In addition to the new downtown visitors center, go to the State of Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources Public Information Center (3700 Airport Way, 907/451-2705, www.alaskastateparks.org, Mon.–Fri. 9 a.m.–5 p.m.) across the street from Fred Meyer on the west side of town. Stop in to get brochures on state parks and trails, reserve a state park cabin, or learn about mining claims and state land sales.
Midnight Sun Balloon Tours (907/456-3028, www.alaskaballoontours.com, $200 adults, $150 children) has one-hour flights over the Tanana Valley, with departures scheduled when wind conditions are mild.
Play a midnight round of summertime golf at Fairbanks Golf & Country Club (1735 Farmers Loop Rd., 907/479-6555), where 24-hour tee times are available on the nine-hole course in June and July! North Star Golf Club (330 Golf Club Dr., 907/457-4653, www.northstargolf.com), “America’s northernmost,” is the other local nine-hole club.
Hiking and Biking
For local trails, try Creamer’s Field and Chena River Wayside. Farther afield, find hiking and backpacking opportunities in the White Mountains and in the Pinnell Mountains.
Fairbanks has an excellent series of connecting walking or biking paths: from downtown along the river to Pioneer Park; from University Avenue and Airport Way out on Chena Pump Road; and a great up-and-down route on Farmers Loop Road from the Steese Highway to the university. These paved trails connect to all sorts of other paths for more adventurous cyclists. Before heading out, pick up a free bikeways map at the downtown visitors center.
Alaska Outdoor Rentals & Guides (907/457-2453, www.akbike.com, $27–49 for all day) has mountain bike rentals along the river behind Pioneer Park. You can also rent bikes from GoNorth Adventure Travel Center (3500 Davis Rd., 907/479-7272 or 866/236-7272, www.gonorthalaska.net).
Bradley Hodges of Fairbanks Paddle & Pedal (907/388-4480, www.fbxpp.com) leads a unique trip that combines a morning canoe paddle down the Chena River, followed by lunch at Pikes Landing, and an afternoon bike ride for $80. He also puts together custom trips if you have your own ideas.
Floating the River
The peaceful Chena River is a favorite destination for canoeists. Alaska Outdoor Rentals & Guides (907/457-2453, www.2paddle1.com, late May–mid-Sept.) runs a popular canoe and kayak rental business along the river at Pioneer Park. Put in here and paddle two hours to the Pump House—a great place for a drink or meal while you wait for the van ride back. Half-day rentals cost $52–71. The company can also provide canoes and transport for longer trips, including overnighters.
GoNorth Adventure Travel Center (3500 Davis Rd., 907/479-7272 or 866/236-7272, www.paratours.net) has a similar service, with canoe rentals and transportation. Northern Alaska Tour Company (907/474-8600 or 800/474-1986, www.northernalaska.com) combines dinner (prime rib, steak, chicken, or salmon) at Two Rivers Lodge with a leisurely evening float down the Chena River for $169.
A number of local companies offer Chena River fishing trips; get their brochures at the visitors center. Fishing in the Chena for grayling is fair, but better grayling fishing is found in the Chatanika River, between miles 30 and 40 on the Steese Highway toward Circle. Chum, silver, and a few kings run up here from mid-July. Chena Lakes Recreation Area has good rainbow-trout fishing. Fish and Game provides a recorded hot line (907/459-7385) of fishing tips. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner carries fishing updates every Friday.
Fairbanks is a major center for dog mushing. Well-known musher and author Mary Shields was the first woman to finish the Iditarod. She offers two-hour summer visits (907/457-1117, www.maryshields.com, $28 adults, $20 children) that include time with the dogs at her home.
Other dogsledding tours or rides (depending on the season) are available from:
- Paws for Adventure
907/452-7867 or 800/478-4681
- Sled Dog Adventures
- Sun Dog Express
Moose Mountain (907/479-4732, www.shredthemoose.com, Sat.–Sun. 10 a.m.–5 p.m. winter, $35 adults, $30 students, $20 ages 7–12) is 20 minutes north of Fairbanks near Murphy Dome. It has 1,250 feet of vertical drop, and an unusual lift system: a “variable capacity terrestrial tram,” more commonly called a bus with ski racks. Get the snow report at 907/459-8132. Fortunately, temperatures are typically 20–30 degrees warmer here than in Fairbanks (because of an inversion).
Mt. Aurora Skiland (907/389-2314, Thanksgiving–mid-Apr., $30 adults, $23 students, children under 7 free) is 21 miles north of town off the Steese Highway, and features downhill skiing and snowboarding. The area has a double chairlift, a day lodge, and a snack bar, plus ski and snowboard rentals. Call 907/456-7669 for the snow report.
Cross-country skiing is very popular around Fairbanks; the nicest place is Birch Hill Ski Area, with a modern Nordic center and 20 miles of groomed trails, 4 miles of which are lighted. Contact the Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks (907/474-4242, www.nscfairbanks.org) for details and online maps for these and others, including 9 miles next to the university.
Northern Lights Viewing
The Fairbanks area has some of the finest aurora displays anywhere on the planet. The clear winter nights and proximity to the north pole create ideal viewing conditions (once you get away from the city lights). For predictions of upcoming activity, visit the website for UAF’s Geophysical Institute (www.gedds.alaska.edu/auroraforecast). A number of lodges in the Fairbanks area have geared their winter season for people who come to view and photograph the northern lights—notably Chena Hot Springs Resort and Mt. Aurora/Skiland—and many Fairbanks hotels provide aurora wake-up calls upon request.
© Don Pitcher from Moon Alaska, 10th Edition