Learn and Explore
Visiting Denali during a pandemic is going to be a little bit confusing!
Most park operations (e.g., when visitor centers, campgrounds, and other facilities are open) will be changed from normal years. Certain facilities will be closed to the public, while other facilities will have adjusted hours and seasons.
Park Operations Altered Due to COVID-19
Below is a list of information pertinent to trip planners in spring 2021. If you encounter discrepancies between other parts of our website and this information, go with what you see below. This supersedes all other trip planning information during this pandemic.
Visitor Centers & Other Facilities
- The Indoor Picnic Area is the park's primary visitor facility through May 14. It is open 9:30 to 5 pm, and is a place to use restrooms, refill water bottles, access park information, and warm up indoors during chilly weather. No food service is provided, but tables are available for visitors who bring their own food and drink to use. The Indoor Picnic Area is across the road from the Denali Visitor Center, and is adjacent to the Murie Science & Learning Center. The Murie Science and Learning Center will not open winter, spring, or summer.
- The sled dog kennels are closed to visitors this winter.
- The Backcountry Information Center (adjacent to the Denali Bus Depot) is closed until May 15. Please note that you must still reserve your backcountry permit in advance, Learn more about backpacking in spring or summer 2021.
Entrance Fees & Passes
Entrance fees to Denali are required. Visitors can learn about fees & passes in Denali and pay their park entrance fees online in advance, or upon arrival to the entrance area of the park. The Denali Annual Pass is also available for purchase online. Please note that until May 15, the only option to pay your park entrance fee is by doing so online. You must be able to show a park pass or proof of online purchase (on a mobile device or printed receipt) if asked by a park ranger.
One of the three loops in Riley Creek Campground is open year-round, and it is free to camp in Riley Creek outside the summer season (from September 23, 2020 til May 6, 2021). There is no electricity or running water in the campground.
All other campgrounds in Denali are closed for the winter.
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.
Trip Planning for 2021
Reservations for 2021 summer bus trips opened on December 1, 2020. Buses in Denali are operated by our commercial partner, Doyon/Aramark Joint Venture. Visitors should read the Joint Venture's statement on COVID-19
to understand how riding a bus will work this summer.
A noteworthy change for 2021: Most buses will travel no farther than Eielson Visitor Center (Mile 66).
- Service on May 20 will start, as always, with non-narrated transit buses going to Toklat River (Mile 53). Narrated tour buses also begin going to Toklat River on that date. Visitors coming before May 20 should read up on the spring season in Denali.
- On June 1, transit buses will begin going as far as Eielson (Mile 66).
- On June 8, Wonder Lake Campground (Mile 85, see below) will open. Camper buses will travel to Wonder Lake, so that campers may come and go from the campground. However, no other transit buses will travel beyond Eielson Visitor Center. Thus, the only way to travel by bus beyond Eielson will be to stay at Wonder Lake Campground one or more nights. Cycling or hiking west beyond Eielson is allowed, though visitors should keep in mind that there are very few buses to potentially board and come back out of the park west of Eielson.
All of our campgrounds
will be open in 2021—including Wonder Lake Campground, which was closed in 2020. However, only half of Wonder Lake Campground will be open in 2021. Advanced reservations for all campgrounds are strongly recommended. As mentioned above, day-trips to Wonder Lake via bus will not be available in 2021. The only service to Wonder Lake will be camper buses, for campers traveling to or from Wonder Lake.
- The Denali Bus Depot and Riley Creek Mercantile will open on May 20, 2021, and both facilities will only accept credit/debit cards in 2021. Cash will not be accepted at either location. These two facilities are where campers check in for their campground, and where bus tickets may be purchased. The Mercantile also has food and other camping supplies. The Denali Bus Depot will be open from 6:30 am to 2:30 pm and the Riley Creek Mercantile will be open from 1 pm to 10 pm, daily.
- The Riley Creek Mercantile shower and laundry facilities will not be open for the 2021 season.
The Denali Visitor Center outdoor desk will be open from May 15 to late September, 9 am to 5 pm daily. Rangers will be on hand to answer trip planning questions, distribute maps and brochures, sell park passes and collect park entrance and help kids connect with the park’s Junior Ranger program. The interior of the facility will remain closed for summer 2021.
The Eielson Visitor Center outdoor desk will be open from June 1 to September 21. Eielson Visitor Center is located at Mile 66 of the Denali Park Road and is only accessible by bus.
