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A bright midnight sun was well past the Chugach mountains as the sturdy de Havilland Canada Beaver aircraft chugged its way over Anchorage’s placid Lake Hood.
The pilot looked back and asked “Everybody ready?” Upon our nods of affirmation, he revved the engine, opened the throttle and powered the small plane into a smooth ascent above Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city.
We headed due west for Tordrillo Mountain Lodge, a luxury fly-in wilderness retreat away from the hustle and bustle of Anchorage, located via a 40-minute flight from town in the heart of the Tordrillo mountain range.
Anchorage is a hub city in the most literal sense, and the city’s Lake Hood Seaplane Base is the busiest seaplane base in the world. Small aircraft come and go at all hours during the summer months, ferrying tourists, fishermen and bear-viewers to and from their Alaska adventures.
But for those looking to immerse in the true backcountry life of southcentral Alaska — with all the activities that make The Last Frontier famous — clients may find that staying at a fly-in lodge checks all their bucket-list boxes.
Kirsten Dixon, owner of Within the Wild Adventure Company — which operates Winterlake Lodge, Tutka Bay Lodge and the Cooking School at Tutka Bay — believes that meaningful experiences can be found in some of the most remote areas of the state.
“Some of the most scenic treasures are only accessible by taking the road less traveled or, in our case, no road,” she said. “It provides unspoiled wildness, rare geography and expansive vistas of untouched terrain.”
There are several options for clients who choose to depart out of Anchorage, and all provide a sense of the wilderness that guests expect when they visit Alaska.
In the case of Tordrillo Mountain Lodge, we were able to hike, fish and climb the state’s first via ferrata during our visit, before returning to the lodge for meals featuring curated, locally sourced ingredients. By the end of our stay, we were more than satisfied and patting ourselves on the back for choosing this sort of active experience.
However, travel advisors should carefully query clients on their comfort level with these types of trips. There are often few services available beyond those that a lodge provides. While some have Wi-Fi access and some operate generators or use solar power, none have road access in the event of emergencies. (But, the trade-off is worth any inconvenience for those willing to stretch their sense of adventure.)
Also important to note is the ever-changing Alaska weather that may swoop in and delay or cancel small aircraft flights to or from a remote lodge.
It is wise for an advisor to have a Plan B for such occasions, which could cause delays for hours or a full day. Visit Anchorage, the local visitors bureau, has plenty of ideas for “weathered out” guests at its visitor center on 4th Avenue, or agents can gather ideas via the website.
Within the Wild Adventure Lodges Within the Wild’s portfolio of properties includes Tutka Bay Lodge, which is located in a private cove on the edge of Kachemak Bay State Park and across Kachemak Bay from the city of Homer.
The property features a cooking school, kayaking and hiking opportunities in addition to complimentary massages and yoga classes. Winterlake Lodge, meanwhile, is located along the shores of Finger Lake near Skwentna, with miles of hiking and rafting through unspoiled forests near the lodge.
Tordrillo Mountain LodgeLocated 40 minutes from Anchorage on the banks of the Talachulina River and Judd Lake, Tordrillo Mountain Lodge is a wildly popular heli-skiing destination in winter. Summer weather brings ample opportunities to scramble up the via ferrata, mountain bike, fish or relax with a visit to the on-site spa.
Redoubt Bay LodgeFly to the entrance of Lake Clark Pass and find Redoubt Bay Lodge’s cozy log lodge and cabins snuggled along the foot of the Chigmit Mountains. The property is intimate and rustic, and guests staying here have opportunities for bear-viewing, fishing, hiking and kayaking nearby. There is also a small gift shop, a bar area and an Alaskana library for bookworms.