Alaska Hot Springs – Relax & Unwind In Nature
By: Courtney Dowd-Stanley
Alaska hot springs are perhaps more plentiful than you might expect. From the Interior all the way down to Southeast Alaska, with many stops in between, locals and visitors have lots of options to choose from when seeking a relaxing natural hot spring to unwind in. As with many things in the Last Frontier, the biggest caveat is, of course, accessibility. While the great 49th state has many incredible natural wonders, they aren’t always easy to access. So we pulled together a good list of both easily accessible and off-the-beaten path natural hot springs for you to choose from. Enjoy!
1 – Chena Hot Springs – Fairbanks, Alaska
Founded over 100 years ago by two gold mining brothers, Chena Hot Springs is the most popular and most visited natural Alaska hot springs. It is located roughly 57 miles northeast of Alaska’s Golden Heart City of Fairbanks, near the Chena River State Recreation Area. Bring the family, load up your friends, or surprise your special someone and enjoy soaking in the large outdoor pools, far away from the hustle and bustle of the city. If you’re lucky, you just might have the opportunity to view the brilliant colors of the aurora borealis dancing above you while soaking in the springs.
2 – White Sulphur Springs – Chichagof Island, Alaska
Located on the northern shore of Bertha Bay in Southeast Alaska, White Sulphur Springs is a remote wilderness site nestled in towering spruce and hemlock trees. A forest service cabin makes this area, roughly 65 miles northwest of Sitka, very popular for both locals and tourists. The views from the springs overlooking the ocean are unlike anything else in the world. Large brown bears frequent the area, so be sure to do your research before you go and be very vigilant in being aware of your surroundings. The island can be accessed by float plane, charter or personal boat, or kayak.
3 – Goddard Hot Springs – Sitka, Alaska
These Alaska hot springs are located in Southeast Alaska 16 miles south of the city of Sitka on Baranof Island. The hot springs can be accessed by boat or floatplane. At the hot springs there are two modern cedar bathhouses for the use of visitors, and they are very popular all year long. This spectacular area is said to be one of the earliest Alaska mineral springs known to original European explorers.
4 – Manley Hot Springs – Manley Hot Springs, Alaska
Located at the end of the 152-mile long Elliot Highway, which begins at the town of Fox (10 miles north of Fairbanks), Manley Hot Springs is a charming little oasis in the woods. In a privately owned greenhouse full of exotic plants, choose from three concrete tubs to soak in, each of which are fed by natural spring water with varying temperatures. These private soaking tubs do require advance reservations so be sure to call ahead to check on availability before making the long drive.
5 – Chief Shakes Hot Springs – Wrangell, Alaska
With temperatures climbing up to a comfortable 122 degrees Fahrenheit, Chief Shakes Hot Springs is a very desirable attraction in Southeast Alaska. Nestled in the Tongass National Forest, the springs are located off of the Ketili River (a slough of the Stikine River). Once you arrive at the hot springs, which has two tubs (one with a screened in structure, one with a nice wooden porch), you can sit and relax in comfort. There is also a changing area, picnic table, and fire ring area to enjoy all the outdoor fun that your heart desires. This is a very popular attraction on evenings and weekends according to the Forest Service, who maintain two dry wilderness cabins just slightly upriver.
6 – Baranof Warm Springs – Baranof Island, Alaska
Located in Southeast Alaska on Warm Springs Bay right near Chatham Strait, is the supremely scenic Baranof Warm Springs. The small community and hot springs can be reached by floatplane from the city of Sitka. Nearby is the glacially-fed Baranof Lake. There are no roads in the area, no vehicles, and no access by marine transport such as the Alaska Marine Highway ferry system (but there is a small dock for boats).
7 – Kilo Hot Springs – Remote Location in the Ray Mountains, Alaska
Kilo Hot Springs is another remote area located in a broad valley on the northern side of the Ray Mountains on the Kanuti Kilolitna River in the Interior. According to some visitors to the hot springs it is possible to land a small plane on the tundra approximately five miles away. Others have floated down the Yukon River from the Dalton Highway and hiked over 40 miles through the mountains to the springs. Needless to say, once you arrive at these Alaska hot springs, your body will be dying for the rest and relaxation that this remote hot spring will provide.
