Earlier this summer we took one “last” family trip to Alaska after our youngest daughter graduated high school. We used the Alaska Railroad as our means of transportation, and found it a great way to sample the interior of this vast state. You can find a full recap of our scenic family trip along the rails by following this link, but I wanted to provide more detail about where we stayed along the route. In Denali we were hosted by the Denali Bluffs Hotel, just outside the Denali National Park boundary and 3 miles from the railroad depot (known as “Glitter Gulch” by the locals). The Denali Bluffs Hotel sits on the slopes of Sugarloaf Mountain with sweeping views of the Nenana River Canyon and Alaska Range from your room’s private balcony.
Whereas most hotels greet guests when they walk through the lobby, our welcome started when we arrived at the Denali Depot. The Denali Bluffs Hotel staff met passengers at the depot, distributed hotel keys, and answered any questions on the shuttle ride to the property. This allowed everyone to bypass the check-in desk and head directly to their rooms. This service was extremely convenient, and allowed us to quickly stretch out in the room and rest after the scenic 7.5 hour train ride from Anchorage. I thought this was on par with a Disney level of customer service, greeting us as we stepped off the train, and getting us settled fast.
When I eventually wandered back to the lobby, I found it had plenty of overstuffed leather chairs and couches around a cozy fireplace that offered space to rest, relax, and wait for Denali tours and activities or just sip a cup of coffee.
In 2017, the Denali Bluffs Hotel opened 64 premium hillside rooms with views of the Nenana River. We loved the warm colors of our modern hillside room. Our large riverview suite included two soft, comfortable queen sized beds, a small lounge chair & ottoman, desk, refrigerator, and large flat screen TV. There was also a Keurig coffee maker to make our morning brew. There was also free Wi-Fi available in the guest rooms and public areas of the hotel.
Every room had its own private balcony, and ours had views into the river canyon below as well as the covered pavilion.
All rooms are accessed by outdoor walkways. If it’s raining, as it was during our stay, you will find plenty of umbrellas available in the lobby, and there are also GEM cars that can offer a lift to your room.
The Mountaineer Grill is the onsite full-service, sit-down restaurant, and we had dinner here both nights of our stay.
The Mountaineer Grill is known for its BBQ, and my daughter and I shared a platter along with nachos and dessert.
We couldn’t take advantage of the outdoor patio with views of the Alaska Range while we dined, but we thoroughly enjoyed the hearty meal and great company.
Breakfast options at the Denali Bluffs Hotel include a full all-you-care-to eat buffet at the Mountaineer Grill or grab-and-go options at the Perky Moose Pantry and Cafe. There are great coffee creations at the Perky Moose, and they will even pack a sack lunch to go for your family to take along on your Denali adventure. This was a great perk (pun intended)!
Of course the main draw of the area is Denali National Park & Preserve. The six-million acre protected land has only one entrance, and the Denali Bluffs Hotel is in the “Glitter Gulch” strip of hotels and restaurants just a mile from that entrance (the train depot actually is within the park itself). All the hotels, restaurants, and attractions of the Glitter Gulch area are seasonal, and only open from mid-May through mid-September. However, because the area is dependent on the seasonal park visitors, they work hard to coordinate together such as the free shuttle service to shopping, Alaska Railroad Depot, and Denali National Park Visitors Center.
For our first day in Denali, we booked the Denali Backcountry Adventure – a 13 hour wilderness safari deep into the park that traversed the entire 92 mile park road. We were picked up at 6:30am at the Denali Bluffs Hotel by our tour bus, and headed into the park where we saw bear, moose, caribou, and Dall sheep. The only thing we didn’t see was the mountain itself, but that’s not unusual as it’s only visible 30% of the time. The animals were all just fine on a rainy, foggy day, and were probably even more active because of it.
For our second day in Denali National Park, we attended one of the free sled dog demonstrations at the kennels. This was a highlight of the trip. Everyone loved the upclose tour of the kennels, and getting to pet and interact with the affectionate sled dogs. The 30 minute demo was informative, and it was so fun to watch the good boys run for Ranger Jen.
Our family loved our stay at the Denali Bluffs Hotel and would definitely go back. I haven’t yet seen the peak of Denali, so there’s one reason to return. The Denali Bluffs Hotel made for a great base camp to explore Denali National Park. It was a fantastic spot for families with comfortable rooms and hearty meals after long days of touring the national park. We would stay at the Bluffs on a second visit to Denali, or, if there were no rooms available, we would check out its sister property the Grande Denali Lodge further up the mountain. The impeccable service and comfort of The Denali Bluffs Hotel gives me upmost confidence in either of their properties.
DISCLOSURE: Dave Parfitt was hosted by the Denali Bluffs Hotel and received complimentary accommodations and some meals. However, all opinions expressed are also those of the author. For more family travel news, reviews, and trip reports, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on instagram, twitter and “like” our facebook page too.