Frequently Asked Questions


What exactly is a hostel? Am I too old to stay there?

Good questions. We know that there are a lot of people who are not familiar or only partially familiar with hostels and hostelling.

Hostels are inexpensive, safe, supervised accommodations for travelers of all ages. Hostels have "common spaces" or "common rooms" to facilitate meeting your fellow hostellers who come from the world over. Life-long friendships are made at hostels every day. Another feature is hostels always provide a kitchen so guests can cook and share meals. Most hostels provide dormitory-style shared rooms which are commonly, but not always, separated by gender. We offer male, female, and mixed-gender coed (not separated by gender) rooms, and there is a place on the reservation form where you can specify the type of dormitory you would like. Some hostels require you to be a member of an association, but we do not.

Denali Hostel & Cabins (previously known as Denali Mountain Morning Hostel) is often called the best hostel in Alaska and sometimes the best in the world. It is also Denali's ONLY hostel and has been for the past 18 years. A good source of more hostels throughout the state of Alaska is the Alaska Hostel Association. You can find them by clicking HERE.

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How many days should we plan to stay in Denali?

We get this question a lot and it's a good one. This depends a lot on the individual, BUT, if you are interested in hiking in a beautiful tundra/alpine expanse, venturing out into a six million acre wilderness preserve by bus, foot or bike and searching for the numerous bears, moose, Dall sheep, caribou, fox, marmots, wolves, etc. that it harbors, going rafting, golfing, flight-seeing, learning about dog mushing and just plain relaxing in a magnificent mountain landscape, then we can safely say that you will want a lifetime.

If this isn't possible, you will probably want a minimum of three nights here. This is the average, with many happy travelers staying for a week or more, although we limit guest stays to 6 nights at our hostel. Keep in mind that it can rain a lot here in the summer, in addition to the grand 20,310 ft. Denali being enshrouded by clouds on many a day. The possibility of overcast weather makes having three or more days here a nice option. Some people come up for just two days and are often not disappointed.

But if you think about it, you travel up on day one, spend the night, go into the park on day two, spend the night, go on tours or hiking or back into the park on day three, spend the night and depart the next day, you will have seen and done a lot, but you can see it would be hard to do it in less.

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Do I need to make reservations, and how do I do so?

We STRONGLY recommend that you make advance reservations, as the summer months are very busy in the Denali area. June, July and August are especially busy months. It is possible to show up without a reservation and get a bed, but we can't guarantee that we will have space for you, as we usually do fill up. If you want private accommodations you should be ready to book in January as they fill up quickly. The same goes for tours and travel tickets. Don't delay once you know when you are coming. You can secure your reservation with a credit card via our secure reservation form by clicking HERE. During the summer season you can also call your reservation in.

An important thing to keep in mind: you will be charged for the entire amount of your stay, including tax at the time of the reservation! If your plans change and you need to cancel or change dates there may be a cost associated with it. For more information please click HERE to see our cancellation policy.

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What are your restroom and shower facilities like?

All of our showers and restrooms are shared. We do not have accommodations with private facilities. However, they are what we call "home-style". That means when you use one, you lock the door behind you and it is just you inside. They are not commercial style where many people are in the room together. So, be comfortable, but please be courteous of those who are also waiting to use these facilities. We work very hard to make sure they are clean and working well. If you find that to not be the case, please let us know right away so that we can remedy the situation.

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What is your policy regarding children?

Children under 5 stay free, but are not able to stay in the Oxbow Private Room. Children must be at least 12 to stay in a dormitory if their parent is staying in the room with them; otherwise, if they will be unchaperoned, they must be at least 16. Young children found running around without supervision will be encouraged to consume as much sugar and caffeine as possible until their parents come looking for them!

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Are you pet-friendly?

Why, yes we are! Some of the staff members have dogs and we allow them to be leashed on our property while employees are working or visiting around the hostel grounds. We also allow guests to bring their pets to stay overnight, with a few caveats, which are outlined below. We charge $20 per night for pets staying in private accommodations.

Most pets are allowed but you need to check with us first and you must tell us that you have a pet when you reserve and again when you check in. Pets are only allowed in cabins or tents, not the dormitories (due to potential allergy sensitivities of our other guests). Pets are not allowed in any of the common areas including the Octagon, kitchen, living room, and Shower House, and they must be leashed at all times if they are not in your cabin or tent. Owners must pick up after their pets and dispose of the waste in our outside dumpster. Pet waste should not be disposed of in any other trash can.

