Online reservations for the first day of permits allowing personal vehicles to drive into Denali National Park sold out in less than five minutes.
“I think four minutes is probably accurate,” said Dawn Adams of Denali National Park.
The permits are released for reservations two weeks in advance, although a few are held out and then released 48 hours in advance. An estimated 70 permits are allowed each day.
“At 10:03, there were only noon tickets available for the July 10 date,” Adams said. “At 10:05, it was sold out.”
Currently 14-day advance sales are sold out for that first weekend of July 10, 11, 12.
Some of the 48-hour in-advance tickets will be available at 10 a.m. on July 8. Make reservations at recreation.gov.
The private vehicles are only allowed during certain weekends from July through September.
Meanwhile, Denali National Park officially opens today, but with a few changes due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Denali Visitor Center building will be closed, but rangers will staff an outdoor visitor center in front of the building, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Restrooms will be available. The same scenario will happen at Eielson Visitor Center, according to the park website.
The sled dog kennels are expected to be closed and the Murie Science and Learning Center is also closed.
Buses begin operating today and driving as far as Eielson Visitor Center, at Mile 66 of the park road, but the options are limited. There are only four transit buses daily, plus two camper buses. You can only reserve a camper bus if you have a backcountry permit in hand. There are also currently three Tundra Wilderness Tour buses daily.
In addition, four private companies begin offering commercial vehicle tours into the park today. Those businesses are Denali Backcountry Guides, Denali Jeep Excursions, Alaska Skylar Travel and Traverse Alaska.
Visitors taking a bus should still park at the Denali Bus Depot. The building will not be open, but the buses will depart from there. Visitors will be met by a staff member who will escort them to the bus.
Only 24 visitors will be allowed on each bus, to maintain social distancing. “Visitors are strongly encouraged to bring and wear facial coverings and bring all supplies for adequate hand sanitation,” according to the Doyon-Aramark Joint Venture website.
Online reservations are encouraged, but walk-in reservations are available at the Riley Creek Mercantile, open daily 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Fourth of July
Healy will hold its annual Fourth of July parade on Saturday.
The Denali Chamber of Commerce sponsors the annual event, which is a popular gathering of floats and bicycles and horses and dogs, all parading down the Healy Spur Road. The parade begins at 11 a.m. at the Totem Inn parking lot and ends at the Tri-Valley Community Center.
“We really want to be creative this year,” said Vanessa Jusczak, director of the Denali Chamber in announcing the event. “Dress up your dogs, dye your hair, decorate our trucks, wheelers, bikes. Let’s show our spirit.”
There will not be a post-parade party at the Tri-Valley Community Center this year.
The Healy Valley Lions Club plans to host its annual Fourth of July Community Barbecue at Otto Lake, after the parade. Social distancing measures will be in place, according to club president Krista Zappone.
“The Lions will be dishing plates so the consumer only touches their plate,” she said. “We will have gloves and masks on. There will be hand sanitizer and soda lined out for one-touch service.”
Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @FDNMKris.