Alaska is known for its cold temperatures, but one of Alaska’s hottest travel tips is that the state is dotted by hot springs. Whether you are interested in soaking your travel-weary bones, believing in the powers of the magic mineral waters, or looking for a hot spot for northern lights viewing, Alaska’s hot springs offer warm welcomes in unique settings.
Chena Hot Springs is Alaska’s most popular and accessible hot springs. Just a scenic 90-minute drive from Fairbanks, Chena Hot Springs taps its steamy mineral spring area to heat the incredible Alaska natural outdoor hot springs, indoor hot tubs, and a swimming pool. These springs are world-renowned and a fantastic destination year-round. While everyone comes for the water, plenty of other fun options and accommodations are available. Take a tour of the incredible Ice Museum, use a bicycle rental to explore the Chena area, enjoy a dog kennel tour, melt with a massage, or even go flightseeing. Weather and darkness permitting, you may even have opportunities to see the aurora borealis (northern lights) from the resort in the evening. Aurora wake-up calls can be arranged with the front desk staff.
A handful of other hot springs are deeper in Alaska’s wild Interior. Tolovana Hot Springs is 90 miles north of Fairbanks along the rolling hills of the Elliott Highway. From the Elliott, it’s 10 miles to the hot springs and its rental cabins; some travelers arrive via small plane while others hike in the summer or use cross-country skis or snowshoes in the winter. Travelers can also book snowmachine rides to and from the springs and cabins in the winter. The springs and the views are hot – mountain ranges all around and even an occasional Denali sighting.
Manley Hot Springs is set in an old mining town whose boom was long ago, 150 miles north of Fairbanks via the Elliott Highway/Manley Hot Springs Road. While the town is quiet now, its hot springs are still popular destinations where visitors can enjoy the soothing springs, just like the Gold Rush miners who used to relax after hard days of prospecting.
Circle Hot Springs is another spring with mining memories, resting 130 highway miles from Fairbanks. The lodge reflects the springs’ rustic vibe. At one time, this was a happening spot; however, before making the trip, do some research because the lodge has been closed for a while, and the springs may not be available for use.
Southeast Alaska is a hotbed of hot springs, accessible only by boat or plane. Your best-boiling bets include two springs in the amazing Tongass National Forest: the nearly-200-degree waters of Shelokum Hot Springs 90 miles north of Ketchikan and the White Sulphur Springs with its sweet U.S. Forest Service Cabin 65 miles northwest of Sitka. Near Shelokum is another popular spot, Bell Island Hot Springs, where Ketchikan residents go to soak.
Also in Alaska’s Southwest is Tenakee Springs, set in the tiny commercial fishing town of Tenakee near Hoonah, which has tons of history and hot water and is a stop along the Alaska Marine Highway. Goddard Hot Springs near Sitka is one of the first natural springs discovered in Alaska. The Baranof Warm Springs is also near Sitka and have a cool cabin. And the Trocadero Soda Springs features uniquely carbonated springs in a uniquely remote place – near Craig, accessible only by plane/boat and a hike.
Two famous hot springs are also bubbling in Western Alaska: Serpentine Hot Springs on the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve and Pilgrim Hot Springs near Nome. Serpentine has a mystical vibe, having been frequented by Alaska Native shamans and healers. Today, there’s a public-use cabin and trails galore for hiking and traveling by snowmachine, airplane, or more from nearby Shishmaref. Officially listed in the National Register of Historic Places, Pilgrim Hot Springs certainly also has lots of history and a bright future as the area around it is being developed for more visitors. The springs are a 70-mile drive or short charter flight from Nome.
Before visiting any Alaska hot springs, research accessibility and lodging options; many are very remote, while others change ownership occasionally, if not often.