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Denali Backcountry Lodge
Certificate of Excellence
Anchorage, Alaska
Level Contributor
54 reviews
22 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 93 helpful votes
“Return Visit”
Reviewed February 26, 2014

This was actually my third visit to the Backcountry Lodge, but the first since the management changed. I was curious as to how the property had changed since my other visits. I actually found relatively few changes, but what there were were generally improvements. The biggest change is in the food service. On my prior visits the meals were adequate but offered little in the way of choice; the meal they planned was what you got. Now there are multiple choices of entrees and sides and one is completely free to mix and match them or eat a bit of everything (meals are included in the price). The quality of the food is also improved, particularly the breakfasts, and is now much better than adequate. (Incidentally, for those to whom it matters, the new owners do not have religious objections to beef like the old owners did, so it is now available as well.) It's now someplace I would eat out as a special treat. The dining room and lounge in the main lodge have been renovated and have new furniture. The property remains well maintained and the rooms are comfortable and clean as always. And, of course, Alaska is still Alaska and the surrounding wilderness still provides all the recreational and scenic possibilities it always did. This visit we went blueberry picking as well as hiking. Mountain biking and fishing are also available.

The one complaint I have does not really relate to the lodge itself but to the website. The owners are doing themselves a major disservice with this website. There is no description of the lodge itself. There are no pictures, either of the exterior or of the inside of the rooms. Views of the local scenery are great, but at the price of this property I would be very leery of visiting without seeing what the lodge and rooms were like, assuming I was a first time visitor.

Incidentally, about the price, it cannot be overemphasized that this lodge is at the end of a ninety mile dirt road, usually about a car and a half wide. Everything for the lodge has to come in over this road in the back of one of the converted school buses the lodge owns, and the beginning of this dirt road is already over 200 miles from Anchorage. Once one considers the logistical problems of supplying and maintaining this property, and considering that the price includes all meals and all activities (except flightseeing) the price for a stay here becomes much more understandable. This is the wilderness, folks. There is no cell phone service and no internet. There is only quiet.

Room Tip: I like the rooms facing the river because I like to hear the sound of the water. One has to remembe...
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  • Stayed July 2013, traveled with family
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Helpful?
5 Thank akbadger
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Beth B, Director of Sales at Denali Backcountry Lodge, responded to this review, February 28, 2014
Thank you for taking the time to write! We are glad to hear you have enjoyed your visits to the Denali Backcountry Lodge, and love the feedback. We are proud of the improvements we have made to the properties so far, and look forward to our renovations of the guest cabins to be completed in the Spring 2014! Once complete, we will be certain to post pictures on our website.

We hope you'll stay with us again if your travels once again bring you to the Last Frontier!
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London, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
3 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 9 helpful votes
Reviewed January 28, 2014

I am really late posting this review as we visited Denali in September 2012.
We were there for the last 3 days of the season and it was everything I hoped it would be (other than not seeing the northern lights, which I guess I can't hold anyone responsible for...). We got there via the train, which was great and even the 6 hour journey into the park was delightful! We saw bears with cubs, moose, pika and more!
The food was really good, which considering the remote location is no mean feat. The lodges were very good and we paid extra for a creek-side lodge which was worth it in my opinion.
We may have been spoiled as the weather was excellent, it was so clear we saw the top of Mt McKinlay every day we were there, which is pretty unheard of I understand.
My favourite bit of the whole trip by far were the hikes we did with Mikey, our guide. He was so knowledgable and enthusiastic that you couldn't help but enjoy every minute.
I can honestly say that this trip was one off my bucket list and would highly recommend it. Although avoid summer as I understand the mosquitoes are dreadful

  • Stayed September 2013, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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    • Cleanliness
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Helpful?
5 Thank Dawn C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Beth B, Director of Sales at Denali Backcountry Lodge, responded to this review, February 5, 2014
Thank you for taking time write, Dawn!
We are pleased you visited the Denali Backcountry Lodge last season. September is a spectacular time to visit Denali, and it sounds like you were fortunate to enjoy the nice weather!

If your travels bring you back to Alaska, we'd love to see you again!
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Seneca, Missouri
Level Contributor
9 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
Reviewed November 13, 2013

Our 3 night/ 4 day trip to Denali BackCountry could not have been better. We highly recommend going all the way back to the end of the road for the full experience of Denali National Park. And by the way, one night is not enough time to take it all in.

