Near Denali National Park, there are
nearly 30 hotels, bed-and-breakfasts and wilderness lodges.
Seventeen of them have the word Denali, the Athabascan word for the
high one, in their name.
In these parts,
the 20,320-foot-tall Mount McKinley -- the tallest mountain in
North America -- retains its Athabascan name, so when locals refer
to Denali, they could be talking about the park, the mountain or a
mountain looms over the Alaska Range, which separates the south-central part of the state from
the interior plateau.
When Denali comes
out of the clouds, it can be seen at least as far away as
Talkeetna, a village about 60 miles from the mountain and a popular
stopover on the road to Denali the park.
Denali, in all
its nomenclatures, can be reached easily in the months that arent
winter by Alaska Railroad or vehicle.
But it was the
cruise lines that really opened up the interior to
The lines use
catchphrases like Double-Denali (Holland America Line) and Direct
to Denali (Princess Cruises) to describe their tour offerings.
Nearly every tour sold by Princess, HAL and Royal Celebrity Tours
(the cruise-tour arm of Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises)
makes a stop in Denali.
Chalet Resort and McKinley Village Lodge
Resorts and Parks division includes two hotels near the entrance to
the park: the McKinley Chalet Resort and the McKinley Village
Lodge. HAL uses the McKinley Chalet for its Denali
Rooms: The Chalet
Resort has 290 minisuites in cedar lodges and 55 deluxe Cottonwood
rooms. The Village Lodge is smaller, with 150 rooms.
Views: Both lodges overlook the Nenana
Dining: The Nenana View Bar & Grille
at the Chalet Resort offers Pacific rim and California-influenced
dishes; the Gold Rush Dining Room is the restaurant at the Village
Activities: The hotels offer guided tours
through Denali, rafting, heli-hiking tours and horseback riding.
Aramark operates Alaska Raft Adventures, which offers rafting trips
on the Nenana River. Guests at the Village Lodge can pan for gold
Details: Commission is 10% and is offered
on all sales except in-park tours, Aramark said. For information
and reservations, call (800) 276-7234 or visit www.denaliparkresorts.com.
Denali and Denali Princess Wilderness lodges
While HAL uses the McKinley Chalet, Royal
Caribbean International and Celebrity passengers use the Grande
Denali Lodge. Princess has its own property, the Denali Princess
Wilderness Lodge. The hotels also are available for noncruise
guests on an FIT basis.
Rooms: The green-roofed Grande Denali has
154 guest rooms and six cabins that each can sleep five. The Denali
Princess has 480 rooms -- some are suites with Jacuzzis.
Views: The Grande Denali sits on a
mountaintop in the Alaska Range (its tagline calls the hotel a peak
experience). Guests get views of the Nenana River Canyon and the
Alaska Range. At the Denali Princess, guests can take in the view
of the Nenana River and Denali National Park while soaking in
outdoor hot tubs (the tubs are open until midnight so guests can
experience the extended sunsets) or while relaxing on a large
Meals: At the Denali Princess, the Summit
Dining Room serves seafood and steaks. A new lounge called Base
Camp was added recently. The Grande Denalis Alpenglow Restaurant
serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Activities: Tours can be booked in
advance. Both hotels also have a tour desk in the lobby for
last-minute planning. Both options provide shuttle service to the
parks visitors center.
Details: Both hotels start agent pay at
10%. For information on the Denali Princess, call (800) 426-0500 or
visit www.princesslodges.com. For information on the Grande
Denali, call (866) 683-8500 or visit www.denalialaska.com.
Denali and North Face Lodge
wilderness lodges are mostly small, family-owned properties that
function somewhat like a log-cabin version of a bed-and-breakfast.
Guests typically get plenty of individual attention from the lodges
proprietors, including recommendations on tours and activities;
meals; and evening entertainment such as photo slide shows or
There are a few
wilderness lodges nestled deep in Denali, hotels that were built on
land annexed by the park in the early 1980s. For a chance to view
Mount McKinley from the cabin porch, however, theres one option:
Camp Denali and a sister property, North Face Lodge.
Rooms: Camp Denali, which opened in the
mid-1950s, consists of 17 guest cabins, each with a wood-burning
stove. Theres Alaskan art on the walls and a private outhouse. Each
cabin is a short walk from the log lodge, which serves as the camps
nerve center, lounge, library and gift shop. The North Face Lodge
is a little more modern and a little less rustic. All 15 rooms have
bathrooms. Rooms connect to the lodges living and dining room via a
Meals: Each property cooks breakfast and
dinner, which is included in the price. Guests must bring their own
Views: If its a view of Mount McKinley
from top to bottom that visitors hope to see, they may be
disappointed, even on a clear day. The mountain is a maker of its
own clouds, and the peak rarely emerges. An estimated 25% of
visitors get to see it each year, but when it emerges, it looms
over the entire Alaska Range and can be seen from just about any
vantage point, even huddled down in a kayak on a river in
Activities: Camp Denali provides guided
hiking and wildlife observation from anywhere along the park road,
and its the only property allowed to moor its canoes at Wonder
Lake. The staff can custom-design or advise on hiking programs,
biking, canoeing and fishing excursions.
Details: Because Camp Denali is located so
deep in the park, there are fixed arrival and departure dates --
Fridays and Mondays. Guests can book
three-night, four-night or weeklong visits. Rates start at $1,200
per adult for the three-night stays. Visit www.campdenali.com for more information.
For a detailed
list of Alaska properties, visit the Alaska Travel Industry
Associations Web site at www.travelalaska.com.
If clients are
interested in getting even closer to nature, they can camp. Denali
National Park has five campgrounds. Visitors are allowed to camp a
total of 14 days a year. The camps are dotted along the Denali Park
Road. Reservations service for 2005 started on Feb. 15 and runs
through Sept. 10. Call (800) 622-7275
for reservations. Camping fees vary depending on the
reporter Rebecca Tobin, send e-mail to [email protected].