There's a lot of buzz online about the impacts of the ongoing Pretty Rocks Landslide on the Denali Park Road which has closed at Mile 43. The online buzz is Denali is no longer worth the visit - but is it true? We're breaking it down for you!
What happened? There has been an ongoing landslide (likely due to melting permafrost) at Mile 45.4 in Denali National Park since at least the 1960s. Before 2014, the road surface would get repaired every 2-3 years due to small surface cracks in that area. However, by 2016 the movement in the Pretty Rocks stretch was so great that routine monitoring began. According to the Denali National Park Website (here) "The rate of road movement within the landslide evolved from inches per year prior to 2014, to inches per month in 2017, inches per week in 2018, inches per day in 2019 and up to 0.65 inches per hour in 2021."
What is closed? In 2022 (and 2023, hopefully not much longer than that!) the Denali Park Road will be closed at Mile 43. This means, the Eielson Visitor Center (located at the end of the Park Road) will be closed until the road reopens to tours, likely in 2024. The longer bus tour out to Eielson will not be available this year.
What is open? Transit buses and tour buses will still be operational until the East Fork Bridge at Mile 43. If you want to book one of these bus tours, you can do so here. Free shuttles that operate to Savage River will be offered in 2022 as well. (There's two shuttles here - the Riley Creek Loop Shuttle and the Savage River Shuttle.). Let me be clear - Denali is STILL OPEN! Also, as of this publication, the plan is to have the Denali Park Visitors Center open to the public in 2022!!
What does this mean for you? Some folks online are saying Denali isn't worth the visit if you can't do the full bus tour. While it is true that the bus tour out to Eielson Visitors Center is magnificent, you still can see Denali (the mountain, not the park) prior to the new cutoff on the Denali Park Road. If you had your heart absolutely set on doing the full tour, you will be disappointed. BUT there is still plenty of Denali to explore!
What are our recommendations? Visit Denali National Park even with the road closure! Believe it or not, there are folks that have visited the park prior to 2022 who *chose* not to do the full bus tour. (In fact, if you have small children, we advise against not doing the full tour and instead spending time hiking, visiting the sled dogs, and exploring with a tour!). Wildlife is still visible prior to Mile 43 - this is their land and they roam where they wish! - and you will still see epic scenery. You will still have a fabulous time in Denali!