A tan colored mountain with a road on the side in blue skies with snow-covered mountains in the background.
A cyclist pedals through the Pretty Rocks area of the Denali Park Road on the approach to the Polychrome Pass overlook on Saturday, May 9, 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 Center at mile 66 of the 92-mile Park Road.

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

Map of the Park Road. (National Park Service)

Ollig said 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. Online registration begins April 20 at recreation.gov.

Ollig said 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 there.

“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 said another consideration is limiting traffic on narrow sections of the Park Road, 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 said Denali had only 60,000 visitors last summer, a tenth of what the park saw pre-pandemic. He said visitation is expected to tick up this summer, but will be limited by the absence of large cruise ships coming to Alaska, which account for over 60% of all park visitors.

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

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