Denali National Park

Scenic Driving
Denali (Kennan Ward)

Anyway you get there, the drive to Denali is spectacular. The Denali Highway is a superb drive. And Route 3, the main drag between Anchorage and Fairbanks, is no slouch, either.

However, the park itself is closed to private vehicles. The grand exception comes each year during the second week of September, when 1,600 vehicles are allowed to drive the 90-mile length of the Denali Park Road. How do they get to do it?

They won the lottery.

The annual lottery for driving the park road happens each fall. Four hundred cars are allowed to drive the length of the park road each day for four days. To apply for a road travel permit, you need to call the office and find out the days that will apply. Then send your choice of dates in preferential order and include a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Mail this between July 1 and 31. Only one entry per person will be accepted. Send it to "Road Lottery" c/o the Denali National Park Office.

Even during off-season, Teklanika, at mile 30, is the last stop for most cars. For most of the winter, the road is impassable. Following the lottery, on or about September 16, you may be able to drive to mile 30 until the snow flies and the road closes for the winter. At that time, cross-country skis, snowshoes, or dog sleds are the only modes of access to the interior wilderness portion of the park from park headquarters. The park's equipment operators begin to plow the park road and chop at the overflow ice in mid-March. By April, you can drive to mile 15. Road clearing continues; by early May, you can drive to mile 30, Teklanika. Private vehicle use ends prior to Memorial Day weekend.

There are other exceptions to Denali's ban on private autos. For instance, permission is granted to visitors who have disabilities that prevent them from riding the shuttle, and to professional photographers and artists who must transport heavy equipment.


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