If you’ve seen photos of Alaska’s Denali National Park, you know how beautiful it is. What isn’t obvious from those pictures, is the fact that access to that gorgeous scenery is very limited.
Private vehicles are only allowed to travel the first 15 miles of the paved road inside the park. After that, visitors have the choice of sightseeing on Park Board buses or taking the bus to one of several drop-off points and then hiking or mountain biking from there.
To complicate matters, Denali National Park does not offer trails or permanent campgrounds. All camping is “wild” – and don’t forget that bears are a huge issue in this area.
After ten minutes of trying to look through the dirty windows of the park’s antiquated “tour” bus, I knew I had to find an authentic way to experience Denali National Park in comfort – and I did.
Alaska: Glamping in Denali National Park
Camp Denali is sited on a private in-holding of land 90 miles from the park entrance. Here, 17 cabins and the 15 rooms at adjacent North Face Lodge provide comfortable lodging, great meals, and top-notch naturalists who lead learning adventures into the wilderness.
A picture window in our cabin framed Mt. McKinley so perfectly that it looked like a postcard. During the course of our three-day stay, we saw “The Great One” surrounded by blue sky, clothed in mist, and bathed in alpenglow.
At Camp Denali, each of the immaculate knotty pine cabins comes with a wood-burning stove, propane lights, at least one comfortable bed covered with a handmade quilt, running water, a kettle for heating water, and an outhouse. Cabins and loos are serviced daily. Hot showers and flush toilets are located in a centrally-located modern bathhouse near the dining room – a three- to seven-minute walk away. To me, this was “glamping” (glamorous camping) a its best.
North Face Lodge
By comparison, North Face Lodge feels like a motel (“30 seconds from your pillow to your placemat”), but it’s a good alternative for those who are less able-bodied or cannot do without an en suite bathroom. Normally, I’d be in that “must have en suite” category – but in this case I much preferred the rustic charm and authenticity of our Camp Denali cabin.
Top notch naturalists / exclusive access
Camp Denali is a family-owned and -operated business and great care and attention is expended on guests’ behalf. In addition to hiking, daytime activities include fishing, biking, photography, canoeing, and flightseeing with Kantishna Air Taxi. Staff naturalists and visiting specialists present evening programs focused on Alaska’s natural and cultural heritage.
It was a privilege to stay at Camp Denali in Denali National Park and have exclusive access to very special natural wonders. Sometimes “luxury” isn’t about glamorous bathrooms and 24-hour room service – and this was definitely one of those times.