The snow isn’t gone, but work crews have been able to open Denali Park Road in Denali National Park and Preserve due to warmer weather.
The road is now open to private vehicles at the Teklanika Rest Area at Mile 30. Weather permitting, Denali Park Road will remain open until May 20, when transit buses begin running seasonal routes.
“Park visitors continue to enjoy winter recreation activities like cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, but warm weather and longer days are changing conditions rapidly from winter to spring,” Sharon Stiteler, Denali’s public affairs officer, said in a statement. “Visitors should expect to encounter snow, ice, and mud on some portions of the road, particularly in shaded sections.”
In fact, the road crew reported that some snow drifts along the side of Denali Park Road are 15 feet high, Stiteler continued.
An Alaskan Treasure
Denali National Park and Preserve was created by Congress in 1917. To this day, the 6 million-acre park remains largely preserved, so it only has one entrance and one road — the 92-mile-long Denali Park Road. In the summer, May 20 to mid-September, privately-owned vehicles may drive the first 15 miles of the park road to Savage River. In the summer, only buses are allowed beyond that point.
The park, which is 240 miles from Anchorage and 120 miles from Fairbanks, is well known for two things. First, it’s home to Denali, formerly known as Mount McKinley. With an elevation of 20,310 feet, it is the tallest peak in North America.
Secondly, there are 39 species of mammals in Denali, including moose, caribou, Dall sheep, wolves, and grizzly bears, as well as 169 species of birds.
What Spring Visitors Can Expect
If you’re planning to visit Denali before May 20, keep in mind that, although the Teklanika Rest Area is accessible, it is wet. Also, the restrooms at Teklanika and Savage are open.
There is no bicycle or pedestrian access through the Pretty Rocks Landslide, and the road is not plowed on the other side. What’s more, the area from approximately Mile 45.4 to Mile 45.5, and 100 yards north and south of Denali Park Road, is closed to all entry.
“Anyone wishing to access parts of the road beyond the closure, which is accessible only by hiking around Polychrome Mountain, should expect challenging conditions and be prepared to be completely self-sufficient as emergency response capabilities will be very limited and no facilities beyond the slide are open,” Stiteler explains.
Know Before You Go
Daily train and bus service to Denali from Anchorage and Fairbanks typically doesn’t start until later this month, so if you want to visit before then, you’ll need your own car.
As for lodging, Riley Creek Campground, at the park entrance, is open during the spring. Many hotels in the area may still be closed, however, some hotels in Healy, about 11 miles from the park entrance, are open year-round.
You can learn more about visiting Denali in the spring here.
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