North Face Lodge
North Face Lodge is a 15-room Alaska wilderness lodge located within Denali National Park, at the end of the park’s 95-mile Denali Park Road. Situated on private, family-owned land, North Face Lodge is a traditional north-country inn in view of eight major peaks of the Alaska Range, and located amid a sweeping expanse of native tundra vegetation. Modern guest rooms are joined by a common veranda, leading to the lodge’s sitting room, fireplace, dining area and library. On cool mornings, enjoy a game of chess by a crackling fire in the lodge’s living room, or choose a book from the lodge’s library of natural history and Alaskan literature. A spacious outdoor patio, with spectacular views of the Alaska Range, beckons one outdoors.
North Face Lodge is 1.5 miles from Wonder Lake via foot path or bicycle, making it the nearest accommodation to this park attraction. Nearby, a rustic log cabin tells of the land’s history; park superintendent Grant Pearson chose this site for his homestead in 1957. Thirty years later, the Cole family recognized the land’s coveted status and acquired the property to protect it from unchecked development. Today, the renovated inn maintains a purposefully intimate size.
North Face Lodge Review
AdventureSmith Explorations’ North Face Lodge review includes a detailed description and photo gallery. Our adventure travel experts can help compare North Face Lodge with other Alaska land adventure lodges. Choose North Face Lodge (or its sister Camp Denali) for the finest experience available for travelers seeking to visit Denali National Park.
History at North Face Lodge
Camp Denali & North Face Lodge are grounded by history and tradition, following the wisdom of the founders who said that in building Camp Denali the land “told us what we should be.” When founders, Celia Hunter, Ginny Wood and Morton (Woody) Wood arrived in Denali in 1951, they were seeking land to homestead within view of “The Great One.” Their dream was to build a simple, rustic lodge and cabins where park visitors could come and “savor the vigor and freshness of this young country and absorb its spacious tranquility.” Friends and visitors alike helped haul logs, hack out a road and build. The original founders ran Camp Denali for 25 years, forging a livelihood out of ingenuity, hospitality, and love of the land.
Today, the owners live by the same commitment to be careful stewards of this special place at the edge of Denali’s wilderness. 50 seasonal staff join in that mission and provide exceptional hospitality and customer service to guests. Each year at least 75% of these individuals return to work another summer. This high return rate of such dedicated and knowledgeable staff allows North Face Lodge to provide the best quality experience for guests in a setting that is beyond compare.
Design & Sustainability at North Face Lodge
Living lightly on the land with a focus on building, fixing, sewing and cooking things from scratch is a way of life for North Face Lodge. Cabins are built and remodeled onsite by capable staff and old friends willing to lend a hand. Each spring is spent sewing curtains, duvet covers and quilts. Alaskan artwork is displayed in every room and building, portraying the beauty of wild Alaska. Blueberries are picked from the tundra surrounding the ridgeline and are turned into delicious jam and syrup. If it isn’t handmade on site, it is sourced from responsible suppliers. North Face Lodge uses its purchasing power and consumer choice to support companies dedicated to organic and sustainable production; from cleaning products and guest amenities, to napkins and towels.
North Face Lodge continually works to minimize its impact on the land and on the Earth as a whole. A few examples of sustainable practices include:
- Purchase of Alaska-grown meat and produce, including wild fish, pork, elk and reindeer products.
- Solar panels supplement power, reducing fuel consumption by up to 30%.
- In 2013, North Face Lodge canned 80 gallons of blueberry syrup and jam from wild tundra berries picked locally.
- North Face Lodge operates an organic greenhouse for the majority of salad greens, cherry tomatoes, herbs, cucumbers, edible and cut flowers. Waste heat from the generator helps to heat the greenhouse.
- All bread flour, grains, beans, eggs, butter, and milk are organic.
- Dog-friendly food scraps feed sled dogs living near the Park’s entrance.
- Use of cloth napkins, cloth lunch bags and reusable water bottles reduces reliance on disposable products.
- A solar hot water system preheats all domestic hot water coming into the North Face Lodge kitchen and dining room.
- North Face Lodge practices Leave No Trace principles when hiking in Denali’s backcountry.
- A little extra elbow grease is mixed with cleaning products that are gentle on the earth, non-toxic, concentrated and purchased in bulk.
- Soil for the growing operation is made from composted food and yard scraps; waste heat from the generator helps this process.
