It’s just 20 miles south of Anchorage, but this year-round B&B—set on eight acres against the Chugach State Park, and with sweeping views of Turnagain Arm—feels like you’ve ventured deep into the wilderness. It makes a scenic and convenient blast-off point for adventures into the Kenai Peninsula, but the property is also home to a historic mine where you can learn about prospecting and pan for gold yourself.
Family Home Turned Family Business
Accomplished outdoor enthusiasts Roger and Arlene Cowles had been living and raising their family of five in a cabin here—on the site of the former Indian Valley Mine—when, 14 years ago, they bought the B&B property on the neighboring piece of the mining claim. Over the next six years, they gradually completed the B&B, which had begun construction under the previous owner. Roger—who had built a log cabin in his 20s near Denali— fabricated copper endcaps for each hand-hewn log for protection from the elements, brought in local boulders for a retaining wall, and handcrafted steel railing for the floor to ceiling picture window. When you're making your reservation, Arlene is who answers the phone. She'll take care of you from the very beginning and all of the way through your stay.
Turkey & Chicken Eggs—Plus Huge Views
Today, the B&B reflects the warm family environment that the Cowles have cultivated. There’s plenty of green space for your kids to run around—and they can sometimes even help gather the eggs for breakfast. You can hear Roger and Arlene share incredible stories about their experiences and life in Alaska. Their older teens grew up working here at the mine giving tours and have since taken their strong work ethics to pursue their own careers. The youngest is still around and runs a coffee-and lemonade stand outside the mine gift shop. When you want to venture out, you can explore the nearby hiking trails along Turnagain Arm or in Girdwood. Or, ask Arlene (a veteran kayaker) about where to go paddling. Just hanging out at the B&B, sitting on the deck for breakfast or relaxing, affords good wildlife viewing, too: Guests often see bears, eagles and, in the right months, Beluga whales in the distance.
Panning for a Piece of History
Certainly, if you come during the summer, you’ll want to experience the mine. Set at the bottom of the hill from the B&B is the Indian Valley Mine. There are two buildings on the site, the main cabin and assay building, which are both listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The main cabin now houses the gift shop while the assay building acts as a museum where you can check out old-fashioned mining tools, learn about the local geology, and then have fun panning yourself.
Play Rock-Paper-Scissors to Choose Your Room
The three-story B&B has three guest rooms—one on each level—that can accommodate kids by way of twin beds or sleeping bags and mats. The B&B has Internet access, but is otherwise nicely unplugged from the city with no TVs. Choose from these three rooms:
The ground floor room (you can park right outside) has a King bed and is decorated with photos and mementoes of when Roger and a few buddies rode bicycles 1,160 miles from Anchorage to Nome on the Iditarod trail – the first cyclists to do so. Your own bathroom is located just across the hall.
With a Queen bed, this room is on the same level as the living room, (Park in the back of the house next to your room) dining room and kitchen, so it’s nice for anyone who wants to avoid stairs. This level also features the deck that wraps around the entire house. Your own bathroom is located just across the hall.
This room on the top floor has two Queen beds, four single beds, and en-suite bathroom. The bedroom balcony looks out onto Indian Mountain, while the front room floor-to-ceiling windows overlook Turnagain Arm. The living area, separate from the common area shared by other guests, is complete with a comfortable leather couch and a table that seats six.