Camping at Denali Grizzly Bear Resort in Alaska
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Camp Alaska: I’m talking with Scott today. His family owns the Denali Grizzly Bear Resort in Alaska. Scott, why don’t you get us started by giving us a little bit of history about Denali Grizzly Bear Resort?
Scott: My folks came up from Ohio in the territory days, when Alaska was still a territory. Homestead of free land and on the of Denali National Park, and that land was free back then. And then they worked the topiary with chainsaws and axes. I was a very little boy at the time. And in 1969 we opened up with a very small campground and we started building cabins. And over the years, the family has worked our property – our homestead property – into what it is today, which is mostly now a hotel and cabin property. We do have 24 RV sites with electric and water hook-up and a tent site area.
Camp Alaska: So, you guys started from just a rough piece of land up there.
Scott: That’s correct. It was very remote wilderness back in the late ’50s.
Scott: Yeah, back in 1969 there were no hotels. The only hotel was a small one rented by the National Park Service itself, and the small campground there, and there were no other hotels. No other people really in the area. Once again, my father and mother were one of the first homesteaders and residents in that part of Alaska, and a month later another gentleman showed up and he went directly into the hotel business and he built the small hotel across the road from us. So, we were more cabins and campgrounds and he went into the hotel business. Of course it was all raw, rough, remote land at that time.
Camp Alaska: Wow, what a powerful story to have woven into the resort. Now, you have tent camping there all the way up to cabins. I’m not super familiar with what the temperature is throughout the year in Alaska, but how many months out of the year are people able to tent camp comfortably?
Scott: Typically all the campgrounds in Alaska are shutdown all winter. It’s 40 to 50 below anywhere they’re at and the snow. There just are not camping facilities during the winter in Alaska. Typically the tourist season in Alaska is a 110-day season. We will open up about May 20th and we’re completely shut down for winter about September 14th or 15th.
Camp Alaska: Okay. And what are the most popular activities for guests there?
Scott: Well, of course, we are right on the of Denali National Park. We’re on one side of the river. Across the river, right on the other side, that’s Denali National Park. So, we’re as close as you can get. And of course everyone comes to our property. We’re not a destination campground or hotel or cabin. We are there only to satisfy people for overnight accommodation so they can get in to see Denali National Park, which is amazing. It’s a whole different planet inside that Park and you can see why it is so protected.
Camp Alaska: Yeah, and so you’re able to offer camping near Denali National Park. So, a couple more questions for you here. Since a lot of people who might listen to this are looking for somewhere to stay around there and will probably go to Denali, give me just a few of your favorite destinations or things to do in Denali.
Scott: The one thing that you must do is to tickets for a tour bus to go into Denali National Park itself. And the minimum length of tour you should take is an 8-hour trip. That’s the minimum length because it gets you through a Visitor Center built into a cliff deep inside Denali National Park with Mount McKinley. It fills the whole horizon. That’s where all the grizzly bears live. That’s where the wolves are. So, the minimum tour you should take is the 8-hour tour. Then they also have the full-length tour, and we accommodate that. We actually have the tour bus come right to the Grizzly Bear to pick up our guests that are staying with us, and that’s about 12/13-hour day, which includes a big buffet lunch at the Gold District at the far end of Denali. So, it’s a full day in the Park. That’s the number one thing that you need to come to Denali to do. You will have no access into the Park with your private vehicle. It is very protected. You can only get in on a very regulated and controlled tour bus.
Camp Alaska: Okay, very interesting. One last question for you, and you seem to have quite a few different types of accommodations at Denali Grizzly Bear Resort there. So, Scott, if you were going to stay just one night at your own resort, which specific site would you stay at and why?
Scott: As in campsites?
Camp Alaska: Campsites. Yeah, let’s go with either campsites or the framed tents. Is there a certain spot that you like in there more than others?
Scott: Land in Denali is extremely rare and extremely expensive, so all the campgrounds in Denali are back-to-back bone or very close together.
Camp Alaska: Sure.
Scott: If you’re not behind the luxury campgrounds that you see out in the lower 48 states with all the space. It’s because the land is so valuable and so rare in Denali that every commercial campground you find in Denali is going to be back-to-back-to-back camping sites.
Camp Alaska: Sure, makes sense.
Scott: Because land that was once free back when we homesteaded – that part of Alaska now literally sells for thousands, and they sell it by the square foot now. It’s just not available. And so, most of the land now is owned by big corporations at 400/night hotel rooms. They just squeeze everything they can on the minimum amount of property. So, you’re not going to find the big sprawling fancy campgrounds you would find in the lower 48 states. It’s driven by land and pure economics. So, all the campgrounds in Denali are going to be back-to-back because of the limited land and the return on revenue on that little part of land. So, really, our sites are all in a row for the electric and RV hook-ups, and one is not any different than the others. For tent camping we do have really nice tent sites, but you cannot drive to. You have to walk down, but they are right on the river and it’s really nice and secluded, surrounded by trees for camping right on the river.
Camp Alaska: All right. Well, awesome. I’m so glad we go a hold of you today, Scott. That was a great little story to hear about the resort there, and I really appreciate that you took some time out of your day today to tell us a little bit more about Denali National Park and to tell us more about your place there – Denali Grizzly Bear Resort in Alaska.
Scott: Okay, sounds good.