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“Hands down the best place to stay in Kantishna”
Review of Skyline Lodge

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Skyline Lodge
Portland, Maine
Level Contributor
28 reviews
17 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 35 helpful votes
“Hands down the best place to stay in Kantishna”
Reviewed August 4, 2011

We just returned from our 10-day trip to Alaska. We spent 3 days and 2 nights inside Kantishna at the Skyline Lodge. While we were booking our various lodgings, we debated whether or not to stay at Skyline or one of the more expensive options and based on the research that we have done, we decided to stay here. It proved to be a brilliant decision. Skyline is a remarkably comfortable and even luxurious place to stay in the middle of Denali. All their cabins have amazing views of the valley. One night (around 11:00pm), as the sun set, the entire lodge was basked in a breathtaking golden hue. Because the lodge only has a handful of rooms, we were the only one standing on the balcony enjoying this quiet moment.

The staff was extremely friendly, helpful, and fun. I played ping pong with pilots, shared a glass of wine with off-duty staff, and chatted with Marge the chef about her experience growing up in Fairbanks. The rooms are clean, well furnished, and quiet. There is no need to carry a key (no one locks his/her door). The beds are "super comf." There are three shared bathrooms (2 with showers) and an outhouse (all clean and the vents for the bathrooms provide all the audio-privacy one would need). The main building has three stories: the first floor has a communal dinning area, a kitchen, a bathroom, and a ping pong table. The second floor is where the main office resides and there is an observation area with binoculars and a telescope along with books and a bathroom. The third floor gallery contains Greg the owner's office, a bathroom, and a couple of pilot's rooms. Our cabin was no more than a 20 feet walk to the main building.

Every night, Marge prepared food for us and the pilots. Meals were $40/day/person which included not only dinner but also self-serve lunches and breakfasts. I was expecting no more than some soggy pasta a la classic cruise food for dinner but what we got was real homemade meals. I watched Marge as she read recipes and carefully prepared meals all afternoon. My wife is a vegetarian and Skyline accommodated her above and beyond the call of duty. On our first night, we had three different kinds of pasta dishes: a baked casserole, a linguine in lemon cream sauce, and a spicy red pasta sauce with ziti. Along with that, we had salads with homemade tahini lime dressing, homemade onion bread, and fresh baked cookies for dessert. On our second light, Marge prepared honey chicken, pan friend panko-covered halibut, steam vegetables, a quinoa salad, and mushroom and barley. There is nothing like hiking all day only to come back to a real meal.

For breakfast and lunch, we had the options to make sandwiches, chow down cereals, oatmeal, bread of all kinds, left-overs from the night before, fruits, granola bars, cookies, etc. Skyline does not have an alcohol license so we bought in a few bottles of wine. The lodge also provides accessories like pans for gold-panning down the road, hiking poles, free mountain bikes (that were in great shape!), laminated hiking maps, etc. They also have a key to Fannie Quigley's (a legendary miner from 1870-1944) house down the road. A staff gave us the key and directions to the house and we walked down there to explore it ourselves.

From our research, we did not expect to see a lot of wildlife but as we checked into the lodge, we spotted a giant cinnamon black bear about 1/4 mile away digging for food. Later that afternoon, as we were gathering ourselves for a quick hike, one of the staff ran out to tell us not to hike for the bear was literally across the road from us! We stood there watching it eat. We also saw ptarmigans and other birds, ground squirrels galore, and there were enough moose droppings to convince us that they were around.

Immediately surrounding the lodge are a dozen hiking trails ranging from easy to difficult. And Wonder Lake is a good 6 mile bike ride away (be warned, some of the hills to the lake are challenging even for regular bikers). One could spend a lot more time than we did and still not exhaust all the nearby activity options. In addition, since Skyline is first and foremost an air taxi service, one could sign up for any flightseeing tours (which are cheaper than their competitors). Alas, the three days we were there, Mt. McKinley was cloud-covered. However, the staff told us that residents of the lodge always have first dip if the weather proves ideal.

One of the most compelling reason to pick Skyline is the cost. Everything in Alaska is a bit more expensive but with some smart planning, one could minimize the bleeding. Compare Kantishna Roadhouse to Skyline for relatively similar arrangements, here are your numbers.

Kantishna Roadhouse costs $435 per person per night but it includes all the meals and the bus ride in and out with commentaries. They also provide guided tours while you are there along with sled dog demonstrations and other goodies. For two people staying at Kantishna for two nights, it would cost you $1740 (without tax).

