As the temperatures plummet in early winter, Interior Alaska residents are reacquainted with the crisp bite of the dark winter nights. Some people are driven into their homes to avoid the chill while others are eager to taste the cold once again. I decided that a great way to celebrate the return of the winter nights and the aurora was to head to Chena Hot Springs Resort.
The Chena Hot Springs Resort lies about 60 miles from downtown Fairbanks on a long, winding two-lane road that carves through the boreal forest heading Northeast. Chena Hot Springs Road is a treasure trove of trails for hiking, backpacking, and berry picking in the summer. There are campgrounds and trailheads all along the road. In the winter, cross-country skiing, fat-tire biking and snowshoeing are the common methods of outdoor adventure. Many bring skis to the hot springs and zip around one of the many trails before enjoying the mineral waters.
Outdoor Hot Springs Rock Lake
The main attraction of Chena Hot Springs Resort is the gorgeous outdoor Rock Lake, an open-air pool filled with steamy natural mineral water heated by the earth. The pool stays piping hot year-round, even on the coldest of Alaskan nights. Surrounded by snow-covered boulders, the lake is the perfect place to relax under the dancing aurora borealis. The aurora and the stars are brilliant in the velvety black sky of this remote location.
Chena Hot Springs Resort
In addition to the outdoor Rock Lake, there is a family pool and hot tubs of varying temperatures. The resort includes an elegant hotel, cabins, aurora viewing, a wealth of activities from massage to guided outdoor adventures, and the magnificent Aurora Ice Museum. Chena Hot Springs Resort is one of the most popular spots for visitors to the Interior, and with good reason. The entire resort is heated by geothermal energy and fresh vegetables grown on-site are served in the restaurant. There are many ways to enjoy a weekend or longer stay in this beautiful area.
As a Fairbanks resident, I usually save the resort’s more elegant offerings for when I have guests in town. I chose the traditional local style: head out on a cold, clear weekday when the crowds are thin. I took an early evening drive to the springs with a friend. It was a glorious, clear night for a long soak under the full moon and an easy drive home. The whole adventure last 4.5 hours and cost $15 per adult for the springs, plus the drive to and from the resort. The hot springs area opens at 7 AM and closes at 11:45 PM daily. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to soak, cool off, and soak again.
Chena Hot Springs Road can be slippery and there are often moose crossing the roadway so careful driving is a must. You can also take the shuttle from Fairbanks for an additional cost. If you aren’t comfortable driving on Alaskan roads, it’s worth the cost for the opportunity to spot the abundant wildlife along the road. You’ll never forget a trip to Chena Hot Springs Resort. The icy cold air, the steamy water and the amazing views of the Alaskan sky dancing with colorful aurora.