For a lot of travelers, exploring deep into Denali National Park, far from the crowds, sounds like the ideal way to experience the famous park. But not everyone wants to rough it out there—which is why this lodge offers the perfect balance. It’s a comfortable perch in seriously remote wilderness.
Open seasonally, from early June until mid-September, Denali Backcountry Lodge is one of three lodging options in Kantishna, the former mining outpost near mile 92 of Denali’s Park Road. But this lodge can claim that, of the three, it’s the farthest out in this area of the park that the vast majority of travelers never experience. And it’s the perfect place to unplug: There’s no cell phone service, no TVs in the room, and no Wi-Fi.
But the independent travelers who come out here and love this place pace—some bring their kids, though usually not small children—aren't looking to keep tabs on their email while they're here. Instead, days are spent taking hikes—there are 11 different trails near the lodge—or just exploring the surrounding wilderness by bike, paddling on the lake with a fishing rod in hand, or just relaxing with a good book.
Far Out, But Far From Roughing It
Getting out here is part of the adventure, too. With the Denali Park Road closed at Mile 43 there’s currently no road access. This makes the lodge experience even more exclusive: To get here and back, guests take a scenic, 35-minute helicopter ride from Healy, just north of the park’s entrance, giving you the chance to survey the park’s landscape and look for wildlife from above. Plus, the daytime guests that used to arrive mid-day during a bus tour aren’t currently coming, which means there won’t be more than 23 other guests at the intimate lodge.
You’ll stay in one of the private cabins, each of which has running water, electricity, heat, private bathrooms and either 1 king-size or 2 full XL pillowtop beds. Choose from a Creekside cabin, with a private deck and view of Moose Creek, or a Superior cabin. This isn’t a four-star hotel, but guests often say how they’re pleasantly surprised by how nicely appointed the cabins are.
Creative, Fresh Alaskan Cuisine
The main lodge, meanwhile, offers a comfortable spot for dining and hanging out with fellow guests. There’s a full-service bar and a living-room-style lounge with a fireplace to read a book, play a game, or help yourself to a snack. There are two decks, one upstairs and one downstairs, screened against mosquitoes and offering the soothing sights and sounds of the Moose Creek. Breakfast, lunch—which includes soup, salad and a sandwich buffet—and dinner feature locally grown produce and Alaskan twists on comfort food.
Build Your Own Adventure, at Your Own Pace
While most guests spend mornings on a hike, afternoons bring a variety of options: try paddleboarding or kayaking, go gold panning, take a local history tour around Kantishna, enjoy some fishing or mountain-bike riding, or just go down to nearby Wonder Lake to take pictures of the mountains. You can also take advantage of the lodge’s own spa—the Nest Spa and Wellness—which offers a range of treatments, including Swedish, Thai, and hot stone massages.
Come evening, you can sit outside the lodge, where there are cozy wood-fired saunas, hot tubs, and firepits good for s’mores-making. It’s another joy of a camping-style vacation—but with the luxury of saying goodnight to the wilderness from the comfort of your cabin.