Chena River SRA Trail Maps
Trails offer passage to adventure
Getting away from it all is easy in Chena River State Recreation Area.
Well-marked and maintained trails lead into alpine country and offer strikingly
different hiking experiences. Feeder trails that lead off the developed
trails allow hikers to find the perfect place with unobstructed views
and wilderness solitude. "The proximity of the recreation area to Fairbanks
makes it feasible for day hikes and extended journeys alike," says Craig
McKinnon, a Canadian who finds the views "rival those of any other park."
Among the most popular jaunts is a hike along the Angel Rocks Trail. Hiking this trail can take a couple of hours or can become a leisurely day trip. "You can get beautiful views of the valley in a very short hike. It's great for families," explains Brooks Ludwig, Northern Area Superintendent for Alaska State Parks. The Angel Rocks Trail begins at a pleasant riverside picnic area at milepost 48.9 Chena Hot Springs Road. The 3.5 mile round trip leads hikers through dense evergreen forests up to the sheer rock faces of the Angel Rocks. The trail extends 8.3 miles to include a route along ridgelines that creates a second trailhead at Chena Hot Springs Resort, just past mile 56 on Chena Hot Springs Road.
The Stiles Creek trail, a year-round ridge trail, provides opportunities for multiple use when it comes to choosing your mode of travel -- mountain bikes, all-terrain-vehicles, horses or hiking. The Chena Dome Trail, the longest in the recreation area, offers quick passage to hiking above timberline. It begins with lush spruce forests at low elevations and rapidly rises into stunning alpine tundra. The 29-mile trip circles the entire Angel Creek drainage area. The trail starts at mile 50.5 and ends at mile 49 Chena Hot Springs Road. The full hike takes three days, often more, but scenic day hikes can be taken from either trailhead. "If you can get above the timberline and hike across the tundra, there are many magnificent views," says Rex Blazer, a longtime northern Alaskan environmentalist.
One of the most awe-inspiring hikes is the 15-mile loop of the Granite Tors Trail. From the trailhead at mile 39 Chena Hot Springs Road, the route rises from boggy lowlands to eventually leave the forest behind for the Plain of Monuments. Here, towering rock outcroppings up to 100 feet high, known as the Granite Tors, dominate a broad stretch of alpine tundra.
Tors Intrigue Hikers
The Granite Tors in Chena River State Recreation Area are a popular destination
for both local and visiting climbers. The trail to the tors begins at
the Tors Trail Campground, mile 39.5 Chena Hot Springs Road. The trail
is a 15-mile loop, with the west trail offering a shorter but steeper
route to the tors. The tors were formed 70 million to 90 million years
ago when molten rock pushed upward and cooled before reaching the surface.
The granite formations were exposed by the erosion of the surrounding
earth which revealed the towering spires we see today.
People visiting the Tors in the early spring may find pasque flowers, or crocus, growing in the warm areas. In June and July, visitors will see the face of Munson Ridge covered with a variety of wildflowers - poppies, anemones, and the yellow blossoms of the thorough wax plant. Look for the arctic harebells towards late summer.
Weather conditions on the tors can change quickly. Follow these guidelines to make your day at the tors safe and enjoyable: Wear suitable footwear and carry warm clothes and rain gear. Bring insect repellent or netting to ward off persistent pests. Because water sources are not reliable in dry weather, you should bring at least one day's supply of water. Be cautious and alert for the presence in your area of bears. Finally, always let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.
When hiking in the park, the Alaska State Parks rangers emphasize:
Water sources may not be safe to drink and are not reliable in dry weather. Carry plenty of water and purify water collected along the way.
Portions of the trails are steep and rocky; wear suitable footgear.
Carry insect repellent to ward off mosquitoes and gnats.
Do not attempt rock climbs without proper training and equipment.
The weather is unpredictable; carry warm clothing and rain gear.
Always let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.
Weeklong expeditions or two-hour day hikes
Angel Rocks Trail
Length: 3.5 miles round trip
Hiking Time: 2 to 3 hours
High Point: 1,750 feet
Angel Rock Trail Handout
The Angel Rocks Trail leads to large granite outcroppings near the north boundary of the recreation area. It provides an easy day hike for most people, as the top of the rocks is less than two miles from the trailhead. The trailhead is located at milepost 48.9 Chena Hot Springs Road. Turn right just before the bridge and follow the trail from the parking lot upstream along the north fork of the Chena River. When you reach a fork in the trail, turn right. You will come to a small stream at about mile 1.25. The trail soon ascends sharply, leading to the first rocks. It then begins a moderately steep ascent, weaving through many granite rocks before emerging onto the upper rock ridge.
