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“Just For The Experience” 5 of 5 stars
Review of North Face Lodge

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North Face Lodge
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Post Office Box 67, Denali National Park and Preserve, AK 99755   |  
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australia
Senior Contributor
23 reviews 23 reviews
17 hotel reviews
Reviews in 19 cities Reviews in 19 cities
23 helpful votes 23 helpful votes
“Just For The Experience”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed February 12, 2014

If you want to stay in the heart of Denali National Park with - on a good day - stunning views of Mt McKinley, close proximity to Wonder Lake and the beautiful sub-artic tundra you can’t look past Denali North Face Lodge. We spent three nights there and loved it. The North Face shuttle brings people from the train station at Denali through the stunning park - a 5 hour feast for the eyes drive, through the tundra, aboreal forests and the magnificent Alaska Range, where the knowledgeable driver makes the most of wildlife viewing, such as grizzly bears, moose (we had an angry moose do a mock charge towards our bus), wolves, dall sheep and caribou. The buses are not overly crowded and have good leg room, which allows easier viewing and photography of the park and the animals. Along the way you are provided with a delicious picnic meal. On arrival the manager John and his staff greet each individual as they alight from the bus. The accommodation is basic but comfortable and clean and with 3 qualified chefs the food is delicous and beautifully presented. There is a wonderful feel of community at North Face Lodge. Guests are seated with different people for each meal and the staff are very friendly, helpful and very good at their jobs. Activities are arranged for guests, such as hiking at either low, moderate or strenuous levels. You can hike any of the trails or make your own trail in the soft tundra. We were taken out on a photographic foray instead of a hike. Guests can use the Lodge pushbikes to discover the area or paddle around Wonder Lake in canoes. Or sit by the crackling fire and borrow a book from the Lodges Library. Come to North Face Lodge for the experience. You won’t be disappointed. September is reputed to be the best month for stable weather and vibrant colours in the tundra. But it can also be quite cold, so remember to pack warm clothes, gloves, hat and dress in layers.

  • Stayed September 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 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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70 reviews from our community

Traveler rating
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Rating summary
  • Location
    5 of 5 stars
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    4 of 5 stars
  • Service
    5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    5 of 5 stars
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (13)
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English first
Vero Beach
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
35 helpful votes 35 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed October 14, 2013

It helps to understand the setup in Denali to appreciate choices and experiences.
1. Virtually no automobiles are allowed into the Park except for those with special permits. Forget any thoughts of driving around inside the Park.
2. Most lodging is outside the park and uses buses with special permits for day trips into the Park.
3. It is 90 miles and several hours on graded road surfaces with some steep drop-offs to the far end of the Park.
North Face Lodge is 85 miles via provided bus on this road. Much of the animal life will be seen from the bus. Bus drivers/guides are college educated in relevant natural sciences, many with graduate work and degrees. They work hard to help you learn about and appreciate the nature in the Park. Guided excursions from the Lodge accommodate easy, moderate and more difficult hikers. You pack your own lunch for the day after each breakfast. Meals are prepared by a real chef and respond to individual dietary requirements. Check the website for currently available hiking equipment like rain gear, day packs, hiking poles, etc. which the Lodge provides free of charge and could influence your packing of gear. My wife and I waited a year to get the four night option and feel it was a good decision.

Room Tip: All rooms face Mount Denali and are equivalent. No need to obsess over room location.
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  • Stayed August 2013, 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 26
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Lexington, Virginia
Senior Contributor
29 reviews 29 reviews
20 hotel reviews
Reviews in 20 cities Reviews in 20 cities
42 helpful votes 42 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed October 3, 2013

My wife and I stayed at the North Face Lodge this August in conjunction with a Denali Photography workshop. The accommodations were Spartan (being on a par with some inexpensive lower 48 motels) but did include in-room bathrooms (a luxury for lodging so far within the Park).

What sets the North Face Lodge apart is the wonderful hospitality of the staff. They are extremely knowledgeable about the Park and its wildlife, most holding advanced degrees in the flora or fauna of the area. Each day, we drove via bus to locations that the staff considered prime wildlife habitats. During our 5-day stay, we saw bear, moose, caribou, wolves and numerous species of birds. These sightings were even more special considering that Denali Park consists of over 6 million acres.

The meals were delicious, whether served in the lodge, picnic-style on the Denali Road or boxed lunches eaten on the bus.

Was the stay expensive...yes. But it was worth every penny and I would recommend the experience highly.

  • Stayed August 2013, traveled with family
    • 5 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 13
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
ks
Top Contributor
198 reviews 198 reviews
57 hotel reviews
Reviews in 78 cities Reviews in 78 cities
88 helpful votes 88 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 21, 2013

It is so special to stay within Park Denali, and if you prefer to have a toilet en suite, then mortgage your home and make reservations a year ahead of time for North Face Lodge.

Yes, it's worth it!

The location and staff are incredible. The hikes/outings were fitted to everyone's interests and walking abilities. The food was sooo good.

I'm sure Denali is beautiful all year round. We were there in the fall and it is magical.

