by Phil Corless
For the ultimate backcountry family vacation, plan a stay at the extremely remote Caribou Lodge. A warning, however, that this a trip best done with older kids. The all-inclusive lodge is located on a secluded mountain lake in the mountains above Denali Park, and is accessible only by float plane. The three guest cabins are clean, comfortable and slightly luxurious in a rustic-style, with each containing one queen bed. There’s no plumbing in the cabins, so guests share two extremely clean outhouses and a shower house. Gourmet meals are served in the spacious main lodge, where you can also play games, read books, grab a snack, or relax on the wide deck overlooking the lake. There is no TV, no Wi-Fi and no phone service — just wilderness as far as the eye can see.
Caribou Lodge is about 20 miles from the town of Talkeetna, where you can board a float plane for a short, but very scenic flight. The lodge only books six guests at any one time, so a family of six would have the entire place to themselves. Kids will love kayaking or canoeing across the lake. The favorite activity at the lodge, however, is hiking across the tundra to nearby streams and ponds to observe wildlife. You’ll see bears, moose, beavers and caribou. You can choose half-day hikes, full-day hikes and overnight hiking/camping trips. Or just wander the trails right around the lodge, where wild blueberries grow in abundance. The Caribou Lodge experience is about going off the grid and focusing solely on the beautiful wilderness all around you. It’s a unique, once in a lifetime-type of vacation that your kids will never forget.
Our Editor Loves
- Flying in on a float plane
- Picking blueberries
- Stunning mountain views
- All Inclusive Rates
- Water Sports
- Family Room 5+
- Game Room
- Onsite Dining
What to say besides "great experience". From the landing to the lodge and warm welcome by Zac & Alyssa, Joe and Bonnie we felt being in a special place. Our kids loved it and the opportunity to experience true Alaska was very memorable to our family. We feel fortunate that we had the opportunity to stay at such a unique place. Thanks and I would recommend anyone who wishes to experience Alaska away from the crowds.
We spent 4 nights here and Caribou was the highlight of our Alaska trip.
We felt so at home in our little cabin, and amongst Joe, Bonnie, Zac, Alyssa, and the other guests. We felt like we were visiting old friends instead of strangers. A couple got engaged during our stay, and another couple shared their bottles of wine with all of us at dinner. The camaraderie was truly touching, a reminder of how beautiful humans can be!
I’ve never been in a cleaner outhouse — no joke, not ever. We also packed shower shoes just in case for the shower house — those stayed packed up given how clean everything was. Plenty of hot water, and there is shampoo, conditioner, shower gel in the shower.
Cabins are electricity-free, so we brought a power bank to charge our phones (you could charge anything in the lodge as well at some point during the day, but we felt like the power bank was über convenient). We brought headlamps and we used the lodge-provided lantern as well.
There are a few pups on property, which initially was a big concern for us since my husband is 10/10 allergic to just about everything. But the little Yorkies didn’t bother him and the lovable outdoor dog Howie also wasn’t a problem.
The food was hands-down epically delicious (our favorites included pancakes with homemade blueberry syrup, meatballs, a little lemon blueberry cake, watermelon salad... who are we kidding, everything was a favorite!). Fresh berries everywhere we looked outside were a perfect treat on top of the meals that were cooked for us. We were hopped up on coffee given it was available, piping hot, all day. That + scones... pretty sure we had some withdrawal symptoms once we got home!
September was great to travel in because of the fall colors and the cool air. We had a bit of rain the last 2-3 days, but our hikes were just as epic and with our rain gear, we were nice and dry! Layers were also important during our hikes since the temperature would fluctuate a lot depending on where the sun was, wind, elevation, etc.
The rain did change up some of our transportation plans — we ended up being delayed to get to the lodge by an hour or two and then our flight out from the lodge back to Anchorage was rerouted to Wasilla instead. The Alaska Bush Plane folks were so kind and helpful during the delay on the way to the lodge, and Joe and Bonnie couldn’t have been more gracious with providing us with options so we could get back to Anchorage. The flexibility with our travel schedule was key!
We were in awe of the scenery every day, really every moment. Between the beauty all around + how much we learned about the land and animals we saw during our daily guided hikes with Joe, we couldn’t have asked for anything more. We live in a pretty quiet neighborhood in Pennsylvania and get out in the woods frequently to camp, but until we stayed at the lodge, I never imagined what complete quiet sounds like, especially at night. No cicadas chirping, nothing. It was the epitome of peace.
We truly can’t wait to come back.