A two-person cabin at Skyline costs $235 a night and meals are $40 per person per day. Add in the Kantishna Experience Tour ($159/person) that provides commentaries for the bus-ride in, it would cost you $948 (without taxes). Granted, you have to share bathrooms with the other cabins but ask yourself, is a private bath and sled dog demonstrations worth $800? What you get with Skyline is a sense of being in a seclusive cabin and not a tourist trap along with dozens of other people. For us, it was an easy choice.

The ride out to the entry of Denali is also taken care of by the Camper Bus route. The only bus that would take your luggage into Kantishna is the camper bus. If you choose the Kantishna Experience Tour, you can only bring a small carry-on type bag. We chose the camper bus which cost $30 or so. There was no running commentaries (indeed, our bus drivers ranged from stoic to mildly creepy). But, if you do your homework ahead of time, read up on the route, you can learn a great deal about the park and the route on your own. We saw 14 bears, countless caribous, moose, dall sheep, brown eagles, etc. to and fro Kantishna. I am not sure how much more we could have learned and seen having a guide on our bus.

Room Tip: Call in advance. Rooms are filled quickly.
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  • Stayed July 2011, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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    • Cleanliness
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11 Thank WorldRunners
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Rating summary
  • Location
  • Sleep Quality
  • Rooms
  • Service
  • Value
  • Cleanliness
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (14)
Date | Rating
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English first
michigan
Level Contributor
20 reviews
6 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 9 helpful votes
Reviewed July 14, 2011

If you want to stay deep in the heart of Denali without paying Backcountry lodge prices this is the place to do it. I'd compare the sleeping accomodations to a bunkhouse. You do have private sleeping quarters - they are cozy but meet your needs for sleeping. Not a place to hang out. You can sit out on the small deck which we did quite a bit. Saw a moose and her two calfs while sitting there. Not a bad view!
When we weren't hiking or biking or panning for gold we hung out in the eating area of the lodge. It's a shared space with the residents and other guests so depending on how social you are this can be good or bad. It's what you make of it. We met some fun people and ended up hanging out with them later in the trip. The residents of the lodge were friendly enough - I didn't really expect them to entertain me. They do have a business to run and the lodge is only a small portion of it.
Food was good and plentiful. Very healthy. Got my kids to expand their horizons a bit. If you are a real picky eater you may have an issue.

Yes it was nice to get back to civilization and not having to share a bathroom - but then again - where else do you run into a porcupine on your way to the facilities. We stayed two nights - I think one would have been enough. It's a good option to break up the bus ride into two days.

  • Stayed June 2011, traveled with family
    • Value
    • Sleep Quality
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
3 Thank closetalker
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
dripping springs
Level Contributor
13 reviews
5 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 18 helpful votes
Reviewed June 27, 2011

Rarely did we find that the Lodgeseemed happy to have guests. They have just 6 rooms. They are primarily an air taxi service and it showed that that was where their hearts lied. We felt that they we just tolerating having guests for the lodge portion of the outfit.We felt that they were almost "above" tourists. One fellow did smile but the kitchen/cooks did not even acknowledge us and the female pilot literally seemed to be fearful that she would be spoken to by us. The area was truly a quiet get away for small hikes. The bus ride to Wonder lake, if the bus is not full, is not far and can make for a day outting. The suppers were pasta, salad, bread - very basic. Having the breakfast and lunch be self serve made it easy to fix your own on your own schedule. Our room had an odor and we think it might have been musty due to wet towels. There is a half bath on one floor and a full bath with shower and they are for as many as 16 people. We were there 2 nights and they were never cleaned despite being used by 16 people. If the weather is bad there is ping pong and scrabble, no TV, but that's not what you go there for.

  • Stayed June 2011, traveled with family
    • Value
    • Sleep Quality
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
3 Thank mommaggie
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Greg L, Manager at Skyline Lodge, responded to this review, August 17, 2011
We were disheartened to learn that some guests didn’t fully-enjoy their experience at Skyline Lodge. It sounded like they were disappointed with the service and attitude of the staff, the cleanliness and availability of restroom facilities, and the basic nature of their dinners, which all resulted in a stay that they valued at 1 or 2 out of a possible 5. Ouch.

