The Fairbanks area offers hiking opportunities from in-town nature walks to long ambitious treks. Here is a sampling of popular hikes in order of length and difficulty.
Creamer’s Field trails
Located near downtown, the Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge is a former dairy farm that’s the place to go to see sandhill cranes, geese, ducks and other birds during the migratory season in May and August.
There are two short trails that showcase different habitats: the 1.6-mile Farm Road Trail and the 2-mile Boreal Forest Trail. There’s also a wheelchair loop. Along the trail are observation towers for getting a better view of the birds.
Access: The trails start behind the old barn, behind the Alaska Department of Fish and Game office at 1300 College Road.
University of Alaska Fairbanks trails
An extensive network of cross-country ski and hiking trails leads down from the West Ridge area of the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
The wide trails are good for hiking or biking and include some moderate hills. The trails also feature one of the two disc golf courses in Fairbanks. The other is at Birch Hill on the east side of Fairbanks, which is also a good place to walk.
In the summer, avoid trails marked “winter trail” such as the Estle Connecter. These are nice ski trails in the winter, but are extremely swampy in the summer.
Access: The main access point is the ski hut at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ West Ridge. Another common access point is at Ballaine Lake on Farmers Loop near the intersection of Ballaine Road.
Rock outcropping visible from the road jut out of the ridgeline near 49 mile Chena Hot Springs Road. These are the Angel Rocks, the destination of probably the most popular day hikes in the Fairbanks area.
The rocks are accessed by a 3.7 mile trail that follows the Chena River for about three-quarters of a mile before climbing steadily up. As with the other trails outside town, be prepared for bear encounters. More ambitious hikers can continue past the Angel Rocks on an 8.7 mile (one-way) trail that ends at the Chena Hot Springs Resort. This trail can be easy to lose, so bring a map or someone who knows the way.
Access: The trailhead is about an hour from downtown Fairbanks on the right of Chena Hot Springs Road at 49.5 mile. Bring $5 for the day use parking free for Alaska State Parks.
For a commanding view in the White Mountains National Recreation Area, climb up Wickersham Dome, a 6.5 mile round trip hike north of Fairbanks. The dome is named for James Wickersham, a founding father of Fairbanks who was the first federal judge here.
The trail leads straight up out of the parking lot, quickly taking hikers into alpine country, before dropping into a saddle and steadily climbing again toward the top of the dome, which is topped by communication towers and rock outcroppings. The trail proper continues past the dome for about 20 miles to Beaver Creek, but several social trails lead left to broad summit area. Hikers with more time can continue on the trail. Another destination beyond the summit is the trail shelter 8 miles from the trailhead.
Access: The trailhead is about an hour from downtown Fairbanks. Park at the Wickersham Dome trailhead on the right side of the Elliott Highway at 28 mile.
The rocky ridgeline that leads to the summit of Mount Prindle dwarf those the Angel Rocks and Granite Tors. It’s an impressive sight but it takes wet feet and a bit of route finding to get there. Bring a map. There are social trails along the route, but no well-established trail or signage. It’s also a long day hike.
The hike is about 19 miles round trip to and from the summit. Turning around at a false summit cuts out about two miles and a steep downhill and uphill.
From the Mount Prindle campground, hikers immediately cross the icy cold Nome Creek twice before slowly making their way up the Nome Creek Valley. It’s a good idea to bring a pair of saddles or old running shoes for the first six miles or so along often-flooded social trails. Bring boots or sturdy trail runners for rock hopping along the ridgeline later in the hike. At the top of the valley, hikers gain the ridge and follow it over broad alpine passes, lichen covered boulders and past massive rock outcroppings. Look out for Dall sheep, they’re often spotted in this area.
Access: Like the previous hike, Mount Prindle is in the White Mountains National Recreation Area, but this hike accesses the area from a different side. The trailhead is about 1 1/2 hours from Fairbanks. Turn left at U.S. Creek Road at 57.1 mile of the Steese Highway. At the “T” intersection, follow the signs right to the Mount Prindle campground. The route begins by crossing Nome Creek on the northeast side of the campground.
For more information about these and other Interior trails, check out Kyle Joly’s guidebook “Outside in the Interior,” which features information on more than 50 hikes, bikes, skis and floats.