Denali National Park — Photo courtesy of Denali National Park
Alaska's Denali National Park and Preserve is a lifetime experience, all the better if enjoyed with young nature and adventure lovers. Denali's six million acres of wilderness contains Mt. McKinley, North America's highest peak, glaciers, animals and flowers large and small, views so expansive it's dizzying, and night skies filled with stars and aurora borealis, or midnight sun, depending on the weather and time of year. While Denali's annual season is short (typically June to September), the memories made here will stick with kiddos for a lifetime. Here are three family friendly lodges to consider staying at.
Denali Backcountry Lodge Denali Backcountry Lodge — Photo courtesy of Denali Backcountry Lodge Overview: Located at the end of the 92 mile Park Road in Kantishna, Denali Backcountry Lodge gets you beyond the park entrance into Denali’s backcountry. Prices start at $313 a person a night in a four-person group, but all meals, shuttle services, guided activities, mountain bike use, and transportation from the park entrance are included, so it can work out to be a luxury deal. Peak Season is June 16 to Aug. 31; the less-expensive Shoulder Season is June 4-15 and Sept. 1-12. Numbers: Each of the 42 cedar cabins has its own bath, and dining and lounge areas are in the two-story lodge. Lodge programs include natural history lectures by knowledgeable staff and guest speakers. A shuttle service takes visitors into Denali for photography excursions, and when the clouds part, views of Mt. McKinley are spectacular. All tours, transportation and meals are included in the fee. Food: Breakfast is served buffet style. Lunch is a hot soup and sandwich buffet in the lodge, and lunches can be packed for the day’s outing. At the end of each day, appetizers are served while naturalists discuss the park, followed by a family style dinner. Beverage service includes beer and wine, which is not included in the fee. For the Kids: Guided hikes and walks ensure you’ll see wildlife. Pan for gold, ride mountain bikes, hike the trails around the lodge or spend some quiet time playing board games.
Denali Perch Resort Perch Resort — Photo courtesy of Perch Resort Overview: Touting itself as having the least expensive rates near Denali, rooms begin at $85 a night and are 11 miles from the park entrance, with free shuttle service. Named for its restaurant’s location perched on a glacier moraine and bordered by Carlo Creek, Perch Resort is among the most rustic and scenic lodges in Denali. Numbers: Choose from 24 rustic cabins: four are handicapped accessible, cabins 11 through 20 have a private bath, and the rest share a bath house. Hikes begin right outside of the front doors. Heavy quilts take the chill off the night, and the furniture is rustic log construction. Perch Lodge season is open from May 20 to Sept. 20. Food: Built on high ground, the Perch Restaurant offers sweeping views through its 13 bay windows overlooking the Alaska range and glaciers. A large deck has you dining al fresco, weather permitting. An extensive wine menu complements dry-aged Ribeye and New York steaks, or Caribou Medallions for a true Alaska experience. Sunday brunch includes a 70-ingredient Bloody Mary Bar. A full bar, specialty cocktails and Alaska micro brews are a great way to end a busy Denali day. For the Kids: Located in the woods along Carlo Creek, there's plenty of on-site hiking and exploring along the creek.
McKinley Chalet Resort McKinley Chalet Resort — Photo courtesy of McKinley Chalet Resort Overview: Stores, restaurants and hiking trails along the Nenana River will keep everyone in your family busy at McKinley Chalet Resort, and a free shuttle service make sure you get into the park. The lodge is located near the park entrance. A resident dinner theater group will entertain and educate you nightly about Alaska’s history. Numbers: McKinley Chalet Resort offers 345 upscale rooms in the main lodge on 42-acres. Food: The Nenana View Bar and Grill serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, including Alaskan seafood with an extensive wine list. Grab a burger at the Courtyard Café, and the Nenana View Bar is the place to relax with a cocktail and small-plate meals while taking in the scenery just outside your door. Grab a boxed lunch before heading into Denali at the Grizzly Grind. For the Kids: Take on the rapids of the Nenana River with on-site rafting tours, or check out a mountain bike to explore the 42-acre property and trails.