Chena Hot Springs Road Trails
Chena River State Recreation Area is a park for all seasons
Are you interested in a day of hiking and rock-climbing at Granite Tors? Or would you prefer to harness up the dog team and escape into the snowy horizon, or perhaps ride a 4-wheeler along a forest trail? With 397 square miles of forests, rivers, and alpine tundra, the recreation area has something to offer everyone. The variety of activities draws more than 150,000 people to the Chena River State Recreation Area every year.
Campgrounds in the area can accommodate all sorts of outdoor enthusiasts, from tent campers to those with deluxe recreational vehicles. Three developed campgrounds exist in the recreation area: Rosehip Campground is at milepost 27 of Chena Hot Springs Road, Tors Trail Campground at milepost 39, and Red Squirrel Campground and Picnic Area at milepost 43. Opportunities for camping in undeveloped areas can be found along the many gravel bars and river access roads.
The park follows the Chena River, a clear flowing, class II river ideal for kayaking, canoeing, or fishing for abundant arctic grayling. Chena Hot Springs Road parallels the river, providing boaters and anglers many entries and exit points from which to choose.
Dipping the hook for grayling can be an invigorating experience in the summer. In addition to the river, four small ponds have been stocked at mileposts 30, 45.5 and 47.9. The river is catch and release only, but fish caught in the gravel ponds may be kept.
In winter months, two major dog sled races use portions of the old Chena Hot Springs Winter Trail. Ski touring is also popular. The recreation area contains numerous winter trails, providing opportunities for motorized and non-motorized recreation. Wildlife is abundant in the Chena River Recreation Area. Visitors frequently find moose munching in the beaver ponds and wetlands along Chena Hot Springs Road. Black and grizzly bears also inhabit the area, though they are seldom seen. Grizzly bears have been spotted by back-country hikers in alpine areas. Black bears are found in areas with abundant vegetation.
Tors intrigue hikers
The Granite Tors in Chena River State Recreation Area are a popular destination for both local and visiting climbers. The trail to the tors begins at the Tors Trail Campground, mile 39.5 Chena Hot Springs Road. The trail is a 15-mile loop, with the west trail offering a shorter but steeper route to the tors. The tors were formed 70 million to 90 million years ago when molten rock pushed upward and cooled before reaching the surface. The granite formations were exposed by the erosion of the surrounding earth which revealed the towering spires we see today. People visiting the Tors in the early spring may find pasque flowers, or crocus, growing in the warm areas. In June and July, visitors will see the face of Munson Ridge covered with a variety of wildflowers—poppies, anemones, and the yellow blossoms of the thorough wax plant. Look for the arctic harebells towards late summer.
Weather conditions can change quickly. Follow these guidelines to make your day at the tors safe and enjoyable: wear suitable footwear and carry warm clothes and raingear. Bring insect repellent or netting to ward off persistent pests. Because water sources are not reliable in dry weather, you should bring at least one day’s supply of water. Be cautious and alert for the presence in your area of bears. Finally, always let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.
Trails offer passage to adventures
Getting away from it all is easy in Chena River State Recreation Area. Well-marked and maintained trails lead into alpine country and offer strikingly different hiking experiences. Feeder trails that lead off the developed trails allow hikers to find the perfect place with unobstructed views and wilderness solitude.
The proximity of the recreation area to Fairbanks makes it feasible for day hikes and extended journeys alike. These views will rival those of any other park.
Among the most popular jaunts is a hike along the Angel Rocks Trail. Hiking this trail can take a couple of hours or can become a leisurely day trip. You can get beautiful views of the valley in a very short hike which can be a great time for families.
The Angel Rocks Trail begins at a pleasant, riverside picnic area at milepost 48.9 Chena Hot Springs Road. The 3.5-mile round trip leads hikers through dense evergreen forests up to the sheer rock faces of the Angel Rocks. The trail extends 8.3 miles to include a route along ridgelines that creates a second trail head at Chena Hot Springs Resort, just past mile 56 on Chena Hot Springs Road.
The Stiles Creek trail, a year-round ridge trail, provides opportunities for multiple use when it comes to choosing your mode of travel – mountain bikes, all-terrain-vehicles, horses or hiking.
The Chena Dome Trail, the longest in the recreation area, offers quick passage to hiking above timberline. It begins with lush spruce forests at low elevations and rapidly rises into stunning alpine tundra. The 29-mile trip circles the entire Angel Creek drainage area. The trail starts at mile 50.5 and ends at mile 49 Chena Hot Springs Road. The full hike takes three days and often more, but scenic day hikes can be taken from either trail head. If you can get above the timberline and hike across the tundra, there are magnificent views.