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The Road to Kantishna

The Road to Kantishna was originally written in September 2015

I literally just got home from driving the entire road into Denali National Park. My parents put in for the Denali road lottery for a chance to get a permit to drive the entire road and they won. So naturally, I invited myself along.

This will be short because well, I’m tired. I will do a better and more informative post on the road to Kantishna eventually. Pinky promise.

Our day for the drive was on Monday, September 21. We drove up to Healy on Sunday and had a room rented at the Denali Park Hotel. 

On our way to Healy, we dropped by the park headquarters and picked up our lottery permit, and paid for our park entrance (which is good for 7 days). 

After we checked in the room we drove back down to Denali National Park and drove into Savage Creek before the sunset.

Denali Road Lottery, Denali National Park, Alaska, Savage River
Savage River, Denali National Park

After our short drive, we went and had dinner over at 49th State Brewery before heading to bed early so that we could get a good start in the morning.

The next morning we were driving into the park by about 7 am as the sun was coming up.

Denali, Denali National Park, Alaska

The drive was scenic but uneventful for the most part until the road started to climb up along Sable Pass and Polychrome Mountain.

The first animals we came across were some dall sheep. There was one group of two young sheep out on a rock and another group of three more mature sheep.

Dall sheep, Dall sheep Alaska, Dall sheep, Denali sheep, Denali, Denali National Park, Alaska

The pair of young sheep were quite the duo. One kept posing and the other was photobombing him.

Dall sheep, Dall sheep Alaska, Dall sheep, Denali sheep, Denali, Denali National Park, Alaska

Only a short drive up the road we next came to a grizzly bear rooting around in the snow.

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Another short trip up the road and down off the mountain we had a bull moose cross the road right in front of us.

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Before long we made it to mile 53: Toklat River. 

As we stopped in at the river, they had shut down the remainder of the road to Kantishna due to snow. They were unsure if the road would be opened back up. 

We waited. And waited. Then napped, ate snacks, and waited some more. 

Walked the dogs, had more snacks, and waited. 

Finally about 3.5 hours later they opened the road back up. 

I guess someone slid off and got stuck in the mud along the side of the road and it took them a while to get the whole mess cleaned up.

By the point where the road opened again, it was snowing pretty hard. 

From the Toklat River we started climbing up the road toward Eielson Lookout. On the way up there we came across another grizzly.

Normally you have a good view of the Alaska Range from Eielson, but that was not the case with all the snow, clouds, and fog yesterday. We continued on to the end of the road at the Kantishna Airport without much to see with the fog.

Finally at about 4pm we made it to the end of the 92.5 mile long road

Kantishna, Denali Park Road, Denali National Park Road, Denali, Denali National Park, Alaska

On the way back we made a quick stop at Wonder Lake and Reflection Pond so I could get a few pictures.

We continued making our way back towards the park entrance. As we crossed past Polychrome Mountain we got to see the dall sheep again.

We saw yet another grizzly near the bridge crossing the East Fork of the Toklat River.

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We saw our last wildlife on the way out of the park. Just after Savage River, we saw three moose.

By 8 pm we finally were leaving the park and back to Healy for one more night before driving home today.

So now I can say I have done the road to Kantishna, however, I’d like to spend some more time in Denali National Park

Maybe next time I’ll be able to see Denali.

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2 thoughts on “The Road To Kantishna”

  1. So you have to win a lottery to drive in there? Never heard of a thing like that. How hard is it to win a ticket or whatever? Why do they do that anyhow? Too much traffic? I’d love to read sometime more about how all that works.

    1. Yes and no. So during the summer you can only drive your own vehicle about 12 miles in (to Savage River) and to do the remainder you’d have to go by tour bus or a shuttle, and if you are real motivated you can bike and walk the entire road. I’m not sure as to why they only let people drive the road for 4 days (5 if you count the military appreciation day), my guesses would be to keep the road in good condition and the amount of visitors numbered? But by May 31 you have to apply and pay a $10 fee per application and they select 400 people per day to go in on the 4 days in September. From what I hear it’s a 1 in 11 chance of getting picked. My parents have lived up here most their lives and this was the first time they ever applied and my Mom’s name was drawn, so I think the odds are pretty decent.

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