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Denali Road Lottery, Denali National Park, Alaska, Savage River

How To Get A Denali Road Lottery Permit

Updated May 2020, How To Get A Denali Road Lottery Permit was originally written in 2015

In September every year Denali National Park, one of Alaska’s best-known landmarks, allows visitors to drive in their own vehicles to the end of the park road to Kantishna (weather and road conditions permitting). If you would like to drive your own vehicle past Savage River in Denali National Park you will need to get your hands on a Denali Road Lottery Permit.

Road Lottery permit winners are allowed to fit as many people can legally fit in their car, truck, or van and drive in on their specified date. The dates for 2020 will take place on September 18, 20, 21 and 22, (September 19 is reserved for military appreciation) with 400 cars per day allowed in. The campgrounds at Riley Creek, Savage River and Teklanika River are al open as well during the road lottery, they do have to be reserved in advance, which you can do at www.reservedenali.com or by calling 800-622-7275 or 907-272-7275. Some hotels in Healy and Cantwell will still be open this weekend for those not looking to camp.

During the summer you may go by tour busshuttle, bicycle, or foot the entire length of the road but not generally with your own vehicle. You can even take a flightseeing tour of the park.

Special Permits For 2020

Because the usual traffic in Denali National Park will be greatly reduced in 2020 owing to the current COVID-19 Pandemic, it has been decided that Denali National Park will open its park road on five weekends in the summer of 2020 to private vehicles, allowing visitors to drive the road to Eielson Visitor Center (Mile 66) between July and September. It has also been decided that the park road will be open to private vehicles to Teklanika River from June 1-30 daily.

Permits will be required for private cars to drive to Tekalnika and Eielson. For visitors wanting to drive to Teklanika between June 1 and June 30 and visitors wanting to drive to Eielson on the special weekends July-September (July 10-12, July 25-26, August 7-9, August 21-23, and September 4-7), you will need to apply for your permit online at recreation.gov. Permits will go up for sale online 14 days prior to the date you want to enter. Each permit will cost $55 per vehicle, not including the Denali National Park entrance fee. Read more information on the special permits here.

As always, the Denali Park Road will be open to private vehicles to Savage River (Mile 15).

Learning everything you need to know to plan a perfect visit: The Denali Travel Guide

Step 1: Apply For The Denali Road Lottery

You must apply between May 1 and May 30 prior to the lottery. You can apply over at www.recreation.gov or over the phone. There is a $15 fee per entrance that is non-refundable. The lottery winners will be announced in June.

If your name is selected you will be notified by e-mail. You will be charged an additional $25 if your name is drawn for the lottery. The permits are transferable, so you could have someone else apply for you and transfer the permit to you.

Step 2: Pick Up Your Permit For Your Day At The Park Headquarters

This is assuming that you were selected or that you had a permit transferred to you.

You can begin driving into the park at 6 am.  I’d advise you to arrive the day before and pick up your permit so that you do not have to do it early in the morning on your drive. When you pick up your permit you also will need to pay the $10 fee per person for entry into Denali National Park. The $10 fee gives you entrance to the park for a 7 consecutive day period.

Step 3: Drive Into The Park

At 6 am the date of your permit you can drive into the park.  You have until midnight that night to be back past the Savage River bridge on your way out of the park. Weather permitting, you have the opportunity to drive the entire length of the road to Kantishna. There are years that the road is closed as soon as Savage River at mile 12. It is not uncommon for some or all of the road to be closed several hours due to snow. Just remember that all fees are not refundable in the event that the road is closed due to weather or conditions of the road.

Important Information

  • Follow the rules and regulations for the road lottery, listed here.
  • Watch this video on the rules of driving the Denali Park road before you go.
  • Each person may only submit one application.
  • There is a $15 non-refundable application fee.
  • If your name is drawn you will be charged another $25 for the Denali Road Lottery Permit.
  • You will need to pay $10 per person for the park entrance fee on arrival in Denali.
  • Permits cannot be resold.
  • Permits can be transferred. In order to transfer a permit the selected lottery winner must print the email they receive from Recreation.gov, write in the transferee’s name and then sign it.
  • The person picking up the road lottery permit at the Denali Visitor Center must be the person who was selected in the lottery, or in the case the permit was transferred, bring the written and signed approval email printout.
  • If you do not have a road lottery permit, you cannot drive in beyond Savage River.
  • For those with a Denali Road Lottery Permit, you may drive beyond Savage River between 6 am and midnight of your assigned date.
  • Riley Creek, Savage River, and Teklanika River Campgrounds are open during Road Lottery. Reservations are available at www.reservedenali.com or by calling 800-622-7275 or 907-272-7275.

Where To Stay During The Denali Road Lottery

Many of the area’s hotels shut down the weekend before the road lottery for the season, but a few do stay open. Use the searchbox to find accommodations near Denali National Park, Healy, and Cantwell that will be open. And don’t forget you can camp in the park as well, but you’ll need to reserve in advance.

Booking.com

Have Any Questions About The Denali Road Lottery?

Ask in the comments section below.

Need Travel Insurance for Alaska?

Start shopping plans over at battleface, my go-to travel insurance choice, or over at World Nomads.

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7 thoughts on “How To Get A Denali Road Lottery Permit”

  1. We entered the lottery in 2017 and we were selected, our first year trying! It was an amazing experience!!
    I would definitely recommend picking up your pass the day before so you don’t waste time standing in line the day of entry.
    Take food and water, there are no restaurants along the 91 mile drive. There are restrooms in several locations.
    This time of year is the moose rut; we heard but couldn’t see two bulls clashing antlers. We had an up close photo op with a sow grizz and twin two year old cubs. They were foraging along the road. We stayed right at our car (with a park ranger in attendance) and watched them move toward us over a 45 minute period. A boar moved into the area but didn’t come close although we later saw him feeding on a caribou carcass. Finally we saw another sow grizz with twins on a hillside across a ravine in the Kodachrome Pass area. They blended in with the fall foliage but the silvery fur highlighted by the sun gave them away. And yes, the mountain (Denali) was out all four days of our visit. The days after the lottery drive, we drove back and forth to Savage River. Even that short drive (14 miles??) gives you lots of opportunities to see great flora and fauna! Good luck to all!

  2. Thanks for the helpful info! We plan to visit Alaska and road trip up on the Top of the World Highway and are planning to apply for the road lottery for Denali. Fingers are crossed for a winning ticket 🙂

    1. Hey Sam!
      Yes, we got a permit this year and went in September, it was amazing. This is about how to get the road lottery permit and drive in (they only do this one weekend each year in September). However throughout the summer you can take a tour of the entire park. But they will not allow people to drive personal vehicles in outside of the one weekend in September. I mean they will but only to Savage River, which is only a few miles into the park.

      I wrote a little about the drive with many photos in the post The Road to Kantishna!

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