What is the Road Lottery?
Each September the park hosts a four-day event called "Road Lottery." During these four days, winners of a lottery drawing are given a chance to purchase a single, day-long permit, allowing them to drive as much of the Denali Park Road as weather allows. In years with early snow, the Park Road might open no farther than Savage River (mile 15); in milder years, lottery winners are able to enjoy a trip out to Wonder Lake (mile 85).
An extra (fifth) day of lottery, called Military Appreciation Day, is open only to active duty military service-members and their families. The military is in charge of distributing road travel permits for Military Appreciation Day.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does the road travel permit work?
If you are drawn in the lottery, you'll be charged $25 for a one-day road travel permit. The day will be assigned to you in the drawing - that is why you should specify the dates in your order of preference when applying (see the application guidelines above).
On the day for which you were drawn, the road travel permit will let you drive the entire park road, weather permitting, between 6:00 am and midnight. The road between the entrance and Savage River has no hour restriction - you simply must be east of Savage River by midnight. If staying at Tek Campground, you may begin driving west, into the park, at 7:00 am and must be in your campground by 11:00 pm.
Are there vehicle size restrictions?
The Park Road beyond Teklanika Campground narrows significantly. Therefore, vehicles traveling the Park Road during Road Lottery must be within the following maximum dimensions: 22' long x 8' wide x 12' high. This is inclusive of side mirrors and bumpers, and is strictly enforced at the Savage River Checkstation (mile 15) - oversize traffic (i.e., RVs larger than those dimensions) must be bound for Teklanika Campground, and have their campground permit in hand, to travel beyond Savage River.
Where can I camp?
Riley Creek, Savage River and Teklanika River Campgrounds are all open during Road Lottery. You may camp with both an RV and a smaller vehicle to use during Road Lottery - but to fit in a single campsite, the combined vehicle length should not exceed 40'. If your two vehicles exceed 40', consider paying for two sites or look into campgrounds outside the park.
Being drawn in the lottery does not guarantee you a campsite in the park - you should consider booking ahead through our reservation concessioner.
Can I trade or transfer my winning permit?
If you are drawn in the lottery, you will be automatically charged for your road travel permit, a $25 fee. You may trade or transfer that road permit to another person. Provide the new person with your original notification of being a winner with a short note attached specifying that you are giving that person your road travel permit.
When is the actual drawing?
The drawing is held by June 15, with winners' names posted on this webpage as soon as possible thereafter. All applicants will be notified of whether or not they were drawn, by email.
Can I bring my pet dog, cat, goat, etc?
Pets (that fit inside your vehicle) are welcome. However, please note that a pet that impacts wildlife behavior - like a dog barking at a moose as you pause to view it from the road - is unacceptable. If your pet disturbs wildlife when you pause to view said animal(s), you must continue driving to prevent your pet from harassing wildlife. More pet info
Can I hike or backpack during Road Lottery?
Dayhiking in conjunction with a trip down the Park Road is possible - just be sure to leave your vehicle in an actual parking lot or pull-off along the road. More dayhiking info
Backpacking during Road Lottery is a somewhat more logistically complicated than in the summer. Hitch-hiking is not permitted along the Denali Park Road, so most backpacking itineraries must begin and end somewhere along the first 15 miles of the road, which is still serviced by the free Savage River Shuttle through lottery weekend. More backpacking info
What if the weather is bad?
The possibility of inclement weather in September is always a factor. Some years the road has only been partially opened because of snow. Lottery participants are encouraged to contact the park or follow our forecast for the latest weather info.
Is there a minimum-length stay at Teklanika?
Unlike the main summer season, there is no minimum-length stay at Teklanika Campground during Road Lottery. Also, you may camp at Tek with an RV and a tow vehicle, only during the four days of Road Lottery, so long as the combined length of RV and tow vehicle is less than 40'. This allows folks to camp with a large RV and still bring a smaller vehicle out with which to drive the road (note vehicle size limits above).
Where do I check in for Road Lottery?
Check-in is at the Denali Visitor Center, at Mile 1.5 on the park road. You may check in upon arriving in the park, as early as the day before Road Lottery begins. This is a particularly good idea if you stay at Savage or Tek Campgrounds. Lottery winners should remember that they'll need to pay the park entrance fee ($10 per person age 16 or older, unless in possession of a park pass already).
How many people may travel with me?
If you are drawn in the lottery, you may bring as many people with you as will (legally) fit in your non-commercial vehicle (note vehicle size limits above).
May I drive a motorcycle during the lottery?
Absolutely, if you're drawn in the lottery you can drive any non-commercial, street-legal vehicle which is smaller than the aforementioned maximum size dimensions.
What is the history of the lottery? How did it come about?
Before 1972, the Denali Park Road was open to private vehicles, though bus service was also offered for anyone without a vehicle (or anyone who didn't want to drive the mountainous road).
In the late 80's the "open to all comers" offer became unmanageable when almost 2000 vehicles per day came into the park. Major traffic jams made for an unpleasant experience, while the sheer numbers made it difficult to avoid problems with pets and wildlife, food storage and sanitation. In 1990, park management decided to implement a lottery system, wherein people could apply for a chance to drive the road after the bus season ended. Initially, the number was capped at 300 vehicles per day; in 1994, it was raised to 400 per day.
Applications to the lottery steadily increased each year. In 2003, nearly 18,000 people applied. This meant entrants only had around 1-in-11 odds of being drawn; and conducting the lottery took an ever-increasing amount of park staff time. In 2004, the park began charging a fee to enter the lottery, to offset the increasing costs and to improve the odds that an entrant would actually be picked.
Today, the road lottery is run using recreation.gov. There is a per person entry fee and an individual may only enter once. The entry fees pay for recreation.gov to operate the lottery. Those chosen in the lottery are notified by email and charged for their permit. The permit fees help pay for the staff and materials needed to run the event in the fall. Since charging an application fee, the lottery typically sees around 10,000 applications each year for the 1,600 permits. Buses continue to run to Teklanika during road lottery, so that visitors who are not lottery winners may still enjoy the park in the fall.
When did Military Appreciation Day begin?