Smokey Joe’s Saloon at Kantishna Roadhouse Backcountry Lodge

After bouncing around inside a rickety old school bus for nearly seven hours on a rock-strewn dirt road, you’re ready for a stiff drink. Sure, you’ve made friends with the other captive passengers, and you’ve gotten to witness probably the most amazing assortment of wild animals in their natural habitats that you will ever see in one day for the rest of your life. I’m talking black bears, wolves, magnificent herds of caribou and moose, Dall’s sheep, foxes and golden eagles galore. Fact is, you’re on your way to Kantishna Roadhouse, a summer lodge located smack dab in the middle of Alaska’s spectacular 6,000,000-acre Denali National Park and Preserve. As private vehicles are not allowed in the park’s interior, in order to stay at this unique log cabin encampment, the only way in or out is via the lodge’s creaky bus.

Once you arrive, head right for Smokey Joe’s Saloon inside the main lodge and let John, the world-wise bartender, mix you a perfect Manhattan or pull you a heady local draft. The drinks and John’s delightful stories will soothe your jangled nerves. Appetizers often include reindeer sausages.

There’s a two-day minimum booking but there’s lots to see and do here — hike, fish, bike, pan for gold or just relax and enjoy the spectacular scenery and delicious homestyle meals. You can even book a massage at this wilderness resort.

With no phone or internet connection available this deep into the northern wilderness, hanging out at Smokey Joe’s Saloon hoisting a few brews and actually talking to other people, sharing stories and laughter, seems like a delightful journey back in time.

Take this video tour of Kantishna Roadhouse, home of Smokey Joe’s Saloon, one of the most-remote bars in the world:

Open June-September.

Denali National Park & Preserve, AK


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