We transferred from Princess’s Mt. McKinley Lodge to their Denali Lodge on the east riverbank of the Nenana River. This lodge, 1 mile north of Denali National Park, is a jumping-off point for exploring the park. Denali Park is larger than Massachusetts and one of the last frontiers for wilderness adventure.
The Denali Princess Lodge has about 10 log cabins of various sizes. The outside design is of a "rustic Alaska" theme, with natural wood trusses and beams in the lobby and restaurants. In the rooms there is little difference from a typical hotel. Our room was clean, with satisfactory space and storage. Its memorable feature was the loudest plumbing I have experienced – if anyone flushed a toilet in any of the nearby rooms, we knew. The hotel has several restaurants, from Cruiser's Cafe for burgers and beer to Summit Restaurant for finer cuisine. We had our breakfast at the River Run Deli & Expresso Bar.
We had our evening meal at the Denali Princess Dinner Theatre, Music of Denali. The cast retells the legends of the first expedition to the summit of Mt. McKinley in a musical comedy. They include Walter Harper, the first Alaska Native to set foot on the summit of Mount McKinley. The actors and actresses also do duty as servers for an all-you-can-eat meal of salmon, ribs, and dessert. They then present a rollicking adventure that takes you to new heights - to the top of The Great One! The musical comedy has everyone clapping and singing with the cast right up to the finale. The only shortcoming to the evening was that not all enjoyed the haphazard meal. The show is around 2 hours, including dinner.
The "Natural and Cultural History of Denali National Park," included in the holiday with Princess, lasts 4 hours. It consists of a park tour on a school bus – the only ones allowed in the park. I had never realised just how rough a ride these buses give. Also, they have no air-conditioning or restrooms.
The diversity of the landscape unfolded as we transited from a taiga forest to the views of the sweeping tundra. We saw moose, caribou, Dall sheep, marmots, red fox, and arctic ground squirrel, but not a grizzly bear. I was glad that we had our binoculars. If you wanted to see some of this wildlife, they were a must-have for this trip. This park tour also took in breathtaking vantage points overlooking deep valleys, which, on such a clear day, was spectacular! At the turn-around point, we stopped for a break and to consume the snack provided during the trip. I added hot water, from a panel with taps behind the bus, to my chocolate powder to make instant hot chocolate!
This tour was an experience that you should not miss for the scenery.
The next day, we took a train to Fairbanks for an overnight stay before flying home.
Results 1-5of 5 Reviews
September 8, 2010
May 4, 2006
From journal Alaska Vacation
January 18, 2006
Everything approaches high-end at Denali, since the season is short and the demand is high. Wherever you decide on staying, book early--by the first of year, accommodations for your dates may already be in short supply.
If you go with those expectations, you'll be very comfortable at Princess' Denali location. It's one of two Princess lodges related to Mt. McKinley--the other, the Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge, is closer to Talkeetna, 100 miles south and designed to give you a view of the Great One itself. This one can't offer the view but is right on the Nenana River, with the lodge's dining room balcony overlooking the river. About 2 miles from the park entrance, it's fairly convenient. The central lodge itself is very new and very pleasant: high ceilings, a wonderful stone fireplace, and lots of comfortable seating areas may make you wonder whether you're really in the wilderness at all. (The large number of people heading in and out and the bus traffic at the entrance may contribute to that, too.)
The rooms are pleasant but standard motel-style rooms, with a smallish bath and two double (not queen) beds (or a king). All the accommodation buildings share the same timber-based construction, which gives the complex a nice feel. It is a complex, though, and don't be surprised to see employees ferrying themselves, luggage, and guests around the blacktop pathways in golf carts.
We ate only one meal there, a lunch in the bistro, and it was fine, but, as with many things in this location, a little pricey. The River Run Espresso/Deli works well for breakfast and filling your knapsack before heading into the park. And the prices were competitive with the other stores nearby, as I discovered to my dismay after running across the road in the rain thinking I'd save a buck or two.
If you're interested in a kitschy good time, you may want to try the Music of Denali Dinner Theatre. The story is a little hokey, and (if you're a newcomer to this sort of thing) it may take you a while to realize that your server for your family-style seating is an actor who gave you their nom de plume. The food is plentiful and pretty good, and if you let yourself join in the spirit of things, you'll have fun.
All in all, it's a good base from which to explore Denali, but don't be surprised to find rooms hard to come by and in the $200 to $250/night range.
From journal Alaska by Cruise Ship: You stay, scenery travels
February 14, 2005
It was approximately a 2-hour bus ride from Fairbanks to Denali. We arrived at the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge during the early afternoon. There were a lot of buses crowding the entrance to the property. After a short wait and the distribution of room keys and itineraries, we were allowed to get off the bus.
The Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge is located approximately one mile from the entrance of Denali National Park and is composed of several buildings, including several motel-like lodges, a theater, several restaurants, and a main lodge that houses registration and a souvenir shop. Each of the buildings has somewhat of a rustic look, with a wooden exterior and a red roof.
Our rooms were a decent size. However, it was a warm, sunny June day, which meant that our rooms were hot when we first arrived. The rooms do not have air-conditioning, so we opened the windows and then left to get a bite to eat. The hotel staff will bring you a fan if you request one. We didn't have a need for this. The rooms were comfortable when we returned later.
From journal Princess Heart Of Alaska Cruise Tour
North Little Rock, Arkansas
May 18, 2003
This lodge was only average, some would call it rustic, but it had all the necessities, and we didn''t expect anything better on this part of the tour. Don''t expect land tour facilities to be as nice as the ship accommodations on cruise/tours, especially in remote areas like this.
From journal Alaska Princess Tour 2000