Apply Now For Denali Road Lottery Permits

Alaska is an incredibly huge and beautiful place. And perhaps the crown jewel is Denali National Park, home to the highest point in North America. Visiting the park is an amazing experience — it’s akin to going on an African safari given the number of big game animals that you are likely to see.

Despite its size, there’s really only one road in the park. To control traffic and pollution, you normally have to ride one of the park’s buses if you want to venture beyond the first few miles. There’s nothing wrong with seeing the park that way, but if you want a really special Denali experience, you should apply for a Road Lottery permit.

In mid-September, on the last weekend of the season, the National Park Service allows private vehicles into the park. That means you can explore at your own pace and with your own family and friends. My family did this in 2011 and had an amazing experience. But you need a permit, which are issued via a lottery system.

Rule #1: When you see Mt. McKinley, shoot it! This is a very shy mountain.
Denali, the highest peak in North America, is rather shy

Applications are now open for Road Lottery 2017

I wrote a three part guide to the Denali Road Lottery a couple of years ago, so I won’t cover it all again. Here’s what you need to know in a nutshell.

  • The 2017 Road lottery weekend is Sept. 15, 17, 18, and 19 (Sept 16 is military appreciation day)
  • The application period is May 1 – 31
  • You specify your preferred day on the application
  • It costs $15 for each application
  • If you win, you then have to pay an additional $25 for the actual permit
  • Then you pay a $10 per person admission fee when you arrive at the park
  • You can only submit one application per person
  • Permits are transferable prior to use
  • The lottery is open to everyone
  • Entries can be submitted online or by phone, but not by mail
  • Winners are contacted in June
  • 400 permits are issued for each of the four days
  • The odds of winning are about 1 in 7

Where's Golidlocks?
Three bears crossing the Denali park road in front of us

Increasing your chances of winning

My wife and I already had a trip planned to Alaska that just so happened to coincide with Road Lottery weekend. Given that we were already going to be there, we decided we wanted to go all-in and significantly increase our chances of winning — we had my parents and her parents apply, in addition to ourselves. Of course, entries back then cost only $10 each.

On a whim, I decided to throw in a seventh entry for our newborn son, who was barely a month old yet. We calculated that seven entries gave us a 66% chance of winning at least one permit. 

Well, guess who won?

Indeed, it was my son’s entry that was chosen, giving us exactly one permit. We figure he was the youngest winner in the history of Road Lottery.

Our safari-mobile.
We drove our rental car on the Denali park road during Road Lottery

Bottom line

The Denali Road Lottery is truly a special event. It’s one of those exclusive events that I figure everyone should do at least once.

So if you enjoy nature, wildlife, and exploring spectacularly vast landscapes in your own vehicle, I suggest putting the Denali Road Lottery on your bucket list.

Have you ever been to the Denali Road Lottery?


  1. Back in 1990 when I was on active duty in the Army, stationed at Fort Greely I recall going through the park with a friend in his SUV but I know we didn’t have to win a lottery but I honestly can’t recall if we even paid a fee. Yes, it was memorable but there are other great drives in Alaska that are also filled with great scenery and wildlife. I recall the “highway” between Delta Junction and Anchorage to be a great road trip. August and September were the best months back then – not sure now with global climate change. Good luck – I hope you win. And if you do, bring a great camera!

  2. I don’t know if your information is outdated (or copied from elsewhere) or if theirs is, but according to the NPS site you linked, the 2017 dates are September 15, 17, 18 and 19, with September 16 designated as Military Appreciation Day.

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