We’d like to sincerely apologize that they didn’t better-enjoy their time with us. No ifs, ands or buts, we’re sorry. Although it may not have seemed so, we do enjoy hosting guests, and we’ve made many wonderful connections over the years. We’re sorry we didn’t better-connect with them.

Without offering any excuses, we would like to share a few thoughts regarding our accommodations. First, we are primarily staffed as a flightseeing service, and Skyline Lodge acts as our base of operations. We try to make sure, in advance, that our lodge guests are aware of this to be sure that we’ll be a good match for their needs. Many guests like living side by side with true Alaskan bush pilots, and while our staff is primarily occupied with dispatching planes, etc., guests should let us know if there’s anything they need. We’re sorry if this information wasn’t effectively communicated, especially ahead of time.

We would also offer that what may have been perceived as an attitude “above tourists” may have been, simply, the reality that we are quite busy. For example, our pilot who seemed “fearful that she would be spoken to” is actually taking online classes during her time away from her flight duties. She’s busy and focused, not fearful. Having said that, any time a guest doesn’t feel acknowledged and more welcome is a disappointment for us. We’re glad that at least “one fellow did smile.”

We’re also sorry if the restroom facilities weren’t kept sparkling. They’re cleaned daily, but obviously they can become dirty due to use. While it shouldn’t be a guest’s responsibility to report issues like this, it would be helpful to know about at the time, so we can address it. (We have three restrooms—two with showers—and an outhouse.)

Finally, we try to present our accommodations as a great alternative to camping and a good match for independent travelers. All other Kantishna lodges charge roughly $400/person, $1,200/family of three, per night. The reason for our insanely reasonable rates is that we’re not staffed for private activities and we don’t have private baths in the guest rooms. At $425/night for the whole family, we feel confident that it’s the best value anywhere in the area.

Our owner, and chief pilot, has been flying in Denali for 20 years. We’ve been hosting lodge guests for 10 years. We take pride in what we do, and we’re used to having our guests walk away with a great life experience. The bottom line is that we’re sincerely sorry if we dropped the ball with some guests, and we’d love the opportunity to make it up to them should they return to Alaska.

Blue skies,

Skyline Lodge Staff
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Maryville, TN
Level Contributor
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
Reviewed June 15, 2011

We just got back from our trip to Denali and we stayed two nights at the Skyline Lodge and were happy with our decision to stay there. The rooms are comfortable but not spectacular which is understandable considering the location. Plus, you shouldn't really be spending a lot of time in your room when you staying in Denali National Park. To much hiking, sight seeing to be doing.

Breakfast and lunch are basically do it yourself, which we loved. There is a large kitchen with tons of food to make whatever you want. We ate breakfast then packed our lunches and went hiking. For dinner, one of the employees makes dinner and it's basically a family style dinner. All the guest sit and eat and talk together. Food was amazing both nights!

Definately would stay again. Much cheaper than other local "lodges" and I would guarantee you just as good a stay as those other places. Would also recommend doing their flightseeing tour around McKinnley. Unreal!

  • Stayed June 2011, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Sleep Quality
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
2 Thank mountainman23
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Phoenix, Arizona
Level Contributor
7 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
Reviewed September 18, 2010

We stayed here for two nights and enjoyed our stay. The interaction with other guests was pleasurable, the facility comfortable and quite good. The entire staff, including the pilots we ate with were friendly and helpful and the food was quite good. If you plan to stay in Kantishna, this is an excellent choice!

Stayed August 2010, traveled as a couple
Helpful?
Thank FoodnWineGalSW
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Denver, Colorado
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
Reviewed August 23, 2010

My husband and I stayed there for three nights and I would highly recommend this lodge. The whole staff is very friendly and helpful and will go out of there way to make your stay wonderful. The home cooked meals are fabulous. The setting is beautiful and we couldn't asked for a better stay in Kantishna.

  • Stayed July 2010, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
1 Thank sarah0519
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Chicago
1 review
Reviewed October 25, 2009

What a beautiful location inside the park.
Great Pilots !! Thanx Ane & Connie.

  • Stayed August 2009, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
Thank DaRift
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Skyline Lodge

Property: Skyline Lodge
Address: Kantishna Air Taxi, PO Box 46, Denali National Park and Preserve, AK 99755-0046
Location: United States > Alaska > Denali National Park and Preserve
Hotel Style:
Ranked #8 of 26 Specialty Lodging in Denali National Park and Preserve
Number of rooms: 4
Also Known As:
Skyline Hotel Denali National Park And Preserve

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