It only seems natural that taking a walk through a boreal forest with a guide and some reindeer would be one of the more popular attractions in the Fairbanks area.
After all, reindeer and Alaska have been synonymous for centuries, and Running Reindeer Ranch is heading into its 10th season of providing nature walks in the beautiful Goldstream Valley, northwest of the Golden Heart City.
The tour gives visitors the opportunity to mingle with these mostly docile animals that are the domestic version of the wild caribou.
The ranch is located in the Goldstream Valley about 12 miles from downtown Fairbanks. The reindeer are the stars of the 2½-hour tour on the property owned by tour guide Jane Atkinson and her husband, Doug Toelle.
According to the website, most tours this summer will start at 10 a.m., and all tours must be booked and paid for online. For more information or to book a tour, go to www.runningreindeer.com
Tours will be smaller in the number of people participating, and a few more rules will be in effect due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
All participants must follow Alaska travel mandates and respect 6 feet of personal space. Masks must be worn at all times. Use of hand sanitizer will be required when arriving, after signing the liability waiver, and when entering and exiting the reindeer pen.
You will not be allowed to join the tour if you show signs of illness.
Private tours can be arranged for a household unit of more than 10 people.
The cost of the tour ranges from $70 for adults to $45 for children ages 3 to 11. It is recommended that children be at least school-age to participate.
The first reindeer arrived at the ranch in 2007 as a compromise for Atkinson’s daughter, Robin Spielman, who really wanted a horse. The business started by accident after walks with the reindeer became popular with friends and family.
Atkinson knew little about the reindeer before the first one arrived at the ranch but has since become knowledgeable about the history and behavior of the animals. She said most of the questions she gets are about the difference between reindeer and caribou as well as questions about the animals’ antlers.
The summer tour begins with an introduction safety talk, followed by a walk through the woods on the property and concludes with another talk about the natural history of the area and reindeer. A question-and-answer period and cookies for tour participants wrap up the day’s activities
The ranch has grown larger through the years with the acquisition of neighboring property enabling the proprietors to offer a variety of trail options for the animals and tour participants to walk on.
The operation has grown to include a bed and breakfast, reindeer yoga, ranch tours and weddings. Information on all of these activities is available on the website.