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The Interior: Fairbanks & the Yukon Valley

Chena Hot Springs Road

Road Conditions and Attractions—60 miles. Decent paved road. Trailheads, river running, Chena Hot Springs Resort.

The route leaves the Steese Highway just north of Fairbanks, heads east through historic mining country, and climbs toward the divide between the Tanana and Yukon valleys. The country is quite lovely and opportunities for recreation abound, particularly hiking the trails in the Chena River State Recreation Area, canoeing the Chena River, and visiting the hot springs. The following milepost listings highlight the best of it.

Tack’s General Store and Greenhouse Cafe (Mile 23.5), 488-3242. Open 8–8. Good food and a greenhouse.

Chena River State Recreation Area (Mile 26.1 to 50.7)—The Chena River is popular with kayakers, canoeists, and floaters. Five bridges over the river’s north fork within the state recreation area (Miles 37.9, 39.5, 44.1, 45.7, 49) and a variety of other logical put-ins make it easy to devise a run to suit your situation. Moderate runs are found between the lower three bridges, while more challenging stretches are found upstream. Watch out for sweepers and log jams.

The Rosehip State Campground (Mile 27) and Granite Tors Trail State Campground (Mile 39.5) have nice sites along the river. Fishing, hiking, and river-running access are easy from the campgrounds.

The Granite Tors Trail (15-mile loop) offers access to the rock formations that inspired the name. Great views and some difficult trail sections. Through trail—2 days.

For a short, strenuous, and rewarding half-day hike, try the Angel Rocks Trail (3.5-mile loop) at Mile 48.9. Loop—half-day.

A long and nice route for backpackers is the Chena Dome Trail (29-mile loop, 2,000' gain) that starts at Mile 49.1. The loop roughly follows the ridgeline west above the

Aurora Ice Hotel Melts

June 5, 2004

"The Aurora Ice Hotel at Chena Hot Springs Resort was going to be the first year-round ice hotel in the world, but the refrigeration units and Styrofoam panels weren't enough to keep America's only ice hotel cold enough during the warm summer days of Fairbanks Alaska. It became obvious during the final days of May that too much melting had taken place for it to be saved, so owner Bernie Karl started taking down the outside panels this past weekend in order to save as much of the infrastructure as possible with the intention that it could be rebuilt next winter.

north fork of the Chena River, reaching 3,000 feet in elevation before dropping north into the valley and returning to the trailhead. Through trail—3–4 days.

Chena Hot Springs (Mile 56.5)—The U.S. Geological Survey discovered these springs in 1904. All spring access is via the resort (see below). These are the region’s most popular springs because they are the closest to Fairbanks, though many find the sulfur smell quite strong. There’s an airstrip if you want to fly.

The Resort at Chena Hot Springs (Mile 56.5), (800) 478-4681, 452-7867, fax 456-3122. $75–$95 summer, $95–$115 winter, $40–$80 cabins, $10–$12 campsites. Indoor and outdoor pools, whirlpools, and tubs. Good restaurant. Day pass $8, $6 seniors and children 6–12, under 6 free. Volleyball, bikes, cross-country skiing. BL