Alaska tour news & travel advisory  

Hot Springs

Grab Your Suit And Come On In!

Alaska is known for its cold – both in frigid reality and chilling legend. 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, believe in the powers of the magic mineral waters, or want to find a hot spot for northern lights viewing, Alaska’s hot springs offer warm welcomes in special 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 awesome Alaska natural outdoor hot springs, as well as indoor hot tubs and swimming pool. These springs are world-renowned and a cool destination year-round. While everyone comes for the water, there are also plenty of other fun options and accommodations 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 located 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 are hot and so are the views – 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 a popular destination in which 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 springs that come 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 hot bed of hot springs, most of them 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, which is set in the tiny commercial fishing town of Tenakee near Hoonah, 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 are also near Sitka and have a cool cabin. And the Torcadero Soda Springs features uniquely carbonated springs in a uniquely remote place – near Craig, accessible only by plane/boat and a hike.

Two popular 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 there and trails galore for hiking and for 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, be sure to research accessibility and lodging options; many are very remote while others change ownership occasionally, if not often.

 

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