Ultima Thule Lodge, Alaska

Old Nov 3, 18, 10:58 pm
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Apr 2017
Posts: 28
Ultima Thule Lodge, Alaska

Ultima Thule Lodge

Map| 1 Review | 100% Recommended

Ultima Thule Lodge

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska US

Ultima Thule Lodge, Alaska (16 Photos)

Ultima Thule Lodge

In July 2018, my wife and I spent 4 nights at the Ultima Thule Lodge, a private, family-run, all-inclusive lodge located inside Wrangell-St. Elias National Park in Alaska.  The lodge takes a maximum of 12 guests.  When we were there, it was fully booked - my wife and I, two families of four, and a mother and her young son.  The lodge is billed as a sort of an air-adventure touring property, and that is exactly what it was.  Each group was assigned its own private cabin, plane and private guide/pilot, who remained with the group for the duration of the stay.  This alone was worth the cost.  Though the weather wasn't cooperative, we still had a wonderful 4.5 days at the lodge and wouldn't hesitate to go back.

Check In

There is no true check-in at the lodge to speak of.  Travel to the property is coordinated by the lodge prior to arrival.  Pre-arrival, we received a number of emails from staff asking us to fill out surveys and questionnaires of our likes and dislikes and what we expected from the lodge, ranging from whether we were active or looking for more of a sight-seeing vacation, to whether we preferred red or white wine at dinner.  

Travel to the lodge begins in McCarthy, Alaska, a former mining town now known mostly as the location of the Kennicott Mill.  The cost includes a 30-minute flight from McCarthy airstrip to the lodge.  They also offered a shared charter from Anchorage at an extra cost, but we wanted to see the mill so we took a shuttle flight from a different company, Wrangell Mountain Air, from Chitina "airport" to McCarthy, then met the lodge plane for a 4 p.m. transfer to the lodge.

Upon landing, you're met by a staff member with welcome drinks, and then all of the guests are gathered together, where you receive your room assignments and initial instructions.  After settling in, you meet the rest of the guests again at the main lodge for orientation and the signing of the waivers before having the first dinner.deck2.JPGglobe.JPG

Room

The rooms were great, much more than I expected in such a remote location.  Private cabins, king sized beds, bathrooms with on-demand hot water.  Could not have asked for more.  It's even more impressive when you realize that everything at the lodge, from the furnishings to most of the food, has to be flown in.

1_IMG_0559.JPGIMG_0557.JPGIMG_4754.JPG

Service

I have no complaints with the service.  It's not "aman-type" service, so to speak, but almost like you're part of the family for a few days. Everyone was eager to help with any request, quick to offer a drink or see if we needed anything, etc. but they were not waiting on your every need. Laundry service was included and I used it once with no issues. I had one issue with the water heater in my cabin and it was addressed asap.  The private guide we were assigned was truly amazing.  He was with us the whole time, and though he was 20+ years older than us, and we told the lodge before we arrived that we were looking for a strenuous hiking trip, he put us to shame.  He knew the area, knew unbelievable places to land and where the best views or animal sightings were, and simply made the trip. 

Dining

Coffee was delivered to the room each morning.  Breakfast and dinner were served family-style in the main lodge.  Breakfast each morning consisted of a small selection of breads and yogurt, and an on-demand item such as an omelette. There was no menu, you just asked for whatever you wanted and then they told you if they could do it.  One of the guests chose to go fishing for one of their activites, and we ate their catch with breakfast one morning, which was prepared by the staff.

After breakfast, there was an hour to relax before going to the flightdeck to meet the guide and plane for the day's adventure.  Lunch was eaten in the field, consisting of sandwiches from the kitchen and a few other extras such as soup, cookies and the like.  The guide carried everything with him. There was no real choice of lunch. The kitchen made one type of sandwich and that's what you got for that day.  if you didn't like it, you could ask for something else or for them to make the sandwich differently with what they had on hand. We didn't need to, as the sandwiches, on homemade bread, were delicous, but if you didn't like something or want to try what they had, you would have been mostly out of luck.  Some of the families requested different types of sandwiches than the main, which were accommodated as best they could.

Dinner was similar to breakfast. Everyone ate together, including the pilots, and part of the fun was sitting with the other guests and guides and discussing what you saw that day on the adventure.  Something to keep in mind if you don't like communal style meals.  Dinner was kitchen's choice, and you ate what you were served.  We had a range of entrees over the week, including bison steaks, chicken, and two different fish dishes.  Red and white wine and beer and sodas were available each night.tuckers trout.JPG

Location

Simply amazing. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is the biggest park in the country in terms of land area, but one of the least visited.  The vastness of the wilderness has to be seen to be believed. The lodge sits literally in the middle of nowhere, on the banks of the Chitina River, which looks small when you're next to it, but is actually about 5 miles across where the lodge is.beach.JPGicecave.JPGglacier.JPGmountain.JPGmiddleearth.JPGmiddlearth2.JPG

Flights

This deserves its own section, because it is the draw of the lodge.  The owners of the lodge, the Claus family, are famous Alaskan bush pilots and outdoorsmen/women, and their experience shows.  The plane you are assigned is a Piper Super Cub, modified to remove most of the weight and requiring you to squeeze in and sit directly behind the pilot in a row, barely big enough for the 3 of us.  I never felt unsafe.  You will be amazed at the places the pilots can land this plane, places that you would never be able to reach any other way, including on top of and on the side of mountains and directly on glaciers.  A number of times, we were clearly the first people to have ever set foot where we landed, a big draw for us.

