The Denali Backcountry Lodge tries hard to make its guests’ trips to Denali perfect. The management of the Lodge is relatively new, so some of the older TripAdvisor Reviews may be less relevant. The food was very good. The staff was competent, eager and able to help with anything. The bus driver and hike guides were quite knowledgeable about nature matters. The setting, beside a rushing stream, is attractive and peaceful. The cabins are modest, not luxurious, with small bathrooms mostly seen in older motels; most people will not be spending much time in their cabins, but going on walks and hikes. Even if you just want to rest, there are verandas near the babbling stream.
If you are cost conscious, you may be wondering if the Lodge is worth the high price compared to staying outside the park and bussing in. This lodge and several in the same Kantishna area are said to have very high expenses because it is costly to transport everything to their remote locations within the Park. Our rate for a couple in the reduced rate Sept season was over $700 a night. The Alaska.org website has a good list of the considerations relevant to staying in or outside the Park at http://alaska.org/denali/advice-stay-inside-or-outside.htm. The primary advantage is that there is only one bus trip (each trip into the Park is usually a matter of hours) required, irrespective of how many days you spend in the Park. Elaborating on one of the points made on the Alaska.org site, a stay in the Park, particularly multiple nights, can provide more opportunities to view Mt McKinley (Denali), which is often obscured by clouds. The Alaska Range, including McKinley, is a magnificent sight, at least when covered with snow. A factor not emphasized on that website is that the ecosystem deeper in the Park is different than that near the entrance. The landscape, for some significant distance from the entrance, seemed much like what is seen in the north woods of the lower forty-eight states; whereas, in the backcountry, there is thick tundra, which was a beautiful array of colors when we were there in the Fall. Staying in the Park provides opportunities to walk/hike through and have close encounters with this landscape. But you may find ways to achieve this while staying at accommodations outside the Park. For example, it may be that the ranger-led stroll and the alpine hike (http://www.nps.gov/dena/planyourvisit/walks-and-hikes.htm) from the Eielson Visitor Center, at Mile 66 on the Park Road, can provide much the same experience.