The Murie Science and Learning Center will remain closed for summer 2021.
- The Denali Sled Dog Kennels, Mile 3.4 of the Denali Park Road, will be open to visitors from 10 am to 4 pm daily, from May 15 – September 21. Visitors to the Sled Dog Kennels will have the opportunity to walk through the dog yard, home to the park’s canine rangers, talk with rangers about the work sled dogs do to protect park wilderness and learn about mushing through outdoor exhibits.
- Sled Dog Demonstrations and Discovery Hikes will not occur in 2021.
- Availability of other ranger-led programs is yet to be determined. Check at the Denali Visitor Center, Eielson Visitor Center or on park bulletin boards for available ranger programs on the day of your visit.
Teklanika Road Permits
Permits allowing private vehicles to travel some of the restricted portion of the park road—between the Savage River Check Station (Mile 15) and the Teklanika Rest Stop (Mile 30)—will be available during summer 2021, as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Starting April 20, 2021, permits can be purchased through Recreation.gov.
- Up to 25 Teklanika Road Permits will be available daily from May 20 through September 12, 2021.
- No walk-up permits are available in the park—permits must be reserved online ahead of the date you wish to visit.
This is a unique summer opportunity to take in Denali’s scenery from a private vehicle and watch for wildlife, big and small, along the way. Visitors may pause to watch wildlife from their vehicle, but must follow wildlife viewing rules and the terms of the permit for duration of time at a viewing stop. Plan for two hours of drive-time round trip. Travel is on a two-lane winding, gravel road. Visitors who wish to travel farther into the park should explore bus options at reservedenali.com.
- Cost: A permit costs $25 per vehicle. This cost does not include the park entrance fee—visitors must either show that they already have a valid park pass, or pay the park entrance fee online through Recreation.gov when purchasing the permit. Learn more about park entry fees & passes.
- Reservation frequency: Individuals may reserve one permit for one private vehicle per day to travel past Savage River (Mile 15). To maximize how many visitors can partake in this program, permit reservations cannot be purchased consecutive days. However, an individual may reserve non-consecutive days. The reservation holder must be in the vehicle at time of entry.
- Vehicle length restrictions: The maximum allowable length for vehicles using a permit is 40 feet. No trailers of any kind are allowed during permit use, including bike trailers. If you have a valid reservation at the Teklanika Campground on the same day as your Teklanika Road Permit, you may leave a trailer at your campsite as long as the trailer in tow is integral to the camping experience.
- Checking in:
- Permit holders must check in at the Savage River Check Station no later than 45 minutes after their ticket start time (e.g., if you reserved a start time of 9 am, you must arrive between 9 am and 9:45 am to use your permit). Plan for a 30-minute drive from the park entrance to Savage River (Mile 15). Please keep our rangers healthy by ensuring all vehicle occupants wear a mask or face-covering during vehicle check-in.
- Permits are valid for one round-trip drive. Once vehicles have left the restricted section of road, there is no reentry (i.e., if you drive past Savage River for a few miles and then remember something you left near the park entrance, you cannot go retrieve the item and then resume driving to Teklanika).
- Pets: Pets that fit inside your vehicle are welcome. If your pet disturbs wildlife when you pause to view animals, you must continue driving to prevent your pet from harassing wildlife. Leashed pets (6' or shorter leash) may be walked on the park road, in parking lots, or on campground roads. Tethered pets may not be left unattended and pets may not be transported in the open bed of a truck. In general, pets are not permitted on park trails nor off-trail—the exceptions to this rule are the Roadside Trail and the Bike Path, both of which are located near the park entrance.
- Parking & stopping: Permit reservation holders may park in spots designated by green cones and go on a day hike. There are no formal trails in this area of the park. Hikers must be prepared to navigate off-trail, follow all wildlife safety precautions, and practice Leave No Trace principles. The road permit may not be paired with an overnight backpacking trip. No overnight parking is allowed.
- Camping: Permits may be combined with a Teklanika Campground Reservation, however, the distance between the campground and the permit terminus is one mile so visitors do not gain much driveable distance. Visitors camping at Teklanika Campground may prefer to explore transit bus options to travel farther into the park.
- Other considerations:
- Permit holders may park and bike on the Denali Park Road past the road permit terminus at Mile 30.
- No drinking water or food for purchase is available beyond Mile 15. Restrooms are located at Savage River (Mile 15), Teklanika Rest Area (Mile 30).
The annual Denali Road Lottery
will occur as usual.
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.