There is no additional fee for pets arriving with owners in dormitories. Pets are not allowed inside dormitories. If you are staying in a dormitory you may leave your pet in your vehicle overnight only. Keep in mind that the sun will be up all night in June, July, and August so plan for heat accordingly. You may NOT leave your pet at the hostel while you are gone under any circumstances (not even in a crate!). The pet must be kept off the beds and other furnishings for your entire stay, and any messes must be cleaned up right away by the owner. 

If your dog barks too much or scares other guests with its aggressiveness or growling/barking, you and the pet will have to leave without a refund. If we find your pet has been on the beds or furnishings, or relieves itself in the cabin, you will have to pay for the extra cleaning. If the pet has an accident inside, please let us know, we will provide the cleaning supplies and you can clean it up. Any damages to property will be paid by the owner of the pet. 

Basically if it is a good pet and you are a good owner it will be fine. If not, you and the pet will be leaving and paying extra. Please keep in mind this is up to the discretion of the hostel owner and staff, and in the end it is your risk/responsibility if you want to bring your pet.

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Is Travel Insurance really necessary or affordable?

Alaska is an expensive place to visit and you have a lot of money invested in your trip. Cancellation deadlines, a missed flight, and all of a sudden your great vacation is now not only a headache, but could also be a huge financial loss. That is why we strongly advise Travel Insurance for your peace of mind. It is probably more affordable than you think and you can find out without any obligation.

Insurance regulations prohibit direct sales of travel insurance to non-US residents. We have no idea why (but we still encourage international guests to look into their own independent travel insurance). For those guests who are from the US- we offer this as a service to you! Click HERE for more information.

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When can I check in and what is the latest I can check out?

Check-in time is from 4:00 PM - 10:00 PM. Later arrivals are permitted too- just let us know. Check out is at 10:00 AM. Another important thing to remember is that the office is temporarily closed during our shuttle operations into the park. Generally that is 5:00 PM to 5:55 PM and 9:10 PM to 9:50 PM. In the mornings it is 6:30 AM to 7:20 AM and 8:15 AM to 9:00 AM. You do not need the office to be open in order to check out.

If you arrive while we are on a shuttle run, you could go on to the park and perhaps get your tickets for the buses into the park you will probably be taking, or you could relax by the creek or grab a coffee, beer, or wine at the cafe or pub across the highway.

We are generally unable to check people in prior to 4:00 PM as we are busy making the hostel squeaky clean prior to that time.

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To visit Denali, should I fly into Fairbanks or Anchorage?

Denali Hostel & Cabins is located about 2.5 hours (130 miles) from Fairbanks and about 4.5 hours (224 miles) from Anchorage. Although Fairbanks is closer, most flights coming to this part of Alaska arrive in Anchorage first and then may continue to Fairbanks. It usually (but not always) costs more to fly on to Fairbanks. If you plan to visit the Kenai Peninsula south of Anchorage on your vacation, Anchorage is a better choice. Most people choose to fly into Anchorage.

There is bus service and train service to both Fairbanks and Anchorage. It is worth it to do some independent research though. There are some airlines that fly into Fairbanks that don't land in Anchorage, which may offer a better price or times.

If you don't rent a car, you will be coming to Denali by bus or train. We are an authorized ticket vendor for the Alaska Railroad and The Park Connection Motorcoach. The Railroad and The Park Connection serve travel to Seward, Anchorage, and Denali. Travel to or from Fairbanks is also served by the Alaska Railroad, as well as other shuttle services (like the Alaska/Yukon Trails bus).

We can book your tickets on any combination of these you wish and we even sell discount tickets for travel on the Alaska Railroad and of course on most of the local tours. You can learn more by Clicking HERE.

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How should we travel to Denali? Do we need a car? What are my transportation options?

Your three best options for transport between Anchorage, Denali and Fairbanks are taking a bus, taking the train or renting a car, or hitch-hiking. (Okay, I guess that's four.) Hitch-hiking is technically illegal in Alaska, however it is very common and we have never heard of anyone getting in trouble for it. If you are on the Parks Highway, and have a backpack and a sign saying where you are going, you usually are given a ride in a short time. Most hostels have a 'rider board' where you can often find rides as well. The train costs more than the bus, but the trip is very scenic and relaxing; buses are faster and cheaper than the train and both follow the same general route. Finally we do have plenty of parking space for rental cars.


If you don't know yet when you reserve, please do let us know once you have decided. We need to know whether to expect you on our shuttle so we can be sure we have room for you. You can click HERE for more transportation information. And for more information on our FREE shuttle you can click HERE.

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How will I get from the Park to the hostel and from the hostel to the Park?