8 – Tolovana Hot Springs – Mile 93 of the Elliott Highway, Alaska
Located in Interior Alaska, Tolovana Hot Springs is among the ‘big 4’ hot springs in the northern region. The area offers comfortable rustic cabins with natural mineral hot springs for bathing. The springs are located 45 air miles northwest of Fairbanks and they can be reached via trail travel or bush plane. Visitors who make this trek should be advised to bring their own food and a warm sleeping bag. In addition to relaxing in the hot springs, area activities include hiking, canoeing, cross country skiing, bird watching, and more.
9 – Serpentine Hot Springs – Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, Alaska
This enchanting natural oasis is the most visited location in the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, as the bunkhouse and bathhouse are both available for tourists to use year-round. The Serpentine Hot Springs pool reaches temperatures between 140-170 degrees Fahrenheit and has been used by Alaskan Natives for thousands of years. The constant supply of hot water makes this place a surefire destination for those looking to relax and unwind, with nothing but the sweet sounds of nature surrounding you.
10 – Tenakee Hot Springs – Chichagof Island, Alaska
Located in a remote village in Southeast Alaska, Tenakee Springs is home to roughly 100 local residents. The area itself is oozing with rich history and charm, not to mention a splendid amount of wildlife viewing opportunities including eagles and whales. With no roads, no vehicles, and no cell reception in the area, visitors can sit back and relax in the natural therapeutic hot springs bath while completely unplugged from the outside world.
11 – Kanuti River Hot Springs – Dalton Highway, Alaska
This incredibly remote hot spring area is located 12 miles west of the Dalton Highway from mile marker 103. In the summertime, a lot of visitors enjoy the 14-mile scenic float (in a lightweight pack raft) down the Kanuti River from the Dalton Highway crossing. The hike in will take you up the the Caribou Mountain ridgeline, through thick forest regrowth areas from old wildfire burn sites. This is also a very popular area in the wintertime for cross-country skiers. The hot springs reach temperatures up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit. For the best directions to access it, visit the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service website HERE.
12 – Pilgrim Hot Springs – Nome, Alaska
This ‘ghost town’ area is located on Alaska’s Seward Peninsula. It’s home to rich history, with early buildings in the area dating back to the early 1900s. Today it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, although many of the historic buildings have deteriorated over the years. But these Alaska hot springs are still as steamy and irresistible as ever, if you can handle temperatures of 178 degrees Fahrenheit. As you arrive at Pilgrim Hot Springs, you’ll be greeted by towering views of the Kiqluiak Mountains. Before visiting, check in at the Nome Visitors Center for directions and permits required. The 320-acre lot at Pilgrim Hot Springs is now owned by Unataaq, LLC, an Alaska Native corporation.
13 – Shelokum Hot Springs – Ketchikan, Alaska
These remote Alaska hot springs are located in Southeast Alaska, roughly 90 miles north of Ketchikan. It is nestled in the lush Tongass National Forest on the Cleveland Peninsula. To access it, there is a 2.2-mile trail that begins south of Shelokum Creek at Bailey Bay, and leads up to Lake Shelokum. There is a three-sided shelter that clearly marks the area.
14 – Hutlinana Hot Springs – Mile 128 Elliott Highway in Alaska’s Interior
This geothermal hot spring is located on the Hutlinana River in a remote location in Interior Alaska. There is no direct road access to this remote hot spring located about 150 miles northwest of Fairbanks. The trailhead is located at mile marker 128 of the Elliott Highway, although it is not clearly marked. This is a very off-the-beaten-path hot springs and the trail used to access it is said to be best after a winter freeze-up.
Remember that all of these Alaska hot springs vary in temperature, so be sure that you do your research before visiting so that you are safe and knowledgeable about the surrounding area.
Looking for more where that came from? You’ll love learning about El Capitan Cave, Alaska’s largest aboveground cave that will give you an enchanting middle-earth type of experience. Check out Matanuska Glacier: Visiting One Of Alaska’s Most Amazing And Easily Accessible Places. 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.