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South Shore Skilak Lake
16520 Sterling Highway
Cooper Landing, AK 99572
Staying at the remote Kenai Backcountry Lodge within the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge offers a real taste of the wilderness. The lodge, located on a five-acre, private in-holding, began as a river-accessed hunting cabin back in 1935. Years later, the remodeled and expanded property is still road-free. Guests raft in with Alaska Wildland Adventures, starting their vacation at the Kenai Riverside Lodge.
The company that runs the lodge—Alaska Wildland Adventures—was started by Kirk Hoessle, a Missourian who came here for a summer job years ago and never really left. He started AWA as a tent safari and rafting tour operator, but snapped up the Backcountry Lodge when it came up for sale, and started expanding his company beyond the tents. He's long been an advocate for ecotourism in Alaska, and prides himself on hiring guides with the same expertise and passion about the great outdoors.
Your stay at the Backcountry Lodge begins with a float down the Kenai River, navigating the Kenai River Canyon. You’ll enjoy a gourmet picnic lunch, featuring smoked salmon and halibut, shoreside. Once you reach Skilak Lake, your guide will motor your raft across the lake to the lodge.
Since there are only four log cabins and five Yukon-style cabin tents, the Kenai Backcountry Lodge keeps an intimate feel. The Yukon-style cabin tents are raised on platforms and feature a front porch and a big, sliding glass door. Inside all nine cabins (two have private bathrooms), you'll find tongue-and-groove walls; propane heat and light; and two cozy double beds that were handmade with peeled spruce logs. The canvas walls of the Yukon cabin tents allow you to hear the sounds of the forest, as if you’re sleeping outside—but while nestled between flannel sheets and down comforters.
This true ecolodge runs off hydroelectric power supplemented with propane. You won't hear the sound of generators in the background, just the quiet of the forest. Raised boardwalks let you walk through the forest among the cabins without impact on the forest floor.
After your first night at the Kenai Backcountry Lodge, you'll have the opportunity to enjoy a guided hike through the wildlife refuge. You choose whether you want a casual hike, or a challenging one: The challenging hike takes you to the top of the Cottonwood Creek trail for amazing views—sometimes even including Mount McKinley. The casual hike lets you stop and smell the roses, with a focus on native plants. Non-hikers can enjoy a guided lake tour by motorboat, a quiet afternoon on the screen porch, some ping-pong or beachcombing. In the evening, you can also take guided sunset paddle in a touring kayak when the lake is calm.
On the last day of your Backcountry stay, you'll motor across Skilak Lake, then shuttle back to Kenai Riverside Lodge and your vehicle. In addition to the Kenai Backcountry Lodge, Alaska Wildland Adventures owns and operates two other wilderness lodges on the Kenai Peninsula. Check out Kenai Riverside Lodge, located on the banks of the upper Kenai River; and Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge, an exclusive seacoast paradise. If one lodge is not enough, take part in one of Alaska Wildland Adventure's Guided Journeys, or choose a two or three lodge combination package and experience all AWA has to offer.
Transfers:Round trip transportation available to and from Anchorage (call Alaska Wildland Adventures for details), and for those combining a stay at the Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge, return to Anchorage via the Alaska Railroad is available.