We traveled in the shoulder season so got a decent rate for the locale and missed all the mosquitoes. We actually stayed there September 8-11, 2012. When we arrived around 8 pm, we were feed a 3 course meal and was greeted by our chef who was filling in for the grounds hosts. He kept us in stitches as he oriented us with the activities available with the package deal.

We took advantage of the programs in the library/media room a few nights. Mikey's retelling of his rafting experience down the Mighty Susitna was totally captivating (wish we could buy it on video). We panned for gold in the rain in Friday Creek, and my husband was hooked. I soon got cold and went to explore the scenery and Fannie Quigley Cabin. We had one in our group that couldn't hike, but he took advantage of all the other activities, even panning for gold in which he received a carded fleck of Kantishna Gold. My husband and I enjoyed several of the guided hikes including Wonder Lake when we had a "bluebird" day. We got to see the Sandhill Crane Migration during that hike. Boy are they noisy!

When the weather cleared, we also choose to fly around Denali with Kantishna Air. Awesome and the best deal compared to Mt McKinley Flights from Talkeetna. As soon as you are in the air, you are RIGHT THERE, so your flight time includes more in and out mountain flying and less to and from flying.

Got the same interesting bus driver in and out; he provided us with cookies and drinks both times, even hot water for chocolate or cider. The wildlife graced our route both times. We even saw the elusive linx.

The food was unbelievable culinary delight. I was so thrilled that they served fresh salads and fresh vegetables every meal. All three evening meals were were unique with the last night serving Snow Crab and Smothered Pork for the meat. That night the vegetables were more stachy than the other nights--mashed potatoes, corn on the cob and bright green peas. But I thought the selection was awesomely fresh considering groceries have to come from Fairbanks, AK. Family style dining helped each one get acquainted with the other guests and made for some very interesting dinner conversation

The noon meal in the Day Lodge was same every day, but with a big variety you could mix it up. Cookies and fruit were sitting out all day in the Main Lodge, so you could pack one for a hike.

I haven't even begun to tell you of all the amenities on the grounds--gazebos with firepits, unique quiet meditation circle across Moose Creek, bikes for biking and scenery to ooh and aah over every second, while being the closest you can be to Mt McKinley without base camping (you do have to drive or bike for the view).

Denali was "out" the last two days of our trip, so we got to see the Alpenglow as we headed out. The bus driver said he never tired of seeing it and was gracious to let us stay and bask in the sunlight on the mountain as long as possible.

We highly recommend going all the way back to the end of the road for the full experience of Denali National Park. And by the way, one night is not enough time to take it all in.

Room Tip: The pool is Moose Creek if you're up to it !~). Fitness Room is the Great Outdoors. I really li...
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  • Stayed September 2013, traveled as a couple
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    • Cleanliness
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Helpful?
4 Thank VMC87
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Portland, Oregon
Level Contributor
27 reviews
20 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 21 helpful votes
Reviewed October 31, 2013

We stayed at the lodge the last week it was open in September. The colors were absolutely amazing around the lodge, and the rustic rooms were cozy and inviting. The bed was absolutely heavenly to get into at night, and the quietness was serenity at its best. The food was delicious, though certainly not fancy. I must say our stay at this lodge was the highlight of our two week Alaskan trip! I can't imagine there is a prettier time of year to visit!! I would definitely say to stay two nights as the bus comes late in the day and leaves early in the morning.

Room Tip: I think they're all good unless you want one on he river. Ours wasn't, but it didn't mat...
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  • Stayed September 2013, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
2 Thank kayPortland
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
London, Ohio
Level Contributor
22 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 14 helpful votes
Reviewed October 13, 2013

Those were my husband's words as we were enjoying the views from the Backcountry Lodge.
We booked our stay for late August to celebrate our anniversary and our stay here definitely made our trip even more memorable.

After the long bus ride to the lodge on a rainy, cloudy day...a wonderful dinner was waiting for us.
The creekside cabin was spacious, clean and cozy. The next morning, i had the best blueberry pancakes i have ever had before we embarked on a guided hike with Thomas. We finally saw McKinley for the first time. After our hike, we enjoyed a nice lunch in the Day lodge before our afternoon adventure on the Botany trail. The next day we took the shuttle van to Wonder lake and enjoyed even more spectacular views of the Alaska range and enjoyed the wonderful blueberries on Blueberry Hill. That afternoon, we took the Hitching post hike which took us to an elevation where we could see then entire range.

