Alaska is known for its majestic, unspoiled environments, so making time to soak at hot springs near Fairbanks is sure to be an incredible experience. Many geothermal pools in this part of the state require some hiking, trekking, or boating to reach.
During the winter, this can be more challenging or require different skills, like using snowmachines or snowshoes, making the springtime the best time for soaking. Before attempting to go on a backcountry adventure, be sure you have all the proper equipment and consult a local expert or guide with any questions.
Here are the hot springs nearest to Fairbanks in order of proximity:
Chena Hot Springs Resort – 61 mi | 1.5 hours
Chena Hot Springs Resort is a 440-acre, year-round destination for visitors that want to indulge in outdoor activities, especially geothermal water soaks. This commercial property allows visitors to come for the day or stay overnight, offering an array of activities like northern lights viewing, visiting their ice museum, dog sled tours, hiking, biking, ATV tours, horseback riding, and even gold panning.
The biggest draw to the resort is the hot healing waters, which first gained popularity in the early 20th century among gold-seekers who would visit them to soothe their aches and pains. These days, guests can indulge in soaking in the indoor or outdoor hot tubs, the outdoor hot springs lake, or the indoor swimming pool.
While the pool house has areas for visitors of all ages, the springs lake is reserved for ages 18 and up and is the only non-chlorinated, free-flowing pool on the property. The hot springs’ water averages 106℉, while the indoor pool hovers around 90℉ all year.
Using the pools and tubs, especially the outdoors ones, are very popular in the evenings during the northern light season (August to April).
After a long day of relaxation and recreation, visitors can dine at the resort’s on-site restaurant or book accommodations to stay for the night. Lodging options include standard rooms, suites, family suites, cabins, and yurts. There are also seasonal campsites for tents and RVs from May 15 – September 15.
Tolovana Hot Springs – 100 miles (45 air miles)
Adventure seekers looking for an authentic Alaskan wilderness experience should consider a trip to Tolovana Hot Springs. These remote springs are only reachable by trail or plane, and it’s recommended that people have some backcountry familiarity when making the trek out there. Since Tolovana Hot Springs is not accessible by road, no emergency services or on-site assistance are available, and preparation is critical.
There are three free-flowing outdoor hot tubs with their own decks set about 200 feet apart. Baths aren’t assigned to particular cabins, but the Upper Tub is the one designed for day use. Using soaps in the water is forbidden to maintain the integrity of the water, which also has no sulfur odor. Temperatures can be adjusted using the valves at the tubs, and clothing is optional.
The primary way to access the springs is by the 10-mile year-round trail or two longer winter-only trails ideal for dog mushing, skiing, or snow machining. Visitors planning to spend the night in the area can book one of the three fully-fitted rustic cabins, which typically require reservations months in advance due to popularity.
Staying out in the wilderness is an unforgettable way to enjoy the Alaskan scenery, soak under the stars, and even do some birdwatching. Keep in mind that larger wildlife animals also live in the area.
Kanuti Hot Springs – 119 mi (to mi:103 of Dalton Hwy)
Located 15 miles north of the Arctic Circle and 12 miles west of Mile 103 on Dalton Highway, Kanuti Hot Springs has two geothermal pools that are excellent for soaking while taking in that wild Alaskan environment. The best way to find the springs is by using a topographical map and hiking through the interior land or using a boat on the Kanuti River for about 14 miles down the water.
Spring through early fall is the ideal time to visit since frigid temperatures and snow could be debilitating for outdoor travel.
The temperatures range from 110-151℉, so it’s wise to stick to the areas closer to the cold water flow. Hikers must be aware of their surroundings as this area is located deep in the Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge, where large animals call home. The wildlife refuge has plenty of space to backcountry camp as long as you pack all your supplies and necessary gear.
Kilo Hot Springs – 121 miles approx (as the crow flies)
Kilo Hot Springs is an incredibly rural area set along the Kanuti Kilolitna River and is only accessible by plane or a long hiking and boating excursion. The nearest road is 40 miles away and is one of Alaska’s most strenuous but popular wilderness adventures. Plane arrivals can’t get closer than five miles from the water, so taking that route also involves some trekking.
You’ll know you reached your destination upon arriving at the soaking pools just north of the Ray Mountains. The entire length of the hot springs is 211 feet long and sits at an elevation of 1,604 feet. Average temperatures of the water range between 122-125℉ and are great for relaxing those sore legs after hiking to get there.
Camping is allowed within 100 feet of the shoreline, but since this area is primitive, there are no amenities or facilities. Anyone who attempts this adventure should be prepared with all the right supplies, as most people will have to stop for at least one or two nights on this trip.
Hutlinana Hot Spring – 150 miles | 3.5 hours
Getting to Hutlinana Hot Spring is not for the faint of heart or casual hiker, but the arduous journey to this fantastic soaking pool is worth the hassle. A lot of gear and focus is needed to make the 7-mile trek to these geothermal waters, but the genuine Alaskan wilderness experience is an unforgettable one.
To reach the hot spring, hikers must start their journey at mile 128 on the Elliott Highway. The trail is open all year long, and some would argue that the best time to visit is during the winter when the water is a cozy 106℉. If you’re lucky enough to find this hidden natural gem, you’ll discover a stone wall that separates the hot water pool from the chilly river, which never melts due to its proximity to the spring.
Snow camping and camping spots are available on the trail, but the primitive location means that there aren’t any amenities. It’s imperative to bring all the necessary supplies for a successful trip and to be aware of wildlife and trapping equipment if you bring a dog.
Manley Hot Springs – 156 miles | 4.5 hours
Manley Hot Springs is located at the end of Elliott Highway, where a small village, historic lodge, and farming community reside. The hot springs are one of the town’s focal points, and visitors can soak in one of the three naturally-fed cement tubs inside a greenhouse for a small fee. Being able to bathe amongst various plant life in a sheltered structure is a rarity and a great unique opportunity.
Travelers that want to spend the night in the Manley Hot Springs area can book a stay at the Manley Roadhouse and Lodge, which offers standard rooms, luxury suites, and cabins in the forest. The hotel also has on-site dining, a fully stocked bar, a pool table, and occasional live entertainment.
Even though many of the closest hot springs by Fairbanks are a bit of a challenge to reach, they are unforgettable. Since much of the modern world is developed, being able to experience hot springs in the wilderness is a treasure for those that make the journey. If you find yourself around during winter, consider the ski resorts near Fairbanks.
Heading elsewhere in The Last Frontier? Consider some of Alaska’s other hot springs for your itinerary.