Chena Hot Springs Resort Review: Ultimate Guide for 2024

The Chena hot springs were originally discovered over a century ago, and have since become a popular destination in the Interior Alaska area. The Chena Hot Springs Resort is located in the Fairbanks North Star Borough and has a variety of unique activities for tourists and locals alike.

Privately owned and operated, the Chena Hot Springs Resort spreads out along 440 acres and runs resort activities year-round.

Chena Hot Springs History

Gold mining brothers Robert and Tomas Swan discovered the Chena hot springs on August 5, 1905, after learning that a U.S. Geological Survey crew reported steam from the valley a year before. By the year 1911, the brothers established a stable, bathhouse, and twelve cabins for any visitors. It soon became known as one of the best hot spring resorts in the greater Alaska area.

After word of the beautiful Chena hot springs spread, Judge James Wickersham asked the Department of Agriculture to test and analyze the waters. When testing the Chena Springs water, the Bureau of Chemistry found that the waters were different from any other spring found in the Americas. Chena hot spring waters tested with high levels of sulfate, chloride, and bicarbonate of sodium. These have all been recognized as natural health-benefiting ingredients.

Today, Chena hot springs have been recognized as one of the best resorts in the Alaska area. The resort has expanded greatly since it was first established in 1905 and has a variety of activities for locals and tourists alike. There is now a large camping site, cabins, and 40 rooms at the lodge itself. There is also a variety of meeting spaces that can be rented out, making the Chena hot springs a great destination for a wedding or work retreat.

What To Do In Chena Hot Springs?

Swim In The Hot Springs

Swim In The Hot Springs

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There are multiple options for enjoying the benefits of the Chena hot springs. The Chena pool house has an outdoor natural hot spring pool, which guests over the age of 18 can enjoy. The hot springs have an average temperature of 106 degrees all year round, which helps release tension and creates a comfortable swimming experience. There is also an outdoor hot tub located nearby, as well as indoor family pools and hot tubs.

Aurora Ice Museum

Aurora Ice Museum

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The Chena Hot Springs Resorts is also home to the world’s largest ice sculpture museum, which operates year round. All of the sculptures were created using 1000 tons of ice and snow, collected from the area around the resort. The interior of the museum stays at a constant 25 degrees thanks to the absorption chiller.

Steve and Heater Brice, both renowned worldwide ice-carving champions, created all of the beautiful sculptures featured in the Aurora Ice Museum. There are a wide variety of different pieces that are sure to fill you with wonder, including a two-story observation deck, jousters on horse back, and even an ice outhouse. The museum is built with color changing ice crystal chandeliers, which are meant to mimic the colors of the Aurora Borealis.

One of the most popular attractions of the Aurora Ice Museum is the full ice bar, which is famous for their appletini. These delicious cocktails are served in an ice carved martini glass, keeping the beverage at the optimal temperature for you to enjoy.

Ice Sculpting Class

If you’re impressed by the beautiful ice sculptures in the Aurora Ice Museum, Chena Hot Springs Resort offers an ice sculpting class that allows you to create your own. Every class is taught by the world-renowned ice carvers Steve and Heather Brice, and is offered at hourly or daily rates. They also have an all-inclusive ice sculpting class with 3 to 5 days and nights of intensive customized sculpting instruction. Visitors who take these courses will be able to create their own ice sculpture, which will be displayed in the ice museum for all to see.

Flightseeing Tour

Flightseeing tours allow visitors to take to the sky to get a different perspective of the Interior Alaskan area. Flightseeing tours are given by trained pilots, and can be arranged for parties with a minimum of 4 guests. There are two flightseeing tours provided by the Chena Hot Spring Resort: Arctic Circle/Beaver Village or Angel Rock/Autumn Colors. The former takes your on a 4 hour tour of the greater Alaska area, while the latter tour is a 30 minute overview of the surrounding Chena area.  

