Denali Road Lottery: An Autumn Experience for a Lucky Few

Autumn in Alaska is less a season and more a quick transition from summer to winter. There’s no slow, sexy undressing of trees; instead we get the climax for three weeks as anything with leaves scrambles to dump them. Denali National Park is ablaze daily for three weeks in late August and September, and one of the coolest ways to enjoy this intense “season” is by driving the Denali Park Road.

The road into Denali is closed to private vehicles during the summer season (and not plowed in the winter), but over one weekend in September 1600 cars are allowed to drive the 92 miles to Kantishna. The National Park Service has been running the Denali Road Lottery for 13 years, and it’s gaining popularity every year. To enter, you send a check for $10 in an envelope with the dates you’d like to go, in order of preference (there’s four days available; the NPS allows 400 cars per day).

There are several reasons why being able to drive the road is cool: for one, you’re in your own car, not a bumpy school bus listening to other people’s conversations. But the best is being able to enjoy Denali’s awesome fall colors, a display that could compete with New England’s famous show. The open, panoramic views from the road provide scenes of autumn at every stage, from the clean, white termination dust on top of peaks, to the maroon and rust explosions of highbush blueberries.

I’m a lottery loser this year, but I’ll keep spending the $10 on a chance to drive the road.

Thanks to zrim on Flickr for the perfect shot of Broad Pass in the middle of fall.