When it comes to unspoiled wilderness and far-flung accommodations, Alaska has most places beat.
Luckily, for those looking to have an authentic backcountry experience in Alaska, there is no shortage of off-the-beaten-path locales for true adventurers to spend the day playing in the state’s innumerable forests, mountains, and waterways, before coming back to beautiful abodes for a night of rest and relaxation. From mountain-top retreats to private islands, here are 10 of the most spectacular, hard-to-reach places to stay while getting truly into the wilds of the 49th state.
The Sheldon Chalet
WHERE: Denali National Park
The Sheldon Chalet is arguably one of the hardest to reach hotels in America. Perched on a ridge overlooking a glacier, just 10 miles from the summit of Denali (the highest peak in North America) it’s only possible to get there by helicopter (unless you want to spend several weeks making the climb, that is). The all-inclusive hotel was founded by the children of a famous Alaskan pilot and adventurer who mapped the mountain, so they know what it means to have meaningful immersions in this remote land. Spend your time exploring crevasses, spelunking in snow caverns, and picnicking on glaciers.
WHERE: Interior Alaska
Winterlake Lodge has a unique address—it’s at milepost 198 on the Iditarod National Historic Trail. For many years, the only building was a simple trapper’s cabin, where nomadic hunters and travelers could come to rest and escape the elements. Now it’s an all-inclusive luxury lodge overseen by an award-winning locavore chef and her adventurer husband. Because the area is no longer used for hunting, bears, moose, wolves, and other animals have returned with astounding density. But, there are tame animals, too—guests can channel their inner musher and take some of their 20 sled dogs down the famed Iditarod Trail.
Between Beaches Alaska
Between Beaches Alaska is an appropriate name for the luxury cabins and glamping tents nestled between spruce trees on an isthmus. It’s one of few places where you can watch the sunrise over one beach and set over another, all without leaving your room. It’s nearly seven miles to the closest town, so you’re unlikely to see many other people while you kayak around the bay or stroll the beach—but, you are likely to see whales, eagles, and otters.
What’s interesting about Coldfoot Camp is that the housing is actually trailers that were once used to house workers who built the Alaska oil pipeline. It’s in the Brooks Mountain Range, close to the Gates of the Arctic (the least visited National Park in the U.S. purely because of its remote location) and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Soak up the long summer days going fishing, hiking, and flightseeing or spend the winter nights hunting for the Aurora Borealis after a day of snowshoeing the backcountry.
Ultima Thule Lodge
WHERE: Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
Ultima Thule Lodge (which appropriately translates to “a distant or unknown region”) is found in the heart of the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Reserve. Clocking in at 13.2 million acres, it’s difficult to talk about the Park without using superlatives: it’s the biggest national park (bigger than the next two combined), holds nine of the 16 highest peaks in the nation, and boasts the largest glacial system in the country. It’s fair to say you’ll have a big backyard to play in and luckily, there is no added cost for flight supported adventures, so the opportunities are limitless.
WHERE: Denali National Park
Kantishna Roadhouse rests in the shadows of the nation’s tallest peak, 90 miles into Denali National Park. It’s only possible to get there by riding a private bus and because the roads aren’t paved, it takes roughly five hours. Refresh your spirit by spending time observing the wildlife, hiking off-trail, partaking in naturalist programs, or simply relaxing on the front porch of your deluxe cabin.
Orca Island Cabins
WHERE: Near Seward
Orca Island Cabins have become increasingly trendy in recent years thanks to its popularity on Instagram. Found on a private island near Seward, the yurt cabins are incredibly stylish with large private decks overlooking Humpy Cove. Here you can hike, fish, or paddle around the protected cove while looking for whales, porpoise, otters, seals, and Steller sea lions.
Yes Bay Lodge
WHERE: Near Ketchikan
At most fishing lodges in Alaska, you have one of two options: fresh or saltwater. Yes Bay Lodge, 50 air or sea miles to Ketchikan, is unique in that it’s close to myriad lakes, rivers, and streams, so your angling options are astoundingly varied. What’s particularly unique about the Lodge is that you’ll be bunking in a converted salmon cannery.
Redoubt Mountain Lodge
WHERE: Lake Clark National Park
Situated on the banks of a glacier-fed lake in Lake Clark National Park, Redoubt Mountain Lodge is only accessible by floatplane or helicopter. The volcano for which the lodge is named is the most active in the state (it still fumes and most recently erupted in 2009) is visible from the property. They have dedicated guides on staff to take guests bear-viewing, fishing, and paddling.
Borealis Basecamp in Fairbanks shows how the Great Outdoors can work in tandem with the Great Indoors. This accommodation, located on 100 acres of boreal forest outside of Fairbanks, is best during the long winter. With activities like dog sledding and snowmobiling (called snow machining in Alaska), there’s plenty of snowy fun. The best part, though, is the fiberglass igloo cabins, with skylights to maximize aurora watching. It’s one of the few places you can watch the lights dance from bed.