If you have a rental car it is an easy 15 minute drive to the park and they have ample parking areas. If you don't have a car, we provide a shuttle to and from the National Park four times daily. Our shuttle service leaves the hostel daily at 6:35 AM, getting you to the Park's Denali Bus Depot (formerly known as the Wilderness Access Center/WAC), where all park tour and shuttle buses depart, before 7:00 AM. That means, if you are using our shuttle, do not schedule a tour or activity that departs prior to 7:00 AM or that returns you to the Denali Bus Depot later than 9:30 PM. If you do, you will be responsible for your own transportation to and from the park for that time. 

Our first shuttle is also used by guests leaving on the morning Park Connection Motorcoach. We drop you off at Denali Park Village on our way to the park. Our second morning shuttle departs to the Denali Bus Depot at 8:20 AM, arriving there by 8:40 AM.

Our evening shuttle service picks up from the Denali Bus Depot at 5:30 PM and 9:30 PM. Click HERE for more information. Please remember, you are responsible to be at the right place at the right time to utilize our shuttle service. We cannot wait for you or take time to look for you. We have a responsibility to everyone else to leave on time, as they have scheduled their events with that in mind. If you miss our complimentary shuttle service, then we can help you to arrange alternate transportation through a local taxi company.

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What will the weather be like and what should I bring to wear?

Wow! If we could answer that we would be rich! The best answer is, "it is VERY variable".

Regardless of what the forecast is, it is always best to be prepared. Wear layers and have wet weather gear with you at all times. We are on top of the continental divide in the Alaska Range. Some weather gets over the mountains to us and some doesn't. We have seen it snow every month of the year, although that is uncommon. What is not uncommon is for the weather to be completely different 10 miles from where you are at any given time.

Plan for some rain, clouds, wind and cold. If it turns out it isn't any of those you will be happy, fortunate and most importantly you will be prepared because you dressed in layers for the days that it is sunny and hot.

Waterproof boots are better than tennis shoes or sandals. Head nets for mosquitoes are nice to have and inexpensive. Gaiters can be nice if you are hiking because after a rain shower the vegetation stays wet. Mosquito repellant is a must, and so is sun block. Remember, the sun is up all day and most of the night. If it is clear, that is a lot of sun. If you do get drenched it is nice to have extra clothes, especially socks. A hat and light gloves are also great to have.

As for weather expectations, daytime highs are generally 50 to 70 F. Lows are normally 35 to 45 F. But as we said, it can be below freezing or up to 75+ F. In mid-summer it will be at least partially light for up to 23 hours a day so you may want to bring an eye mask for sleeping.

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What do you recommend we do while we are there? Can you help us book our tours?

Yes, we have lots of things we recommend and are happy to book for you. Things such as Rafting (whitewater or float), Flight-Seeing, Fly Fishing, dog-sledding demonstrations, and much more! We are also experts on free stuff to do- just ask us. Remember to book your tours and travel tickets with us: we discount them so you pay less than anywhere else -even less than booking directly with the providers.

Click HERE for a complete list of what we offer.

We can't book the buses that take you deep into the park. You have to do that on your own, but you can do it on-line. Go HERE for more information.

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Am I able to rent a car in Denali?

There are two small rental car companies in Denali, but it is usually much cheaper to rent a car in Anchorage or Fairbanks, and you'd save the price of getting to Denali on the bus or train. But if you find yourself here and wishing you had a car you can click HERE or HERE for more information. There is also one taxi service in the area. 

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Do you have kitchen facilities for your guests?

Yes! We have a fully-equipped kitchen for our guests so that you can cook your own food. This is a great way to save some money, eat what you like to eat, and have a conversation with someone from Japan, Spain, Australia, or even Conesus, New York (where?).

Our kitchen is located in the Octagon and is available to all of our guests. Amenities include: coffee urn, microwave, stoves, ovens, utensils, plates, cups, pots, pans, etc. - just about everything you might need to make a great meal happen! An outside barbeque grill is also available for use by our guests at no charge. And don't forget our free organic, conscientiously-purchased, Alaska-roasted coffee. Tea, sugar and creamer is available too. Groceries can be purchased in Anchorage or Fairbanks, at the Three Bears Grocery in Healy, or at the Riley Creek Mercantile in the park. We stock a limited amount of basic food items in our Gift Shop so you won't starve if you run out of food. You can see a list of what we have by clicking HERE.

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Can we use the hostel facilities during the day?

Yes, for the most part. Sometime between 10 AM and 4 PM the Octagon and kitchen will be shut down for an hour or two for cleaning, and we ask guests to avoid using the common area during that time so that the housekeepers are able to finish their work in a timely manner. The same goes for the shower house. If you check with the cleaner he or she may be able to give you better time approximations based on their work-load for that day. This might be a great time to go for a hike. Otherwise, feel free to enjoy our little piece of heaven. It’s your vacation!

