Professional Photography Program

a dirt road winding through a mountainous landscape
Most of the Denali Park Road is a winding, mountainous dirt road.

NPS Photo / Kent Miller


Professional Photographer Special Road Travel Permit

The Professional Photographer Special Road Travel Permit program allows qualified professional photographers to drive a private vehicle on the Denali Park Road beyond mile 15 for a designated period of up to seven days per permit during the summer season. Photographers are allowed one additional person in his/her vehicle while using the special road travel permit (total of two people in the vehicle). The special road travel permit is valid for one entry onto the restricted portion of the Denali Park Road for each day of the permit period.

The 2019 Professional Photography Permit Program is changed from past year’s program conditions; only three seven-day permits (one each in June, August, September) will be issued for professional photography in 2019, but otherwise the lottery program is generally the same as previous years. Applications and a $25 application fee for Professional Photographers Special Road Travel Permit Lottery Program will only be accepted at during the application period (January 26, 2019 through February 28, 2019). Please read the following information before you start the application process (the application link will be available at the bottom of this page).

The Terms and Conditions of the Special Road Travel Permit must be reviewed and strictly followed. Failure to comply may result in revocation of the special road travel permit, disqualification from future consideration in the program, and/or the issuance of violation notices.

The 2012 Vehicle Management Plan, Environmental Impact Statement, and Record of Decision describe how the NPS will manage vehicle use on the Park Road in order to provide future generations with an opportunity for a high quality experience while protecting wilderness resources and values, scenic values, wildlife, and other park resources; and maintaining the unique character of the Park Road. The 2018 Superintendent’s Compendium made further changes to road management in regards to parking restrictions.

Professional Photography Permit terms and conditions include stipulations necessary to ensure the Vehicle Management Plan standards for desired conditions are met (e.g., no more than one photographer at a wildlife stop, no parking in sheep crossing zones, and consideration of vehicles in the view shed on the Park Road).

Additional travel restrictions may be initiated at any time. This may include, but not be limited to, periods of the day when travel is prohibited (i.e., no travel from 10 am – 4 pm); locations where photographers may or may not stop and rest; locations or situations excluded from photography. These notices will be available at the time of permit issuance and/or at check-in at the Savage River Check Station.

The Professional Photographer Special Road Travel Permit program is designed for professional natural resource photographers who derive a majority of their income from this profession, and for who access to the restricted section of the Park Road by private vehicle is critical to their work. It is not for hobbyists or other individuals who sell photographs on the side, nor the professional photographer who does not normally generate the majority of their income from natural resource subjects.

For the purpose of this program natural resource photography is defined as "work that has as its subject, aspects of the natural scene, such as plants, animals or scenery." Photos that focus on people, man-made objects, or human activity, do not qualify.

Through the application process individuals will self-certify that they meet these qualification standards. Applicants may be subject to individual review after the initial application. Failure to demonstrate proof of qualification within a reasonable time frame may result in revocation of the Special Road Travel Permit and may disqualify individuals from future consideration in the program.
Applications and a $25 application fee for Professional Photographers Special Road Travel Permit Lottery Program will only be accepted at during the application period (January 26, 2019 through February 28, 2019). Applicants may select any seven-day period within a month (not only Sunday – Saturday) within the available calendar dates and may submit three seven-day period requests in priority order.

In addition to the application fee, applicants will:
  1. Certify their status as a professional nature resource photographer by affirming to the following statement.

    I am a professional natural resource photographer who derives a majority (51% or more) of my income from photographs of natural resource subjects, and access to the park by private vehicle is critical to my work. I am not a hobbyist or other individual who only sells photographs on the side, nor am I a professional photographer who does not normally generate the majority of their income from natural resource subjects.

    I acknowledge that proof of this qualification may be requested at any time and failure to demonstrate proof of qualification within a reasonable time frame may result in revocation of the travel permit and possible disqualification from future consideration in the program.

    I have read and will abide by the Terms and Conditions of the Special Road Travel Permit.
  2. Identify the dates requested for seven-day permit. Applicants may provide up to three choices of seven-day periods in the months of June, August, or September within the available dates identified in the calendar of blackout and available dates.
Award of permits and assignment of permit dates are done via lottery drawing. Each qualified application will be designated a randomly-generated number, and applicant’s date choices will be assigned in order of selection. Dates will be awarded and notice of selection will be sent by March 15, 2019. Applicants drawn in the permit lottery will be granted only one permit.

Applicants will be notified by e-mail, no hard copies will be mailed and dates will not be given over the phone.