At this point you have three choices: 1) return to the same trail; 2) continue down the steep trail through the rocks on the north ridge and down to the base of the hill--look for the hiker sign and follow along the small slough to the fork mentioned above. Back to the trailhead; 3) continue on the Angel Rocks to Chena Hot Springs Trail, another 6.1 miles to an altitude of 2,800 feet for panoramic views of the Alaska Range, Chena Dome, Far Mountain, and the Butte. The granite outcrops (tors) were formed millions of years ago when molten rock pushed upward and cooled before reaching the earth's surface. The surrounding earth has slowly eroded, exposing the harder rock pinnacles.
Angel Rocks to Chena Hot Springs Trail
Length: 8.3 miles round trip
Hiking Time: 5 to 8 hours
High Point: 2,800 feet
Angel Rocks to Chena Hot Springs Trail Handout
This trail departs from the Angel Rocks Trail described above and will take you to Chena Hot Springs Resort. Follow the Angel Rocks Trail to the signed junction between miles 1.7 and 2.2. The trail follows the ridge through small birch and alder to the upper rock outcrop, then continues upward through sub-alpine spruce until it reaches the tundra. The trail follows the ridgeline, with views of the Alaska Range, the tors, Chena Dome, and Far Mountain. Use the rock cairns to stay on track. The trail descends, dropping below treeline and passing through two saddles before leading to a third saddle where a shelter cabin is located (mile 5.0). The trail continues through spruce forest to a rock outcrop with a nice view of the surrounding hills. At mile 5.4 there may be a small spring.
At mile 6.1, you can choose between an upper and lower trail to the hot springs. The upper trail begins at mile 6.7 with on 0.5-mile detour leading to the summit of Bear Paw Butte. The trail follows the ridge before descending to Chena Hot Springs Resort. At mile 8.5, you reach the junction with the lower trail to Chena Hot Springs. The last 0.2 miles follows a wide, road-like trail. To take the lower route, continue on the main trail from mile 6.1. At mile 7.5, you'll encounter the junction with the intermediate ski loop. Take the upper trail to the left as the trail to the right is very wet. At mile 8.1, the trail reaches the junction with the upper trail to Chena Hot Springs.
Chena Dome Trail
Length: 30 miles round trip
Hiking Time: Three days
High Point: 4,421 feet
Chena Dome Trail Handout
Circling the entire Angel Creek drainage area, each end of the Chena Dome Trail cuts through forests for three miles up to timberline. Park rangers recommend beginning at the Upper Trailhead at milepost 50.5 if you plan to hike the entire loop which ends at milepost 49. The trail is open to mountain bikes and horses but closed to motorized vehicles. The trail begins by the bulletin board at milepost 50.5 and then winds uphill to a scenic overlook of Angel Creek just past mile 1. You reach the treeline at mile 3, where a rock outcrop on top of the ridge provides panoramic views. From here, the trail is marked by rock cairns as it continues upward to a ridge top at mile 4.75, with an elevation of 3,700 feet. For the next several miles, the trail drops and climbs. When you reach mile 8.5, stop and have a good look but don't disturb any artifacts. This is the site of a military airplane crash that occurred in the 1950s. Also, you may find a small spring on the left slope.
Mile 10.5 is the summit of Chena Dome and the highest point on the trail. As the trail descends, you will wind your way through saddles and around small rock knobs. Snowbanks or small pools of water may be available between miles 10 and 18, and you may find a small spring at mile 14.5. At mile 22.5, there is a 1.5 mile connecting trail that leads to the Angel Creek Cabin and the Angel Creek Valley Trail. If you plan to continue on the Chena Dome Trail, stop for a rest at the granite outcrop. You'll have a view of the Tors at the final summit (elevation 3,400 feet), then you begin the final descent through a saddle and along the ridgeline. Look for a small knob directly to the southeast and watch for the rock cairns. Continue to the old burn area where the trail begins switchbacks and then to the fork at mile 28. The straight fork ends in a few yards at a small water fountain near the creek bed. The left fork switchbacks downhill. The trail will cross a small stream several times before following the banks of the Chena River to lower Chena Dome Trailhead at milepost 49 of Chena Hot Springs Road.
