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“A Good Experience; Worth the Expense?” 4 of 5 stars
Review of Denali Backcountry Lodge

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Denali Backcountry Lodge
3.0 of 5 Hotel   |   Mile 95 Denali Park Road, Denali National Park and Preserve, AK 99755   |  
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Dallas
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
7 helpful votes 7 helpful votes
“A Good Experience; Worth the Expense?”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed September 15, 2012

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.

  • Stayed September 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Rating summary
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Location
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    4 of 5 stars
  • Service
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    3.5 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    4.5 of 5 stars
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (40)
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English first
Macon
Reviewer
5 reviews 5 reviews
4 hotel reviews
Reviews in 5 cities Reviews in 5 cities
9 helpful votes 9 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 15, 2012

Josh from RochesterNY is spot on in his review of the Denali Backcountry Lodge. Despite having so-so weather, we, too, had an amazing experience there. The rooms were very clean and comfortable and the meals tasty and ample. We had great hikes with guides Mikey, Chris, and Timmy, all of whom were very knowledgeable and fun. Such beautiful scenery and no one else on the trails. I highly recommend the Denali Backcountry Lodge!

  • Stayed September 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Austin, Texas, United States
1 review
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 11, 2012

We were booked into the Denali Backcountry Lodge by through the Alaska Railroad Tour group and had no idea what to expect. The rooms were very nice, the food was great - and served family style which gave us the opportunity to converse with fellow travelers, and the staff was fabulous. What we particularly liked was that they had a variety of activities for all different kinds of interests. If you wanted to go on a 6-hour hike up mountains and down valleys they could arrange that. If you wanted to go on an airplane ride around The Mountain you could schedule that. We elected to have a driver take us to Wonder Lake where we could wander around at our leisure - or just sit on the dock and stare at The Mountain for a while (which is what we did). What I particularly liked was that there was very limited cell or internet service which forced me to get away from everything - and I cannot imagine a more beautiful, serene place to do so. We were very, very pleased with our stay at the Denali Backcountry Lodge.

Room Tip: Not where the busses unload at night.
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  • Stayed August 2012, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
AlaskaGM, General Manager at Denali Backcountry Lodge, responded to this review, September 18, 2012
Chris P,

Thank you very much for your time in reviewing the lodge. Whether guests go hiking in the backcountry wilderness of Denali National Park or sit quietly at the water’s edge of Wonder Lake, the lodge provides a tranquil escape. Wildlife sightings, Northern Lights, wildflowers, and wide open tundra beckon guests to explore, discover, and experience this treasure of a Park.
We look forward to welcoming you back for a future stay at Denali Backcountry Lodge!

Thank you.

Tara Aller
General Site Manager
Denali Backcountry Lodge
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Rochester, New York
Senior Contributor
22 reviews 22 reviews
4 hotel reviews
Reviews in 13 cities Reviews in 13 cities
31 helpful votes 31 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 10, 2012

We absolutely LOVED the back country lodge. Barry, our bus driver, was a human encyclopedia .. and he was super patient and polite when a few old folks complained that he ran out of hot chocolate during the snack break half-way through. Give me a break.

The scenery in the park is unbelievable. We saw a momma bear and 2 cubs, some moose, some sheep, and some birds that are probably common to Alaska but were pretty exotic to us.

The lodge itself is quite amazing. It was built long ago, but is in incredible shape, many buildings look brand new. We paid extra for one of the rooms along the creek, which is a must-do! Awesome river sounds while we slept. The room was SPOTLESS. The heater warmed it up quickly, hot water was good, good shower water pressure, ALL IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. This is not "roughing it" or even "rustic" whatsoever.