A $150 Permit Fee is required for each permit issued to a successful applicant. Payment of the application fee must be done online at and can be made by credit card, PayPal, or automatic check debit (Routing Number Transfer). The link and all instructions to use will be included in the confirmation email. Payment is due upon receipt of the confirmation email and will be accepted no later than May 1, 2019. If payment for the permit fee is not received by that date, the applicant will not receive a Professional Photographer Special Road Travel Permit for the upcoming season.
Application and permit fees are nonrefundable and nontransferable. All permit dates are final. No transfers or changes to permit dates will be allowed. Unassigned or cancelled dates will not be assigned after the initial selection period. Notice of arrival date or any cancellations are not required. If you are not able to use any or all of your assigned dates your application fee and permit fee will not be refunded.

The special road travel permits will be available for pick up by the permit holder at the Denali Visitor Center (seven days/week, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.) beginning three days before the first day of the permit or at any time during the permit period.
Rules for parking along the Park Road changed in 2018 and parking along the Park Road is allowed only at designated rest stops or as indicated in the road permit. Those rules will continue in 2019 with some modifications to allow parking for an extended time at various specified locations. The change will allow photographers to hike away from the Park Road for photography purposes.

Participants of the program wishing to remain in the national park overnight should obtain a camp site at the Riley Creek, Savage River, or Teklanika River Campgrounds. Advance reservations are strongly suggested and can be made through or by calling 800-622-7275. Learn more about park campgrounds.

For the 2019 season, use of the Igloo Pit (mile 34), Toklat Rest Area (mile 53), Eielson Visitor Center (mile 66), and Boundary Pit north of Wonder Lake (mile 87) is allowed for short rest periods between 10 pm and 6 am, if space is available and depending on road construction. Camping overnight in the park in areas other than in the three campgrounds that accommodate vehicles (Riley, Savage and Teklanika) is prohibited.

For additional background on the 2019 changes, please see a set of frequently asked questions and answers.

Thank you for your interest in the Professional Photographer Special Road Travel Permit program.


Program Changes for 2019

There will be changes to the 2019 Professional Photography Program. Below, you'll find information to clarify what changes have been made and why.

A total of three seven-day road travel permits (one each month for June, August, and September) will be awarded in 2019. The month of July has the highest bus ridership and number of buses on the Denali Park Road.

The 2019 Professional Photography permits will allow parking for extended hiking and photography at various specified locations along the Park Road.
Changes will address two consistent areas of concern: managing the Denali Park Road to meet desired resource and visitor experience conditions as visitation increases, and allowing flexibility in photographer’s driving patterns.

We are reducing the quantity but retaining the quality. Photographer road use patterns are different from those of other road users and photographers driving the Park Road may have greater effects on natural resource condition indicators such as number of vehicles at wildlife stops and sheep gaps.

The park is finalizing a report that analyzes road use data over the last five years, as required by the 2012 Vehicle Management Plan (VMP). The draft analyses show change is needed to meet some of the annual and five-year standards approved in the VMP.
In addition to professional photographers, other Denali Park Road user groups will be evaluated to reduce impacts to desired resource and visitor experience conditions.
Adaptive management is a process that relies on scientific data to understand changes in resource conditions and the visitor experience. Indicators of change were selected for the Denali Park Road as part of the Vehicle Management Plan (VMP) process. Researchers focus their road management data collection in key areas. Each of the seven indicators approved in the VMP has a standard (quantifiable measurement) to understand if the desired conditions are being met for resource protection and visitor experience.

The number of vehicles present at a wildlife stop is one indicator that the park has successfully managed through bus driver education and other driver permit terms and conditions. The park has met the one-year and five-year standards identified in the VMP for the number of vehicles at a wildlife stop.

The 2018 analysis of road use data illustrates that the annual and five-year sheep gap standards were not met at a subset of sheep gap locations in those periods. The sheep gap standard is designed to allow traffic-sensitive wildlife opportunities to cross the road by maintaining traffic-free intervals of 10-minutes every hour of the day (95% success rate over five years and no one year will have a 90% or less success rate). The problem with not meeting the sheep gap standard is sheep and other wildlife movement is negatively impacted as they attempt to move across the Park Road.

The park is specifically interested in adaptively managing traffic patterns that negatively affect the sheep gap standard.
The transportation concessioner provides a scheduled transit bus system with opportunities to get on and off transit buses along the Denali Park Road.

Since 2002, dozens of accomplished artists, writers, and composers have participated in the Artist-in-Residence Program at Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Following a 10-day residency, each artist will lead a public outreach activity. Photographers are welcome to apply to this program during the summer application period.

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 the end of the road (Mile 92).

Last updated: June 12, 2019

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Mailing Address:

PO Box 9
Denali Park, AK 99755


(907) 683-9532
A ranger is available 9 am—4 pm daily (except on major holidays). If you get to the voicemail, please leave a message and we'll call you back as soon as we finish with the previous caller.

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