Just south of the legendary Denali National Park and Preserve on the George Parks Highway, the small town of Cantwell provides visitor services as well as access to the Denali Highway.
At Mile 203.6 of the George Parks Highway is Broad Pass, a dividing line where rivers to the south drain into Cook Inlet and those to the north flow to the Yukon River. The pass is one of the most beautiful spots along the Parks Highway and the Alaska Railroad – both use the low gap to cross the Alaska Range. Cantwell sits to the north end of Broad Pass where the Nenana River curves north and cuts through the Alaska Range.
Thanks to the many people who visit Denali National Park and Preserve, 28 miles north, Cantwell is a full-service community that provides lodging, camping, food and fuel right along the highway, which connects Anchorage and Fairbanks. Named after the Cantwell River, the original name for the Nenana River, Cantwell was established in the mid-1920s as a railroad construction camp and later became a flag stop for trains traveling between Anchorage and Fairbanks. After the Parks Highway was constructed in 1971, the town’s commercial district shifted to the intersection of the Parks and Denali highways.
The Denali Highway, which is open and maintained seasonally, is one of Alaska’s most beautiful and rugged drives, and stretches from Cantwell about 100 miles east to the Tangle Lakes area and the Richardson Highway.