While spring in the 49th state does tend to lag a bit behind the season in the other states, it is beginning to take root in Alaska, and Denali National Park and Preserve is working on opening its facilities for the summer season.
The lengthening days, milder overnight temperatures, return of migrant birds, and arrival of seasonal employees are all signs that the seasonal facilities and services that enhance the park experience for Denali visitors will open soon.
The cascade of openings kicks off on Saturday when the Denali Bookstore, operated by park partner Alaska Geographic, opens its doors for the season. On Wednesday, May 12, Denali Natural History Tour buses start their daily departures, traveling as far as the Primrose Ridge at Mile 17.
On Saturday, May 15 the Denali Visitor Center, Morino Grill, Wilderness Access Center, Backcountry Information Center, and the Tundra Wilderness Tour shoulder season trips begin operations. Along with its stunning exhibits on Denali’s natural history and cultural heritage, the visitor center, open daily from 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., offers regular screenings of the high definition feature film, Heartbeats of Denali.
The season’s first interpretive offering, the 2:00 p.m. sled dog demonstration, will commence on May 15. Free buses to the park kennels depart from the Denali Visitor Center shuttle stop at 1:20 p.m.
On Thursday, May 20 the shuttle bus system starts for the season, providing access beyond the Savage River as far west as the Toklat River (Mile 53). Buses will begin running to the Eielson Visitor Center (Mile 66) on Tuesday, June 1, and the entire 92-mile length of the park road will open for buses on Tuesday, June 8, conditions permitting.
The park road is open to private vehicles to the Teklanika River Rest Area (Mile 30) through Friday, May 14. Beginning Saturday, May 15 through Wednesday, May 19 the road will be open for private vehicles to Mile 26, where a temporary rest area has been established. This site is being utilized during the major rehabilitation of the Teklanika River Rest Area, which begins mid-May. The first 15 miles of the park road will be open to park visitors in private vehicles throughout the season.
The Riley Creek Campground is open, and camping is free until fees begin on May 15. Water and sewer services will be available by that date or later, depending on weather conditions. The Savage River Campground opens on Wednesday, May 19 and the Sanctuary River, Teklanika River, and Igloo Creek Campgrounds all open on Thursday, May 20.
Denali National Park and Preserve collects an entrance fee year-round. The entrance fee of $10 per person or $20 per vehicle is good for seven days. The majority of the money collected remains in the park to be used for projects to improve visitor services and facilities. Interagency Federal Recreation Passes such as the Annual, Senior, and Access Pass, and the Denali Annual Pass are also valid for entry into the park. Visitors can pay
the entrance fee at the Murie Science and Learning Center through May 14 and at the Denali Visitor Center beginning May 15.
Additional park information is available on the web at www.nps.gov/dena or by calling (907) 683-2294 from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily.