Chena Hot Springs Resort

When you have worked your muscles sore and you are ready to kick back for some relaxation from your vacation, follow the wisdom of the old back country miners.  Take a break at one of the state's best hot spring mineral baths!  Located at the end of Chena Hot Springs Road in the heart of the White Mountains, Chena Resort is a privately owned and developed recreation area.

To find the Chena Hot Springs, drive north from Anchorage to Fairbanks on the Parks highway (through Wasilla).  Fairbanks is the terminus for the Parks.  Follow the sign to turn on Geist road.  Geist becomes the Johansen Expressway.  Follow this highway through to the other side of Fairbanks.   Turn left on the Steese Expressway heading north.  Just a few miles up the Steese, start watching for signs marking Chena Hot Springs Road.  Go right and follow Chena Hot Springs Road all the way to the end (about 60 miles).  The road is completely paved and ends at the bridge entering the resort area.

You have your choice of accommodations.  There are two camp areas.  The nicer one is to the left after passing the water tanks.  But the lower campground that curves around from a right turn following a short stand of trees after the bridge is pretty too, and some sites are right next to the creek.  The lower camp ground is closer to the pools.  The upper campground is RV friendly, and if you are driving a behemoth and cannot fit in the campgrounds, you can still park in an open parking lot next to the pools.  There is also a number of indoor accommodations including private cabins and a brand new modern two story lodge.  Click here to jump to a description of the indoor accommodations. 

You really have to work at being bored at this resort.  There are activities year round, although we have thus far only visited during the summer.   There are trails all over the area.  Some begin right from the resort, and still others begin along the Chena Hot Springs Road.  The trails from the resort are relatively easy.  Several make steep climbs into the hillsides but there is never any rock climbing involved.  When you reach the tops you have views of mountain valleys where all civilization disappears.  Be sure to bring plenty of bug repellant, especially in June and July which tend to be the buggiest months.

If you would rather someone (or something) else did the hiking for you, there are guided horseback riding tours of the trails.  And if you donít mind the noise, four wheel all terrain vehicles (ATVs) can also be rented to take you through the hills.  ATVs are great for avoiding bugs, but you will see little, if any, wildlife and you will miss out on the exercise of self propulsion.

Speaking of exercise, you can also rent mountain bikes from the main office.  We brought our own and explored a little with them.  The steepness of many of the trails prevents them from being used very much as the entire resort is surrounded by mountains, but they were nice to backtrack a bit on the Chena Hot Springs Road to go look at different parts of the river.

There is a volleyball court right in the middle of the resort, and on a sunny day it is not hard to get a game started.  However, the temperatures can get quite hot in the interior during the summer and it is not uncommon to experience temperatures in the upper 80s and 90s.  So if you do not mind the heat, still be sure to wear the sun screen.  The sun is up much longer, and so there are greater opportunities to receive severe sunburns than in the lower latitudes.  In the winter, however temperatures can drop to extreme lows.  Minus 60 F is not unheard of during the winter months around Fairbanks.  Nevertheless, Chena Hot Springs Resort remains open year round.  

If you enjoy animal spotting, there is always an abundance of wildlife in the area.  Almost every time I have visited (about five times now) I see at least one moose.  There are also black bear, rabbits and plenty of squirrels.  If you have a traveling companion who is getting on your nerves, encourage that person to go harass the moose.  Most people have never seen a moose and assume that since they are a member of the deer family, they will be docile creatures.  Not so with moose.  Moose take great pleasure in kicking the snot out of the unwary.  Every once in a while a person will be trampled to death when walking between a cow and her calves.  Moose are very large, ornery, well equipped animals, able to defend their young from bears.  Approaching too close is definitely not recommended.

I always get a kick out of the Chena River around the resort.  It is warmer than your average Alaska creek or river because some of the water from the hot springs finds its way into the Chena.  On a hot day, walking around in the water feels really great.  Whatís more, the Chena is filled with iron pyrite -- otherwise known as fools gold.  Looking down in the water on a sunny day, you would swear that you see flakes of gold.  And if you want to try your hand at panning, the resort even features gold prospecting tours twice a day.  

The jewel of the resort is, of course, the springs.  The waters are high in mineral content, so if you do not like the smell of sulfur, you may not enjoy this activity.  But for miners weary from months of back breaking seven day fourteen hour work, there is nothing like relaxing in the baths.  Chena Hot Springs Resort has developed the mineral baths into a network of three modern hot tubs, a super hot therapy tub, a swimming pool and a large outdoor pool.  The pools vary in temperature ranging from around 80 in the big swimming pool to 100+ in the hot tubs.   The big swimming pool is child friendly as it remains at a moderate temperature and slopes from a foot deep to only 4í9Ē at the deepest end.  Kids go buckwild until 10pm when children under 16 must leave, so donít plan on doing your laps until after that time.  

During the fall of 1999 the Resort began adding a huge natural rock pool outdoors.  We were able to watch them placing the large boulders that created the outer rim of the pool. By our trip of May 2000 the pool was complete.  It turned out to be just an amazing work of natural art.  The entry to this pool is a long ramp that is wheelchair accessible.  The pools are all located at one building and also have a large lounging area for sunbathing in between visits to the tubs.  Many of the people who come to Chena are residents of Fairbanks just off for a relaxing weekend.  They are always incredibly friendly and interested in chatting about all sorts of exciting things to see and do in the area.  Look forward to some great story telling sessions!  

At the entrance to the hot springs the management requires you to take off your shoes before entering the locker rooms.  Unfortunately, there are no lock-ups for shoes.  Someone took my Tevas and left his own.  That was a real downer because his feet were a lot smaller than mine.   We highly recommend taking your shoes in with you and locking them in the rental lockers in the dressing rooms.

Although use of the pools costs $9.00 per person, the tickets are good for the entire day (9am to midnight) and feature bathrooms with running water.  If you have been hardcore adventuring and smell like three day old fish, there is nothing better than taking a hot shower.  The shower does smell like sulfur, but there have been times when it has smelled much better than I have!

 

For contact information on the Chena Hot Springs Resort, click here.

Last Visited: July 2001

 

 


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