Igloo City: Alaska’s Igloo Resort Town That Never Was

For decades, travelers driving the rustic road between Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska have been captivated by a large concrete igloo which locals lovingly refer to as the “Parks Highway Igloo.” The Parks Highway Igloo was supposed to be the centerpiece of a resort town called Igloo City, but building code infractions prevented the building from ever being completed. Now the Parks Highway Igloo sits silent and abandoned—adorned with graffiti when it isn’t covered in a fresh coat of snow.

Located about halfway between Anchorage and Fairbanks on the Parks Highway. In 1976 it was called "Igloo Service".

Located about halfway between Anchorage and Fairbanks on the Parks Highway. In 1976 it was called “Igloo Service”.
Photo via Flickr

In the 1970s, a rugged Alaska Railroad worker named Leon Smith envisioned a cozy resort town near rural Cantwell, Alaska. Leon used lumber that he salvaged from his work on the railroad to build a four story igloo hotel. The large wood and concrete dome was meant to pay homage to the ice and snow igloos built by Alaska’s Inuit population.

Unfortunately, the windows on Leon Smith’s igloo hotel were deemed too small for a commercial building. Try as he might, Leon Smith did not have the resources to make the Parks Highway Igloo a functional resort. After Leon Smith sold the property, a gas station owner named Brad Fisher attempted to make Igloo City a reality, but renovation and repairs proved too costly.

Alaska's Abandoned Igloo City Hotel on the George Parks Highway

Alaska’s Abandoned Igloo City Hotel on the George Parks Highway
Photo via Flickr

Despite the threat of hibernating grizzly bears, falling sheetrock, and a hefty trespassing ticket, travelers from around the world can’t help but pull over to explore the grounds of Igloo City. The grounds feature an abandoned service station with a sign that says “igloo,” the remnants of a small cabin which once belonged to Leon Smith, and the eerie, silent shell of the Parks Highway Igloo.

Igloo City has had several owners since Leon Smith first constructed what he hoped would be a winter paradise. The current owner says he hopes to sell the property to a determined preservationist who will finally realize Leon Smith’s vision, even if proper renovations cost millions of dollars to complete.

If you’re a thrill-seeker who isn’t afraid to stumble upon a hungry wolf while you’re exploring the grounds of a ghost town that never had a heyday, a trip to Igloo City won’t disappoint. Please be respectful and remember that you are touring private property so a trespassing ticket is a possibility. Rugged adventurers will happily tell you that visiting a lonely concrete igloo surrounded by jagged mountains and towering trees is certainly worth any dangers that a rural Alaskan ghost town may pose.

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