Chena River State Recreation Area
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 a 254,080-acre preserve that encompasses the river's valley with its spruce and birch forests, marshes and the surrounding rolling hills and tundra uplands. A mere half-hour drive from Fairbanks, Chena River State Recreation Area is a popular destination with hikers, backpackers, canoers, anglers, rock climbers and seeking adventure a short distance from Alaska's second largest city.
The recreation area is home to a wide range of wildlife. 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 or “rock rabbits,” and rock ptarmigan. Other mammals include wolves, caribou, beavers and red foxes.
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. The clear-running Chena River is popular with paddlers who float it in canoes, kayaks and rafts and access it from several points within the recreation area (and four bridges that cross the river outside of the park) for a trip of almost any length.
In the winter cross-country skiing, ice fishing, snowmobiling, northern lights viewing and dog mushing are popular activities in Chena River State Recreation Area.