Alaska has long captured the imagination of adventurers — and for good reason. With over 650,000 square miles of land and roughly 700,000 residents, there are great swaths of the state that have likely never been explored by humans.
One of the best ways to really experience the Alaska of your dreams is to stay at a backcountry lodge. These far-flung locales offer a deeper connection to nature, are tailor-made for social distancing, and give travelers a glimpse into an increasingly rarefied Alaska. And, despite usually being out of cell phone reception, these lodges aren't exactly roughing it — these destinations marry one-of-a-kind experiences with some serious personal pampering. Here are some of our favorite Alaska lodges.
Salmon Falls Resort
Courtesy of Salmon Falls Resort
Sitting in the midst of Tongass National Forest in Alaska's famed Inside Passage, adventure is literally at the doorstep of Salmon Falls Resort. The resort started 35 years ago with the intention of inviting newbie and expert anglers in for fishing experiences as big as Alaska, but has since expanded to include flightseeing, kayaking tours, shrimping, hiking trips, and excursions to downtown Ketchikan. The resort is rolling out a handful of new experiences as well, including floatplane fishing trips to remote fishing holes, salmon roe and wine pairings, wildlife watching (think humpback and orca whales, seals, eagles, and sea lions), cruises via zodiac, and bear-watching expeditions.
Arturo Polo Ena/Courtesy of Chasing Alaska
It's fitting that Ultima Thula means "a distant or unknown region" considering it's located in the heart of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Reserve. Clocking in at 13.2-million acres (roughly the same size as the five smallest states combined), the park is the largest in the U.S. and an unparalleled playground for those looking to get into the outdoors. Ultima Thule makes it easy to explore the park far and wide by providing guests a pilot and a Pipe Super Cub plane to get the most out of the experience. You might spend one day picnicking on the largest non-polar glacier in the world and packrafting in an alpine lake and the next exploring abandoned gold mines and hiking across nameless mountains. While the cabins are separate, meals are served in the main lodge and often include locally harvested salmon and wild game, as well as vegetables grown in the lodge's greenhouse.
Courtesy of Within the Wild
If you're craving a meaningful immersion into some of Alaska's most remote land, this is the way to go. This wilderness outpost, over 100 miles from the closest road, was once a simple trapper's cabin located on the famed Iditarod National Historic Trail, but today Winterlake Lodge is a lush retreat. Each guest's itinerary is personalized every day and ranges from helicopter rides to glacier treks to dog sledding with their team to participating in guided hikes. Guests bunk down in Winterlake's hand-crafted cabins and nosh on incredible meals made with locally sourced ingredients.
Tordrillo Mountain Lodge
Courtesy of Tordrillo Mountain Lodge
Sure, Tordrillo has an epic winter program, with heli skiing and snowboarding in deep, perfect powder on completely untracked mountains, but you'd be remiss to think it's just a cold weather destination. The recently renovated lodge and the various private cabins make for a luxurious basecamp year-round. In the summer, some of the activities adventurers can opt for include whitewater rafting, alpine hikes, Via Ferrata climbing, and heli-biking. At the end of the day, the 500-bottle wine cellar, lakeside dining room, and copper hot tub don't disappoint.
Tim Shobe/Courtesy of Talon Lodge
In much of Alaska, fishermen have a choice to make: saltwater or freshwater fish? Not at Talon Lodge near Sitka, though. Here anglers can zip out into the open ocean to hunt for king or silver salmon and halibut or venture down quieter streams in search of rainbow trout, dolly varden pink and sockeye salmon, and more. But if fishing isn't your idea of a good time, the lodge also offers ATV trips, kayaking, hiking, and whale watching. After your day of adventuring, enjoy chatting with your fellow travels over meals produced by their traveling chefs and locally crafted beers at their highly rated beachfront bar.
Tutka Bay Lodge
For travelers looking for a lodge at the intersection of adventure and leisure, Tutka Bay is the spot. Intrepid guests can spend the day going halibut fishing, bear viewing, or glacier trekking, while those looking for a more low-key experience can tootle around tide pools, do yoga on the expansive deck overlooking the water, or take a three-course cooking class (using all locally grown or harvested ingredients) in a retired crabbing boat with celebrated Alaskan chefs Kirsten and Mandy Dixon.
Tikchik Narrow Lodge
Courtesy of Tikchik Narrow Lodge
Few travelers to the 49th state make it this far north — quite honestly, there are likely few lifelong Alaskans who know where this spot is. Tikchik is found in some of the most rugged territory in the state, only accessible by seaplane from the tiny city of Dillingham in southwestern Alaska. Its position is prime for sportfishing, boasting all five of Alaska's species of salmon, as well as seven species of freshwater fish. In the lodge is a large communal area with a natural stone fireplace and a circular dining room that is suspended above the lake, so the views are jaw-dropping (and in the summer, the sunsets are endless).
The Sheldon Chalet
Hunter Douglas/Courtesy of Sheldon Chalet
The Sheldon Chalet is arguably one of the hardest-to-reach lodges in the world. Found just 10 miles from the summit of Denali (the tallest peak in North America), the only way to get here is by bush plane or helicopter. Founded by the children of the adventurer and pilot who famously mapped the mountain, the opulent, all-inclusive five-bedroom lodge sits in stark contrast to the wild, frozen land it sits on. Each room is filled with all the coziness of faux-fur blankets, crackling fireplaces, and comfy slippers. But you're not expected to just enjoy the scenery from the picture windows — outdoor activities include spelunking in snow caverns, snowshoe glacier trekking, and gourmet picnics. In the winter, cross your fingers for an ethereal northern lights show, as you're guaranteed to have front row seats.