Each morning, the group discussed the weather and the options for the day.  If you are looking for everything planned out, this is not for you because everything changes day by day.  The weather was not great for our stay (in typical fashion, they kept telling us it was unusual, more like September than July, and of course the weather was perfect the week before and after we were there).  On one day, we had all 4 seasons including snow.  We never stayed at the lodge though, the pilots were always willing to get out and fly/hike/explore.  We saw glaciers, mountaintops, ice caves, grizzly bears, etc.  

Something to note - One of the guests, his wife and two children were accommodated in a bigger plane than the one we were assigned when they all went out together.  He was a bit larger in size so they must be able to accommodate that with different types of planes and places to see. The other family of 4 had two of the super cubs, with the parent each taking one child.  We all went to different areas, and we never saw the other groups during the day  after breakfast until dinner.plane.JPGglacier landing.JPGplane2.JPGplaneseat.JPG

Overall

This has gone on too long, but I could write about this place for so much longer.  I enjoyed it so much I immediately got home and tried to convince my wife to go back next year.  If you want true, traditional luxury, it might not be for you, but I did extensive research on Alaska, and it was the most luxurious place I could find while still having an adventure and it was worth it.  One of the families had also spent time at Winterlake Lodge before going to this one, which was another lodge I had considered, and they all agreed that Ultima Thule put Winterlake to shame, for essentially the same cost.  Apologies for some of the pictures being sideways, not sure how to fix that.

Ultima Thule Lodge, Alaska

Would you like to write a review on the Ultima Thule Lodge?

No, thank you.
Yes
FlyerEC, KatW, SanDiego1K and 4 others like this.
NotALawyer is offline  
Old Nov 3, 18, 11:04 pm
  #2  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Apr 2017
Posts: 28
I originally meant to post this in the North American Wilderness Lodge thread, so mods feel free to move if necessary.
NotALawyer is offline  
Old Nov 3, 18, 11:16 pm
  #3  
Moderator: Delta SkyMiles, Luxury Hotels, TravelBuzz! and Italy
 
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: Los Angeles
Posts: 25,345
Originally Posted by NotALawyer View Post
I originally meant to post this in the North American Wilderness Lodge thread, so mods feel free to move if necessary.
Wonderful new thread. Quite worthy of standing alone. Thanks for sharing this beautiful experience.
Obscure2k
Moderator
Luxury Hotels and Travel
KatW likes this.
obscure2k is offline  
Old Nov 4, 18, 8:07 am
  #4  
Community Director
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Anywhere warm
Posts: 29,564
I was fascinated by your report, absolutely intrigued by the property and the planes. Thank you for taking the time to share it with us.
SanDiego1K is offline  
Old Nov 4, 18, 1:21 pm
  #5  
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: SEA
Programs: Skymiles Plat/1MM, United Prem, Marriott Silver, HH Gold
Posts: 315
I was there several years ago and, as someone who loves planes, remote locations with few people and stunning scenery, I loved it. Glad to see it again reviewed here.
obscure2k likes this.
lb8001 is offline  
Old Nov 4, 18, 2:51 pm
  #6  
Aman Contributor Badge
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Programs: UA 1K 2MM, NH PLT
Posts: 445
Many thanks for the report! We are planning to visit Ultima Thule in July 2020 (combined with Winterlake Lodge), and can't wait.
KI-NRT is offline  
Old Nov 4, 18, 7:56 pm
  #7  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: west of DFW airport
Programs: AA LT Gold 1.9 MM flying my way to LT PLAT
Posts: 11,066
Excellent write up on an area I know something about.

what do they do for folks with dangerous allergies such as shellfish?

obscure2k likes this.
oldpenny16 is offline  
Old Nov 5, 18, 6:29 am
  #8  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Apr 2017
Posts: 28
Originally Posted by oldpenny16 View Post
Excellent write up on an area I know something about.

what do they do for folks with dangerous allergies such as shellfish?

They send you a questionnaire before you arrive to see if they can accommodate things like this. I mentioned an allergy my wife had to a certain fruit and it was no problem, they just made a note of it. If we had needed a full special dining plan, perhaps Kosher or something similar, it was doable at a premium. And there actually was no shellfish served the entire time.
NotALawyer is offline  
Old Nov 5, 18, 6:34 am
  #9  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: DL Silver, HH Diamond, IHG Plat, BW Diamond
Posts: 26,037
Lovely pictures! Nice job on the TR.
Jaimito Cartero is offline  
Old Nov 5, 18, 10:31 am
  #10  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: IAD/DCA
Posts: 31,510
great photos and details

also thought this was well said >
Originally Posted by lb8001 View Post
You can get to places in the Super Cubs that are hard to believe (and I've been flying in small planes to remote locations my whole life) - and flying right down a gorge, right above a rushing river is WAY too much fun! ...cabins are quite luxurious - king beds, excellent linens, walk-in showers, great bath amenities. Food is plentiful and good - and they really cater to people's specific dietary requests.
Ultima Thule Lodge trip
Ultima Thule Lodge - Alaska luxury
lb8001 and FlyerEC like this.
Kagehitokiri is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread