Denali Park Road closed in effort to encourage Alaskans to stay home during coronavirus crisis

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Denali National Park closed the only road into the park Tuesday in support of Alaska’s COVID-19 mandates.

The park service decided to close the road because of state mandates that ban nonessential travel between communities and encourage residents to remain home to curb the spread of COVID-19. As of Monday, there were 277 confirmed cases of the virus in Alaska.

“This was a difficult decision for the park,” said Acting Superintendent Denice Swanke in a statement. “But in light of continued visitation to the park from areas of known community spread, including Anchorage and Fairbanks, these changes are necessary to support the Governor’s health mandates and travel restrictions, as well as to keep our staff and the surrounding communities safe."

The 92-mile Denali Park Road is restricted to private vehicles after Mile 15. Hundreds of thousands of visitors travel beyond that on commercial buses each year. In 2017, the park saw more than 600,000 visitors.

The road had been opened only to Mile 3 this year due to weather but was expected to be fully opened this summer. Swanke said the closure will be reviewed as mandates and guidance change.

Denali Park Road has been repeatedly damaged by landslides and rockfall in recent years. Lawmakers have called for federal help in finding a long-term solution for the portion of the road that has been hit the hardest, known as Pretty Rocks Landslide.

[Worries about the fate of the Denali Park Road persist as tourism season looms]


Despite the closure, park and contractor crews will continue working to maintain the road, Swanke said.

The park had already suspended climbing and mountaineering permits for the upcoming season and also closed the visitor center and campgrounds due to COVID-19 concerns.

The closure will not affect travel along the Parks Highway, access to the post office near the park’s entrance, subsistence activities or community recreation in park lands accessed by means other than the road.


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Tess Williams

Tess Williams is a reporter focusing on breaking news and public safety. Before joining the ADN in 2019, she was a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald in North Dakota. Contact her at twilliams@adn.com.