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.
© Don Pitcher from Moon Alaska, 10th Edition