Abandoned Igloo Hotel – Igloo City, Alaska
By: Courtney Dowd-Stanley
Alaska’s abandoned igloo hotel, also known as Igloo City, is located right off the George Parks Highway roughly 22 miles south of Cantwell and 200 miles north of Anchorage. While many who have viewed Igloo City feel this uninhabited building (sitting in the middle of no-man’s land) is creepy, we happen to find the story behind it quite fascinating. Consider this; just about anyone and everyone living in the Last Frontier has had someone from “Outside” ask whether or not people in Alaska live in igloos. It’s a silly yet endearing association that comes along with our frigid arctic environment. The obvious answer is of course “no,” but that doesn’t stop the question from being asked. With that said, the vision behind building Igloo City as a premier Alaskan lodging option for those fascinated with the idea of living in an igloo was utterly brilliant. Unfortunately, things didn’t quite go as planned and the unique structure has now sat abandoned for nearly half a century.
Sitting at mile marker 188.7 on the east side of the Parks Highway, Igloo City was originally constructed in the late 1970s by Leon Smith. His dream was to create a one-of-a-kind Alaskan lodge that visitors from all over the world would come to experience.
Unfortunately, Leon’s dream of finishing the project and moving on to operate a popular igloo-shaped hotel never came to fruition mainly due to code violations and structural issues. The cost of updating the property to become structurally sound proved to be too high. The undersized windows (which are now shattered and boarded shut) were said to be one of the biggest code violations that couldn’t be fixed without breaking the bank.
The massive round structure is four stories high and is rumored to be constructed with 888 sheets of plywood with urethane insulation on the outside. Igloo City is so large that airplanes at heights over 30,000 feet in the air have reported being able to see it. Although it does have a way of sticking out like a sore thumb, we happen to love its quirkiness and individuality.
Igloo City is currently locked and boarded off, meaning the interior cannot be legally accessed. Some people who have visited Igloo City (even those just observing it from the outside) have reported hearing spooky noises and noting an overall eerie feeling. But then again, visiting an abandoned site in the middle of nowhere would probably give anyone the chills. We’ve never heard any definite proof behind the structure being haunted, so we guess that claim is all a matter of personal experience.
Although Igloo City has never officially opened for business, it is said to have housed a variety of wild animals over the years (including moose, bears, and wolves) that have used the facility to take shelter. This abandoned igloo hotel has also endured a lot of vandalism since its abandonment. If you visit Igloo City today, don’t be surprised to find litter, graffiti and lots of broken windows.
Igloo City shares its highway frontage lot with a former gas station. The two structures sit on roughly 38 acres off a well-traveled, albeit remote, stretch of the Parks Highway. The closest nearby town to this abandoned igloo hotel is Cantwell, which has around 220 year-round residents. Hundreds of thousands of travelers pass by Igloo City each year en route to Interior Alaska destinations such as Denali National Park, the old Denali Highway, and Fairbanks. Although Igloo City doesn’t get the tourism revenue that it originally anticipated, it has become one of Alaska’s most unique roadside attractions, receiving nationwide attention.
Check out the YouTube video below to experience an up close and personal look at Igloo City (and the surrounding terrain) via drone footage.
Looking for more where that came from? Check out Kepler Park – The History, The Future & The Fish. You might also enjoy reading about the isolated places in Alaska where you can actually view Russia from your doorstep. This historic read on Portage – The Sunken Alaska Ghost Town That Nature Is Reclaiming is also quite interesting.