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National Parks: Denali

Denali isn’t just for experts. These guinea pigs will prove it. Probably.

Q: How can I score permits for the best units?

A: You can’t game Denali’s system—officials issue permits for the park’s 87 units one day in advance, and you must reserve them in person—but you can give yourself an advantage. Treat it like the DMV: Show up early (office opens at 9 a.m.—get there at 8) in your Gore-Tex best, with two or three itineraries sketched out. Research available zones and quotas if you arrive a day earlier; prior knowledge will help you lobby for preferred units at the counter. “You can target specific units, but it’s better to aim for specific types of routes,” says Ranger Alex Lindeman. “Before you arrive, decide your daily mileage, days in the park, and terrain preferences. Are you eager to climb? Intimidated by river crossings? Do you mind bushwhacking? The more you share, the better we can guide you to an itinerary you’ll most enjoy.” It also pays to look the part: “If someone shows up and doesn’t have the equipment—or looks like he just bought it—we’ll guide him to great dayhikes,” Lindeman admits.

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