This is an interesting review, because I came here as part of a partially comped trip, so I cannot give you a recommendation based off of value, but I can give info about the activities and quality of the place to help you decide if it's right for you. But reading some of the older reviews and having been there just a couple weeks ago, I can give some of my thoughts and opinions on the place. This review is going to be wordy and long with tons of details, so skip stuff you don't care about, but some of you will certainly thank me for taking the time to type all this.
First, reading the previous complaints about the food, I believe this problem have been fixed. They recently brought in a new chef and our food was great. It included King crab legs, Salmon, Halibut, some delicious pork thing, Bacon-wrapped caribou fillets, and always with a delicious desert of some kind. Hot breakfast buffet includes smoked salmon. I know the food was a highlight for most people. With that being said, the coffee is so watered down, I don't get it. That needs to be fixed. But overall the food is good. Also, having the day trip folks come by the buss-load and crowd our lunch area was a bit annoying, but I see it's part of how the operation works so I was cool with it.They also had a full-time bartender who took drink orders during dinner, had a stand setup at lunch and manned the full bar during the cocktail hour, which was a nice touch. He had good knowledge and was a nice guy to talk to.
A couple things to recommend and note - do a flyover of McKinley with Kantishna Air. These flights are dependent on the weather and as such it is a bit of a monkey wrench on your day planning because you don't know till the last minute whether you'll fly or not, but yet you're trying to plan hikes and other activities in case you don't fly. It's a bit off a planning pain, but just plan hikes and events like you're not going to fly and if you do it'll be better than whatever activity you cancel. The communication and coordination between the air company, the lodge and the guests could be a bit better on this.
This leads to one of my suggestions to the staff for improvement - the daily event planning dynamics. They do a good job of laying out a variety of hikes, but due to some National Park limitations there are only a certain amount of people allowed to go on each hike, so you sign up on a sign-up sheet right after dinner. If you hesitate and don't rush over to sign up right after dinner, you might end up not being able to go on the hike you want. This happened to us one day, and we wound up on a hike focused on little plants and botany that bored us to death. So the suggestions are two-fold. One, to the staff - I know you work with National Park limitations and guidelines, but a little more flexibility would be good if one hike seems to fill up to offer another very similar slightly different than the current offerings one. Second, to travelers, sign up for your hike right away after dinner to be sure to get the one you want. If you might have a flight the next day still sign up so you don't miss out on the sign up, and just cancel if the flight is able to go forward.
I thought the actual hikes were good and the staff knowledge level is great, but it is hard with such varying interests among the travelers. Some people came there only to see plants and wildflowers. We came to see animals and great vistas. Make 100% sure to ask details about the hike before you go and I'm sure you'll end up on one that suits you. I liked the Camp Ridge hike a lot if they offer it - Denali came out of the clouds for a bit and we got some great views of the mountain from the top of the ridge.
There is a ton of possibilities here but it requires some expert time management & planning on the part of the guest - at least if you want to do a flight.
A few other pointers:
Gold panning - it's a neat cultural thing due to the history of gold panning, and it's sort of neat to learn the skill, but overall it's a waste of time. It's not their fault, the staff was great, it's just that the activity of gold panning, whether here or somewhere else, is generally fruitless. If I had it to redo I'd spend the time doing something else - self-guided hiking or biking probably.
Mountain Biking - this is pretty fun, but when we were there a few of the bikes needed some serious work. The gears were all screwed up and did not function properly. I'm a competitive cyclist and a triathlete and I know what I'm talking about - the staff has some work to do on a few of the bikes. With the wear and tear they get I imagine they just need a full-time bike mechanic on site. If they fix the bikes then biking here could be a lot of fun - there are some good mountain roads which are challenging but fun - and there are also some easier routes to bike around a bit if preferred.
Fishing - As one previous person said the fishing isn't real great fishing. There is a stream right next to the lodge with some grayling that are easy to fool with flies. You can fish here but need a permit. Second, there is a lake called wonder lake about 5 miles away which supposedly has some decent lake trout. You can bike to it (not an easy bike ride btw) or take a shuttle, or bike up and ride back. There are enough transportation options that you can get there. However there are no guides, so you're on your own. Also you're on a shallow side or the lake, near the output, not on the side with feeder streams, so you'd have to hike a bit to get to an ideal spot. The day we were there it was also the leeward, not windward side, so we were really not in a good spot. There is a ledge if you have waders on that you can cast out past if you take waders (provided) and wade out to, but it seems most the fish were holding in deeper water. We were there about July 1st and the fish had already moved to deeper water, so if you going any later in the season than that I wouldn't get my hopes up. In terms of gear there were some spinning and fly outfits and a couple waders, but limited supply (only dry flies, no streamers or wet flies at all). So bring your own if you're serious about fishing. Overall fishing here is an afterthought. I wouldn't fish unless you 1) know what you're doing 2) are capable to self-guide and interested in doing it and 3) bring your won gear. I was just looking to pass an hour tossing some casts in peace and quiet on a beautiful lake with alpine mountains as the backdrop, and I wasn't concerned about catching anything. For this, it worked great.
Wildlife viewing - most of the animals you'll see will be on the bus-ride in. We saw some moose and stuff here and there but most animals we saw were on the way in and out and will be at a decent distance. If you're a serious photography consider getting a long zoom and you won't regret it (I had a 200-500mm and my pictures blew away those of everyone else on the bus) . Check my photos of bears on the photo section. Some people b*tch and moan about this bus ride but personally it was my favorite part of the trip, and if you are coming to see animals you'll probably agree, so take the bus instead of paying for the flight out. If you've already seen bears, caribou, moose, etc. before and that is old news, maybe take the flight one way. We saw at least 20+ grizzlies between the two trips, including multiple groups of cubs and mothers many that were only 20 yards off the road, so I am very glad I did the bus. Also, if looking forward, sit on the left side of the bus on the way in and the right side of the bus on the way out! It has the best views! You're welcome.
Overall I'd say the staff was great, the food was great, there were lots of activity options, you just need to know in terms of activity planning you'll need to be proactive. If you get lucky like we did, the wilderness on the way in and way out is awesome. The flyover of Mt. McKinley was amazing. Again I will point out that the trip I did was part of a partially comped trip so I really can't speak to the bang for the buck or price value, but it certainly met my expectations and was an awesome experience. Hopefully this review provides enough info that you can determine if it's right for you as well. I really enjoyed it a lot.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.