Length: 18 miles to cabin
Hiking Time: 10 hours
High Point: 2,150 feet
Compeau Trail Handout
The Compeau Trail begins at mile 29.9 Chena Hot Springs Road on the left (North) side. The multi-use trail provides good summer access to the Colorado Creek Public Use Cabin. Follow the blue/black trail markers for 18 miles to reach the cabin. The first 10 miles of trail follows an easy contour route with grades 10% or less. At mile 10, the trail intersects the Little Chena Dozer Line. The trail to the cabin follows the dozer line for 5 miles along the ridge then turns south following an old 1950's dozer line for one mile before making the last 2.5 mile descent to the cabin on an easy contour trail. In winter, the Colorado Trail can be accessed from the Compeau trail.
Granite Tors Trail
Length: 15 miles round trip
Hiking Time: 6 to 10 hours
High Point: 3,300 feet
Granite Tors Trail Handout
This loop trail provides easy access to alpine tundra and the tors--towering granite rock formations. The trail begins at the Tors Trail Campground parking area, near mile 39 Chena Hot Springs Road. Follow the gravel path past the bulletin board to a walkway on the bridge, carefully cross the road, and follow the levee along the river. You'll find another bulletin board with trail information and a registration box. The trail forks at the end of the levee, forming the East and West Trails. Rangers recommend taking the East Trail (left) and hiking the loop in a clockwise direction, as described here. The East Trail follows the river, with boardwalks through black spruce and boggy areas, then crosses Rock Creek and follows the creek upstream through a narrow band of white spruce. The trail climbs gradually through stands of birch and aspen, then ascends along a ridge through black spruce forests with occasional views of the Chena River valley. Look for blueberries in July and August.
Between miles 5 and 6, a half mile spur trail leads to two small groups of tors. There may be water on the spur trail and at a spring near mile 6. From here on, the main trail is marked by rock cairns. As you cross the face of Munson Ridge, look for wildflowers during June and July. You may see hoary marmots in the alpine meadows and on the Plain of Monuments. Between miles 7 and 9, the East Trail ends and a less-developed trail, marked by wooden tripods and cairns, continues through wet areas where views of the Alaska Range are excellent. Rain clouds and fog can hamper visibility and make it difficult to find the tripods that mark the trail. The West Trail begins near mile 9, winding through a forested saddle and emerging on a barren ridgetop. It then drops to the last group of tors, the Lizard's Eye. The final five miles of the trail encompass the descent from the Lizard's Eye to a boardwalk on the upper part of Rock Creek. You will arrive at the junction of East and West Trails where you can follow the levee to the bridge and return to the trailhead.
Stiles Creek Trail
Length: 16 miles
Hiking Time: 6 to 10 hours
High Point: 1,900 feet
Stiles Creek Trail begins at mile 31.6 Chena Hot Springs Road and ascends gently to a ridge line paralleling the road, with pleasant valley views at several spots. The trail is open to off-road vehicles. The trail inclines slightly and intersects with the Winter Trail. At the fork at mile marker 1, turn right to continue on the Stiles Creek Trail marked with red diamonds. To the left is the Colorado Creek Trail, marked with blue diamonds. You will climb approximately one-half mile. At the top of the hill, bear right to continue on the trail. To the left is an overlook of Colorado Creek. The trail levels out and then climbs gently to a hilltop view of Chena Dome. The next five miles of the trail consist of a series of small ridges and saddles. Mile marker 7 provides a flat, open area with a great view of the Chena Dome Trail. At mile 7.5 there is a trail on the left which leads to the rock tors. The trail travels to the bottom of the ridge, then up to the tors.
Beginning at mile 7.7, the trail follows a very steep slope to the Stiles Creek Cabin. At mile 7.9, turn right to the cabin or continue straight if you wish to bypass it. The use of Stiles Creek Cabin is by reservation only. From mile 7.9 to 9.1, the trail is fairly flat with a gentle uphill rise. Mile 9.1 provides an overlook with an excellent view of the Chena Dome Trail. At mile 9.1, the trail begins a 3.5 mile trek over a series of ridges and saddles. At mile 12.8, there is a scenic overlook. This area is a pleasant place to camp overnight. From there, the trail continues downhill and flattens out. It intersects again with the Winter Trail which is marked with orange diamonds. Take a left turn to reach the trailhead at the 36.5 mile shooting range on Chena Hot Springs Road, or turn right to go back to the Colorado Creek Trailhead.