Before it spills into downtown Fairbanks, the Chena River flows through a wild landscape 30 miles west of town.

The Chena River State Recreation Area encompasses 397 square miles and is a popular destination near Fairbanks for hunting, fishing and playing outside.

The recreation area is accessible along Chena Hot Springs Road between mileposts 26 and 56. The recreation area borders Chena Hot Springs Resort (located where the road ends at 56 mile), so any activity in the recreation area can easily be complemented with a float in the hot water.

All milepost markers below refer to Chena Hot Springs Road. Chena Hot Springs Road is accessible from the Steese Highway.

Popular trips

Chena River: Chena Hot Springs Road crosses or approaches the Chena River a half-dozen times in the recreation area, allowing for ample boating opportunities. It’s Class I water under most water conditions, but watch out for sweepers, branches or trees that stick out into the channel and can easily capsize boats.

The Chena River water is very cold even during the hottest months. The river is a great place to catch arctic grayling, but the fishery is catch-and-release only. Several lakes along Chena Hot Springs Road are stocked with fish, including rainbow trout and chinook salmon.

Fish caught in stocked ponds can be kept, but be sure to get an Alaska fishing license and research bag limits and rules.

Hiking: The two most popular trailheads are Granite Tors and Angel Rocks, accessible at mileposts 39.5 and 48.9, respectively.

A $5 day-use fee is required at both trailheads.

Off-road vehicles: Popular trails for four-wheelers include the Compeau Trail at mile 29.9, the Angel Creek Hillside Trail at mile 50.5 (the Lower Chena Dome trailhead), and the Stiles Creek Trail at mileposts 31.6 and 36.4.

Information is available online at dnr.alaska.gov/parks/units/chena or by calling the northern region office of Alaska State Parks at 907-451-2695.