This recreation area offers year-round outdoor adventures only 30 minutes from Fairbanks.
A mere half-hour drive from Fairbanks, Chena River State Recreation Area is a popular destination for those seeking adventure within a short distance of Alaska's second largest city. From Mile 26 to Mile 51, the paved Chena Hot Springs Road winds through the middle of Chena River State Recreation Area, allowing locals and visitors alike easy access to the 254,080-acre preserve.
Things to Do
Summertime in the Chena River State Recreation Area provides ample outdoor adventures, including hiking, fishing, backpacking, canoeing, hunting, rock climbing, and wildlife viewing. In the winter, cross-country skiing, ice fishing, snowmobiling, northern lights viewing, and dog mushing are popular activities. The clear-running Chena River is popular with paddlers to float in canoes, kayaks, and rafts, with river access from several points within the recreation area (and four bridges that cross the river outside of the park) offering many options for trip length.
The Chena River is renowned for its catch-and-release Arctic grayling fishery. The area also features four road-accessible ponds that are stocked annually with rainbow trout and Arctic grayling and open for fishing.
Chena River has an excellent hiking trail system, with Granite Tors Trail being one of the most popular. This 15-mile loop, a five- to eight-hour trek, provides access to the Plain of Monuments, where towering granite pinnacles known as tors dominate a broad stretch of alpine tundra. A first-come first-serve shelter cabin is located at the halfway mark.
Angel Rocks Trail is a 3.5-mile loop that leads to Angel Rocks, which large granite outcroppings offering sweeping views of the area. The state recreation area's longest route is the Chena Dome Trail, a 30-mile loop that follows the ridges around the Angel Creek drainage area. The trail is a popular multi-day hike for backpackers who can overnight in tents and a first-come first-serve shelter cabin at mile 17.
The recreation area is home to a variety of wildlife, from small animals like squirrel, willow grouse, and beaver, to large animals like bear and moose. Eagles can be sighted soaring overhead.
Moose are frequently spotted near beaver ponds and sloughs where they feed on shrubs and aquatic plants. Black and brown bears also inhabit the area – backpackers occasionally encounter grizzlies feeding on berries in the treeless uplands – along with hoary marmots, pika, and ptarmigan. Other mammals include wolves, caribou, and red foxes.
The Chena River is a clear flowing, class I-II river ideal for kayaking, canoeing, and fishing for abundant arctic grayling. Its valley is populated with spruce and birch forest and dotted with wetlands and marshes. The backdrop of rolling hills and tundra uplands provide rich habitat for resident wildlife. The recreation area is accessed by Chena Hot Springs Road, which parallels the river, providing users many entry and exit points for fishing, boating, camping, and access to the large trail system.
Facilities and Camping
Chena River State Recreation Area has three campgrounds that accommodate both tent campers and RVs. Rosehip Campground with 37 campsites is located at Milepost 27, Granite Tors Trail Campground with 24 campsites at Milepost 39, and Red Squirrel Campground with and Picnic Area with 5 campsites at Milepost 43.
There are also eight public use cabins located throughout the park that are available with advance reservation, and two first-come first-serve shelter cabins located on the Granite Tors and Chena Dome Trails. There are multiple picnic areas, boat launches, and miles of maintained trails on the extensive hiking trail system.
Chena River State Recreation Area is 26 miles east of Fairbanks, between Mile 26 and Mile 51 of the Chena Hot Springs Road.
Learn more about the Chena Hot Springs area.
For more information, visit the Chena River State Recreation Area website.