Skip to main Content
Alaska Life

Alaska business strip serving Denali National Park tourists is missing its glitter this season

  • Author: Emily Mesner
  • Updated: September 17
  • Published July 16

A closure sign sits outside the Denali Park Salmon Bake near Denali National Park and Preserve on July 12, 2020. (Emily Mesner / ADN)

A handful of traffic lights scattered along the Parks Highway near the Denali National Park entrance help guide thousands of tourists to lodges, restaurants and gift shops. But this summer, the traffic light coverings from winter remained on, lights were turned off and visitors are scarce.

The weather was dreary on a recent weekend day, reflecting the mood in the tourist strip known as Glitter Gulch, made up of shops and lodges that bring in hundreds of seasonal employees from May through September. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Gulch is desolate in comparison to previous summers, when cars and RVs filled makeshift parking spots.

Many businesses have remained closed this season, while some that are open have large signs and window paintings pointing tourists their way.

A sign on a masked wooden bear announces the closure of the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge in Glitter Gulch outside Denali National Park and Preserve on July 12, 2020. (Emily Mesner / ADN)

At Prospectors Pizzeria and Alehouse, many guests opted to dine outside, including a couple from California who marveled at the midnight sun.

Although business closures were prevalent, there was hope for a return to normal next year. Signs outside Denali Park Salmon Bake and Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge read, “Hibernating for the season - see you May 2021” and “We will be back.”

Many shops remain closed and boarded along the boardwalk in Glitter Gulch outside Denali National Park and Preserve on July 12, 2020. (Emily Mesner / ADN)
A vacancy sign sits along the Parks Highway in Glitter Gulch on July 12, 2020. (Emily Mesner / ADN)


[Because of a high volume of comments requiring moderation, we are temporarily disabling comments on many of our articles so editors can focus on the coronavirus crisis and other coverage. We invite you to write a letter to the editor or reach out directly if you’d like to communicate with us about a particular article. Thanks.]

Sponsored