Chena Hot SpringsPosted: October 6, 2011
Our Chena Hot Springs trip include three highlights: Angel Rocks, the Ice Museum, and, of course, the natural hot springs. This area is a little over an hour outside of Fairbanks, AK, but it feels like you have complete left the city behind.
This trail offers a variety of options in terms of length. You can simply hike to the rocks, you can take the loop, or you can connect to a longer trail that will take you to the hot springs. With a full day of hot springs activities on the agenda, we decided to hike up to the rocks and back. This is about a 4 mile hike round trip. The trail starts out following along the north fork of the Chena River. The river is wide and you can hear it gurgling from the trail. The path is also wide and level. Eventually the trail beings a slow climb up towards Angel Rocks. Here the trail turns to loose rock. But the best part of the trial are the Angel Rock outcroppings. The rocks are a series of outcroppings that poke up along a low ridge line. The rocks are climbable and offer nice views out over the river valley and the mountains. We spent time climbing around on the rocks to get different views and to see how high we could get. Each rock outcropping offered different features, one had a cave with open holes up to the sky. It is like a rock jungle gym for adults. Very cool.
The Ice Museum
Our next stop was the “resort” at Chena Hot Springs, which is home to the Ice Museum and the natural springs. It is less resort and more camp than I imagined, but I liked both actives. I will admit I had pretty low expectations for the Ice Museum. The outside looks a little like an airplane hanger with ice blocks painted on trying to give the impression of an igloo. But the inside, wow. I had no idea you could do so many crazy things with ice. The build is kept at 20 degrees (we wore winter coats, hats, and gloves) but they still work hard to keep the “heat” out (it was around 40 degrees outside.) After being ushered through a double door entry way, we came to the work room. This is were the two ice sculptors create all the pieces in the museum. The tools looked a little like wood-working expect everything is covered in ice. The trash can was even made of ice. You then walk through a doorway in a floor to ceiling wall of ice. On the other side the museum really begins. There were ice sculptures, a tower, a fire place, a bar, a wedding alter, an igloo with a xylophone, and four bedrooms, all made of ice. At the bar they served martinis in ice glasses (you could keep the glass until it melted). They also allow people to sleep in the ice bedrooms at $600 a night (this includes a room in the lodge as well because most people don’t make it through the night.). After looking around, we sat at the bar on stools made of ice while our friends drank their martinis. It is definitely a unique experience. My favorite part was the knights sculpture. The detail was so small and specific. Wow.
The Hot Springs
Unfortunately, I don’t have pictures of this because we were wet and therefore didn’t bring a camera, but it was pretty, relaxing, and hot. This part of the resort has a normal heated pool, a normal hot tub, and the natural hot springs. The natural hot springs is surrounded by big boulders and the bottom is gravel. In the middle of the spring is a fountain/sprinkler that has cold water because it gets very warm. It was so interesting to have cold air and hot water. It was a little difficult to find a good temperature balance, but it was very relaxing and a great way to see the stars. The steam coming off the water adding to beauty. We didn’t see the northern lights as we had hoped, but I am excited to go back when there is snow and, fingers crossed, we will get to see the lights then.
Overall, this is a great little getaway!