There has been a significant change in the application system for the Denali National Park & Preserve road lottery. Applicants for the September event can submit entries at any time during June, but they'll have to do it online. Entries will no longer be accepted by regular mail.
The concessionaire-operated buses that ply the Denali Park Road -- most of which is closed to private vehicles -- cease operating at the close of the summer tourist season. Motorists with lottery-distributed permits are then allowed to take fall color tours during a four-day special event in mid-September known as the "road lottery". Weather and road conditions permitting, up to 400 permit holders each day are allowed to drive the entire length of the 92-mile long road.
The leaf peeping season is a real treat in Denali. It arrives early, about mid-August, and lasts only a few weeks. By early September, colors have peaked in many areas of the park, though others are still showy. A variety of shrubs (fireweed, blueberry, bearberry, etc.) and deciduous trees of the boreal forest and stream corridors (such as birch, aspen, and cottonwood) contribute to the display, yielding a mixture of pink, yellow, purple, red, and orange. Seeing bears, moose, Dall sheep, and other park wildlife is a bonus.
This year's road lottery will take place September 16, 17, 18, and 19 (Friday through Monday).
The online entry form will be available at www.recreation.gov from 12:01 a.m. June 1, 2011 until midnight on June 30, 2011 (Alaska time).
The online application process entails a non-refundable entry fee payment of $10 charged to your credit. Lottery winners are billed the $25 Road Lottery Fee at the time of the drawing. This fee is refunded if the Park Road does not open by 2:00 p.m., due to weather or road conditions on the day of the permit.
The names of individuals drawn for permits will be posted on the park's road lottery website by July 15. Everyone who submits an entry will be notified of the status of their entry via email. Lottery winners will also receive a letter confirming the day of their permit, with additional information on how to obtain the road permit and prepare for their visit to the park. Permits are transferable, with proper documentation.
The regular park entrance fee of $20 per vehicle must be paid unless the permit holder has a federal recreation pass such as the Denali Annual Pass or the America the Beautiful – National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass (Annual, Senior, Access, or Volunteer).
Additional road lottery information is available at the park's road lottery website or by calling park headquarters at (907) 683-2294 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily.