5 of the Most Over-the-Top Alaskan Luxury Lodges

Marianne Abraham

Alaska Expert
T+L Magazine Top Travel Advisor

In my role as an award-winning B&R Trip Designer, I’m always on the lookout for some of the most incredible luxury lodges in the world. (It’s a tough job, I know.) I’ve found that of all places, Alaska has got it all. Each of my top picks include a combination of the following: luxury, seclusion, access to wildlife or adventure, exclusivity, superb amenities, and attentive service.

First off, it’s an adventure in its own getting to most of these locations, as these lodges are accessible only by float plane, helicopter, or boat. Whether you’re on the quest for up-close wilderness encounters, curious about what it’s like to stay atop North America’s tallest mountain or would simply like to sip on a glass of wine as the Northern Lights shimmer before you, it goes without saying that these experiences book up quickly—and with good reason.

The Sheldon Chalet: Highest Stay in North America

As far as unlikely luxury outposts go, Sheldon Chalet just might take the cake. Resting dramatically on a granite nunatak within a jagged amphitheatre on the flanks of North America’s highest mountain—Mount Denali, peaking at 6,190 metres (20,310 feet). The chalet is a true marvel and an unparalleled experience, starting with its flight-only accessibility.

The seismically secured hexagonal structure—featuring large picture windows—is the realization of a dream held by three generations of the Sheldon family, and a portal into a world once only accessible to mountaineers. From the observation deck (or from the comfort of your bed), it is possible to catch the ethereal dance of the aurora borealis. There’s no wi-fi or cell service here, but I promise you won’t miss it—you’ll be too busy picking your jaw up off the floor.

Escape Into the Wild

On our Alaska Wilderness Expedition, go in search of massive Kodiak bears, whales, otters, and bald eagles on the last wild frontier of North America, framed by glaciers, mountains, the sea, and untouched forest. Luxurious, secluded wilderness lodges and expert guides await!

DETAILED ITINERARY

Kodiak Brown Bear Center: Unparalleled Access to Wilderness

Set course for remote Kodiak Island, the home of the mighty Kodiak bear, the largest brown bear of all, and second in size only to the polar bear. Nestled on the shores of Karluk Lake in the middle of a 210,000-acre private reserve, you’ll have unparalleled access to Alaska’s best bear-viewing.

With a minimally invasive setting and small group sizes, this world-class nature center makes it stress-free (for both you and the animals) to get up close to the bears.  Walking safaris are the best way to see wildlife, and at KBBC, you’ll be joined by a professional bear guide. Quietly approach and observe the Kodiak bears as they fish in the active salmon stream just minutes from the lodge.

Get cozy in your luxury one-bedroom cabin, with wind-powered amenities and well-appointed decor as you watch the wildlife frolic on the front lawn. My favourite part? Ending the day in the maqii, a wood-fired steam room, where you can unwind as the native Alutiiq people have done for centuries.

 

Chelatna Lake Lodge: Seek the Aurora Borealis (or the Midnight Sun)

Just south of Denali National Park, seclude yourself in the epitome of rustic luxury. We’ve discovered the perfect setting for an ultimate Alaskan experience: the resplendent colours of the Northern Lights.

As this dark-sky lodge is completely free of light pollution, it’s one of the best places in the world to view the phenomenon. For the best time of year, arrive mid-September through late April, although the lights tend to peak in March.

Become mesmerized by the ever-changing colours of the aurora or capture the magic on your camera or phone. Framed by the Alaska Range, day or night, there are absolutely no bad angles. At day’s end you’ll delight at watching the lights dance in the sky from the lakeside cedar hot tub.

In the summer, during the time of nearly 24-hour daylight, take a canoe out at midnight dusk to experience the enormity of the massive landscape around you—with perhaps a plaintive loon call breaking the stillness.

Ridgewood Wilderness Lodge: Off the Grid at the Ocean’s Edge

A gorgeous hideaway near the town of Homer, the world’s halibut-fishing capital, Ridgewood Wilderness Lodge takes advantage of its prime location. Arrive via float plane or water taxi only, as it’s located within Alaska’s first state park along Kachemak Bay. Your host family provides the expert guiding, having lived in the area for three generations, and will take you into completely remote areas for hiking, kayaking and wildlife-watching.

Dive into a vast array of water and hiking-based activities, along with the lodge’s award-winning cuisine—including home-grown oysters plucked fresh year-round from the glacier-fed, pristine waters of the bay. Tucked away in a private cove, the family-owned property provides luxurious seclusion and spacious family suites for larger gatherings. 

Tordrillo Mountain Lodge: The Quintessential Alaskan Getaway

Tordrillo Mountain Lodge is one of the few places in the world that truly manages to marry luxury and remoteness on a grand scale, and it’s my personal favourite for an ultimate getaway packed with activity. After a scant 40-minute flight from Anchorage, find yourself surveying the shores of Judd Lake and the peaks of the Alaska Range, in a place of quiet beauty.

Depending on the season, you can heli-ski, heli-hike, or heli-bike, or opt for a scenic flightseeing tour of the surroundings (including the Harding Ice Fields, or the active Augustine Island Volcano, part of the Ring of Fire).

Nature-lovers can search for Alaskan brown bears, or you can take on the ultimate fishing adventure—angling to catch an Alaskan king salmon. The lodge is situated on an active salmon river and employs a prizewinning fly-fishing guide to help you land a big one.

You can also keep it simple and soak up the scenery from the comfort of a copper-lined hot tub, or hop into gorgeous Judd Lake to canoe, kayak, SUP, or a wakeboard motorboat for watery fun!

 

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