We noticed that most people only stayed one full day before heading out on the 6 am bus back to the park entrance...however i would recommend two full days so that you can enjoy the park even more. The drying room as a nice feature which utilized the heat from their generator. This allowed you to hang your wet clothes and boots so they could dry out...very ingenious!

On the bus ride back to the park entrance (it leaves at 6 am), we saw several bears and other wildlife along with amazing views of the mountains.

We truly enjoyed our stay at the Denali Lodge for our first adventure to Denali National Park.

Thanks so much!!

  • Stayed August 2013, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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Helpful?
5 Thank csievers
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Los Angeles, California
Level Contributor
3 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 39 helpful votes
Reviewed September 16, 2013

The Denali Backcountry Lodge may be a nice place to stay, but we never got to find out. We had reservations there for three nights in mid-August 2013. To get to any of the several lodges at the end of the 90-mile road from the entrance to Denali National Park, you need to take a bus, sent by the individual lodge, at the train depot. We got on the bus for the Backcountry Lodge and enjoyed the 6 ½ hour drive to the Lodge while the bus driver told us about the park and stopped for the animals that appeared.

When we arrived at the Backcountry Lodge, the general manager Bob Zuern got on the bus to read out names and room numbers. He called everyone but us and then asked, as if he didn’t know that we would be coming, “Is there anyone whose name I haven’t called?” When we indicated that we hadn’t received a room number, he told us that we would “get the scoop” when we stepped out of the bus.

When we did, his wife Eva Zuern informed us in a very haughty and perfunctory manner that the lodge was overbooked and that they were sending us to their “sister lodge”, the Kantishna Roadhouse, which we had passed a couple of miles back. No explanation, no smile, no apology. We protested that we had made the reservations months before but Ms. Zuern told us that “there was nothing they could do – the matter was out of their hands”. When we asked whose hands they were in, we received no response. A“Don’t bother us – it’s not our problem” attitude.

Since it was already 7:30 pm, we reluctantly got back in a van and were driven to Kantishna Roadhouse (which, by the way, is owned by a different company, so it’s not really a “sister lodge”). The gentleman at the desk told us that two other couples had been subjected to the same behavior just a couple of nights before we arrived. And the manager of the Kantishna Roadhouse told us later during our stay that Denali Backcountry Lodge had been having similar troubles all summer and that “something must have gone haywire with their reservation system.”

We know that there are occasional instances when hotels and airlines overbook, but the manner by which the Zuerns handled the situation was outrageous. They should have notified us at the train depot before we got on the bus so that we could have taken the Kantishna Roadhouse bus instead. We would have met the other people we would be staying with, would not have had to go further than necessary, only to be driven back to a different lodge and arrive later than everyone else, missing an orientation. They could have been apologetic and understanding of the situation that they had put us in rather than coldly calculating. They could have offered us some compensation – even airlines do that when they bump you from a flight. They did none of this. Clearly they consider that their guests with reservations are inanimate pawns to be moved around the chessboard rather than human beings with expectations and feelings. I would not recommend relying on their confirmation of reservations – you will never know if they plan to honor them.

I will add that two weeks ago, I sent a copy of this evaluation to Paul B. Dykstra, President and CEO of VIAD, the company that owns Backcountry Lodge. I have not received a response.

Update: A week after I posted this review originally, on Sept. 8, 2013, I received a letter from Thomas McAleer, Vice-President and General Manager of Alaska Denali Travel, which is a subsidiary of VIAD. He wrote a very apologetic letter, in which he showed an understanding of what we had been through. He offered us a night's worth of compensation as a refund. Perhaps they will fine-tune their reservation system and be more careful about their guests in the future.

Jane M., Los Angeles

  • Stayed August 2013, traveled as a couple
    • Service
Helpful?
39 Thank Jane M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Christopher H, General Manager at Denali Backcountry Lodge, responded to this review, April 14, 2014
Jane M,

We appreciate the time that you have taken to review your trip and share it with other travelers. It is certainly a vital way of contributing to our overall growth and improvement as our business moves forward each and every day. I sincerely apologize for the experience that you had while traveling in Denali National Park in 2013, and while staying in the beautiful Kantishna area.