  • Stayed September 2013, 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 4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Washington DC, District of Columbia
Senior Contributor
24 reviews 24 reviews
15 hotel reviews
Reviews in 16 cities Reviews in 16 cities
13 helpful votes 13 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 14, 2013

I would rate the North Face Lodge a "10." Set within spectacular Denali National Park, North Face Lodge is an incredible place to stay. Everything, from the drive in through the accommodations to the food and the activities, is so well thought out. And then there is the staff! What a remarkable group of young people. Our "hosts," Jonathan and Juliette, were warm and accessible. The naturalist/guides were knowledgable and informative. We stayed as part of a Lindblad extension with our wonderful guide Elise. We thought that it was too much to ask for that our stay would match our incredible cruise,but it did! Denali is a remarkable place and to truly appreciate it I would strongly recommend staying at the North Face Lodge, a unique and most enjoyable experience.

  • Stayed September 2013, 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.
New York City, New York
Contributor
18 reviews 18 reviews
18 hotel reviews
Reviews in 15 cities Reviews in 15 cities
30 helpful votes 30 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed August 25, 2013

North Face Lodge sits almost at the end of 92-mile road in Denali National Park. Access is via converted school buses that are driven by Lodge staff who also just happen to be the naturalist guides for the walks and hikes that are at the heart of the experience here. The lodge was the second stop on a high school graduation trip – a present to my niece Kristen. For those of you traveling with teenagers (and tweens) -- be prepared for the horror that ensues when they realize that they’ve been cut off from the outside world! My niece actually found – and then asked about – the hidden network that the Lodge uses to conduct its business and that lodge staff use to stay connected with the outside world. For me, on the other hand, being disconnected was pure bliss.

North Face is a Spartan place as befits a lodge that is off the grid. Don’t expect air conditioning or fancy toiletries. Do expect good food, mountain views, knowledgeable guides, and activities for almost all levels (more on that “almost” in a bit). Travelers who land here are looking to see pristine Alaska, hike on the tundra (there are two kinds), and escape the crowds that are rumored to swarm at points closer to the entrance to the park. If they are lucky, Mount Denali (or Mount McKinley, depending on whom you are talking to) will come out from behind the clouds. We were very lucky – the mountain was out on our first full day in the park – reflected in all its glory in both Wonder Lake and Reflection Pond.

If I were in charge of North Face, there are two things I would change – particularly given the long days that mark the Alaskan summer. The first has to do with the “almost” that I mentioned earlier. The lodge offers three options when it comes to activity choices – foray (very easy adventures with a lot of on/off of buses or smaller vans and good for photographers, those with limited mobility, etc.), medium (3-5 mile hikes that may include difficult terrain), and hard (destination hikes where it’s not so much about the scenery but more about the getting there). The problem is with the “easy” and the “medium” or moderate options. One is all too often too easy and the other can carry a risk of a fairly huge jump in difficulty -- particularly when walking on the Alaskan tundra (think of it as walking on a giant sponge. I’d like to see some 2-3 mile hikes in the mix of offerings or be

The second has to do with the timing of activities and meals. Although the hot breakfast was really yummy, I would have much preferred to get out on the tundra given that animals are most active in the early morning and later in the day. At North Face, breakfast is at 7:30 am and you leave for hikes and forays between 9:00 and 10:00 am. I just didn’t get it – I’d traveled all this way to see not just the scenery but also the animals. Although we did spot moose and caribou and a lone grizzly, I can’t help but think we might have seen more if we’d been out and about a bit earlier in the day.

The lodge has mosquito headgear (a must), rain gear, backpacks, gaiters and trekking poles available to borrow. Sometimes they’ll mix folks who are staying up at Camp Denali together with you depending on who is interested in what activity.

Bottom Line? If you have a hankering to go deep into Denali, North Face is a good option. The naturalist guides are great and they make an effort to tailor what you see to your expectations. It can feel a bit regimented at times and be prepared for the rotating breakfast and dinner companions (they rotate you so you have different dining companions every night). Rooms are functional and clean (the aforesaid naturalist guides double as housekeeping staff during the guest changeovers). Definitely spend time talking to the staff – they know a lot about the flora and fauna.

  • Stayed July 2013, traveled with family
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 15
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Ashland, Illinois
Contributor
11 reviews 11 reviews
7 hotel reviews
Reviews in 9 cities Reviews in 9 cities
16 helpful votes 16 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 24, 2013

North Face Lodge is truly one of a kind. The staff treats you like family and are superb in making your visit worthwhile. You will have about one staff person for every two or three guests. Most of the staff have at least masters degrees in the natural sciences. As they guide you around Denali, both their experience and their love of the park shows.
Meals are gourmet including the picnic lunches you take on your hiking adventures. Btw, they offer guided hikes for all physical abilities--from a 2000 ft. elevation rise to "forays" for photographers.
We certainly enjoyed our fellow travelers too. Most were like minded as us--there for the adventure and wanting to learn more about the unbelievable scenery we have entered.
I know it was pricey, but it was worth every penny. I truly wish to thank the North Face folks for an experience we will never forget.

  • Stayed June 2013, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 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.
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Additional Information about North Face Lodge

Address: Post Office Box 67, Denali National Park and Preserve, AK 99755
Phone Number:
Location: United States > Alaska > Denali National Park and Preserve
Amenities:
Free Breakfast Restaurant
Hotel Style:
Ranked #2 of 30 Specialty Lodging in Denali National Park and Preserve
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $
Number of rooms: 15
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Located near the end of the unpaved, mountainous 90-mile road into Denali National Park, North Face Lodge is one of only two in-park lodgings in view of Mt. McKinley. It specializes in learning adventures for active travelers, featuring naturalist-led hikes and field trips for visitors who wish to explore Denali in-depth. ... more   less 
Also Known As:
North Face Hotel Denali National Park And Preserve

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