Food? Amazing. I've had meals at all the big city fine restaurants by Bobby Flay, Puck, and all the Mortons and Ruth's Christophers i can stand. You're basically served up a $50+ meal with dessert each night that is more fresh than anywhere else. First night was Alaskan Salmon and chicken with veggies. Next night we had caribou steaks and halibut (THE best, most fresh halibut i've ever had), and the third night was King Crab legs and pulled pork. SO GOOD. The breakfast is basic continental stuff, and the lunch is sandwiches and soup. If you're into fine dining and spend half your vacation loafing around stuffing your face, go somewhere else. Don't bother reading any reviews that list the food here as a negative. Hell, I even asked for (and received) a second halibut filet, in addition to eating the remainder of my girlfriend's caibou steak that she couldn't finish. Double bonus!

ACTIVITIES. We hiked every day on the "moderate" hikes. I read some negative reviews saying they only offer so many hikes, and that people didn't a chance to sign up for things. Here's what is going on here. The park only allows 12 folks to go on a guided hike at once. This is 11 people plus 1 guide. That's the rule. So, they take 11 tourists in one direction on one day, and 11 tourists in another direction on one day. THE OTHER MAIN TRAILS are being used by the other area lodges on the alternate days. So the "Camp Ridge" trail is used by 11 Back Country Lodge tourists on Monday, and used by 11 Kantishna Roadhouse tourists on Tuesday, then they alternate back. This is to keep the trails in good shape and not destroy the landscape. THE OTHER THING: They (rightly so) give activity sign-up preference to the people who have already stayed a night. So if you arrive Monday night, the folks who stayed there overnight on Sunday night have activity signup preference. The folks who stayed there Sunday night eat dinner at 6:00pm on Monday, then they sign up for their activities. The folks who arrive Monday night eat dinner around 7:30pm, and sign up for activities after their dinner. The folks who stay there Monday night will get to sign up for activities FIRST the next day. You'll get to go on a hike, go to Wonder Lake, pan for gold, and all the things you want to do. It's just that you might have to do it the next day if spots are full today. RELAX.

Erin was our hiking guide for the Camp Ridge trail, and also the next day for Wickersham Dome, both moderate hikes. These trails are easy for anyone in decent shape. We had a guy who was over 80yrs old hike up Camp Ridge with us! On the Wickersham Dome hike we got to see Denali in FULL VIEW, pretty amazing!

Tuesday night, the 4th of Sept 2012, we were awakened by knocks on our door and some girls were shouting. I thought someone ran into a bear. NOPE. The Northern Lights were out !! They said it's only the second time this summer that they saw them back there. We had put our names on a wakeup list just in case the lights were out and boy were we glad we did. I got some decent photos of the lights with my Canon xsi using a 3-second shutter speed. Light show went on about 20 minutes then vanished into thin air. We lucked out big time - - saw Denali AND the aurora on the SAME DAY.

Mike, who i think is a manager or supervisor there, is super nice and talked to us in length about different places to go and see. He drove us over to the Moose Creek trail on the way to shuttle folks to Wonder Lake. We did the trail solo and, even though it was basically a dirt road to nowhere, the colors and creek were amazing. He is super knowledgeable, so tap him for trail advice. We went down to Wonder Lake one afternoon and tooled around there.. saw a big bull moose way up in the hills behind the Ranger station. And I got some Nat Geo quality shots of a couple of Trumpeter Swans on the lake with a view of snow-capped mountains in the background. Very relaxing place with a small dock to sit on. Someone on here mentioned there were no benches to sit on - - give me a break. NOTE: back country lodge has a shuttle to the NORTH part of the Lake - - not the SOUTH part of the lake near the camp grounds. However, i bet if you asked real nice they would drop you off there, or you could go down there as part of their McKinley ridge hike.

Lunch: Around lunch time, there is a bus (or two or three) that brings day-trippers out to the Lodge. A lot of them are on a cruise and think the Lodge is Disney Land. They get there, mob the lunch area, crawl all over the place, and then leave. We didn't have any problems with the day trippers, but they were certainly a presence during those few hours. Someone on here said that they ate all the food or something, but i never experienced that. You can get in to eat lunch before, or after, the day-trippers, so don't worry about it. We ate lunch right along with them and talked to a few and looked at their pictures of wildlife on their way in. So you can either fight it, or just relax and mingle.

