A sure sign of spring in Denali National Park and Preserve is the opening of the park road beyond park headquarters. Park visitors will be able to drive as far as the Mountain Vista Trailhead, a rest area east of the Savage River Campground, beginning at noon on Sunday, March 31, weather permitting. Early spring offers enjoyable conditions for visiting the park, as there is good snow coverage for mushing, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, coupled with milder temperatures and long days. Mount McKinley, or Denali, is visible from the park road at approximately Mile 10 when it is not shrouded in clouds.
Vault toilets at the Mountain Vista Trailhead are open for use. Picnic tables and other rest area amenities may still be under snow. Other facilities west of park headquarters, including the Savage River Campground, remain closed until later this spring.
Visitors should expect to encounter snow and ice on shaded sections of the park road until overnight temperatures remain above freezing. Motorists are also advised to be alert for National Park Service personnel steaming culverts along the side of the road, and for heavy equipment being used in the road opening operations.
Weather conditions can change rapidly at this time of the year, and the road may open and close several times. Visitors are encouraged to call ahead for updated road and weather information. The National Park Service expects to open the road to the Savage River (Mile 15) in early April. For those interested in following the progress of the Denali road crew as they plow westward along the 92 mile park road to Kantishna, updates and a photo gallery are posted on the park website at http://www.nps.gov/dena/spring-road-opening.htm.
The Riley Creek Campground at Mile 0.2 is open, and camping is free until May 15. A vault toilet is provided in the loop that remains open year-round, and campers can obtain water at the Murie Science and Learning Center. Water and sewer services will not be available until mid to late May.
The Murie Science and Learning Center (MSLC) at Mile 1.3 is open daily from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm for visitor information and backcountry permits.
Denali National Park and Preserve collects an entrance fee year-round. The entrance fee of $10 per person (for visitors age 16 and older) 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 and can be purchased at the MSLC.
Image courtesy National Park Service