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Do you have a quiet time so we can get some sleep?

Yes we do, and for the enjoyment of your fellow travelers, please obey it! Our quiet time is from 11 PM to 7 AM. It includes all cabins, dormitories, tents, the Octagon, the fire pit, and the rest of our grounds!

Please respect your fellow travelers by whispering during this time and not cooking and/or making a bunch of noise. Failing to do so can end your stay early. Feel free to remind noisy people to be quiet. If there is a problem with this or anything, we have someone who lives on site who you can contact to take care of it. If by chance there is no one at the on-site residence, there is a phone number listed by the phone in the Octagon that you can use to call for help. 

We first hope people will behave, and if not, that they will once they have been asked to by their fellow guests. Please only contact us after hours for real problems and emergencies. It isn´t unusual for people to not realize that it is after 11:00 PM when the sun is shining. If there are people abusing this rule, please let us know and we will take care of the problem.

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Do you serve free morning coffee for your guests, and is it fair-trade, organic goodness?

Why, YES WE DO, thanks for asking!! We are psyched (very happy) to be serving a locally roasted, conscientiously-purchased, single-origin, direct-trade Coffee. We buy our coffee from Steamdot Coffee out of Anchorage. All of the beans that we buy from them are purchased directly from coffee farmers in various regions of the world at prices above the listed fair-trade price. This helps to ensure that the farmers are receiving a livable wage. Additionally, having the coffee imported directly from the farmers to the roastery in Anchorage helps to keep a lower carbon footprint. We have served Folgers in the past, a coffee more in-line with our budget, but not in-line with our social consciousness. We feel that is important to support sustainable practices in an industry that represents the largest US import.

Americans are the largest consumers of coffee in the world, yet many Americans don't realize that agricultural workers in coffee-producing countries are often receiving far less than living wages for their toil, that rainforests are being cleared for coffee production, and that pesticides banned in the US are still being used by coffee producers in third world countries on the coffee beans that we consume. While the coffee we serve may not always be certified fair-trade, we always purchase our coffee very conscientiously in that regard.

That is why we serve only the best to our guests. We will have a donation can next to the coffee urn so that anyone who supports our efforts can help us out with the costs, which are much higher than serving Folgers. In the long-run, we think it's worth it!

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Is the hostel 'green' minded?

We try to be. We told you about the coffee and why we buy the coffee we do (just above). In addition we use only 7th Generation and Simple Truth toilet paper and paper towels which use only recycled paper (what we are able to purchase depends on what products end up making the long trip to the stores in Alaska). Did you know that if every US household replaced one 4-pack of 300 sheet virgin fiber toilet paper with a 100% recycled product, we could save 1.6 million cubic feet of landfill space? And we go through a lot more than 4 rolls in a summer! We use only earth-friendly laundry soap and cleaning products as well.

We did offer recycling, but there is no place for us to reasonably transport it any longer, which is very sad and frankly for a place as special as Denali, unconscionable. We will start recycling again as soon as we can find a feasible way.

In the meantime, our biggest effort in this regard is that we have stopped selling bottled water. So please bring your reusable water bottle from home, or buy one from many outlets at the park. You will find great tasting, pure, clean, regularly tested, fresh, cold water right from our taps, so why drink unsustainable bottled water? In the US alone we produce over 1.5 million pounds of trash from un-recycled water bottles each year. Do you realize how long it would take us to make a mountain of water bottles the size of Denali? Well, we don't either, but you get the point.

So yes, we try to be green.

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Can we buy our groceries there or should we bring them with us?

We carry a very limited amount of grocery items in our Gift Shop. If you have a car, there are a couple of small grocery stores we can direct you to about 15 miles north of us, but for a better selection and price, you should consider buying your groceries 25 miles north at the Three Bears Grocery in Healy, or in Anchorage or Fairbanks on your way. If you are using our shuttle system, there is a way to get to one of the small markets 15 miles north of us, but again you probably should try to buy in Anchorage or Fairbanks on your way through. You can get sack lunches for your trip into the park at the Creekside Cafe' just across the highway from the hostel and they will take your order the night before.

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If we don't plan to cook, where can we eat?

We are lucky in that we have a great cafe' right across the street. The Creekside Cafe is good home-baked cafe grubbin! Good food, better prices than most around, and they will even make you a great box lunch for your trip into the park that can be ordered the night before so it is ready for you early in the morning without delay. We also highly recommend a reasonably-priced fine dining experience just 5 miles up the road. How fine? Well, only "The best food in Alaska" (according to the New York Times)! We second that! Information about this wonderful restaurant can be found at the 229 Parks website. No car? It is worth finding a way there- ask your shuttle driver for help!

