Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge // Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska

September 5, 2018

Happy Wednesday friends! I hope that y'all are having a great week! Today I am so excited to share about another one of the Princess Lodges that we stayed at during our road trip in Alaska. You may remember that I shared that for our trip we stayed one night at the Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge (you can read my review of it HERE), two nights at the Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge, and two nights at the Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge. 

For those who may be wanting to have the opportunity to connect with different parts of Alaska or are doing a road trip like we did these lodges are a great option. If for various reasons you can't rent an RV or camper, or have decided to forgo camping for different reasons, these lodges are also a great solution for this type of trip. 
All three lodges were different and unique and while I enjoyed them all, Kenai Wilderness Lodge (which I will share about in the future) was my favorite with Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge being my second favorite and Copper River being my third favorite out of the three.

Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge is located at 1 Brenwick-Craig Road in Copper Center on the edge of the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. On clear days (of which we had both days we were there) the views are absolutely beautiful from the lodge and as you drive on and off the property. If you are coming from Anchorage the Lodge is approximately 3 and 1/2 hours northeast of Anchorage. If you are coming from Fairbanks it is approximately 4 and 1/2 hours south.
Out of all three of the lodges that we stayed at, I would say this one will feel the most "hotel like". Part of the reason for that feel is the structure of the Lodge (it is one-two story building that has 2 floors and 85 rooms) and part that feel comes from what the lodge offers (which is minimal things).
We arrived at the lodge around 7pm after spending a beautiful day checking out of the Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge, driving north to Cantwell and then spending the majority of the day driving and exploring the Denali Highway. If you are new to the blog and are wanting to read about the Denali Highway, you can find the posts listed below: 

 The check-in process was once again extremely simple (our reservations had already been paid for and confirmed prior to the trip) and the front desk helped us with several questions that we had regarding food and the property. Because there were not as many people staying at this lodge while we were there there was no reason to make a reservation for dining and we were told to just come to dinner when we wanted to. We headed up to the 2nd floor where our room was and prepared to get settled in for the next two evenings. 
For those who may have disabilities and are concerned about staying at this property I would definitely say it was a very disability friendly property. There was ample handicap parking and offers to help if this was something that was needed. Because of the nature of this blog I do always inquire about this at each property I stay at and I was very impressed with how they have things set up. If you have any specific questions about this please let me know and I am happy to answer them.
We ate dinner in the bar that was on the property and both of us enjoyed our meal that evening. One of the things to note is that if you are eating in the bar (which is a cheaper option) you can still request the menu from the more expensive restaurant on the property and order from that menu. We didn't do this because we found that the bar menu offered tons of options for us, but it is an option that you can do. 

After briefly exploring the small gift shop, I spent some time taking pictures for the blog and enjoying the beauty, while Ali headed back to the room. Later we watched a movie and headed to bed. Our room was quiet, exceptionally clean, and provided us both with a good nights sleep for the evening. 
Overall this lodge is really nice and I think the best amenity it offered was the beauty. It is secluded, has some trails that you could hike, provides different opportunities for excursions (which you can read about here), and is a beautiful getaway whether you are an Alaskan resident or coming from out of state to visit Alaska. If you are looking for a really nice place to stay that provides a lovely atmosphere this is a great choice, and I personally found the views to be just spectacular. In the above picture you can see those beautiful benches and I definitely spent some time out there just sitting and staring at the beauty that surrounded me.

I liked my time at this property and enjoyed hiking around the grounds in the evenings and and just seeing the beauty that was all around. I do have a few quick notes (and unfortunately a few criticisms) for those who may visit in the future: 

(1) The #1 thing about this lodge that is a benefit for anyone taking a road trip in this area is the location. If you are taking a road trip in the area of the Wrangell-St.Elias region and are not not wanting to camp or use an RV, then this really is one of the only options that will offer lots of different amenities. The Wrangell-St. Elias region, from the brief part that we saw, was spectacular. Honestly, I want to go back and plan a whole trip around this area because it just looked so gorgeous. One of my goals is to go back and explore McCarthy and Kennicott - two places we just couldn't make happen this trip. If you are heading over that way or want to do exploring in the Wrangell-St. Elias region, then this location (located only four miles from the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park's visitor center) is the option.

(2) If you are looking to watch your pennies on your trip and save some money than the Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge is also a good thing to check out. Many times throughout each summer season they have special discounts. This can help with the budget overall!  This summer the lodge offered a stay one night, get the next night 50% off. I spoke with a staff member who said that this is very typical and each summer the lodge offers different discounts so keep this in mind if you are looking in this area! You can find out more details for this lodge and their special deals HERE.
The next few items are definitely criticisms of the property and I hate anytime I have to share things like this on the blog. I have always promised to be honest here on this site about my experience which can be hard sometimes. The reality is that I am a very easy-going traveler who loves to relish the experience and adventure. But unfortunately there are sometimes situations that don't always work out the way I hoped and I feel it is important to share the good and the bad of an experience. In saying that I hope that you will find this review helpful if you are planning a stay here: 

(3) On the 2nd day at the property both Ali and I got food poisoning from our meals. I am not sure what happened and know that these things can happen, but we both were pretty sick after our meals at the property. (If you are looking for a place to eat in the vicinity the closest restaurant would be about 20 minutes away if you don't eat on the property.) We both ordered separate items to eat but came to the conclusion that it must have been the dressing on the salads. Again, I think this was a fluke, but did feel it was important to share.

