Learn and Explore
Visiting Denali during a pandemic is going to be a little bit confusing!
Park Operations Altered Due to COVID-19Below is a list of information pertinent to trip planners in summer 2020. If you encounter discrepancies between other parts of our website and this information, go with what you see below. This supercedes all other trip planning information during this pandemic.
Visitor Centers & Other Facilities
Entrance Fees & PassesBeginning June 1st, entrance fees to Denali are required. Visitors can learn about fees & passes in Denali and pay their park entrance fees online before arrival, or after their trip is completed. Please note that during the month of June, the only option to pay your park entrance fee is by doing so online.
Campers are asked to do their part in maintaining social distancing. Bring all supplies for adequate sanitation. It is the responsibility of each camper to understand current Alaska State Health Mandates and their applicability to visitors' camping experience.
Riley Creek Campground is open year-round. Fees are charged through September 22, the end of the Denali Road Lottery.
Teklanika Campground (54 sites) will open for private vehicle use June 16. As usual, people driving to this campground will need to make a minimum reservation of 3 nights. Teklanika will open to bus access July 1. The three-night minimum does not apply to people arriving by bus.
The final night to stay will be September 22, the end of the Denali Road Lottery.
Sanctuary and Igloo (7 sites each) will open with camper bus service July 1, and close will close on September 17.
Wonder Lake will not open for 2020
Narrated Tours & Transit Buses
Guided Vehicle ToursFind a tour operator for this 2020 offering
Private Vehicle Access on the Denali Park RoadThe park’s tour and transit bus system capacity is greatly reduced due to COVID-19. As a result, the park is implementing a timed-entry road permit reservation system to allow some private vehicles to travel the restricted portion of the Denali Park Road.
This 2020 offering will allow for additional access beyond the very limited transit and tour bus schedule and complies with CDC social distancing guidelines. Driving the Denali Park Road is a unique opportunity and not to be undertaken lightly. Visitors will traverse a winding, gravel road that is one to one-and-a half lanes wide at some spots. There are steep slopes, no cell service and limited access to facilities. Please be aware you’ll be sharing the road with buses and heavy equipment.
As in years past, any visitor may drive to Savage River (Mile 15 of the Denali Park Road) in their own private, non-commercial vehicle; no reservation or permit is necessary. Visitors may drive to Savage any time of the day or night, although camping is only permitted in designated campgrounds, with a valid reservation.
If parking is full, go to Mountain Vista (Mile 12) for a view of Denali and access to trails.
Five weekends in summer 2020 will see a special opportunity for a limited number of private vehicles to purchase a permit to drive to Eielson Visitor Center (Mile 66).
Within two weeks of the dates listed below, you can go to recreation.gov to book your permit. (Note: If you go to that site too early, it will appear as if no permits are available).
Details About Purchasing a Driving Permit
The park's Vehicle Management Plan has very specific standards related to summer traffic on the park's sole road. These standards are meant to ensure visitors have a high quality wilderness experience, and to also ensure wildlife near the road have periods of time with limited or no traffic impacting their natural behavior.
Thus, the following information is important to keep in mind when planning a drive into the park:
Frequently Asked Questions and Trip Planning Info for Permit HoldersAll permit-holders should watch the "Rules for Driving the Denali Road" video. The park road is mountainous, narrow and mostly dirt / gravel, with very soft shoulders. If you get into an accident on the road, you'll incur significant expense in paying for a wrecker to drive all the way into the park to help you. Also note that there are no gas stations in the park—plan accordingly.
As mentioned above, all permit-holders should watch the "Rules for Driving the Denali Road" video. We will briefly remind you of the driving rules when you pick up your permit in the park, and your permit has the most important rules listed on it as yet another reminder. Additional vehicle info is lower on this page, in the FAQ section.
Please drive slowly when encountering hikers or bikers on the road, to avoid choking them with road dust.
Vehicles traveling the Denali Park Road with an Eielson Permit 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 Check Station (mile 15). Trailers or towed vehicles are not allowed the Eielson Permit. Trailers or towed vehicles may be parked at the Riley Creek Day Use Area for the day, or at your campground if you have a campground reservation.
If you have a road permit, you can drive any non-commercial, street-legal vehicle, which is smaller than the aforementioned maximum size dimensions—including motorcycles.
Warning: The NPS does not tow private vehicles. If you break down or your car finds itself off of the road somehow, you will have to hire a tow company from outside of the park to come and retrieve you. This will probably be extremely expensive, so please bring at least one full-size spare tire and pay close attention to soft shoulders on the dirt road!
If you're camping at Teklanika Campground, you can bring a larger vehicle to the campground if it is integral to your camping experience (e.g., if you have a pickup towing a trailer longer than 22', that's fine), though note that the sites at Tek cannot accommodate a vehicle over 40'. Learn more about camping at Teklanika.
Temporary stops to view wildlife are allowed; however, exiting the vehicle during a wildlife viewing stop is not permitted.
Be smart around animals, especially moose and bears. When viewing wildlife, stay in your vehicle. If hiking or biking, get no closer than 25 yards to any animal, except bears—get no closer than 300 yards to black or grizzly bears! Back up or get back into your car if any animal approaches closer than the distances mentioned above. Even seemingly mild-mannered animals like Dall sheep can seriously injure someone if they feel threatened by people being too close.
Please also remember to stay quiet when viewing wildlife. Do not be the rude person who scares away an animal, ruining the experience for dozens of other eager wildlife watchers. Many animals are used to the sound of engines, as they typically hear buses all summer long, but are unused to human voices.
