The community of Cantwell is the southernmost town in the Denali Borough. It is near to Denali, at a short 25 minute drive, so don’t be afraid to experience this neighboring community. Cantwell is located at the north end of Broad Pass and is well known for its spectacular scenery. Tanana Indians and Athabascan Natives were the original inhabitants of the Cantwell area. They hunted & fished these lands, as part of their broad range in Interior Alaska. Cantwell was known as ‘Yidateni Na’ (That Which Is Frozen Inside River). Today, much of the land is owned by Ahtna, Inc. which is a regional Native Corporation. Permits are available online for a variety of activities. You can learn more about the Ahtna people and culture by visiting their website.
The present day town received its name from military explorer Lieutenant J.C. Cantwell. Cantwell began as a flag stop of the Alaska Railroad and evolved into a small year round community. Today Cantwell is a community of around 200 people. The community covers both sides of the George Parks Highway and has many small subdivisions. The K-12 school is part of the Denali Borough School District system and is the home to the Cantwell Hawks.
Cantwell is the western terminus of the mostly gravel Denali Highway. Many professional dog kennels and recreational mushers train here, as it is not paved in the winter months. The Denali Highway connects the George Parks Hwy and the Richardson Hwy. East to west the Denali highway covers 120 miles. The top recommended speed is less than 40mph. Much of Alaska’s early development is tied to the Denali Highway. You can learn more about the highway’s history here and visit our Denali Highway page for current tourist information. We highly recommend this driving experience. You can drive the length in one day but we recommend you take your time. The Denali Highway is a perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in remote Alaska. There are gas, lodging and eateries available along its length.