How to Apply
The 2018 lottery application period was May 1—May 31, 2018.
To apply to the lottery, Recreation.gov requires you to pick your most-preferred date first (i.e., out of September 14, 16, 17 or 18). Then it will let you order the remaining dates however you prefer.
Remember, you cannot apply til May 1. If you try to apply outside the application window (May 1-May 31), Recreation.gov will allow you to walk through the first few steps of applying, but then eventually show you an error message.
Military Appreciation Day permits are distributed by the military. Prospective applicants should ask their superior or base commander for details.
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
Permit holders for the road lottery must pay the park entrance fee of $10 per person (for visitors age 16 or older) on the day of their permit unless they have a federal recreation pass such as the Denali Annual Pass, America the Beautiful – National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass (Annual, Senior, Access, or Volunteer) or the free U.S. Military annual pass. Find additional information on these passes
Road lottery permits are transferable prior to use, i.e. the person awarded the permit can give it to someone else if they are not able to participate that weekend. The person transferring the permit must provide the original notification and a short note explaining the transfer to the new permit holder, who must bring that documentation to the park when they check in for the road permit. Once picked up, permits are not transferable between vehicles.
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!
2018 Lottery Details
The dates for this year’s road lottery are September 14, 16, 17 and 18, with September 15 designated as Military Appreciation Day.
The non-refundable application fee will be $15 this year
, compared to $10 in recent years. The change is due to a price increase from the contractor running www.recreation.gov
Around 11,400 lottery applications were received in 2017 (giving odds of being drawn at about 1 in 7). Winners of the lottery must then pay a $25 permit fee to drive the park road. Road lottery entries can be made online at www.recreation.gov
beginning at 12:01 am (Alaska Daylight Time) on May 1 until midnight (AKDT) on May 31.
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 June. 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 allocation of 400 winners.
Chances of winning vary -- 1600 winners are drawn each year, but the number of entrants fluctuates. 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
If your name was drawn in the lottery, please be sure to read the items below. You should also read the frequently asked questions lower on this page before coming to the park in September.
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!
On Thursday, September 13, we will be open from 8 am—7 pm
; Friday—Monday, 7 am—7 pm
; and on Tuesday, 7 am—5 pm
You can also pick up your permit during our normal summer hours (8 am—5 pm) as early as September 7, 2018, if you're in the area. We do not have the printed permits on-hand before September 7, so you cannot pick it up before that date!
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.
around animals, especially moose and bears. When outside of your car, 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 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
In the park, you can pick up sandwiches and other food at the Morino Grill, located next to the Denali Visitor Center, from 8 am—2 pm. 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.
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
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).
Some additional notes:
- On the day for which you were drawn, the road travel permit will let you drive the entire park road between 6:00 am and midnight. Please note, however, that some or all of the road might close prematurely (for example, in cases of inclement weather or under the direction of law enforcement staff).
- The road between the park entrance (Mile 0) and Savage River (Mile 15) has no time restriction—in fact, anyone can drive this part of the road during lottery, just like in the main summer season. All lottery permit winners must be east of Savage River (Mile 15) by midnight. (Note: There is an exception to this rule, for Teklanika Campground. Tek Campers must be back in their campground by 11 pm; see "Where can I camp?" below for more details about staying at Tek)
- Please be aware that a road travel permit can be revoked in certain cases, such as violating the law or failing to follow directions given by park staff (for example, when told to refrain from approaching wildlife that is reacting to your presence).
Park and military leadership will work in partnership to distribute the 400 passes for Military Appreciation Day. The permits will be distributed to military personnel through their internal channels. Each unit will be allotted a certain number of tickets and it will be the unit's responsibility to distribute them to the final members. 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 held by June 15. 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 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.
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.
- Open: Riley Creek, Savage River and Teklanika River Campgrounds are all open during Road Lottery.
- Closed: Wonder Lake, Igloo Creek and Sanctuary Rivers are always closed during Road Lottery. Please also note that people can backpack during Road Lottery, but not in conjunction with a drive into the park (i.e., you cannot drive to a point on the road, park for a few nights while you backpack, and then hike back to your car).
You may camp with both an RV and a smaller vehicle to use during Road Lottery - but to fit in a single campsite, the length of an RV or tow trailer should not exceed 40'. If your vehicle exceeds 40', look into campgrounds outside the park
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:
- If staying at Teklanika Campground, you may begin driving west (i.e., farther into the park) at 7:00 am on the day of your permit. You must be back in your campground by 11:00 pm that night.
- Teklanika Campers must leave the campground by 11 am on their final morning. Driving east, i.e., back to the park entrance, can be done as early as you'd like. You just need to have vacated your campsite by 11 am, so that someone else can show up and claim it.
- As mentioned in other questions on this page, the usual 3-night minimum stay at Teklanika is waived during Road Lottery. You can therefore just camp one or two nights at Tek if you'd like.
- The usual 14-night maximum is still in effect (i.e., no one can camp more than 14 nights in Denali campgrounds during a given summer season).
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 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 (note vehicle size limits above).
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. 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
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 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 1972, the NPS limited travel on most of the park road to only buses. At the same time, the park opened its gates in the fall, after bus season ended, to anyone who wanted to drive the road. In those early years, only a few intrepid souls braved the poor roads to get here to drive into the park. As the years went by, the popularity of this opportunity grew.
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.
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.