Overall, even though the place is expensive, it's a SUPER bargain. You're in the middle of nowhere with a spotless room, top notch dinner entrees, more hiking trails than you could even walk, wildlife all around you, and a BAR with local beer. This is an AWESOME place, the people who work there are really laid back and friendly, and finally - - DENALI IS WHAT YOU MAKE OF IT - - Don't show up there expecting to be hand-held and entertained like it's Disney or a Carnival cruise. If you're into hiking, ask them where to go, and then GO. If you want to eat the whole time, sit there and eat. Come with a plan, or at least SOME idea of what you want to do, and you'll have a great time.

I wanna go back !!

Room Tip: Room 38 is in a great spot by the rushing water. Super clean !!
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  • Stayed September 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 10
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
AlaskaGM, General Manager at Denali Backcountry Lodge, responded to this review, September 18, 2012
JoshRochesterNY,

Thank you for your review of your stay at Denali Backcountry Lodge. The Northern Lights have been a magical way to experience fall in Denali, and I am pleased that the lights were out during your stay. I am delighted to hear that you enjoying hiking in Kantishna, and the cuisine created by Chef Benjamin Phillips. The staff strives to create memorable experiences while highlighting the Park, and bringing their passions into their daily work. Thank you for choosing to stay at Denali Backcountry Lodge, and I hope the rest of your time in Alaska was just as memorable.

Thank you,

Tara Aller
General Site Manager
Denali Backcountry Lodge
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
San Jose, California
Reviewer
3 reviews 3 reviews
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 1, 2012

We knew we didn't want to do a cruise so we took our chances with Denali Backcountry Lodge instead. Best vacation decision I ever made! They had it all: great rooms, delicious food, activities for every interest and level, beautiful views of Mt. McKinley and Denali Park, isolation from the masses, serene setting on the creek, friendly/helpful staff, and best of all: no cell phones or internet!!! I would say that to truly make the most of what the lodge and the area have to offer, you should be in decent physical shape. We loved the hikes and mountain biking! If you just want to relax though, you can do that too! It felt like camp for big kids where you tried new things and met new people and you didn't have to worry about the frivolous things that consume our lives. Even the bus rides to and from the lodge were full of adventure as we scanned the breathtaking views for moose, caribou and bear. We were lucky enough to have 4 days of clear views of Mt. McKinley! I do recommend staying 3 nights as we did to take advantage of the experience.

Room Tip: The standard cabin was great. Some cabins were joined but ours was not so it was quiet.
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  • Stayed August 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
AlaskaGM, General Manager at Denali Backcountry Lodge, responded to this review, September 11, 2012
Cynthia O,

Thank you for your review of Denali Backcountry Lodge. This summer has seen very favorable weather, and I am pleased to hear that you experienced the incredible beauty of Denali on a clear day! I truly hope you had a memorable stay, and consider visiting Kantishna on your next trip to Alaska.

Thank you for staying with us at the lodge,

Tara Aller
General Site Manager
Denali Backcountry Lodge
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
United States
Senior Reviewer
9 reviews 9 reviews
3 hotel reviews
Reviews in 7 cities Reviews in 7 cities
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 27, 2012

