Angel Rocks Hike (Fairbanks, AK)
You can’t go to Alaska without hiking at least a few times. Lucky for us, just outside of Fairbanks is an area called Chena River State Recreation Area. If being outdoors is on your agenda, Chena River delivers. In the summer, there’s rock climbing, hiking, canoeing/kayaking, camping, and fishing. In the winter, there’s snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and dog sledding.
On the suggestion of our CouchSurfing hosts, we opted for the Angel Rocks Hike, a fairly short, but steep hike about an hour drive from Fairbanks.
Nearest City/Town: Fairbanks, AK
Length: 3.5 miles
Elevation: 900 ft
Time: 1.5-2 hours
Angel Rocks Hike
The Angel Rocks loop starts from a small picnic and parking area. You’ll find yourself first winding through a dense evergreen forest along a well-maintained path that skirts next to a branch of the Chena River. A little over a half-mile out, you can choose to go straight or turn right over a small wooden foot bridge.
We turned right at this point. Another half-mile or so out, the elevation gain really began. The thing about this hike is that nearly all of the elevation gain takes place in a rather short section of the trail, making for a steep and intense climb at that point.
After that, the hike becomes a more gradual ascent to the granite outcroppings and eventually to the ridge top where you’ll find incredible views of the Alaska Range, Chena Dome, Far Mountain, and the Butte. You can climb on the granite outcroppings, but climbing gear would be a smart move. We didn’t go up very far because falling off a rock face wasn’t high on our agenda.
To get back down, you can either go back the way you started or wind down along the north ridge, which is a more gradual descent. Getting from the ridge top to the path back down isn’t extremely well-marked with lots of spur trails leading to different points on the ridge. You’ll need to pay attention for the yellow blazes, though you won’t really get lost. You’ll just end up walking around until you find the real trail.
This hike is also the starting point for the 8.3-mile one-way hike all the way out to Chena Hot Springs. This is a much more difficult hike with another 1,100 feet of elevation gain.
Stop Bugging Me!
Another thing that you learn about Fairbanks…there are mosquitoes everywhere! Chena River is no different. We tried the natural bug spray, but it only works for about 2 minutes. If you are intent on keeping the mosquitoes and gnats (they bite, too!) away, you’re going to need some spray with DEET in it. Just take a shower afterwards.
There’s only one way in and one way out of Chena River State Recreation Area. Once you get on Chena Hot Springs Road, drive to mile post 48.9 and keep a lookout for a parking area for Angel Rocks on the right-hand side of the road.
There’s a $5 day pass required that can be purchased in the parking lot.
It was an overcast day and we even got a slight mist along the hike. The views of the river valley and rock outcroppings were still stunning.