One of my favorite places is Denali National Park, in Alaska. Generally, as a visitor, you have to ride a bus through the park. However, for five days a year, the Denali National Park Road Lottery changes all that. Read on to find out how you can take part and have more freedom with your visit.
Denali National Park Road Lottery
You may be asking what the Denali National Park Road Lottery is and even, why do you care. Normally, when you visit the park, you don’t drive your vehicle through the park, but rather purchase a ticket to ride the park bus. You can also drive your car into the park about 15 miles, but if you only go that far, you are really missing out of some beautiful and interesting experiences.
How it Works
Once a year, from May 1st through May 31st, you can apply for a ticket to drive your vehicle all the way through the park. Sometime in June, you will be contacted, via the email you provide, telling you if you win or lose. When you enter the lottery, you are required to pay a non-refundable $15 fee and if your name is drawn, your card will be further charged a $25 permit fee. The lottery dates change by a few days each year, but for 2020, they are September 18-22.
In 2020, there will be 4 days where they allow Denali National Park Road Lottery winners to drive through the park. However, you will be assigned a specific day and will be one of 400 vehicles that particular day. So, there are 1600 tickets up for grabs.
What Do You Get
What exactly do you get with your permit? On the day you are drawn for, your permit provides you entrance to drive your personal vehicle through the park. You are permitted to be in the park from 6:00 am to 11:00 pm on your awarded day and there are vehicle restrictions, so be sure to read the rules they send you throughly. The road you drive is not paved, but weather permitting, you can drive 92 miles to the end of the park.
Military Appreciation Day
The fifth day is reserved for active duty military and their families only and the military is in charge of handing out those permits.
What Will You See
The photos in this post are all from our day using our Denali National Park Road Lottery permit. I kept pretty close count of the animals we saw so I could share it with you. We saw 11 grizzlies, 6 moose, 2 ptarmigan, 1 bull caribou, 6 ground squirrel, 2 Alaskan grey wolves, 34 Dall sheep, 1 fox and of course, the mountain, which is often shy. We went on my husband’s birthday with 2 of our kids and my dad, so that made it even more special.
While I already have a post detailing tips for Denali National Park, here are a few specific tips if you draw a ticket.
- Bring cold weather gear. The weather can change rapidly in September.
- Take your time. It’s very easy to miss something if you’re driving too fast.
- Keep your distance from the car in front of you. Cars stop fast. Also, if you’re further back, the dust won’t be as bad.
- Bring your own food and drink. There are no restaurants past the Visitor’s Center.
- Practice wildlife safety. Do NOT approach any wildlife. The animals are wild and you are in their habitat.
- Bring a good camera because as stated above, there is plenty to photograph. Please read my post on wildlife photography tips to help you be successful.
- When you are actually applying, have every adult that will be with you enter for a chance to win. We had 4 entries and only one person drew a permit.
- Make sure your gas tank is full because after the beginning of the park, there are no more stations.
Will We Do It Again
Will we apply for the Denali National Park Road Lottery again? You bet. We really enjoyed our day and we loved that we could stop anywhere we wanted along the way. Even with all the people, it was still way less people than visiting Yellowstone National Park in the summer. If you decide to apply for the lottery, you can do that here.
Note: After the lottery days were past, I did read some articles stating that not everyone agrees with allowing cars in for these days. I get that. It’s probably stressful for the animals, which is not good for sure. However, if the visitors are respectful of their environment and the animals, I think it can be a good thing. There are a lot of rangers trying to ensure this is the case.