(4) On a more serious note...the first evening that we ate on the property our server handled me mentioning my food allergy with gluten with excellence. Honestly, I wasn't even concerned about cross contamination. The 2nd day was a completely different experience. 

That day (we were heading down to Thompson Pass and to do some exploring), I suggested to Ali that we take lunch with us to save time and because we didn't know if we would have options later on. She agreed and we arrived at the bar when it opened in the morning to order our sandwiches. When I ordered and said that I needed to order it on gluten free bread (something that the menu does offer) the waiter didn't even know that there were gluten free options available on the menu. He called over a waitress who was setting up the restaurant to ask her and she didn't know either. In fact... she gave me a skeptical look and said that she had never heard of this. 

I tried to explain that I was ordering the exact same sandwich as the night before but they still didn't know what I was talking about. This was a bit of a mystery to me, but I tried to explain and even offered to speak with a manager or the chef, but they said that they could "tell him". When our meals came out (after waiting almost 45 minutes) I had to re-order the sandwich because it wasn't on gluten free bread. They then informed me that they didn't have any "grain free" bread. At this point the manager happened to be walking by and said he would place the order, but for those with a serious allergy like myself, this situation was concerning. 

Look- I know some of my allergies are weird (hello, being sensitive to chicken) but before I travel anywhere I do a lot of research on gluten free options. If a place doesn't have something than I eat salads with no dressing. This doesn't bother me. What was concerning was the fact that when they didn't understand (which again baffles me since it is on the menu) and they weren't willing to get someone else involved and acted like I was stupid and crazy. Allergies for many people, including myself can be serious and dangerous. This is definitely something that Princess should make sure ALL of their staff is aware of- especially those that work in the restaurant areas. 

To be honest- I only ordered a salad that evening because of my concerns.

(5) Another thing that is a bit awkward but important to share... The evening we arrived we needed some "girl items". We proceeded to the gift shop to see if there were any options and the only items available were for those who are over 50+ and obviously not having "girl times of the month" anymore. 

We approached the front desk to ask if they had any items and they said "no". Then I asked if there was a pharmacy or a grocery store or a gas station nearby and the woman at the front desk couldn't give us any options. She said she "wasn't familiar with the area". She called another woman over who said she didn't know what to even suggest. Because these girls were around our age we tried to explain awkwardly what we were looking for (thinking that they would definitely understand) but they still didn't have any suggestions. 

Finally, a third girl suggested a "local store" about 3 miles away. She gave us directions, I drove down and to make a long story short we found out from a local that the store closed 8 years ago?? It was really odd to me that Princess Lodge staff members wouldn't be familiar with simple things like this or know where to suggest to go to find a grocery store or gas station. I finally said to Ali that we were going to drive to Glenallen, a town whose signs we had passed on the way to the lodge. I drove the 20 minutes, went into the grocery store, was able to pick up the items we needed, and then we drove the 20 minutes back to the lodge. 

Now... it is a bit awkward to share this adventure on the blog, and I debated doing so for the last few weeks. I don't typically discuss any of these things on this blog... but in the world of travel this is important to note for other girls our age who travel to this lodge. I honestly don't know what we would have done if we were on a tour with Princess and didn't have a car. I definitely think that Princess should consider their visitors and provide more items in the gift shop (or have these things at the reception for those who may need it), but do come prepared if you think you may need these items on your trip. 
Honestly, it is always hard to share a negative review. I am hoping that we just ran into an "off day" for a lot of people and I truly hope that the experience with the food situation was the exception and not the routine at this property. Okay, I hope all of that information is helpful y'all! Overall it was a lovely place to stay and it was definitely my 2nd favorite of all of the lodges we stayed at. If you have any questions please let me know! 

PS- If you are curious about the specific details of the road trip that we took throughout Alaska or if you are planning a similar road trip (or just want to see and dream about visiting the beauty!) I hope the information below is helpful. You can read all of the posts from the trip by clicking on the links below:

Anchorage: // Anchorage Travel Guide//

Chugach Mountains (Alaska 1-South Drive): // Scenic Seward Highway Drive (Turnagain Arm Drive)//

Chugach Mountains: // Eklutna Lake//

Cooper Landing (Kenai Peninsula): // Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge Nature Trail//

Girdwood: // Winner Creek Trail //

A huge thank you to Princess Cruises Lodges for their collaboration with Caravan Sonnet blog. All opinions are my own.

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