For hotel accommodations near Denali National Park, there are not a lot of choices. Most of the accommodations are in an area along the Parks Highway nicknamed "Glitter Gulch," about one mile north of the park entrance.
The Denali Bluffs offers basic, but clean and fairly comfortable, accommodations. Keep in mind that this is Denali, and you are in a pretty remote part of the country. None of the Denali area accommodations offer five-star rooms and service, and you cannot compare a $200 or more per night hotel room here to a similarly priced hotel in the lower 48. Still, for what I paid for the Denali Bluffs, I was hoping to get a little more.
Check in was very slow, and after waiting for a while I found out that my room was not yet ready. After lunch in the hotel's Mountaineer Grille, I went back to the front desk. My room was available but now the desk attendant could not find my key. Each day guests are pre-assigned rooms and keys are sorted based on your expected arrival. If you are coming on one of the trains, make sure the hotel knows this. They seem to assume that all guests who arrive on the train will be on a tour package booked through the railroad. This was not the case for me, so when I arrived on the bus from the train depot, the staff was totally confused as to why I was not on the list of Fairbanks train arrivals. It took nearly 20 minutes to get things sorted out.
After checking in I found my room, which was very clean, but small. All of the rooms at the Denali Bluffs are without air conditioning. A good hint is to close your room's curtains during the afternoon. In the evening, opening the balcony door and placing the fan in front of the door aimed into the room helped cool the room quickly.
On the first morning I quickly found one of the hotel's major drawbacks - the bathroom linens. Never before have I seen smaller bath towels. My hand towels at home are almost as large, and certainly thicker! Rooms are only stocked with two sets of these tiny, thin towels. With one person this was not a major problem. Two of the bath towels were able to get me dry after my shower. I know this is the Alaskan wilderness, but for $200 per night, I would at least expect decent towels, not something that looks like it came from the clearance table at Dollar General.
Overall I was satisfied with my stay. Yes, the staff could have been more competent, towels better, and beds more comfortable. But my room was clean, and the bus transportation and baggage service to/from the Alaska Railroad was fast and efficient. But for $200 per night, there are probably better choices in the area.
District of Columbia County, District of Columbia
August 19, 2004
From journal Experiencing the Wilderness in Denali National Park