Trip report: Bear Paw Butte

Tuli the dog towers over the landscape on a recent trip to Bear Paw Butte near Chena Hot Springs Resort. 

Outdoors Editor’s note: Trip Report is an ongoing series about trail conditions around Interior Alaska.

Amy Scott submitted this trip report about hiking Bear Paw Butte at Chena Hot Springs Resort

Party: Amy Scott (me) and dog Tuli.

Destination: Bear Paw Butte at Chena Hot Springs Resort.

Directions: Drive to the end of Chena Hot Springs Road and follow the maintained paths behind the rock pool and across Monument Creek. I heard that the front desk provides a trail map, but I found that — although signage is scarce — this trail is obvious and straightforward. 

Trip date: May 5.

Trail or route conditions, wildlife sightings and highlights: A sunny sky on Cinco de Mayo  enticed me to drive the 56 miles to Chena Hot Springs Resort for a tramp through the trees in search of Bear Paw Butte, long on my list on hills to climb around Fairbanks.

Adding a layer to shield the chill of a brisk wind in the resort parking lot and opting to strap the Yak Trax to my pack before leaving the car, I followed my leashed pup southeast, past the rock pool and up towards the auroratorium veering left at the ‘Y’ onto the Ridge Trail (marked with a red homemade sign that is obscured by an overgrown tree on the right-hand side of the trail). The lower portion of the trail was snot slick with mud as it climbed to the first northern vista, a great place to catch my breath and snap a few photos. About halfway up the path the sky became heavy with clouds that dropped a light flurry, yet hardy mosquitoes persisted in accompanying our walk. The continued ascent revealed a meld of hard packed and sun rotted snow that extended to the top (though the Yak Trax went unused) at 2,465 feet, where a rock outcropping surrounded by dry ground provided a masterful scope of the Monument Creek Valley and a resting place.

An obvious clearing climbs another few feet in the direction of the Hillside Cut Off Trail before dropping off to connect with the Angel Rocks to Chena Hot Springs Trail, giving the option of a loop. After walking 200 yards down the Hillside Cutoff, I decided I’d rather return the way I came. Although no wildlife sign was spotted and no other hikers were encountered, there were plenty of new and old boot tracks proving the popularity of this hike. As I finished the 5.1 mile trip, I asked myself why I’ve waited eight years to indulge in this truly rewarding Interior trek.