Northwest

4 Hotels Near Denali National Park That Put You at the Edge of Adventure

Denali National Park is the trip of a lifetime, and after a day of exploring the wilderness, there's nothing better than coming home to a cozy lodge, with friendly local faces and a roaring fireplace.

With North America’s tallest mountain as your beacon, you can build an adventure of your own making in Denali National Park. There are six million acres of alpine peaks, tumbling rivers and wildflower meadows for you to explore, and at the end of the day you can come back to a hotel worthy of this legendary park’s main gate.

Hotels near Denali National Park mean hospitality, Alaska-style. Everything’s on the menu for thrill-seekers, from whitewater rafting and flight-seeing tours, to wildlife safaris, gold-panning and fly-fishing. Your hosts know that the action is outside, but spare no detail on the inside—that means ultra-cozy rooms, guided services and delectable cuisines all custom-fitted to reflect the bold charms of the True North.

Come in the summer to watch the midnight sunset from your cedar balcony, and tuck into gooey s’mores around a fire pit under the stars. Your journey will be easiest from May to September, but snow is no obstacle for the Alaskan spirit. For those who make the trek in winter, select hotels will set you up in front of a fireplace or put you on skis, a snowmobile or even a dogsled towards the nearest glacier.

More Than The "Bear" Necessities

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Just south of Denali National Park’s main gate, you’ll find Denali Grizzly Bear Resort at the crossing of the mighty Nenana River. If you’re a person who likes to dive right in, ask your hosts at the Grizzly Bear tour desk to get you into the rapids for a guided half-day, full-day or two-hour paddle. Those who are itching to explore Denali National Park can climb aboard a safari bus and be lunching in a backcountry miner’s cottage in Kantishna by midday. You’ll have endless opportunities to view Denali (“the high one” in the Athabaskan language) and its sister mountains across the tundra on these park forays.

Back at the hotel, kick back on your rustic cedar balcony for unobstructed views of the surrounding river valley. You’ll hear the echo of rafting parties as they go by, and you might just catch the lonesome whistle of the Denali Star train as it winds its way up from Anchorage. You can stay in a sleekly refurbished hotel room, or take a trip back in time with a log cabin as your mountain home. Several of the cabins date back to the early 1900s and have been painstakingly restored to appear as they did when paddleboats once steamed along the Nenana.

Fifty years of family ownership have fine-tuned the resort to the needs of travelers and locals alike. Top up your snacks or camping supplies at the Grizzly Bear General Store before renting an ATV for an afternoon in the wild, or visit the resort’s practical alternative to a formal restaurant: the dedicated food truck court across the street. Bite into a killer breakfast burrito at Mariachi Moose, or visit later in the day for crispy fish tacos. There’s also Denali Thai for tasty creations like Drunk Noodles and Alaska Crab Rangoon to enjoy as you reflect on tomorrow’s itinerary in the nighttime quiet of your cabin.

Denali Grizzly Bear Resort - Cedar

Denali National Park, 77.4 miles to Denali National Park
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Hotel Luxury Meets Raw Wilderness Near Denali National Park

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It’s easy access to adventure when you stay at McKinley Chalet Resort by Westmark Hotels in Denali. This welcoming, full-service property can shuttle you to the Denali National Park gate in minutes, or drop you at the interpretive visitor center for ranger walks and exhibits. Ask about the Tundra Wilderness Tour (weather permitting) for a unique opportunity to tick Alaska’s “Big Five” creature sightings off your wildlife list: grizzly bear, moose, wolf, caribou, and Dall (thin-horned) sheep. This six-hour narrated tour in a comfy vintage bus takes you 60 mil across the colorful fjords of the park, culminating in majestic top-to-bottom views of Denali Mountain to the south from Stony Hill Overlook.

On your return to the hotel, you’ll experience your own creature comforts. Check into a new junior suite, where your private balcony is the ideal spot for a warming drink overlooking evergreens and purple mountains. Thoughtfully placed wood tables and rustic Adirondack chairs bring the great outdoors inside, so you can grab a puzzle or a book and get into that True North state of mind right in your living room. Beyond your suite, the resort is an oasis of winding trails, fire pits for roasting marshmallows under the stars and restaurants where you can retool your Instagram captures over a cheerful glass of wine. If you’re after some meaty fare, treat yourself to a stone-oven Angus tenderloin at Canyon Steakhouse, or sink your teeth into a locally-sourced caribou burger on the sun-drenched patio at on-site Karstens Public House.

