It’s just 20 miles south of Anchorage, but this year-round lodge —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.
Hand Built Lodge
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 Lodge property on the neighboring piece of the mining claim. Over the next six years, they gradually completed the lodge, 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.
Today, the lodge reflects the warm family environment that the Cowles have cultivated. Since they live nearby, you can have as much (or as little) interaction as you want. But, we encourage you to at least chat them up upon arrival. You can hear Roger and Arlene share incredible stories about their experiences and life in Alaska. They’ll be able to suggest nearby hiking trails, or ask Arlene (a veteran kayaker) about where to go paddling. When you want to venture out, you can explore the nearby hiking trails along Turnagain Arm or in Girdwood. Just hanging out at the lodge, 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. The lodge has Internet access, but is otherwise nicely unplugged from the city with no TVs.
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 lodge 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. Included in your stay is a free tour of the mine as well as a $100 bucket to share and pan with your group.
Play Rock-Paper-Scissors to Choose Your Room
The three-story lodge has three guest rooms, one on each level, to accommodate up to 12 guests.
The ground floor Rock 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. The bathroom is located just across the hall.
With a Queen bed, the Paper 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. The bathroom is located just across the hall.
The Scissors 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, is complete with a comfortable leather couch and a table that seats six.