It is my understanding that you received a satisfactory solution to the problems that you experienced, and I hope that we can continue to not only meet, but exceed, each and every guest’s expectations while they are in our care.

While mistakes are certainly not 100% avoidable, they can be handled with care and sensitivity to each and every traveler. The proper care and responsiveness in such situations shows how important each one of our guests is to our future success.

We have continued to learn and grow as we enter the 2014 season here in Alaska, and I can assure you that such an experience will not be duplicated. As the Operations Manager for Alaska Denali Travel, and as the GM of the Denali Backcountry Lodge, I will personally attend to and ensure the satisfaction of each and every guest, along with the rest of our professional staff!

Denali National Park holds a special place in many of our hearts and provides a lifetime of lasting memories for guests that travel here. Whether it is the opportunity to see wolves, bears, Dall sheep, moose, caribou, or even the Willow Ptarmigan; Denali National Park has a myriad of surprises in its vast 6 million acres. Not the least of which includes North America’s highest and largest mountain, Mt. Denali (McKinley). With the highest vertical relief of any mountain in the world, it is not surprising that the local terrain is nothing short of awe-inspiring!

Our location in the mining district of Kantishna, affords guests the opportunity to learn about the century old Gold Rush that help mold Alaska’s history into what it is today.

With the added experience of participating in guided hiking activities, fishing for trout or grayling in our local waters, mountain biking on the park road, having an opportunity to catch a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis, or relaxing in remote stillness; each and every guest is sure to return home with a love for Denali that they will hold in their hearts forever.

If you have any further concerns please contact me directly.

Thanks,


Christopher Hudson
Operations Manager – Denali Alaska Travel
General Manager – Denali Backcountry Lodge
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Jersey, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
4 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 16 helpful votes
Reviewed September 16, 2013

If you are looking for a safari style trip to see the park then this is not the place to stay. There are no facilities or activities for anyone with restricted mobility and the management and most staff totally ignore you if you cannot hike with them. On the long journey - 6 hours - to the lodge we were offered one can of coca-cola and a biscuit not even a bottle of water. Whilst the cabins were satisfactory the food was adequate but bland and served up canteen style with little choice, usually just meat or meat !! On the return journey we were dumped at the rail depot more than 2 hours before the train was due.
It was a very depressing place to stay tempered only by the sight of Mt. Mckinley and the fact that the tundra was in fall colours, if not it would have seemed even worse.

  • Stayed September 2013, traveled with friends
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
14 Thank toddmre
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Christopher H, General Manager at Denali Backcountry Lodge, responded to this review, April 16, 2014
Todd,

Thank you for your feedback in regards to your experience during your stay at Denali Backcountry Lodge in 2013. We realize how vital your feedback is in allowing us to improve our business on a daily basis. I apologize that we were not able to meet or exceed your expectations during your stay with us.

We seek to exceed all guests’ expectations while they travel through the park with one of our knowledgeable driver guides. Each trip in and out of the park includes multiple stops for restrooms, snacks, photos, and scenery. Restrooms stops also include many snack and beverage items including: granola bars, fruit snacks, mixed nuts, crackers, fresh baked cookies, Coke, diet Coke, Sprite, diet Sprite, Dr Pepper, diet Dr Pepper, water, coffee, hot chocolate, hot apple cider, and hot tea.

In addition we make sure that we leave plenty of time to stop along the way as we see wildlife throughout the park. Moose, bears, wolves, caribou, and Dall sheep are the large animals that everyone enjoys seeing throughout the park. Each trip is highlighted by even the slightest glimpse of the largest mountain in North America, Mt. Denali (McKinley)!

The 2014 summer season promises to be fun and exciting as we welcome a new chef to our team. Food choices will be plentiful during each guests stay with fresh new soups, salads, and entrées to be served up at Denali Backcountry Lodge.

In addition we will continue to offer the same great activities that we have always offered, along with the added opportunity to relax with more family oriented games and activities for those who wish to relax during their stay at the lodge.

If you have any further concerns please contact me directly.

Thanks,

Christopher Hudson
Operations Manager – Denali Alaska Travel
General Manager – Denali Backcountry Lodge
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Additional Information about Denali Backcountry Lodge

Property: 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 #2 of 7 Hotels in Denali National Park and Preserve
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$$
Hotel Class:2.5 star — Denali Backcountry Lodge 2.5*
Number of rooms: 42
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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