Winning (and losing) the Denali Road Lottery

September 30, 2013/Jonathan Rundle/0 Comments

I won the Denali Road Lottery in 2013 and, as you can see above, took a motorcycle for the trip. I’ll tell you what you need to know about the process – no matter what you choose to pilot.

What to know

In September, Denali National Park holds a four-day “Road Lottery” event. During these four days, winners of a lottery drawing are given a chance to purchase a single day permit, allowing them to the Denali Park Road in whatever vehicle they want. I saw everything from big RV’s to a mini cooper. I was the only motorcycle as far as I could tell. In years with early snow, the Park Road might open no farther than Savage River (mile 15); in milder years, lottery winners are able to get to Wonder Lake (mile 85). I rode all the way out to Kantishna, which is a little farther than Wonder Lake.

The park service allows 400 vehicles a day into the park during the lottery. My incredible math skills tell me that’s 1,200 visitors a year that get to take this incredible journey. Most of those are Alaskans.


The process is simple, log on to the National Park Service website, pay your application fee and wait.


Pack your bags, you’re up for the ride of a lifetime! You’ll automatically be charged admission to the park.


Better luck next year! Actually, all hope is not lost. Perhaps you can find someone that won and join their trip. Or, you can look on the Anchorage Craigslist for someone scalping theirs. Scalping for profit is really frowned upon, but if you have to go – and it can’t wait until next year – it might be your only way in. The Park Service makes it very easy to transfer pass ownership to another person.

The day of

You have to check in at the park office. Pay a fee or show your receipt (you’ll get one via email) that you’ve already paid and be on your way. Be sure your vehicle is properly gassed up for the 170 or so mile round-trip. A rocky road awaits you.

The road

If it’s dry, prepare for dust. If it’s wet, prepare for mud. The Park Service does an excellent job keeping the road in good shape.

Good luck!

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