Those in search of after-dark entertainment will find nightly performances of “Music of Denali” at the property’s very own Gold Nugget Saloon. In the vein of a musical revue, the show’s songs and sketches invoke the early days of mountaineering and the Klondike Gold Rush. Inspired by the tales, grab your own map and plan the next day’s adventures from your upscale suite—you’ll find even more local info on your flatscreen TV.

Mckinley Chalet Resort

Denali National Park, 79.1 miles to Denali National Park
7.5 Good (1325 reviews)
Excellent Location 8.7 / 10
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An All-Seasons Hotel Near Denali National Park for Adventurers

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You can join those who take the road less traveled at Alpine Creek Lodge. Expert nature guides Claude and Jennifer Bondy, curate adventure itineraries year-round at their remote property in the Clearwater Mountains east of Cantwell. It’s no surprise that the lodge has hosted several film crews and action-packed programs; after all, how many places can take you in a Hummer to view 45,000 Nelchina Caribou roaming the tundra, or get you panning for gold in an empty river basin?

Winter weather is no problem for the Bondys. They’ll bring you to the lodge from the main highway by snowmobile, or (by arrangement) dogsled! Smoky and Bandit, the lodge’s Jack Russell terriers, aren’t really up to the task; this is a job for trained Alaskan huskies. As you zoom along the snow-covered Denali Highway (your runway into the wild), your mushing guide will point out winter animals like muskox and lynx. A warm, bunk-style room with animal-themed furnishings awaits you at the end of your journey, and a wood stove ensures that the common area, with its couches and reading nook, is ready for cozy evenings with a mug of hot cocoa.

The landscape of rare lichen, pink plumes and rosewort is a photographer’s dream, and you can fish for Arctic grayling and trout in lakes and freshwater streams with rods and tackle supplied by the lodge. There’ll be a home-cooked feast waiting when you get back, served family-style by camp-cook Chrissy. Think fresh bread, harvested salad and a hot daily entrée (like local fish or game stew), plus plenty of apple pie and ice cream. Eggs are made to order at breakfast, and Chrissy has been known to accommodate “on the fly” food requests from burgers to peanut butter sandwiches.

Alpine Creek Lodge

8.0 Very good (31 reviews)
Excellent Service 8.6 / 10
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A Denali National Park Hotel High Up in a Mountain

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There’s something in the air at Denali Bluffs Hotel—for one thing, the hotel itself! Nestled high on the sleepy alpine slopes of Sugarloaf Mountain, the place has the feel of a thinker’s hideaway. There’s also the scent of southern comfort cooking in the air; Patrick Norris of The Mountaineer Grill is from Georgia, and he makes a mean brisket with a secret dry rub. Head to the grill for breakfast to tuck into scrumptious scratch biscuits and gravy. This will serve as fitting jet fuel for your next feat: Denali Mountain by air.

Fifteen minutes north of the hotel in Healy (home of 49th State Brewing Company), Fly Denali offers flight-seeing tours with a twist: they’ll not only fly you past Denali Mountain but land on a nearby glacier. As you soar past the famous peak, you’ll marvel at the human endurance it must take to make the three-week ascent. After touching down on Ruth Glacier with your party for photos and a brief snowball fight, it’s back to the warm comforter in your Riverview Premium Room overlooking the Nenana. The warm colors and sunburst-design pillows on your king bed will match the shades of the evening twilight streaming in through the windows.

Drop by the Perky Moose Café for an espresso and travel tips, or take the free shuttle to explore local trading posts and shops. If you’re here in September, ask the front desk staff to put you on a nighttime call list for when the security team spot the Northern Lights. Take in the shimmering blue-green spectacle from a rocking chair on the deck, then warm up afterward with a hot drink by the stone fireplace inside.

Hotel Denali Bluffs

Denali National Park, 79.1 miles to Denali National Park
7.6 Good (527 reviews)
Excellent Location 8.6 / 10
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This story originally appeared in trivago Magazine Canada