Whether you're looking to take your family off-grid for a bit of Alaska Adventuring, or for a great fishing spot with your buddies with incredible bear-viewing—or if you’re even an artist looking for inspiration—this lodge made up of newly renovated log cabins offers a customized ideal of bliss. It’s about 180 miles from the nearest road and offers an idyllic perch for exploring both the wilderness of Lake Clark National Park, as well as other bucket-list destinations in Alaska.
Passed Down Through Generations
The family-owned lodge, southwest of Anchorage, has a long history. Since its first homesteaders in 1932, seven different families have owned this land, each adding to and updating the existing structures. By the late 1970s, the Silber family had made the lodge their summer vacation spot. Son Steve—an artist as well as pilot, massage therapist and USMC veteran—now runs the place, sharing his memories and showing landmarks to guests. (Like, for instance, the cabin on nearby Twin Lakes, once lived in by Dick Proenneke, the solitary frontiersman depicted in the documentary Alone in the Wilderness; Steve remembers, as a kid, having conversations with Dick when he would make the trek to Port Alsworth to get his mail).
Today, the lodge attracts a variety of groups seeking Alaskan adventures: friends going on fishing trips, families looking for views and activities, company retreats, as well as artists who utilize the resort’s extensive woodshed and printmaking facilities. Even though there’s room for up to 15 guests at the lodge, Steve is dedicated to providing a custom experience and will not book more than one group at a time, whether they're coming as a family reunion or just a couple on honeymoon.
All-Inclusive “Bush Luxury”
Just getting here is an adventure worth the whole trip: You take a 40-minute flight from Anchorage—passing dozens of glaciers, waterfalls and volcanoes and going through a rugged mountain pass—and land on the dirt airstrip at Port Alsworth in Lake Clark National Park. There, Chulitna staff handle your luggage and board you on their comfortable boat for a 30-minute ride across Lake Clark—which is about six times the size of Manhattan—to the shores of Chulitna Lodge.
The resort is comprised of 18 buildings, including six “bush luxury” cabins that combine for a total of eight bedrooms. Indeed, you don’t have to rough it too much out here: cabins have electricity along with heated mattress pads and down comforters. Dinners in the main lodge house feature Bristol Bay salmon, salads made from the greens grown on site or foraged in the woods, and fresh-picked-berry desserts. The staff is well versed in customer service and are consistently available. Three buildings are very nice bathhouses, with a huge cedar shower and a wood-stove sauna right on the beach.
Build Your Own Adventure
Your stay here is all-inclusive—all meals and drinks are bundled into your rate—but it’s also customized. You just check out the menu of guided activities before you book—like bear-viewing, fishing, stand-up paddleboarding, hiking or kayaking. After you have a brief discussion with Steve, he drafts your itinerary and tallies up the bundled rate. You can check in with Steve before making side trips to other regions of Alaska, too, as he uses his vast experience throughout the state to help folks with excursions like ice climbing or pack-rafting in McCarthy-Kennecott, or sea kayaking in Seward to see whales. This year, Steve is even adding a polar-bear-viewing trip up in the Arctic.
The most popular activity among his guests, Steve says, is the classic bear-viewing. Rather than take guests to Brooks Falls—where you'd share a viewing platform with hundreds of tourists—he takes guests on a floatplane to a small area in Katmai, where he knows there are huge salmon runs and lots of bears feeding. He likes to do a half or full day there, walking up and down the creeks, and letting guests sit and get comfortable in locations where the bears get as close as you wish based on your personal comfort level. (Sometimes that means bears are as close as 10 feet away.)
Finding a Blissful Balance
Granted, you only have to keep as active a pace as you like. Steve says he's had happy guests who did nothing but sit on the porch and watch the “paradise show” all day. Busier guests might take some down days to just relax, perhaps paddling in the waters by the lodge, letting Steve coach the kids on the area’s edible plants, or making spoons in the woodshop. No matter how you spend your time, you’ll likely agree with past guests, who write in their reviews how much they liked Steve and the rest of the staff, and how this place offers a peaceful, even magical, experience off the grid.