My family and I just returned from a 3 night stay at Denali Backcountry Lodge. It was without doubt the highlight of our 2 week visit to Alaska. The 6 hour bus trip into the park with Jerry, our driver was wonderful. Jerry was knowledgeable and interesting to listen to - he provided almost non-stop commentary. He was great at spotting wildlife, even when at some distance. The lodge itself is amazing. I have travelled extensively around the world, in all types of accomodations, and I absolutely loved the Denali Backcountry Lodge. The cabins are immaculate, and comfortable. The entire staff is delightful and can't do enough for you. Mary and Magali were especially helpful to my family and I. Magali even arranged to get my 7 year old daughter a Denali Jr. Ranger badge! The food was plentiful, and better than the food we had on our Holland America cruise! The activiites were great. A special shout out to Tim, who took me on an amazing hike on the McKinley Bar trail. He was more than happy to go ahead with the hike, despite me being the only one who signed up. Tim shared his extensive knowledge of the plants and everything we came across (including tracks from bear, moose, and lynx). We sat in total silence at the end of the trail for 15 minutes (or more) staring at the clear view of Mt. McKinley, less than 25 miles away while listening to nothing but the sound of the McKinley river. For someone who lives in the NY Metro area, it was a once in a lifetime experience. I was sad to leave, and hope to return again soon!

Room Tip: get one by the river!
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  • Stayed August 2012, traveled with family
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
AlaskaGM, General Manager at Denali Backcountry Lodge, responded to this review, August 29, 2012
JA,

Thank you for your candid review of the lodge, and your hiking trip with Tim as your guide. The trail offers an expansive view of the McKinley river bar, and spectacular views of the mountain, weather dependent. Kantishna offers a peaceful area to enjoy the nature of Denali, and explore this marvelous region.

Thank you for taking the time to express your views of the lodge area, and Denali!

Thank you,
Tara Aller
General Site Manager
Denali Backcountry Lodge
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Brentwood, Tennessee, United States
1 review
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 26, 2012

This was the most perfect trip I have ever taken. Karen, who helped me plan it did an outstanding job. I had low expectations of seeing Mt.McKinley as my nephew and wife had been through the area the week before and saw nothing. On our bus ride to Denali Park, Jerry stopped and let us take pictures before the clouds obliterated the mountain. The bus was comfortable and the stops timely. Our cabin at the park entrance was clean and adequate and the staff very pleasant and helpful. I was concerned about the long bus ride into the back country as I had back and knee problems but the seats were fine and I did well. I was most impressed with the knowledge of the drivers. Both drivers in the back country(Jim and Justin, had masters degrees in biology, geology etc. Again they stopped frequently if we saw animals including a grizzle bear that came down to our side of the bus to dig for tubors. The lodge had very helpful and pleasant staff, our cabins very clean, and the food was very good. I had a dietary restriction which they handled with ease and we were all impressed with the cup warmer. I would highly recommend the Denali Backcountry tour to all who want to see Alaska's beauty.

Room Tip: We were given a room that looked out onto Moose Creek. Couldn't do any better.
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  • Stayed August 2012, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
AlaskaGM, General Manager at Denali Backcountry Lodge, responded to this review, August 29, 2012
Byra M,

Thank you for your review of your stay at Denali Backcountry Lodge. I hope you enjoyed your stay with us, and your travels in Alaska. I am pleased to hear that you enjoyed your drivers into the back country. Thank you for sharing your experiences of your stay, and I hope you travel back to Kantishna in the near future.

Thank you,

Tara Aller
General Site Manager
Denali Backcountry Lodge
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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Additional Information about Denali Backcountry Lodge

Address: Mile 95 Denali Park Road, Denali National Park and Preserve, AK 99755
Phone Number:
Location: United States > Alaska > Denali National Park and Preserve
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free Breakfast Free Parking Restaurant Shuttle Bus service Spa Suites Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 6 hotels in Denali National Park and Preserve
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$$
Hotel Class:3 star — Denali Backcountry Lodge 3*
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
When planning your Alaska vacation don't settle for just another Denali hotel! Journey with us winding through the Alaska Range, deep into the heart of the Denali National Park, with opportunities to see Denali's famed wildlife: Grizzlies, Caribou, Moose, Dall Sheep, Wolves, and Eagles. At the very end of the Denali Park road, past Wonder Lake, you'll find a unique enclave in the park known as Kantishna. This area is home to Denali Backcountry Lodge. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Denali Backcountry Hotel Denali National Park And Preserve
Hotel Denali Backcountry

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