Road Lottery is typically the second weekend after Labor Day each year.
2021 Lottery DetailsThe 2021 Denali Road Lottery will ideally operate as it has in normal years, though the ongoing pandemic could change the best-laid plans.
Based on past years, applicants have around a 1-in-7 chance of being drawn. Winners of the lottery must then pay a $25 permit fee to drive the park road. When the application period is open, road lottery entries are made online at recreation.gov. All lottery applicants must pay the application fee; lottery winners incur one or two other fees, explained in the "If You Are Drawn" section below.
How to Apply
The 2021 lottery application period will be May 1—May 31, 2021, beginning at 6:00 am (Alaska Daylight Time) on May 1 until midnight (Alaska Daylight Time) on May 31.
Information about application status or questions on how to use the application website should be submitted to recreation.gov online or by calling (877) 444-6777. Applications by mail are not accepted.
Everyone who submitted a road lottery entry will be notified whether or not you were drawn. Those who are selected will also receive an email confirming the day of their permit, with additional information on how to obtain the road permit and prepare for their visit to the park. Please note, some email services filter messages from rec.gov as spam; if you feel like you are missing your notification, check your trash or spam folder.
If You Are Drawn
See the Trip-Planning Info for Lottery Winners section lower on this page for more details about what to do if you are drawn in the lottery!
What are the Road Lottery and Military Appreciation Day?
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 park road (Mile 92).
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.
How Does this Lottery Work?
The drawing of winners occurs in mid-summer. As winners are drawn, they are assigned one of the four possible dates for driving the park road—those dates vary each year, but they are always the second weekend after Labor Day.
Applicants can arrange the available dates in the order of their preference when applying and, if drawn, the applicant is awarded their most-preferred date which still has space in its daily allocation of winners.
Chances of winning vary, based on the number of entrants each year. In general, odds of being drawn are around 1-in-7.
The lottery entry and drawing are handled by a contractor, recreation.gov. If you have questions about your application status or otherwise have difficulty using their website, please visit their site or call them at (877) 444-6777.
Trip Planning Information for Lottery Winners
Pick up your permit at the Denali Visitor Center. You can get your permit in advance, or the morning of your drive into the park.
However, lines can be long in the morning—consider coming a day or two early to pick up your permit!
Check out the zone weather forecast. Please know that it is often snowy in September. Sometimes, this means only part of the road is open for lottery winners to drive (and in very wintry years, almost the entire road may close due to snow and ice).
All lottery winners 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.
Please drive slowly when encountering hikers or bikers on the road, to avoid choking them with road dust.
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.
Be smart around animals, especially moose and bears. Stay in your vehicle while at a wildlife viewing stop.
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 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
Some ranger programs are still offered during the lottery weekend! See our schedule of events for September.
In the park, you can pick up sandwiches and other food at the Morino Grill, located next to the Denali Visitor Center. There are no other restaurants in the park - do not begin your drive into the park without bringing food along in your car! You can refill water bottles at Eielson Visitor Center. This is the only place in the park, other than the entrance area, to get water, so plan accordingly.
Three park campgrounds are open during lottery (Riley, Savage and Teklanika). Reservations should be made in advance, via www.reservedenali.com. There are no NPS-run hotels in the park—if you do not wish to camp, consider starting with the local Chamber of Commerce as you search for accommodations outside of the park.
Frequently Asked Questions
Road Lottery is a great time of year, but it can be kind of complicated to figure out, particularly if you've never participated before. To help answer some of the most confusing parts of this weekend, please read through our FAQs, below. If you're unfamiliar with the layout of the park, you might find our various maps handy.
If you are drawn in the lottery, you'll be automatically charged $25 for a one-day road travel permit. Warning: If recreation.gov attempts to charge you the $25 road travel permit fee and the charge is declined (e.g., perhaps your card expired), you will be disqualified from the lottery and a new winner will be drawn in your place! Make sure the card you keep on file with recreation.gov is not going to expire any time soon.
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).
Some additional notes:
The military distributes all available passes for Military Appreciation Day. In years past, each unit was allotted a certain number of tickets and it is the unit's responsibility to distribute them to the final users. A Military Appreciation Day pass will work essentially the same as a general road lottery pass, where a vehicle of people (family, friends etc) can all accompany the pass-holder.
The drawing is conducted about one week after the application period closes. All applicants will be notified by email of whether or not they were drawn. You can also log into your rec.gov account to determine whether or not you won. Please note, some email services filter messages from rec.gov as spam; if you feel like you are missing your notification, check your trash or spam folder.
The Denali Park Road beyond Teklanika Campground narrows significantly. Therefore, vehicles traveling the Denali 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) is only let through Savage River if it's bound for Teklanika Campground, and those Tek Campers must have their campground permit in hand.
Note: Being drawn in the lottery does not guarantee you a campsite in the park. You should consider booking ahead through our reservation concessioner. Additionally, you do not have to be a lottery winner to use a park campground! Non-lottery winners are still welcome to reserve a campsite and visit Denali during the lottery weekend. They just can't drive the entire park road, as the lottery winners can.
Additional notes about camping at Teklanika during Road Lottery:
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 during the days of Road Lottery, so long as the length of RV is 40' or less. This allows folks to camp with a large RV and still bring a smaller vehicle out with which to drive the road. (In the main summer season, RVs cannot bring towed vehicles with them to Teklanika, so this exception is just for the Road Lottery event).
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. Learn more about visiting Denali with a pet
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. Learn more about hiking in Denali
Backpacking during Road Lottery is a somewhat more 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. Read up on backpacking in Denali
The NPS does not have a tow truck. 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!
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 Friday before Road Lottery begins. This is a particularly good idea if you stay at Savage or Tek Campgrounds.
If you are drawn in the lottery, you may bring as many people with you as will (legally) fit in your non-commercial vehicle (though note vehicle size limits above).
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.
Before 1972, the entire Denali Park Road was open to private vehicles in summer, though bus service was also offered for anyone without a vehicle (or anyone who didn't want to drive the mountainous road). The construction of Alaska Highway 3 in the early 1970s shortened the driving time to Denali from Anchorage and Fairbanks considerably and led to an increase in the number of vehicles on the park's sole road.
In the late 2000s, a military official in Alaska asked if the park would host a first-ever "Military Appreciation Day" event in the style of the road lottery. It occurred the day after the main lottery ended, all fees were waived and road passes were given out by the military to 400 Alaska-based active duty personnel. In 2014, Superintendent Don Striker made this an annual event.
In 2015, the park decided that it made more sense to offer Military Appreciation Day on the weekend of Road Lottery, rather than on a Tuesday, and rearranged the dates of the public lottery to accommodate this change.
Last updated: March 4, 2021