Finally, there is no cell or data network coverage in the park past the visitor center. Park staff drive the road during lottery and have radios, should you have an emergency. Learn more about wildlife viewing and safety
Please bring all the food you will need for your trip. There are no locations to purchase food or beverages in Denali in summer 2020. The nearest grocery store is in Healy, 11 miles to the north.
No overnight parking is allowed without a backcountry camping permit.
Backpacking is permitted with a valid backcountry permit. From June 1–30, backpackers should book their vehicle permit for the first day of their planned backcountry trip. From July through September, backpacking must be paired with bus access—there will be no overnight parking options on the park road, so you cannot pair a backpacking trip with an Eielson Permit.
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. Your road travel permit can be revoked if you (or your pet) harass wildlife.
Questions About the Driving Permit Reservation System
The park’s tour and transit bus system capacity is greatly reduced due to COVID-19. As a result, the park will implement a timed entry road permit reservation system to allow some private vehicles to travel the restricted portion of the Denali Park Road. This 2020 offering will allow for additional access beyond the very limited transit and tour bus schedule and complies with CDC social distancing guidelines.
Visit recreation.gov to book your permit. Note, you must have an account to make a reservation and we recommend creating your account well in advance of applying for your permit.
Entering the Park
Check-in happens at Mile 15 of the Denali Park Road at Savage River Check Station, a 30 minute drive from the park entrance.
The permit you purchase will include a 45 minute window of time to check-in (e.g., "9 am to 9:45 am"). This window is when you may begin driving past Savage River (Mile 15). If you arrive at Savage River after your scheduled entry time, you will be asked to park and wait until the next window opens—e.g., if your 9 am timed entry permit allows you to check in and drive past Savage River any time between 9 am to 9:45 am, but if you arrive at Savage River at 9:50 am, you'll be asked to wait until 10 am.
In order to check-in, the permit holder must be present in the vehicle with a valid ID and a permit for that specific date and time. If you are using a park pass for the entrance fee, you will need to present that as well.
Road permits are valid for one entrance only. Once the vehicle travels past mile 15, it will not be permitted to use the same permit to access the restricted section of the road a second time. Please plan accordingly.
More details on early / late arrivals can be found below in this FAQ.
Leaving the Park
All Eielson Road Permits expire at 9:00 pm. Therefore, all permit holders must be back at Savage River (or further east, nearer to the park entrance) no later than their specific permit’s expiration time.
Visitors are welcome to explore the park between Savage River and the park entrance at any hour of the day or night—please note, however, that sleeping is only possible in a designated campground (with a valid reservation), or with a backcountry camping permit!
Unless you have one of the annual or lifetime park passes, each vehicle permit reservation is $55.00 total, which includes a vehicle park entrance fee ($30.00, valid for seven days) and a vehicle permit fee ($25.00, valid for one day).
If you have an annual or lifetime pass, select the type of pass during the reservation process and it will be accepted as your entrance fee. Be prepared to show your identification, annual or lifetime pass and your vehicle permit reservation when you check-in.
Permits will be available to reserve at 10 a.m. AKDT 14 days prior to each permit date on a rolling daily window. An additional set of permits are also available two days in advance of each permit date at 10 a.m. AKDT on a rolling daily window.
It may vary over time. The number of reservation permits available will be based on several factors, including resource protection and crowding conditions as monitored by NPS staff and guided by the park’s Vehicle Management Plan.
No. If a date is completely booked, there will not be an option to join a wait list. However, if any reservations are cancelled, those permits will become available for others to reserve up to midnight the night before.
Cancellations must be made through recreation.gov. Cancellations must be made up to 72 hours in advance for a refund (minus the $2 booking fee). There will be no refunds for no-shows or cancellations made less than 72 hours in advance. Permits will not be rescheduled or refunded for inclement weather.
A permit will cover one vehicle and all its occupants. The person whose name is on the permit must be present in the vehicle for the permit to be valid. You may bring as many people as will (legally) fit in your non-commercial vehicle (please note vehicle size limits in above for the Eielson Road Permit).
The park road is open to Mile 15 to all visitors who have paid the park entrance fee. Traffic beyond Mile 15 is restricted to only vehicles with valid permits.
Visitors are allowed to have up to one private vehicle reservation per day for one time slot to travel past Mile 15 of the Denali Park Road. Additional days can be booked under the same stipulations.
No. Reservations may be cancelled, but they may not be transferred. The person whose name is on the permit must be present in the vehicle with appropriate ID for the permit to be valid.
Check-in happens at Mile 15 of the Denali Park Road at Savage River Check Station, a 30 minute drive from the park entrance.
Permit-holders who arrive at Savage River more than 30 minutes before their stated entry time may be asked to turn around and come back closer to their stated entry time, because parking is limited at Savage River.
Visitors who are unable to use their reservation are asked to cancel as early as possible. This allows the park to make the reservation space available to other visitors.
No refunds are available for no shows or cancellations less than 72 hours in advance. Permits will not be rescheduled or refunded for inclement weather.
If you booked your permit and paid the standard park entry fee, but then later you purchased a Denali or annual park pass, act quickly to get a refund on the park entry fee.
You will be able to modify your reservation in Recreation.gov to add a valid park pass and get refunded the entrance fee up to 72 hours prior to the entry date. No modifications can be made within the final 72 hours.
Conditions on the Denali Park Road
The map below illustrates which parts of the park road are open to private vehicles (thick green line) and, in summer, to bus traffic (thin black line). Red indicates sections of road closed. Icons also indicate which park campgrounds are open.
Last updated: July 21, 2020