If you’re looking for elegance Alaska-style, you’ve found it. Tonglen Lake Lodge is an exclusive lakeside oasis with hideaway cabins that feels like a fly-in resort, but is easily accessible by car and only seven miles south of the doorway to Denali National Park. Along with tranquility, you’ll find an art gallery, an artisan bakery, even a “canine resort” for your dog. The two-story, hand-scribed log lodge is itself a gallery radiating with artistic touches — handcrafted log furniture, handmade quilts, stained-glass accents, pottery, paintings, and sculpture. There’s nothing else like it, comfortable and intimate, with a lovely view of the Alaska Range.
Owner Donna Gates welcomes you to her homestead. She came to Denali in 1980 to work a summer job as a backcountry ranger, stayed the winter to run sled dogs, and never left. In its previous life, the property was a hunting camp with an eight-by-eight plywood shack and a trail heading up into the rugged Yanert River country. Donna has lived on this land for more than 30 years, and her love of the place has transformed it.
She raised her daughters here, and with them now grown, she was ready for a new adventure. An accomplished artist, she wanted to create something beautiful, something that would do justice to the land while incorporating all the things that were dear to her — friends, family, community, art. Talented friends and local artists and craftspeople helped turn her vision into reality, including her neighbor, Ken Wilbert, the man behind the log furnishings.
You’ll find Donna’s works in watercolor, oils, and pencil in the gallery, as well as the creations of other local artists, from pottery to metal works. With its emphasis on the arts, the lodge has an outdoor stage for performances, and workshop space for the musicians, photographers, writers, and others who gather here to share their talents. There couldn’t be a more idyllic setting for a wedding — or a family reunion, conference or retreat.
Each of the lodge’s 10 log cabins comes with privacy, a cast-iron stove, a king-size bed, a queen-size futon, and a bathroom with an oversized shower and heated floors. An artisan bakery breakfast— quiche, yogurt, homemade granola, handmade breads and pastries—is included. Sack lunches can be arranged; in the evenings, appetizers and beverages.
Donna, who’s thought through every detail right down to the thread count of the sheets, is proud to say there’s not a single television set on the entire property. (There is, however, Wi-Fi.) But after spending time here, you may be tempted to wing that laptop into the lake.
Your dog is welcome here to play in the yard, trot along on hikes, and fetch sticks in the lake. But at night it needs to be kenneled, since dogs aren’t allowed in the cabins. Donna offers this service, as well, through Tonglen Lake Canine Resort, a state-of-the-art grooming and boarding facility with a certified canine massage therapist on hand. If you’re traveling with your dog and want to take off for a few days to go where dogs cannot, let Fido enjoy the creature comforts here starting at $26 a day.