- Items not reused or consumed on site are recycled at the Park’s entrance.
Dining at North Face Lodge
A gourmet culinary experience is totally unexpected at the end of the 90-mile Denali Park road, and 350 miles away from Anchorage. Guests may not be in pursuit of a unique and memorable eating experience when they book a stay at North Face Lodge, but that is exactly what they get. The produce not grown onsite in the greenhouse is purchased from organic farms just north of Denali National Park. Fish is obtained from farmed or wild-caught sources in Alaska. Barley cereal and flour comes from Delta in eastern Alaska and honey travels from a family homestead just north of the Park. Chefs use the region’s best flavors and ingredients to deliver a fantastic dining experience. The final product is a work of art, served in the heart of Denali’s wilderness.
Activities at North Face Lodge
North Face Lodge specializes in learning adventures and hiking vacations for travelers. From the initial drive into the Park to guided outing and evening programs, naturalists share the Park’s rich natural and human history – its landscape, scenery, history, and wildlife. Naturalist-led outings offer options from strenuous hiking to leisurely strolls. There is something to suit the interests of everyone while exploring Denali’s trail-less terrain and observing wildlife. Evening programs feature staff naturalists or guest speakers who are experts in a wide range of Alaskan and natural history topics.
Denali National Park encompasses six million acres of boreal forest, tundra, rivers, glaciers, and dramatic geologic relief, including the impressive massif of Denali. Standing at 20,320 feet, Mount McKinley is known around Alaska as Denali, the name it has been called by native Athabascan people for thousands of years. Mount McKinley National Park was established in 1917 to preserve its wildlife. It tripled in size in 1980 and became Denali National Park and Preserve. The homesteaded land of North Face Lodge became islands of private land surrounded by the National Park. Situated for their views of Denali, the properties lie between the Park’s Wilderness boundary and the historic Kantishna Mining District.
North Face Lodge Location
North Face Lodge’s location is the essence of what makes the lodges special – North Face Lodge & Camp Denali are the only lodges inside the National Park with views of Denali. The 90-mile journey into the park is the first introduction to Denali National Park for most guests. Round trip transportation between the Denali National Park train depot and the lodge is included. Drivers are professional naturalist guides and they discuss the geology, ecology and history of the Park as you travel through it. The bus ride provides excellent opportunities for wildlife observation and beautiful vistas. A picnic dinner is served along the way on the banks of the East Fork River.
North Face Lodge Arrival & Departure
Note that North Face Lodge runs on a fixed arrival schedule, with 6-day trips starting on Thursdays, 7-day trips starting on Sundays and 10-day trips beginning on either Thursdays or Sundays. Due to fixed arrival and departure schedules, guests often find it useful to secure reservations at North Face Lodge before planning the rest of their itinerary. Space is often limited.
The Guest Experience
“Denali at your doorstep” characterizes North Face Lodge in the heart of Denali National Park. North Face Lodge is more than a wilderness hideaway with views of North America’s highest peak. As the sole commercial operator of naturalist-guided hiking in Denali’s designated wilderness, the lodge features learning experiences for active travelers who want more than an introduction to Denali National Park. At North Face Lodge, active learning and community combine to create a wilderness experience without parallel.
North Face Lodge guests explore the tundra and learn about the Park’s natural history from professional naturalists and guest experts. Mealtimes emphasize camaraderie and feature fine dining with food made onsite from quality, local and organic ingredients. You don’t have to be capable of scaling Mt. McKinley to enjoy your time at North Face Lodge; all that is needed is an enthusiasm for exploring, rain or shine, and a spirit of adventure.
North Face Lodge or Camp Denali?
Camp Denali and North Face Lodge are both located in the heart of Denali National Park and are approximately one mile apart. Both lodges are owned and operated by the same family, and both offer the same daily activities. The differences lie in the style of accommodations. If, after reading this review, you are still uncertain which lodge is best for you then please contact an Adventure Specialist to match your style of travel with the most appropriate Denali accommodation.
Accommodations at North Face Lodge
Fifteen small, well-appointed rooms each have en suite bathroom and electricity. Most rooms have two twin beds and a few have one queen bed. Rooms with one queen bed are limited and are reserved in the order they are requested. One room can accommodate families up to four people with one queen bed and two bunk beds in an adjoining suite.