Chena Hot Springs near Fairbanks, Alaska has been a favorite place for locals for generations and is also a wonderful destination for visitors. Not only can you soak in the divine hot water, you can also check out the unique ice museum and explore the many trails in the area and try new activities like snowmobiling, ice fishing, ATV riding or dog sledding.
I lived in Fairbanks for four years and this was one of my favorite places to go. I even got engaged there! This article is all about the many things to do as well as everything you need to know for an enjoyable soak.
Chena Hot Springs is approximately 60 miles from Fairbanks at the end of Chena Hot Springs Road. The drive takes about an hour and a half, though it may take longer in winter if it’s icy.
How to get to Chena Hot Springs from Fairbanks
The only way to get to Chena Hot Springs is to make the 60 mile drive on gorgeous Chena Hot Springs road from Fairbanks. The road is paved and generally well maintained, although it can get quite icy at times during the winter and you need to watch out for moose along the road!
If you want to get there without a car, you’re in luck. You can arrange for a shuttle with Chena Hot Springs Resort to get a ride. There are also tours from Fairbanks that will take you there as part of the tour.
Can you swim in Chena Hot Springs?
Yes! The outdoor rock lake is shallow but you can still swim around as much as you want and get a full soak in. The outdoor rock lake is adults only, age 18 and older.
The indoor swimming pool is very popular with families and kids like a traditional swimming pool.
How hot is the water at Chena Hot Springs?
While the water comes out of the spring at 165 degrees F, this is way too hot for soaking, so it is cooled down to a safe temperature.
The outdoor rock lake is usually around 105 degrees F and the indoor pool is kept at about 90 degrees F.
Is Chena Hot Springs clothing optional?
No. Swimsuits are required for everyone at all times.
Is Chena Hot Springs wheelchair accessible?
Yes! The outdoor rock lake has a wheelchair ramp to enter the hot springs and you can borrow a water wheelchair to enter. Depending on your situation, you could also move over to the rocks around the edge to find a comfortable spot.
There are also accessible restrooms and showers with grab bars in the locker room and wheelchair parking close by so you can get to the locker room and pool barrier free.
When is the best time to go to Chena Hot Springs?
During the four years I lived in Fairbanks, winter was my favorite time to go! Summers in Fairbanks can get quite hot and that made the hot springs not as inviting. That said, it’s an extremely popular year round destination. There are plenty of things to do no matter when you visit.
The best time to go is any time you happen to be in Fairbanks!
There is something truly magical about soaking in the outdoor rock lake while the northern lights dance above you. That is definitely an experience that’s hard to top!
There is cell service at Chena Hot Springs, however if you are from out of state your phone may be roaming or may have trouble connecting here. There is some service along a lot of Chena Hot Springs road, but not everywhere, especially once you get further out the road.
Where to stay at Chena Hot Springs
Hotels and Lodges
Chena Hot Springs Resort has traditional hotel rooms as well as yurts and dry cabins.
The yurts and dry cabins are much less expensive, but be aware that they do not have restrooms or showers (that’s why “dry” means). With pool passes and the hot springs right there, this isn’t too big of a concern for many people and you can save a lot of money this way! Think of it like camping but you don’t need a tent (and the cabins and yurts are super cute).
The rooms in the lodge have restrooms and showers like normal hotel rooms.
Outside Chena Hot Springs Resort, the Angel Creek Lodge has several classic Alaska roadhouse style cabins and there are a number of vacation rentals along Chena Hot Springs road. It’s also an option to stay in Fairbanks, since it isn’t too far of a drive you can easily make a day trip here.
There’s a campground and RV park at Chena Hot Springs resort. There are also three Alaska State Parks campgrounds along Chena Hot Springs Road. Alaska State Parks also has several public use cabins along Chena Hot Springs Road in Chena River State Recreation Area.
Where can you eat at Chena Hot Springs?
The only place for food at Chena Hot Springs is the restaurant at the resort, which serves three meals a day. If you don’t want to eat there, make sure to bring your food with you from Fairbanks!
If you like pizza and you’re driving out or back in the evening, make sure to stop at Wagner’s Pizza Bus at Mile 24 Chena Hot Springs road. Angel Creek Lodge at Mile 50 Chena Hot Springs Road is very popular with locals and is a classic and delicious Alaska Roadhouse meal experience.
Things to do at Chena Hot Springs
One of the best things about visiting Chena Hot Springs is the many things you can do beyond just soaking in the hot springs!
Soak in the Hot Springs
This is kind of a no-brainer, but really, soaking here is absolutely divine. Make sure to do it! Probably multiple times! It’s a fantastic year round hot springs soaking destination.
Visit the Ice Museum and sip an ice drink
The other must do activity here besides soaking or swimming is visiting the Ice Museum. It is really amazing and unique and you have to do it!
You can only enter the building on a tour to help preserve the ice and the climate controlled environment. Not only will you get to see a place built of ice, which is pretty amazing, but you can also sit down at an ice bar and have a drink in an ice glass. Don’t miss it, it’s totally worth it!
Dog sledding or kennel tour
Chena Hot Springs offers kennel visits in summer and sled dog rides in winter, however I recommend that you have your dog experience either on the way to Chena Hot Springs or on the way back.
The community of Two Rivers, which is about halfway between Fairbanks and Chena Hot Springs, is a place you can visit a working kennel and get to know dogs who are doing epic long distance races like the Iditarod. I particularly love Chena Outdoor Collective, so stop there on the way to or from for a better dog sledding experience.
See the Northern Lights
In the summer, you won’t see the Northern Lights because it never gets dark! However, starting in late August and going into early April the super dark skies without light pollution here are absolutely perfect for viewing them.
You can take a tour to do so, or you can just walk outside your room or cabin. Seeing them from the hot springs pool is completely unforgettable!
In winter there are a variety of tours and activities you can take part in, including dog sled rides, aurora viewing tours, snowmobile rides and ice fishing excursions. There is also a network of groomed cross country ski trails in the area. Rentals skis are available at the resort.
Summer only things to do
In summer you can have a blast on an ATV tour or horseback riding. If it’s not too hot there are also often dog cart rides available. There are many hiking trails in the area as well.
The drive is really wonderful and beautiful, through mostly forest along with more open areas along the river and marshy ponds that are ideal moose habitat. I don’t think I’ve ever driven this road without seeing at least one moose, so make sure to keep your eyes open for them!
There are several good fishing spots along the road along with a couple of trailheads. Both Granite Tors and Angel Rocks have longer and shorter options and lead to stunning views of the entire area. From Angel Rocks you can even hike all the way through to the hot springs!
For fun food stops, stop at Larae’s for amazing pie and baked goods just outside of Fairbanks and at the Pizza Bus at Mile 24.
Chena Hot Springs is a wonderful year round destination near Fairbanks that gives you a chance for a hot springs soak along with plenty of other fun including the ice museum, hiking, skiing and northern lights viewing during northern lights season. It is absolutely worth the trip out from Fairbanks.
Hi! I'm Jennie. I’m a fourth generation Seattleite who lived in Alaska for 7 years and I still spend lots of time there every year. I've been a tour guide for many years in both Alaska and Washington and am a field editor for the Milepost. I love to share the places I love with visitors, newcomers and my fellow locals. I’m so glad to have you along on the journey to experience your best adventure in Washington, Alaska and Western Canada!
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