Alaska…….Denali……big, wild & wide open places.
With 20,310’ tall Denali and surrounding Alaska Range Mountains and glaciers as its backdrop, the 135 Mile Denali Highway is the setting for the spectacular Denali135 Endurance Race. The Denali Highway was the original and only road into Denali National Park from 1957 until 1971 and it is still as breathtaking and jaw dropping today as it was more than 50 years ago.
Hardy and qualified adventurous athletes from around the World are invited to challenge themselves along the entire length of the historic gravel road from Paxson Alaska, the headwaters of the wild Gulkana River, to Cantwell Alaska…. Adjacent to the entrance to Denali National Park.
Superlative panoramic vistas reach out for miles in every direction bathed in the nearly 20hrs of arctic daylight each day during the race. National Geographic rightly called the Denali Highway one of the top ten most scenic roads in North America.
The Denali135 was first run in 2019 by Sean Tracy (44hrs 12mins) & Bill McCue (44 hrs 22 mins) with Crew Chief/Pacer Eric Lepping and Crew/Filmmaker Ian Borowski.
In 2021, The Denali135 will be limited to 50 runners and their crew and pacers.
The Denali135 is a point to point race along the length of the 135 mile Denali Highway with an approx. total elevation gain of 8800’. The race starts in Paxson Alaska on the East side of the Denali Highway and finishes in Cantwell at the West side of the Denali Highway.
After checking in at the Historic Gakona Lodge (approx. 3.5hrs drive from Anchorage), Runners and crews will begin the Denali135 at Paxson Alaska…The crossroads of the Richardson and Denali Highways.
For 21 miles the Highway is paved as it slowly rises up from the Gulkana River watershed to the Tangle Lakes area. A chain of Lakes listed on the National Historic Register for its important archeological value. A small roadhouse and lodge (Tangle River Inn) at mile 20 offers lodging, a small basic restaurant, gas and limited supplies.
There the road becomes gravel and gently rises and falls before climbing to 4,086’ Maclaren Summit Pass at mile 36.8. Down from the summit to the Maclaren River Lodge after the bridge over the Maclaren River at mile 42. This lodge offers lodging, a small restaurant, gas and limited supplies.
The amazing subalpine scenery continues on and racers and crew will come to Alpine Creek Lodge at mile 68 (Slightly more than halfway!) The lodge offers rooms and cabins, restaurant and light supplies. Racers, pacers and their crews press on until they reach the Susitna River Bridge at mile 79.5.
A few miles further at mile 82.2 is Clearwater Mountain Lodge. Bed& Breakfast, Food, Gas and Tire repair. Leaving the Susitna River Valley, the road continues on now with no services or lodging until the end. Runners, pacers and crew need to plan this section well because other than the road and occasional passing motorist, they will be alone on the Denali Highway for the next 50 miles until they reach the finish at Cantwell. Mount Deborah and Hess keep participants company until weather permitting, 20,320’ Denali makes it’s appearance to the west and rewards the persistent with jaw dropping views of North America’s tallest peak.
At mile 131.8 the road turns into pavement for the last 2 miles to the finish line outside the village of Cantwell.
Race Format & Time Cut-Offs
Individual runners with mandatory support crew and optional pacers.
Maximum of 48hrs allotted to complete the run. See cut off times on the Schedule & Logistics page.
Pacers and Crew
Each runner must be accompanied by a support vehicle/crew who can supply food and water and support to the runner during and throughout the race. One pacer at a time may also accompany the runner. This pacer can also share in crewing/driving the support vehicle.
Support Vehicle and Crew & Pacer Rules/Details will be sent to runners within 30 days of their registrations being accepted.
Runners completing the course in 48hrs or under will receive a “wildly” unique Denali135 belt buckle and official Denali135 finishers shirt. The overall men’s and woman’s winners will receive special Denali135 awards. Registration includes Pre-race dinner at the Gakona Lodge during mandatory Prerace briefing and also includes Post Race Dinner at McKinley Creekside Cabins....Try some local Salmon!!
Pacers and Crew will receive official Denali135 pacer/crew shirt (Two included in runners race registration fee) Additional shirts available for purchase.
Applicants must have completed at least 4 ultra- running races in the previous 3 years with distances of 50 miles or greater for each race, at least one of which was a 100 mile race or longer before applying for the Denali135. Self run ultra distances may be considered as qualifying runs for the Denali135 and should be submitted to the Race Director for consideration.
Qualifying races must have been completed within the maximum time allotted for the race.
Again, in 2021 the Denali135 will be limited to 50 runners and their crews/pacers.
Lodging and Car Rental
Start Line Lodging
Local time: 5:56 AM
Runners and their crews will be required to attend the pre-race meeting and dinner at the historic Gakona Lodge located approx. 3.5 hrs from Anchorage on June 19th at 4pm. The Lodge is located approx.. 1 hr south of the starting line of the race in Paxson.
The Gakona Lodge has accommodations for approx. 28 people and other area lodging within an easy hour’s drive of the lodge or less can be found here:
Denali Highway Cabins
Tangle River Inn
The Lodge at Black Rapids
Copper River Lodge
Search AirBnB for the Gakona and Glennallen areas.
RV Campers can stay at Gakona RV Park
Finish Line Lodging
The Denali135 race finishes just outside the town of Cantwell near the junction of the Denali Highway and Parks Highway. Post-race lodging (limited there to 20 rooms/40 beds) as well as the post-race award dinner held at the McKinley Creekside Cabins which is a 20 minute drive North of the Denali135 finish line.
Our original plan was to host the post race award banquet at The Denali Education Center Campus. They are also our Race Charity Fundraising partner and are an amazing local Alaskan non-profit who works with Denali National Park whose entrance is 20 minutes away and whose mission is to “Promote understanding and appreciation of Denali through informative and inspiring programs”. For 2021 Spirit Trips has blocked 16 rooms at McKinley Creekside Cabins (24 beds) for runners and their crews and these can be booked by runners directly with McKinley Creekside Cabins and will be on a first come first serve. basis. Tours and activities can be arranged for our runners through McKinley Creekside as well.
It is imperative that runners and their crews reserve all of their lodging asap since our block hold on these rooms expires on March15th. Additional lodging may be available across the street at Denali Hostel & Cabins.
All car rentals should be made the same time as lodging to ensure securing a rental vehicle. Only a limited number of rental car companies rent cars that can be driven on the Denali Highway due to the gravel surface of the road so Spirit Trips has partnered with Alaska 4x4 Rentals to provide competitive rental rates for SUV’s, Jeeps and Trucks that can be used as crew vehicles and driven on the Denali Highway and during your stay in Alaska.
This is a convenient arrangement since Alaska4x4 is located at the Anchorage Airport and make the pick-up and drop off of your rental vehicle super easy and straight forward.
Renting a small RV is another option and going this way eliminates the need for lodging.
RV Rentals can be made with Great Alaskan Holidays
or smaller converted mini vans from Get Lost Travel Vans.