Talkeetna, Alaska is a charming little hamlet in the southeastern part of America’s 49th State, and its historic downtown strip looks like something straight out of an old time movie set.
As the halfway point between Anchorage and Denali National Park, it’s also a popular pit stop and the gateway to outdoor thrills like whitewater rafting, dog sledding and even walking on glaciers.
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Thanks to its compact size it’s possible to enjoy some of the best things to do in Talkeetna in just a day, spend the night at a dreamy resort like the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge, then continue on to Denali the next morning for the ultimate Alaskan adventure.
From top tours to great eats, here’s how to spend a fun day in Talkeetna, Alaska.
Wander through downtown Talkeetna
Get an early start from Anchorage (the drive takes about two hours) and pull over to admire scenic roadside stops along the way like the pristine reflections in Kashwitna Lake. Some visitors opt to ride the rails instead, and take the iconic Alaska Railroad which has routes linking the village to Hurricane Gulch, Denali and Wasilla.
There’s lots of convenient parking in Talkeetna, and all of the attractions are packed into a two-block strip that makes it quick and easy to see.
Art galleries, food trucks, handicraft stalls and souvenir shops with clapboard storefronts line Main Street, along with log cabins and the historic Fairview Inn which has a rather strange spot in the history books; President Warren G. Harding came for lunch back in 1923, and died just a few days later.
The Talkeetna Historical Society Museum details this former mining town’s part in the famed gold rush which lured many prospectors to the area, and Nagley’s Store has been a fixture since 1921 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Once lunchtime rolls around, head over to Homestead Kitchen which serves up casual, Alaskan-inspired fare like a hearty Miners Chili, a Beast Burger made from bison, elk, wild boar and Wagyu, and a life-changing Susitna Pulled Pork sandwich (yes, it’s really that good).
There’s plenty of seating inside, as well as a sun-soaked outdoor patio that’s prime for people watching.
Afterward, head across the street to the Denali Brewing Company for a cold one. This popular brewpub has a great location in the centre of the action, and bragging rights as the second largest brewery in Alaska.
Meet Talkeetna’s mayor cat
Talkeetna’s quirky claim to fame is its mayor, who just so happens to be a cat.
Yes, you read that right.
‘Stubbs’ was elected as mayor by Talkeetna’s 900-ish residents during a write-in campaign in 1998, after determining no other local humans were worthy of the gig. The tomcat spent his day ‘taking meetings’ at Nagley’s General Store, getting plenty of pets and even survived a dog attack.
Mayor Stubbs passed away in 2017, at which point his owner’s new kitten Denali took over Talkeetna’s top job. You can usually find the Siamese stud wandering around downtown, and are free to give him some snuggles if you happen to see him out and about.
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Explore Talkeetna’s trails
Talkeetna’s main street ends at the Susitna River, where the Denali View Walking Trail winds along its banks and offers fantastic views of the mountain range and Denali on a clear day.
An interpretive trail continues into the nearby forest, where there are landmarks like Belle’s Barn Historic Site where beloved resident Belle MacDonald opened a roadhouse and trading post way back in the 1920s.
Talkeetna Lakes Park is on the outskirts of town, and a great spot for hikers to explore nearly 10 miles of trails that wind around X Lake where loons, beavers, bears and moose can be spotted. The 1,189 acre park also has a two-mile long chain of lakes where canoers and kayakers can portage along the trails.
Book a Talkeetna flightseeing tour
If you do only one thing in Talkeetna, make sure it’s a spectacular flightseeing tour into the heart of Denali National Park to see North America’s tallest peak up close.
With an enviable location on Denali’s doorstep, companies like K2 Aviation operate flights out of Talkeetna that range from one to two hours. Some routes even land right on the Ruth Glacier in the Sheldon Amphitheater, giving guests a chance to walk around and play in the pillows of snow–even in July!
The awe-inspiring sites include soaring over glacier-carved valleys, navigating through steep granite gorges, peering down at pristine pools and endless photo-ops of jagged peaks.
For a quicker jaunt, book a float plane ride with Flightseeing Denali which offers guided wildlife hikes, fly-in fishing and glacier lake landings. Click here to book
Places to stay in Talkeetna Alaska
The Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge is just outside of downtown, and unmatched when it comes to views.
With more than 200 guest rooms including suites with jacuzzis and gas fireplaces, the lodge is a perfect place to unwind after a day of exploring, especially from the terrace which has a mesmerizing vantage point of the south side of Denali and the Alaska Range.
The lobby features a gorgeous 46-foot-tall fireplace made of 160 tonnes of river rock sourced from the Matanuska River, which took nine weeks to build and has animal designs hidden in the pillars.
On-site amenities include free parking, a complimentary shuttle service into town, walking trails, a cafe with grab and go breakfast, and dining at Base Camp Bistro and Foraker Restaurant which serves up specialities like pan-seared halibut, bison carpaccio and Alaskan Black Cod. Click here to book
Have extra time to spend in Talkeetna Alaska? Meet sled dogs, go ziplining, book a jet boat tour through the winding Talkeetna Canyon or tackle Class V rapids in Devil’s Canyon. In the winter visitors can go ice fishing and zip through snow-covered fields on a dog mushing tour, which makes Talkeetna the ultimate Alaska adventure destination.
Globe Guide explored Talkeetna in collaboration with Pursuit.
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