End of the Road

The reward after driving the entire Denali Park Road, the end of the road marker.

Denali National Park and Preserve (Denali) is moving into the 2020 summer season and increasing the opening of park facilities while monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic, said park officials. This year, in addition to the normal services and road lottery, select days will be available to drive the park road.

Beginning July 1, the Denali Visitor Center will operate daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. until September 23 and the Eielson Visitor Center will operate daily until September 22. Hours for the Eielson Visitor Center have not been determined.

Sanctuary River and Igloo Creek Campgrounds will be open with bus service beginning July 1. Reservations can be made at www.reservedenali.com 

Bus service will also begin July 1. Once schedules are finalized in early June, reservations will be available through www.reservedenali.com for narrated tour and transit bus service. Buses will operate at 50 percent capacity to allow for social distancing. 

“We continue to work closely with public health officials and park staff to ensure bus tours and transit opportunities are consistent with CDC guidance,” said Tony Beckerley, Aramark district manager, which runs the bus service.

The application period for the 2020 Road Lottery program is open through June 30. Travel dates for lottery winners are September 18-22. Information about the program is available on the park’s Road Lottery website at www.recreation.gov/permits/233304.

All applicants must pay a $15 application fee that covers the cost of conducting the lottery. Lottery winners must then pay a $25 permit fee to drive the Park Road on their selected date.

Military Appreciation Day will be held September 19. This day is reserved for active-duty service members and their families. Lottery tickets for Military Appreciation Day are not handled by www.recreation.gov, but are distributed through the Alaskan Command (ALCOM), which is a joint operations command including all Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy units stationed in Alaska. This command is stationed out of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. 

Additional information about the road lottery, such as vehicle restrictions, bringing pets, and other rules and regulations, is available online at www.nps.gov/dena/planyourvisit/road-lottery.htm. 

Weather permitting, the Riley Creek, Savage River and Teklanika River campgrounds will be open during the Road Lottery. Campsites are not included in the road permit, but can be reserved in advance via www.reservedenali.com or (800) 622-7275. Information on campgrounds and accommodations outside the park is available through the Denali Chamber of Commerce at www.denalichamber.com or (907) 683-4636.

Individuals can now register to reserve time on select dates for traveling the park road outside of the traditional lottery at www.recreation.gov. 

Through June 30 access to the Teklanika Rest Stop will be permitted for registered vehicles.

Beginning July 1 permits will be issued for drivers to access to the Eielson Visitor Center. Access dates will be limited to Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays during the weekends of July 10-12, July 24-26, August 7-9, August 21-23, and September 4-7.

“This plan allows unique access to the park during this summer season,” said Denice Swanke, Acting Superintendent.

This is a new program that will allow private vehicles inside the park up to the maximum allowable vehicles under the park’s operating rules.

“With the cancellation of the summer cruise season, we expect to see fewer visitors this summer,” said Swanke. “We remain committed to the bus system, but fewer cruise ship visitors means we’ll be putting fewer buses on the road, so there will be some unused capacity that we want to make available to the public.”

The park says staff is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and changes in the pandemic may result in changes to access opportunities.

Visitors are encouraged to leave their pets at home when visiting the park. Pets may be walked on the Park Road, in parking lots, in campgrounds, and on the roadside trail and bike path. Additional guidance for visiting Denali with your pet can be found on the park’s webpage at https://www.nps.gov/dena/planyourvisit/pets.htm. 

Current information on the status of the park is available at https://www.nps.gov/dena/planyourvisit/conditions.htm.

Michael Paschall is the publisher of the Delta Wind and covers general news topics. He can be reached at news@deltawindonline.com.