This seven-day tour highlights the best of Fairbanks festivals and winter events, combined with the adventures of dog mushing, a small plane flight, and unrivaled northern lights viewing above the Arctic Circle.
Day 1 Fairbanks
Winter is a busy season in Fairbanks, thanks to its combination of easy air access, winter festivals, and opportunities to see the northern lights. Stroll through the ice sculpture park at the World Ice Art Championships, which attracts sculptors from around the world from late February through March. When you settle in to a cozy log cabin B&B or rustic lodge for the night, let the staff know you’d like a wake-up call if the northern lights are visible.
Day 2 Chena Hot Springs
Rent a winter-ready car in Fairbanks and enjoy a scenic, 60-mile drive through Chena River State Recreation Area to overnight at Chena Hot Springs. The nearby lodge offers many day tours, including dog sled rides, snowmobiling tours (or as it’s called in Alaska, snowmachining) and “snow coach” rides, along with a spectacular, year-round ice museum carved by two of the world’s best ice artists. Soak off the chill in the outdoor geothermal hot springs pool, and keep your eyes on the sky for sightings of the northern lights.
Day 3 Fairbanks
Head back to Fairbanks to experience the area’s booming arts and culture scene at the Festival of Native Arts. This annual event, held at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in late February, features art and performances by representatives of Alaska Native cultures from across the state. The Museum of the North, also on campus, features both contemporary and classic Alaska art along with natural history artifacts in one of Alaska’s finest collections.
Day 4 Fairbanks to Coldfoot
Join a local tour operator for a three-day, two-night adventure above the Arctic Circle to the tiny work camp of Coldfoot. On the flight north, you’ll cross the Arctic Circle and Yukon River. Spend the night in Coldfoot.
Day 5 Coldfoot
Gear up and head out to enjoy the stunning winter landscape of the high Arctic on a guided dog mushing expedition. Keep an eye out for wildlife including arctic foxes, snowshoe hares and caribou, plus the northern lights shining in the expansive Arctic sky. Because Coldfoot is located near the center of the “aurora oval” and has many clear nights, you have great odds of seeing spectacular aurora displays overhead. Spend another night in Coldfoot.
Day 6 Coldfoot to Fairbanks
Return to Fairbanks via a chauffeured drive on the Dalton Highway, the northernmost highway in the United States. Along the way, you’ll see the famed Trans-Alaska Pipeline and cross the frozen Yukon River. As you cross the Arctic Circle on the way south, you’ll stop for a ceremonial photo opportunity. Spend the night in Fairbanks.
Day 7 Fairbanks
Round out your trip with the excitement of the Open North American Sled Dog Championships, dog-powered sprint races that take place in downtown Fairbanks in late March, or visit a local musher for a kennel tour. Local art galleries showcase the work of creative locals and Native artisans. Want to stretch your legs? Fairbanks boasts an extensive network of lighted, groomed Nordic ski trails.
Denali National Park and Preserve
From Fairbanks, drive a rental car to Denali National Park, just 120 miles to the south. Visit the winter park visitor center for wildlife viewing information and to borrow a set of snowshoes. The park offers ranger-led snowshoe walks most winter weekends, depending on weather. Arrange to spend the night in Healy, the closest community to the park, then drive back to Fairbanks the next day.