Fairbanks will have a few more happy campers by Dec. 1, with the opening of a brand new public use cabin on the Compeau Trail.
The Compeau Cabin, to which Alaska State Parks staff are currently adding finishing touches and furnishings, is located at mile 2 of the Compeau Trail.
“It’s kind of at a nice point there where you’re two miles up the hill, so it’s not a long hike to go up on top and hike up Twin Bears Mountain“ said State Parks Northern Region Superintendent Brooks Ludwig. “It’s part of the Recreational Trail grant program. If it’s along a trail, they’ll give you funding to build a cabin to give folks hiking options. And this is a multi-use trail.”
In the summer, the Compeau Trail can be used for ATVs, hiking, biking or horseback; in the winter, it can be used for snowmachines, skiing, snowshoeing and dog sledding. But, Ludwig said, State Parks deliberately placed the cabin at a location that can easily be reached at a gentle walk.
“People can hike there with their families fairly easily,” he said. “It’s the second switch-back on the east side going up the hill. It’s off the main trail a little ways, so people using the trail aren’t going to impact anyone using the cabin.”
The new cabin is 14 feet by 16 feet and can sleep up to six people, with two double and two single plywood platform bunks. Inside, the cabin features basic utilities like a wood stove — users must bring their own wood — a table and chairs, broom, ax, saw and shovel. Those looking to stay in the cabin are advised to bring sleeping bags, cookware and crockery, a water supply, and things like flashlights and first aid kits. Users are allowed to stay in the cabin for a maximum of five nights.
The cabin was funded through the Federal Recreational Trail Grant Program, which awarded Alaska State Parks $60,000 in the spring of this year.
“We then started working on it, I want to say, around September,” Ludwig said. “It was a four-person crew — so it was about two months, off and on, from start to finish.”
Ludwig sees the cabin getting use through the winter, noting that hiking from the cabin to the top of Twin Bears Mountain and back wouldn’t be a difficult route.
“That trail’s pretty wide. It’s a multiple use trail so it’s about 6-feet wide,” he said. “Snowmachines will be running on it all winter, so it’ll be pretty well packed.”
Ludwig said that it wouldn’t be difficult for a crew to add a trail in the future to create a full loop for hiking. And when summer comes around, Ludwig pointed out, “you have a lot of ATV options.”
One example of an ATV-ready route which is accessible from the Compeau Trial is what used to be called the Little Chena Dozer Line.
“We call it the Mike Kelly Trail now,” Ludwig said. “That runs from Two Rivers School to a point just inside the Chena Rec Area.”
The trail is 13.5 miles one way and offers views of the Chena River Valley, the Alaska Range and north towards the White Mountains. The Compeau Trail connects to the Mike Kelly Trail at mile 8.5.
Ludwig explained that the trail was named after Kelly, who was a Fairbanks-based State Representative, because he was “fundamental in getting funding for the Compeau Trail” and “instrumental in converting the former Little Chena Dozer to multi-use. According to information provided by State Parks Kelly secured “a $184,000 legislative Appropriation to build a year-round trail to the Colorado Creek Public Use Cabin.” Ludwig noted that another fun trip could be to make a route from the new Compeau Cabin to the Colorado Creek Cabin, which is 18 miles from the trailhead.
While this is the last cabin that State Parks will be constructing in 2019, next year will see a flurry of new cabins erected. The Folk School is partnering up with State Parks to build a new public use cabin at Nugget Creek.
“Next summer there’s two more slated,” Ludwig said. “Those are going to be built with a match from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The state gave us some money to build cabins, because they’re such great revenue generators.”
One will be constructed in the Stiles Creek Extension area; the other will be built at 48 Mile Pond, on the backside of the pond.
“You’ll be able to go fishing at the pond there. And then the backside connects to the winter trail, so you’ll be able to go out skiing,” Ludwig said.
In the interim, the Compeau Cabin will be open for users in the next few weeks.
The Compeau Trailhead can be found at mile 29.5 Chena Hot Springs Road. You can book the new cabin online here: bit.ly/2WX9qQ6. The Compeau Trail closes annually to all users except hikers between April 20 and the Thursday proceeding Memorial Day weekend. For more information and trail openings, contact the Northern Area office at (907) 451-2695.
Contact staff writer Alistair Gardiner at 459-7575. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMoutdoors.