When it comes to Alaska, the first thing you’ll discover is just how big this state is. Travel times take a while, places are spread out from one another, and there’s much of the state that isn’t even reachable by car in the first place! As such, some people who want to pick one city to base themselves in for their entire Alaska itinerary quickly discover that they’ll need to stay a few nights in a few different places.
To that end, you might find yourself in need of a hotel in a city you didn’t originally plan on spending an overnight in – but that’s not a problem: there are great hotels across The Last Frontier. In this post, you’ll find my personal list of the best places to stay in Alaska – the ones I love, have stayed in, and recommend (and ones I’ve seen endorsed again and again by others who’ve traveled to Alaska too).
So whether you’re planning for an overnight stop in Glennallen, have decided to extend your trip and head to Seward, or are planning a far-flung adventure to the top of the world in Utqiaġvik, you’re all set with this list. Use it as the starting point for your hotel research; hopefully each one will be available for your travel dates – or for the return trip I know you’ll want to plan once you get home.
In this post, I promote travel a destination that is the traditional lands of many Alaska Native groups, including the Aleut, Athabascan, Haida, Inupiat, Tlingit, and Yuit peoples. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
Anchorage: Hotel Captain Cook
As Alaska’s biggest city, you’d rightly expect there are lots of options for accommodation in Anchorage. Choosing the best hotel in Anchorage might seem tricky – until you arrive at the Hotel Captain Cook, and then you’ll see why it was an easy choice for me.
I had the good fortune to stay at the Captain Cook twice during my recent travels, and didn’t want to check out either time. By Alaskan standards, rooms are luxurious and all have a great view in at least one direction: some can see Denali and the Alaska Range; others look toward the Chugach Mountains against which Anchorage is nestled; others still look south toward the Kenai mountains and Turnagain Arm, which Cook and his team sailed in 1778. There are also several restaurants on-site; my favorite is Fletchers, the pub-style spot for casual food and great craft beer.
If you can’t get a room at the Hotel Captain Cook, consider booking at her sister property, the Voyager Inn next door. I’ve also stayed here and the rooms are more standard – but also more reasonably priced.
When I started working on this list of the best places to stay in Alaska, I knew that I couldn’t choose just one place in Denali. First of all, Denali National Park is huge; second, it’s abutted by a state park that is half that size again. That means there are many small communities where you might want to stay, and it wouldn’t be “fair” to only choose one. Instead, you’ll see that I’ve chosen six great properties in Denali; I recommend Googling the location of each area (in parentheses) to get a sense for which one(s) might work in your Alaska itinerary.
Grande Denali (Nenana Canyon)
The Nenana Canyon area of Denali is where you can find most of your accommodation options near the entrance to Denali National Park (there are some others south of the park entrance, though I generally advise people look at Nenana Canyon first). My favorite among them is the Grande Denali, which sits high on the slopes of Sugar Loaf Mountain with epic views of the canyon below and toward Denali herself (though the mountain is not visible due to a ridgeline).
The Grande Denali has two buildings with standard and premium rooms (depending on whether you face the canyon or mountain slopes) as well as six funky little log cabins spread throughout the property. Go for the cabins if one is available for your preferred dates – you’ll have more space and more privacy, for only a little more on the nightly rate.
We stayed at the Grande Denali (in the Grizzly Cabin) and her sister property, Denali Bluffs, during our September 2021 visit – now I can’t imagine staying anywhere else!
Denali Park Hotel (Healy)
If you’re unable to find accommodation nearer to the park entrance due to demand, take a look at the small town of Healy, about 10 miles north of Nenana Canyon. There are a few options in this area, though all are a bit more rustic than you’ll find further south (and accordingly, less exorbitantly priced!).
To start your search, look at the Denali Park Hotel; this is the property that was built using parts of the original McKinley Park Hotel, including old train cars that once served as rooms for guests after a fire damaged the initial building. Rooms here are rustic – be prepared for that – but do the trick of giving you a cozy place to camp out after days of adventure exploring the park.
For a level-up from staying in the Nenana Canyon (aka Glitter Gulch) area of Denali, many people love to travel to Kantishna, a seasonal former mining community located within Denali National Park. The best property in Kantishna is the Denali Backcountry Lodge; I heard that it’s the only property in this area where each room has its own ensuite bathroom – a real plus in rural Alaska!
Due to the landslide and road closure at Mile 43 of the Denali Park Road, things look a little bit different if you want to stay at Denali Backcountry Lodge this year. Instead of a 6-hour bus ride, you’ll take a 35-minute scenic helicopter ride to reach the property; as you might expect, this means nightly rates are higher this year than in years past.
However, if you have the budget, it’s absolutely worth it. Each cabin at Denali Backcountry Lodge is cozy yet luxurious, and the meals provided on-site are awesome considering you’re literally 92.5 miles from the nearest store. (That’s the length of the Denali Park Road.) There’s also a spa on-site (uncertain whether this will be open in 2022), and guides can take you out hiking, fishing, and to parts of the park that many people will never see.
Mt McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge (State Park)
Like many National Parks, Denali also has a state park of the same name; Denali State Park abuts the southeastern border of Denali National Park and protects an additional 325,240 acres of land – adding another (almost) 50% of protected land to this unique part of Interior Alaska.
While it didn’t open in 2020 or 2021, the Mt. McKinley* Princess Wilderness Lodge is expected to open in 2022. This property is a popular stop on land tours offered by Princess Cruises (which is why it didn’t open during the pandemic), and a nice place to add to your itinerary if you want to spend an extra night in the Denali area – while enjoying epic views.
Perched high atop a ridge near Trapper Creek, the Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge boasts standard (yet comfortable) rooms, fire pits around the property, and a gorgeous lobby with a huge stone fireplace. There are three restaurants/bars on-site, and a shuttle that runs to Talkeetna daily if you get tired of the peace and quiet of this semi-remote property.
*The mountain, Mt. McKinley, was renamed back to her original, Native Alaskan name of Denali in 2016. This property still bears the original name – but you should always refer to the mountain as “Denali.”
Alpine Creek Lodge (Denali Highway)
If you are up for an adventure and have your own car/RV, you might find yourself tempted to drive the Denali Highway. Not to be confused with the Denali Park Road, the Denali Highway connects Paxson in the east to Cantwell in the west; it crosses some 135 miles of rugged terrain, and roughly halfway you’ll find some respite at the Alpine Creek Lodge (mile 68).
As a remote property in Alaska, you should adjust your expectations accordingly: rooms are comfortable yet rustic by standards of the Lower 48. You’ll find all the amenities you need though – plus fun day tours like gold panning, hiking trails, and dog-sledding.
Sheldon Chalet (Off-Grid)
Have big bucks and want to splash it around on your Alaska trip? There’s one place to do that: Sheldon Chalet. Named for Don Sheldon, a famous bush pilot who pioneered the technique of glacier landings, this property is nestled high on the slopes of Denali herself – and can only be reached by helicopter. It is run by the Sheldon family, making it an incredible local offering.
This is a splurge-worthy all-inclusive experience: groups of up to 10 can rent out the entire chalet for a minimum of 3 nights at about $6,000 per person per night. While on the mountain, you can enjoy guided glacier hiking, snow cave spelunking, or ice climbing (among other activities), followed by a warm shower, five-star food, and rest in a luxury room. This is seriously one for the bucket list!
Fairbanks: A Taste of Alaska Lodge
Fairbanks may not be a big city, but it has some great accommodation options and that made it really hard to choose which on I most recommend here. I could have gone for Chena Hot Springs, which, while the property and rooms aren’t the most impressive, has the fantastic hot springs and ice museum to experience. Or I could recommend Borealis Basecamp, an off-grid property outside of town where you can sleep in bubble igloos to enjoy the aurora overhead while you rest.
But in the end I went with A Taste of Alaska Lodge because they offer the kind of warm hospitality that I know can be found at all the best places to stay in Alaska.
Located about 20 minutes outside of Fairbanks, this multi-generation family-run property has six accommodations: three suites in the main lodge and three additional buildings – the Cottage, the Log House, and the Spruce House. I stayed in the Spruce House during my visit, which was spacious enough for an entire family – and has a kitchen if you want to handle meals yourself. You don’t have to though – there is an awesome breakfast offered in the main lodge every morning and plenty of good places to eat in Fairbanks each day.
Glennallen: Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge
If you find your Alaska plans will take you up or down the Richardson Highway, you might want to stay a night along the way. One great option is in the Glennallen area, at the Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge. Part of the same family as the Mt McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge in Denali State Park, this is the biggest and nicest hotel near Wrangell–St. Elias National Park – and the Wrangell Room offers stunning views of the mountain range on clear days.
The 85 rooms at the property are nice by Alaska standards, and have outdoor touches without feeling rustic. While not in your room, you can take a Ranger-led walk in the woods on the property, or head the four miles down the highway to the park Visitor Center.
Homer: Land’s End Resort
The word is out: Homer’s on travelers’ radars now! (Honestly I get so many requests for Homer advice!) Luckily, there are lots of great properties in the Homer Area, though my most-recommended option is Land’s End Resort, out on the end of the Homer Spit.
Rooms at Land’s End Resort are standard but comfortable, and many boast waterfront views looking out over Kachemak Bay. With the views and location, nightly rates during the summer are not cheap. However, you’ll have an epic experience and can enjoy meals in the famous Chart Room restaurant located on-site.
Juneau: The Alaskan Hotel & Bar
As the capital city of Alaska, you’d expect Juneau to have a lot of good accommodation options – and they do – but the one I recommend as the best is The Alaskan Hotel & Bar. It isn’t that The Alaskan Hotel has the nicest rooms (they’re nice, but rather dated), but instead that it’s got a great location and tons of history.
You see, The Alaskan Hotel dates back to the Gold Rush and is the oldest operating hotel in Juneau – and one of the oldest operating hotels in the whole state. It is on the National Register of Historic Places, and draws visitors into the downstairs bar just to enjoy a glimpse back in time. You can certainly find more modern, luxurious accommodation elsewhere, but there’s something special about staying in a place with so much history within its walls.
Ketchikan: Cape Fox Lodge
Perched high above downtown Ketchikan, Cape Fox Lodge looks out over town and Tongass Narrows. This property is iconic in Ketchikan, in part because one of the easiest ways to reach it from town is by bright red funicular.
Cape Fox Lodge is perfect for basing yourself during an adventure in Ketchikan – a community that often gets passed over for overnight guests, but not by you because now you know better! After a day of hiking, bear-watching, fishing, or whatever else interests you in Alaska, you can return to their comfortable, spacious rooms that feature elements of Native Alaskan design throughout. Best of all, they have over 70 rooms and suites, so you’ll hopefully be able to find a room for your specific travel dates!
Seward: Harbor 360
Seward is another popular spot for travelers visiting Southcentral Alaska, and as such has grown a lot since I was a kid visiting with my parents and skipping the overnight stay because the accommodation options weren’t good enough to justify the cost.
Today there are plenty of nice options, but my favorite is Harbor 360. This waterfront property looks out over Resurrection Bay and literally has its own dock and gangway for boarding the popular Major Marine Tours vessels that explore the waterways of Kenai Fjords National Park every day. Rooms themselves are clean and modern – the hotel received a AAA award for its housekeeping in 2020 – and the location is fantastic for striking out to explore Seward and all it has to offer.
Sitka: Sitka Hotel
After a return visit in September 2021 for the first time in a few decades, Sitka quickly rose to become one of my favorite places in Alaska (second only to Denali!). Sitka is a small, waterfront town that feels like a place I could settle down for a while – especially on a sunny day in the summer! There’s so much to do, plus easy access to other parts of Southeast Alaska.
There are a number of accommodation options here, but my personal favorite is the Sitka Hotel. If you want to splurge, the Sitka Hotel recently underwent a renovation and rooms have been updated to a much more luxurious standard. You’ll be right in the heart of the town and some rooms even have water views of the Sound. There’s also a great Italian restaurant, Mangiare, on-site for any special meals you want to enjoy.
Skagway: Historic Skagway Inn
While Juneau may be the capital, Skagway holds claim to being the oldest incorporated city in the state. As such, the city takes a lot of pride in its history, and you’ll find many historic buildings that date back to the turn of the 20th century and the Gold Rush era – same for tours and experiences, many of which focus on the colorful history of this boom-and-bust town.
After a day out learning about Skagway and Alaskan history, the Historic Skagway Inn is the place to rest your head. This hotel predates The Alaskan Hotel in Juneau, and was founded in 1897. It’s officially a bed and breakfast – not a hotel – so it’s much smaller and more intimate. About half of the 10 rooms have their own bathroom; the rest share a bathroom on the same (upper) floor. As you might expect, the rooms have a dated – I’ll call it historic – style that helps preserve the ambiance of this important chapter in Alaskan hospitality.
Talkeetna: Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge
There are some great, local places to stay in Talkeetna – the town that inspired the 90s show Northern Exposure. However, if you’re looking for the best place to stay in Talkeetna, it’s gotta be the one with the view!
Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge is located about 1.5 miles from “downtown” Talkeetna (using that term loosely) which makes it a bit less convenient for exploring all the fascinating, funky experiences the town has to offer. However, it has a stunning view of Denali and the Alaska Range on a clear day that make up for any inconvenience you might experience driving to/from town or riding the complimentary shuttle.
Rooms at the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge are straightforward by Alaska standards – you’re paying for the location and view at this property. Additionally, there is a great restaurant on-site, and a really nice coffee shop for fueling up each morning before you head out for flightseeing, taking a jet boat, or whatever else you decide to do in Talkeetna (of which there are lots of choices!).
Utqiaġvik: Top of the World Hotel
If you find yourself drawn to the northernmost spot in the United States, you’ll land in Utqiaġvik, formerly called Barrow. (It’s pronounced “oot-kee-aug-vik,” if that helps!)
There’s one main hotel in town, the Top of the World Hotel. Located just off the beach of the Arctic Ocean, most rooms have water views and cozy accommodations – especially considering everything has to be flown in since there are no roads connecting Utqiaġvik with the rest of the state. There’s also a restaurant on site – Niġġivikput (I’ll let someone else teach you the pronunciation for that one!) – and easy access to sights in town like the Iñupiat Heritage Center and iconic whale bone arch.
Whittier: The Inn at Whittier
Whittier, like Talkeetna, has limited options for places to stay. In fact, there are only two hotels: the Anchor Inn, which is located in the more local part of town, and The Inn at Whittier, which is located right on the water and has gorgeous views of the marina and Prince William Sound beyond.
The Inn has 25 rooms in their main building, and offers both Mountain and Ocean views. The latter are the higher price-point as you might expect. Rooms are nice but nothing fancy (as I said, that’s the reality of accommodation in Alaska!). If you have the budget or are traveling with a family, I’d splurge for one of their suites so you have more room to relax.
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park: Ultima Thule Lodge
Want to literally escape it all when visiting Alaska? Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is the place to do it, as the largest national park in the entire country. There’s only one road in the whole park – the 60-mile unpaved McCarthy Road – and most visitors don’t even drive that as it isn’t allowed under many rental car agreements.
However, the hotels at the end of that road aren’t the best option if you really want to splurge and experience Wrangell-St. Elias. Instead, you’ll need to book your stay at Ultima Thule Lodge. This property is only accessible by small aircraft – there are no roads to reach it – so you’ll want to pack light but bring your sense of adventure.
Unlike some other properties on this list, Ultima Thule Lodge is a luxury experience; each cabin has custom furniture and luxurious touches to almost make you forget you’re so far from other creature comforts and civilization. There are also distinctly Alaskan design elements like burl sink stands and moose antlers for decoration. I haven’t personally stayed at Ultima Thule Lodge but it’s definitely on my Alaska bucket list!
Okay, that was a LOT. I have a feeling you’re probably a bit overwhelmed and want to go everywhere – I feel the same way. Do you have any questions about these top places to stay across Alaska? Let me know in the comments.
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