In 2005 a three-toed dinosaur footprint was found in Denali National Park. Though these prehistoric animals no longer wander about this great Alaskan wilderness, other creatures have stepped in to maintain the character of the place. Grizzly bears and moose, fascinating to look at from inside a tour bus, command just as much respect as their extinct ancestors. All live in the shadow of North America’s highest peak, known by some as Mt. McKinley, by others as Denali. Most hotels are located along Highway 3 and the Alaskan Railroad tracks.
Grande Denali Lodge
This is the closest you will get to staying inside Denali National Park while still enjoying the rustic luxury of a full service mountain lodge. Located at Sugarloaf Mountain, the Grande Denali Lodge offers views of the Nenana River Canyon and the Denali wilderness. The main building is a combination lobby, gift shop and gathering place. Hewn logs support the vaulted ceilings, and river rock fireplaces warm welcoming seating areas. Have a drink at the Peak Spirit Lounge or a meal at the Alpenglow restaurants, all the while looking out over the valley floor. Guest rooms are available in two buildings, the Kodiak Lodge or the Denali Lodge. Six secluded cabins are on the lodge property, each with kitchenette, separate sleeping area and a wildlife viewing deck. Book a bus tour of Denali National Park that leaves right from the lobby. Check with the front desk about other adventures such as dog mushing, river rafting and jeep safaris.
Denali Park Resorts - Nenana River
Denali Park Resorts offers two seasonal properties next to the Nenana River. Both are open from May until the middle of September. The McKinley Chalet Resorts is the most deluxe of the pair and sits on 42 acres along the Nenana River. Dine on fresh seafood and sip fine wines at the Nenana View Bar & Grille. Go for a more casual meal at the Courtyard Cafe. Throughout the property are coffee carts, retail shops and stores offering food and drinks to go. Spend the night in a Mini Suite, overlooking the Nenana River. The McKinley Village Lodge is also on the Nenana River. The 20-acre property, offering rooms from standard to deluxe king with a river view, has most of its amenities in the Summit Lodge building.
Denali Lakeview Inn - Otto Lake
Only 10 miles north of the main entrance to Denali National Park sits the quiet, laid back Denali Lakeview Inn. The boutique inn offers rooms with names such as the Blue Moose, Purple Caribou and the Midnight Sun. One, called the Moon Dream Room offers an in-room jetted tub and a private deck overlooking Otto Lake. Breakfast is delivered to your room each morning. A nine-hole golf course, ATV, canoe and paddle boat rental outlets and a restaurant are within walking distance. In summer try a little fishing. In winter watch nature’s light show, the Aurora Borealis, dance across the sky. The restaurants, shops and services of Healy are less than five miles away.
Denali Park Hotel – Healy
Yes, that really is a 1943 Alaskan Railway car serving as the lobby of the Denali Park Hotel. It once carried World War II troops between Fairbanks and Alaska, and now welcomes visitors lucky enough to find their way to the town of Healy. The hotel grounds have literally been carved out of the wilderness. Moose have gotten used to walking across the parking lot rather than circle around, so chances are you‘ll get a picture or two, from a safe distance. Rooms are in four single level buildings and allow pets with prior approval and payment of a fee. Nearby restaurants include Keith’s Deli and Rose’s Cafe, both in Healy. A free shuttle is available to the Denali Park Salmon Bake. This hotel is only 10 miles from Denali National Park and open from mid-May until mid-September.
- Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images