have melted by then. You would need to start in early June, and there is no guarantee that the road will be clear by then.

My opinion is that an ideal start time from the north would be early July. You'll be lucky to get 30-mile days at the beginning. And you have to budget (food, water, etc.) for the possibility of 15-mile days on the Haul Road. As you approach Fairbanks, your speed will greatly improve as the road conditions improve. But that early stretch will be slow going.

If you started from the south, you could leave as early as mid-May. And snowfall has been light in southcentral Alaska this year, so you might be able to start in early May. But you run the risk of outrunning the snow melt. You could find yourself sitting in a campsite in Fairbanks for two weeks waiting for the road north of there to clear.

As enticing as solstice may be, I would encourage you to reconsider that particular goal. It makes the planning overly complicated.