There are quaint, out of the way towns, and then there’s Healy, Alaska. Located deep in the heart of the 49th state, Healy is a small, railroad town with barely over 1,000 residents to its name.
If you’re looking to get away, there’s no better place on the map that your dart can land. But what is there to do in such a town? More than you’d think.
Getting To Know The Town
Before delving into what Healy has to offer, let’s dive into the town’s interesting history. The town was originally named Camp Healy, after the nearby Healy Fork river. But in the 1920s, the Alaska Engineering Commission, who were building the Alaska Railroad, decided to shorten the name to Healy.
Much of the town’s history is based in coal mining, and is today home to the Usibelli Coal Mines, which supplies 800,000 tons of coal a year. Their customers include, but are not limited to, the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, Chile and South Korea. There must be a lot of naughty children in those places.
People are most likely to know Healy, Alaska from its tangential role in the story of Christopher McCandless, who traveled to Alaska with the intention of living off the land. The fateful, final leg of his journey began at the Stampede Trail, located just a couple of miles north of Healy. McCandless’ life story was made into a book called “Into the Wild,” and was later made into a movie by the same name.
Where are the Best Places to Stay?
Whether you’re just driving through and looking to rest your eyes or you’re setting up shop for your Denali National Park adventure, you’re going to want to be comfortable. After taking a long, dull road trip or plane ride, there’s nothing better than having a cozy, comfortable hotel waiting on the other side. To make sure that happens, here’s some desirable options.
Denali Primrose Bed & Breakfast
Located close to the highway but far enough away that it feels hidden in the woods, the Denali Primrose Bed & Breakfast is a great choice for those who don’t want to stray too far from the Alaskan wilderness, even while resting. The B&B is a large, white home with a blue deck, surrounded by a vast, green lawn, giving the establishment more than enough room for a family, big or small. There are two suites available: an upstairs three bedroom suite which sleeps up to six people, and a downstairs one bedroom suite, which provides a choice view of the garden.
Aspen Haus Bed & Breakfast
Image Source: Roadtrippers
Aspen Haus Bed and Breakfast offers a variety of cabins for those looking for a more rustic stay. The cabins offer an excellent view of the Alaska Range and are located near the entrance to Denali National Park. If staying in a cabin sounds a too little hardcore, don’t fret, because the cabins include a private bath, a refrigerator, a microwave and a coffee pot. For the families out there, the Alder Cabin is the biggest cabin on the premises, as it accommodates six people with two bedrooms.
Alaskan Spruce Cabins
Image Source: Booking.com
Available from May to September, the Alaska Spruce Cabins offer a rustic aesthetic without sacrificing modern amenities, such as free Wi-Fi, flat screen TVs and satellite TV. Within the cabins’ 400 square feet, they also include two queen beds, a full kitchen and a complete bathroom with a shower. For those with pets, they are allowed with a $50 fee. Like the Aspen Haus Bed and Breakfast, these cabins also offer a view of the Alaska Range.
Denali Dome Home Bed and Breakfast
Image Source: Denali Chamber of Commerce
One of the most unique places to stay in Healy, Alaska is the Denali Dome Home Bed and Breakfast. As the name suggests, the B&B is shaped like a dome, which, when set against the green Alaskan landscape, gives it a Tolkienesque appearance. Even the windows are uniquely shaped, with some being triangular and other being hexagonal. But looks aren’t everything, of course. The establishment also features hot breakfast, free Wi-Fi and private bathrooms. If you’ve got some work to do, computers are available, as well as a small library and board games for those looking to escape the cold.
Where are the Best Places to Eat?
The hardest part is over. You’ve found a nice place to stay, but now you’re hungry. You’ve brought along some granola bars and nuts, but maybe you’d like something a little more elaborate – something made just for you. And what better way to experience the town than spending time with the locals? Here are some of the best eating spots in Healy, Alaska.
Moose-Aka’s is an Eastern European restaurant, family owned by two brothers. Before they opened the restaurant, the brothers operated out of a food truck. The menu includes such dishes as crepes, schnitzel and stuffed peppers, as well as a number of draft beers and wines. In addition to the food, the restaurant features actual Serbian antiques and photographs of Nikola Tesla, the famous Serbian inventor. Food and Wine magazine called Moose-Aka’s the coziest restaurant in Alaska.
229 Parks Restaurant & Tavern
Image Source: Yelp
229 Parks Restaurant & Tavern prides itself on offering the freshest possible ingredients, which they gather from local harvesting based on what the season offers. For this reason, the menu changes daily, which means every day offers up a new opportunity for culinary fulfillment. Their past offerings include such diverse dishes as Angus Tenderloin, Reindeer Ragu and even Root Beer Floats. The relaxed interior of the restaurant is decorated with the creations of local artists.
Alaska Cabin Nite Dinner Theatre
Alaska Cabin Nite Dinner Theatre is located in an authentic log cabin, which is fitting, as actors perform a story about the Gold Rush in early 20th century Alaska. The performance includes music, as well, with folk instruments like the mandolin and the ukulele. But enough about the theatre and on to the dinner. The food consists of an all-you-can-eat menu featuring salmon, potatoes, biscuits and cobbler, among many other choices. If you forgot to pack your tux for your Alaskan hiking trip, don’t worry about it, for the dinner theatre dress code is casual.
Prospectors Pizzeria and Alehouse
Image Source: prospectorspizza.com
Prospectors Pizzeria and Alehouse is set up as something of a museum to Alaska’s storied history. It’s decorated with black and white photography, Alaskan artifacts and maps, so you can learn while you eat. Not only are the pizzas homemade in a wood stone oven, but the dough is homemade, as well. All that pizza’s bound to make you thirsty, but that’s okay, because 49 different beers are on tap.
Go on an Adventure at Denali National Park
Just under a dozen miles from Healy, Alaska is Denali National Park, which makes Healy the perfect headquarters for exploring the park to its fullest.
The park is composed of six million acres, which makes it the third-largest national park in the country, trailing behind the Gates of the Arctic (also in Alaska) and the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park (also in Alaska). In fact, seven of the top ten largest National Parks are located in Alaska.
For the third largest National Park in the country, it’s only fitting that it contains Denali, the single highest mountain peak in North America. Its elevation is an astounding 20,310 feet. To put that in perspective, that’s the size of almost 14 Empire State Buildings. In other words, it would take King Kong 14 times longer to climb Denali.
Speaking of Kong, one of the park’s main attractions is its abundant wildlife, the protection of which is one of the primary reasons the park exists. Among the animals you might run into are 39 species of mammals, 14 species of fish, 169 species of birds and one lonely species of amphibian. In fact, Discovery.com named the park as one of the top 10 places to see wildlife in North America. Whether you’re looking for a photo opportunity or the thrill of a close encounter, Denali National Park is the place to be. Don’t get too close, though.
One of the best ways to explore the park is by taking one of the many tours. The tours come in many varieties, so whether you’re most comfortable on an ATV, a bus or taking a hike with a ranger, it’s possible to experience the park from your perspective of choice. K2 Aviation even offers “flightseeing” tours, where they’ll take you up in a plane which can get up to 6 miles from Denali’s summit. From there, the flight hits some of the park’s most notable locations, such as the Don Sheldon Amphitheater, the Great Gorge and the Ruth Icefall.
If sitting back and admiring the scenic vistas is too passive for you, the park also allows for more engaging activities, such as fishing. In the winter, the options expand to include skiing, snowmobiling and even mushing. If you don’t have your own dogs, or your dogs are just plain lazy, there is a local business that is permitted to run guided trips through the park.