History of the Park Road

two people stand next to a car on a dirt road under a sign for Mt. McKinley National Park

NPS Photo, Denali National Park and Preserve Museum Collection, DENA 23554.  For reuse information, please contact Denali's Museum Curator.


In 1922, the beginning of the route that would become the Denali Park Road was first brushed and surveyed. Over the next several years, park staff acquired funding and worked with the Alaska Road Commission (ARC) to blast rock, move gravel, and construct bridges to create the park road. Flooding and ice frequently damaged the road and many sections had to be repaired or rebuilt along the way.

This 92-mile ribbon of road—winding west from the park entrance to Kantishna—was eventually completed in 1938. From its inception, the park road has provided the primary access to the park. Going west, the road character makes transitions from a modern two-lane paved road (Mile 0–15), to a gravel two-lane road (Mile 15–31), to a rustic one-lane gravel road (Mile 31–92).

Since the 1972 opening of the George Parks Highway, park managers have been challenged to balance the growing demand for visitor opportunities to tour the road with the need to ensure that park resources are protected and visitors continue to have a safe, high-quality experience. A new park regulation was put in place in 1972 to restrict private vehicle travel beyond the Savage River and to institute a public transportation system. In 1986, managers set an annual limit of 10,512 vehicle trips (from the Saturday before Memorial Day to the second Thursday after Labor Day or September 15, whichever comes first).

For more on history of the park road, browse the Crown Jewel of the North (a park history in chapters)


Further Reading Related to the Denali Park Road

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    Last updated: March 28, 2024

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