Denali

There are some wonderful options for visitors to the Fairbanks area, and if you have some extra time, here are some recommendations (feel free to email Gordon Williams if you want more suggestions or are planning a longer stay in Alaska). An excellent all around resource is Explore Fairbanks.

Want to team up?

Let us know if you are interested in coordinating travel excursions with other SIGMAP participants. We’ll keep a list and send you each others’ contact information as we get more people expressing interest.

Things to do

  • Chena Hot Springs Resort: This is an easy day trip. You can see some pretty wilderness, take a nice soak in the natural hot springs, and eat food grown in the greenhouses on site that are heated by the springs.
  • Pioneer Park: This is a park containing a number of interesting historical buildings from the founding of Fairbanks. It is also home to several small museums, the Salmon Bake, and The Folk School (maybe there will be an interesting craft class while you are in town?).
  • Creamer’s Field: This is a wonderful place in Fairbanks to go for a walk through the boreal forest or to see migratory birds.
  • Local Breweries and Distilleries: Fairbanks is pretty far from wine country (sorry Marston!), but we have a thriving brewery and distillery culture here. All of these are great:
    • Hoodoo Brewing Company
    • Black Spruce Brewing Company
    • Lat 65 Brewing Co.
    • Silver Gulch Brewing & Bottling Co.
    • Fairbanks Distilling Company
    • Ursa Major Distilling
    • Hoarfrost Distilling
  • Hiking and walking (see the section on trails below).
  • Denali National Park: This is a stunning national park, and a relatively short trip from Fairbanks. The easiest ways to get there are by road or train (there’s a depot in the park). To get the most out of your visit to Denali I recommend staying overnight and reserving a ride on the park shuttle. The buses aren’t as fancy as the ones provided by the expensive big name tour bus operators, but you’ll have an experienced driver and a knowledgable park ranger helping you spot wildlife and describing the local geology, flora, and fauna. Bring your binoculars and a sack lunch. There’s also a number of wonderful, easy trails near the front of the park which make for great casual hikes. Do be prepared. Read up on how to handle wildlife encounters, do not try to pose for a selfie next to a bear or between a mama cow and her calf.
  • Anchorage: The states largest city is on the rail system, and you’ll probably be flying through there anyways. The city is nestled between the Chugach mountains and the ocean. There are a ton of cool things to see and do nearby, including hiking in the Chugach mountains, the Alaska Museum of History and Art, the Alaska Botanical Garden, Portage Glacier, Alyeska Resort, and a whole lot more.
  • The Kenai Peninsula and Prince Williams Sound. Look ’em up, ask me questions…

Getting Around

Not an official endorsement, and we’ve never actually used them, but if rental cars are getting a bit too pricey (thanks COVID-19!), a lot of people were apparently getting good use out of turo.com last summer.

Trails

Thanks to my colleagues in the UAF Department of Mathematics and Statistics for helping me flesh out these descriptions, especially John Gimbel and Alexei Rybkin.

  • This seems to be a pretty good list of trails for hiking and such near Fairbanks, with some overlap with this (which has the advantage of not having some of the content locked behind a paywall). 
  • There are lots of nice trails on the UAF campus, including the Skarland trails. In the summer, some of these trails can be pretty boggy though, so you’ll want appropriate boots. The best point to start is from Skiing Warming Hut, next to AIRC. There’s a number of well maintained loop trails. Nothing special but nice easy trails.
  • Creamer’s fields. Nice easy loop trails. The main feature is migrating birds but fewer in July. The main one is a trail through a “drunken” forest. Creamer’s fields is accessible on the Red and Blue Fairbanks bus routes from UAF.
  • Birch Hill recreation area. Some 50k of skiing trails used year around. Nice well maintained trails in a wooded area with occasional views of the town. Nothing special otherwise. 
  • Chena Lakes recreation area. Nothing special about the (man made) lakes but the dam is quite interesting. There are some trails for short hikes. Santa Klaus house is on the way there.  
  • Granite Tors. 45 miles or so from town towards Chena Hot Springs. Very popular but the whole loop is a challenge for a one day hike (22k with a very substantial elevation gain). Offers a magnificent view on the Alaska Range.
  • Angel Rocks. The trail head is about 8 miles before Chena Hot Springs resort. It’s by far the most popular short hike in the area. It’s a 3 mile loop with some 1000 ft elevation gain. There is a 10 mile trail from there to Chena Hot Springs resort. It’s a very nice all day long hike with hot springs at the end. I’d recommend it paired with an overnight stay at the resort.