In addition to the Creekside and 229 Parks, there is a pizza pub just across the highway from the hostel and another restaurant just a short walk up the hill from them.

Lastly, if you are just looking for a nice adult beverage and a pleasant crowd, we can direct you to nearby retail liquor stores where you can purchase beer and wine for much less than bar prices. Then you can enjoy them around our campfire (featuring free firewood), in our beautiful Octagon common area, or on the Octagon's deck while meeting other great guests just like you, from around the world.

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Do you provide storage space for luggage and gear?

Yes, we provide a secure space where you can store your gear while you are out camping in the Park! We don't have lockers but you can leave valuables at our office and we will store them for $5 per day.

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Do you have camping gear for rent?

We do not, but we can help you get set up with whatever you need through local or state rental shops. You can rent gear at Denali Mountain Works located in the canyon. In Anchorage there are also a couple of places to try: Alaska Mountaineering & Hiking and REI. There is an REI in Fairbanks, now, too!

We can help out with some camping gear- we offer a free exchange for camp fuel, bear spray and insect repellant. If you have any of these left over when you leave, please leave them at our office. You can't take the fuel or bear spray home if you are flying and you may not need the insect repellant any longer. Check with us before you come up to find out how our supply is, then decide whether to buy some or borrow some. We sell repellant and head nets at our Gift Shop as well.

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Can you help us find the "Into the Wild" Bus?

Yes we can! But, no we won't! Let's be honest: Chris McCandless (or McClueless as some call him) died trying to get back from there. Some people who have gone out to see the bus have also died trying to make it there or back. Many, many more have had to be rescued by helicopter incurring the wrath of locals, who are the ones who end up having to pay for those resources.

Our advice? Please don't try to do this. It's not worth risking your life. If you are a big fan of Chris' do you think he would want you to die trying to see it? As you know, there was a movie made here telling the story. To make the movie they had to build a replica of the bus. That bus is on display at 49th State Brewery near here. We like what the owner of the brewery has to say about it, which you can read by clicking HERE.

In short, instead of risking your life, why not see the movie's "Magic Bus" while you enjoy a hamburger and a delicious, locally brewed beer? If you really MUST see THE bus, we can book you on a custom chartered helicopter trip (the only safe way for most people to access the bus, in our opinion). Check it out on our Tours Page.

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Do you guarantee we will not have too many mosquitoes there?

We know this may sound like a funny question, but we have had multiple complaints on travel blog sites about this. Some years are especially good years for mosquitoes, but not so much for their victims. In years that are good for mosquitoes, we usually have a bumper crop of blueberries courtesy of their pollination work. But seriously, we can’t control them. They come and go; if a new hatching occurs they will be everywhere. The next day, you may not see even one.

We recommend you have some bug repellant with you. A head net is nice to have too. We usually have these for sale in our Gift Shop. Our wall tents have mosquito nets over the cots and we usually have hand held bug zappers you can borrow. They look like a small tennis racket but the strings are metal and operate similar to a bug zapper you may have seen hanging on someone’s porch.

A little planning and preparation on your part will go a long ways toward your comfort and happiness.

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What is the deal, is it Denali or Mt. McKinley?

You might be surprised how long one could talk about this, but we'll keep it short.

The park and mountain were originally named in 1896 for presidential candidate William McKinley of Ohio, who supported the gold standard. A summertime gold miner from Seattle by the name of Dickey wrote 'a story' in the New York Sun claiming that "We" named the great peak McKinley after the politician. And just like that, the deed was done and remained so until very recently- the summer of 2015. (Mr. Dickey considered himself pretty important, so we also have a Mount Dickey here in Alaska).

The official name of the mountain according to the Alaskan state government was restored to "Denali", a Native word meaning "The Great One" or "The High One" back in 1975. But the federal government refused multiple petitions to change the name of the mountain from McKinley to Denali until 2015- despite McKinley having never stepped foot in Alaska and never seeing the Park or the Mountain!

Finally, the federal government came to their good senses in August, 2015 and restored the official name of the mountain to Denali. We think this should have happened long ago, but we're glad the mountain now has it's proper name back in the books.

You will be considered more knowledgeable and more respectful if you call it the mountain Denali. You can read more at Wikipedia by clicking HERE.

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Is there a question that should be here that we missed?

If you find there was something we didn´t cover here and it would have helped, please let us know and we will add it.

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