Sled Dog Kennel

Sled Dog Kennel

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The Sled Dog Kennel Tour takes you into the kennel where over 100 Alaskan-bred dogs are training to become the world’s best sled dogs. The tour allows you to get a closer look at how these dogs are trained and gives you a great opportunity to ask any questions you may have about sled dogs.

During the summer months, the Sled Dog Kennel offers dog-drawn cart rides for up to six passengers at a time. When it’s wintertime, the kennel will allow guests to book dog sled rides for up to two or four adults. There is also a two-hour dog mushing school, which will teach you all you need to know about operating a sled with a team of 5-6 sled dogs.

Aurora Viewing

Aurora Viewing
Aurora borealis over Chena Hot Springs Resort 56 miles north east of Fairbanks Alaska, February 8th, 2007.

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Chena Hot Springs Resort is one of the best places to view the Aurora Borealis, also known at the Northern Lights. The Aurora Borealis occurs when plasma particles from the sun crash into the Earth’s atmosphere, creating a reaction that causes the particles to glow. The bright colors of the Aurora Borealis can reach across the sky well over sixty miles.

There are a few places in the Chena Hot Springs Resort that give you ample opportunities to experience the Aurora Borealis. The Activity Center is open 24 hours a day and offers food and coffee drinks up until midnight. The Aurorium is a heated log cabin with a large window that faces northeast for optimal aurora viewing.

There are also other aurora-viewing options for those who don’t want to miss out on peak aurora time. The snow coach aurora viewing tour brings visitors up to the top of the ridge for the best view of the Aurora Borealis. There is also an option for a special aurora wake-up call, which typically gets sent out between 10PM-3AM depending on when the lights appear.

Geothermal Renewable Energy Tours

Chena Hot Springs Resort strives to protect the environment by running a “green” resort and produces all of their energy from a renewable source. The 400-kW geothermal power plant is designed to work using geothermal fluids much cooler than a typical power plant. The plant is kept cool via water, which is pulled from a nearby cooling pond. This plant powers the entire Chena Hot Springs Resort.

The resort partners with a variety of energy scientists to continue their research in renewable energy. For those interested in the current energy projects underway, the Chena Hot Springs Resort offers tours of their geothermal renewable energy facilities. The tour runs every day at 2 PM and 4 PM and is free to all guests.

Seasonal Activities

While you can visit the Chena Hot Springs Resort year-round, there are specific activities that are only available during the summer or winter months.

During the summer, Chena Hot Springs Resort offers a variety of outdoor tours, fishing, and horseback riding. During the summer, visitors can climb the Angel Rocks Trail, a 3.5-mile loop that brings you up to 1750 feet at its highest point. Chena Hot Springs Resort also has a variety of equipment rentals including canoes, bikes, and ATVs.

The winter activities in the Chena Hot Springs Resort include many of the most popular resort features. The colder months are the optimal time for aurora viewing and also allow visitors to experience an authentic dog sled ride. For those enthusiastic about getting out into the snow, Chena Hot Springs Resort has cold weather gear available for rent 24 hours a day, including cross-country skis and snowshoes.

How To Get To Chena Hot Springs

The Chena Hot Springs Resort is located on Chena Hot Springs Road at milepost 56.5, which is about 60 miles from downtown Fairbanks. There is a shuttle that operates for those who are staying at the resort, which operates daily. Visitors that want to utilize the shuttle should book transportation at least 72 hours before your stay.

Is Chena Hot Springs Worth Seeing?

Is Chena Hot Springs Worth Seeing

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If you’re looking to get a full slice of life out in Alaska, the Chena Hot Springs is a great destination. Even if you go for the hot springs alone, there are plenty of other fun and exciting things to do that make the visit more than worth the travel time. Take a look at the beautiful ice sculpture museum, or snuggle up at night with your loved ones to get a glimpse at the fantastic colors of the Aurora Borealis. No matter what you go for, there’s always something exciting to do at the Chena Hot Springs Resort.