Denali National Park to allow private vehicles on Park Road again in 2021

The Denali Park Road curls around a mountainside near the Polychrome Overlook on Sunday, May 3, 2020. (Nat Herz/Alaska Public Media)

Denali National Park is preparing for another pandemic affected summer season. Once again, the park will offer visitors the chance to drive a part of the Park Road normally closed to private vehicles

Last year, Denali National Park offered a limited number of permits on five separate weekends for private vehicles to travel as far as the Eielson Visitor’s Center at mile 66 of the 92-mile Park Road.

“This summer, we’re shortening that distance but expanding the number of day this is going to be available,” said park spokesperson Paul Ollig.

Map of the Park Road. (National Park Service)

Ollig says this year’s private vehicle access permits will be offered on most dates between May 20 and Sept. 12 and will allow travel to the Teklanika Rest Stop at mile 30.

Permits will cost $25, and online registration begins April 20 at recreation.gov.

Ollig says the decision to go only as far as Teklanika reflects several factors, including seven major construction projects happening this summer along the Park Road west of Teklanika.

“This construction will cause significant delays along these sections, so in order to expedite the construction projects and reduce the impacts of these projects on park visitors, it was decided to limit the road permits just to Teklanika,” he said.

Ollig says that another consideration is limiting traffic on narrow sections of the Park Road west of Teklanika, given an increase over last summer in the number of park buses running.

“We will have more tour buses and transit buses available for visitors to be able to enjoy getting in as far as the Eielson Visitor’s Center and even campers getting as far as Wonder Lake this year,” he said.

Ollig says Denali had only 60,000 visitors last summer, a tenth of what the park saw pre-pandemic. He says visitation is expected to tick up this summer, but it will be limited by the absence of large cruise ships coming to Alaska — which account for 60-65% of all park visitors.

Ollig says Denali’s visitor’s center buildings will again be closed this summer. Decisions about other facilities that were closed last summer, like the popular sled dog kennel, will be made in coming weeks.

Read next