Most of the local lodging action centers around busy Denali National Park, though other lodges and B&Bs are a few miles south of the park entrance, or 10 miles north in the town of Healy. Denali area lodging options are expensive, so those on a tight budget will either need to camp or head to the hostel 13 miles south at Carlo Creek.
Denali Park Lodging
If you’ve been driving the Parks Highway north from Anchorage, soaking up the wild Alaskan wilderness, you’re in for a rude awakening when you reach the unincorporated settlement called Denali Park, a.k.a. “Glitter Gulch.”
Most lodging choices start well over $150 per night, but one place offers a less-expensive option: Denali Salmon Bake Cabins (907/683-2733, www.denaliparksalmonbake.com, early May–mid-Sept.). For the full-on Alaskan experience, stay in an “economy cabin” ($74 s, $79 d) consisting of insulated tent-like structures with two double beds and a shared bath. Standard cabins with private baths, TVs, and air-conditioning are $135 s or $145 d. It’s not for everyone, but the “Bake” is right there in the thick of things near the park entrance. Reservations are advised.
Denali Crow’s Nest (907/683-2723 or 888/917-8130, www.denalicrowsnest.com, $159 d) has 39 cabins perched on a very steep hill. The outdoor hot tub is relaxing after a day of exploring, and they provide a free shuttle for the railroad depot and park visitors center. Parking is limited.
Denali Bluffs Hotel ($256–301 d) is a pleasant hillside place where 111 rooms all contain two double beds (or one king) and fridges. Request one with a private balcony. High atop the bluff is Grande Denali Lodge, a modern 154-room hotel accessed by a very steep switchbacking road. Guests stay in spacious rooms ($299 d) or family style cabins ($459 d). Both Denali Bluffs and Grande Denali have the same Denali Park Resorts (Aramark) management: 907/683-8500 or 866/683-8500, www.denalialaska.com. They provide free shuttles from the rail depot and park visitors center.
Also managed by Aramark, McKinley Chalet Resort (907/276-7234 or 800/276-7234, www.denaliparkresorts.com, mid-May–mid-Sept., $299–329 d) is a 345-room hotel along the Nenana River. Most rooms are set aside for Holland America passengers, so call well ahead of your visit.
Though primarily for cruise ship passengers, the sprawling Denali Princess Lodge (907/683-2282 or 800/426-0500, www.princesslodges.com, mid-May–mid-Sept., $199 d) is also open to independent travelers if they don’t mind the corporate feeling and constant parade of tour buses. There are so many buildings here that you’ll need a map to find your way around. Amenities include outdoor hot tubs overlooking the Nenana River, a fitness center, restaurants and cafés, a dinner theater, and a bar.
Carlo Creek Area Lodging
A number of lodging places are in the Carlo Creek area near Mile 224 of the Parks Highway, 14 miles south of the park entrance. The least expensive is the friendly Denali Mountain Morning Hostel and Lodge (907/683-7503, www.denalihostel.com, mid-May–late Sept.), with earthy creek-side accommodations: Bunk cabins ($32 pp), private rooms and cabins ($80–95 d), and family cabins ($128 for 4 people). There is a two-night minimum stay in the private accommodations. A shower house is separate, and guests can use the central kitchen, computers, free Wi-Fi, and lounge. Gear rentals and storage are available, and two good restaurants (Pizza Panorama and McKinley Creekside Café) are right across the highway. The hostel provides a free twice-a-day shuttle to the park visitors center and rail station that’s available to anyone.
Denali Perch Resort (907/683-2523 or 888/322-2523, www.denaliperchresort.com, year-round) has 20 very small cabins for $85 d with a shared bathhouse, or $125 d with Lilliputian private baths. Nearby is Carlo Creek Lodge (907/683-2576, www.ccldenaliparkalaska.com, late May–early Sept., $85–90 d with shared bath or $120–145 d with private bath), which has a variety of attractive cabins near the creek. Guest computers are available, along with Wi-Fi. McKinley Creekside Cabins & Café (907/683-2277 or 888/533-6254, www.mckinleycabins.com, $139–199 d) has cabins, a fine café, and Wi-Fi.
At Mile 231 (8 miles south of the park turnoff), you’ll find Denali River Cabins (907/683-8002 or 800/230-7275, www.denalirivercabins.com), in a pleasant location right on the Nenana River. These Pan-Abode units include private baths, continental breakfast, and access to a large riverfront deck with a hot tub and sauna. Cabins on the river are $209 d, while those back from the water cost $150 d. Rooms in the recently built lodge cost $194 d.
Across the highway is Denali Grizzly Bear Cabins & Campground (907/683-2696, www.denaligrizzlybear.com, mid-May–mid-Sept.), with a range of lodging choices sprawling up the hillside. These include simple little cabins ($65–92 d), some of which use a central shower house, and attractive log cabins with private baths and kitchens ($192–260 for up to 6 people). Traffic noise can be an annoyance. Recently added hotel rooms ($192 d) overlook the Nenana River.
McKinley Village Lodge (907/276-7234 or 800/276-7234, www.denaliparkresorts.com, $275–315 d) is along the Nenana River at Mile 231. Here you’ll find 150 comfortable hotel rooms, a café, and a lounge. It’s run by Denali Park Resorts (Aramark), the park concessionaire.
The town of Kantishna, 91 miles from the park entrance at the western end of the Park Road, has four roadhouses. These upscale lodges are definitely not for budget travelers, and it’s a long bus ride to Kantishna, so most guests stay at least three nights in this very scenic area. All four of the lodges are open only early June–mid-September. Private buses transport visitors to the lodges at Kantishna, or you can fly out on Kantishna Air Taxi (907/683-1223, www.katair.com).
At Kantishna Roadhouse (907/683-8003 summer or 800/942-7420, www.kantishnaroadhouse.com, June–mid-Sept.) the all-inclusive rate of $810 d per day includes lodging in cabins or duplex rooms, meals, bus transportation from the park entrance, dogsled demonstrations, mountain bikes, gold panning, guided hikes, and interpretive programs. A bar and restaurant are on the premises. A two-night minimum stay is required.
Two wonderful Kantishna lodges—Camp Denali and North Face Lodge—have the same management and contacts (907/683-2290, www.campdenali.com, June–mid-Sept.). At both places, the emphasis is on the natural world, with guided hikes, mountain biking, canoeing, fishing, evening programs, and delicious meals. Camp Denali has spectacular views of Mt. McKinley, and is operated as a low-key wilderness retreat for a maximum of 40 guests. Special programs are offered throughout the summer, focusing on such topics as bird conservation, nature photography, northern lights, and environmental issues. Lodging is in 18 cozy cabins with woodstoves, propane lights, an outhouse, and a shower building. If you can’t handle an outhouse, book a room at North Face Lodge instead.
One mile from Camp Denali is North Face Lodge, which is operated more like a country inn, with 15 guest rooms, all containing private baths. All-inclusive rates at either Camp Denali or North Face Lodge cost $1,425 adults for three nights ($1,069 for children under 12), or $1,900 for four nights ($1,425 children). The price includes lodging, food, bus transportation to and from Kantishna, lectures, guided hikes, and other activities. Guests must stay at least three nights, with fixed arrival and departure dates.
Denali Backcountry Lodge (907/644-9980 or 877/233-6254, www.denalilodge.com) has crowded and overpriced log units ($860 d all-inclusive) with private baths. The food is nothing special either; add $120 extra for riverside cabins.
© Don Pitcher from Moon Alaska, 10th Edition