Chena River State Recreation Area

#3 in Best Things To Do in Fairbanks
Chena River State Recreation Area picture
Explore Fairbanks/FCVB

Key Info

3700 Airport Way

Price & Hours

Free

Details

Recreation, Swimming/Pools, Free Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
4.6

scorecard

  • 5.0Value
  • 3.5Facilities
  • 4.0Atmosphere

The Chena River State Recreation Area, which sits just east of Fairbanks, is a popular spot in the summer for hiking, kayaking, fishing and camping. In the winter months, locals head to this area for ski touring and snow machining – the local term for snowmobiling. The 254,080-acre preserve also offers several developed campgrounds and public-use cabins, as well as picnic areas and pavilions for family gatherings.

Although recent visitors said this recreation area is a little off-the-beaten-path, most agreed this park is designed for family fun, with beaches, pavilions and a safely enclosed swimming lake perfect for children. Reviewers also appreciated the well-marked trails for hiking and biking (you'll need to bring your own bike as there are no bike rentals on-site), while others touted the water activities like kayaking and paddle boating (paddle boats, row boats, canoes and kayaks can be rented at Lake Park, which sits within the recreation area). To see a list of available trails, consult this brochure created by the Alaska Department of Natural Resources. 

Located about 30 miles east of Fairbanks, the Chena River State Recreation Area is open throughout the summer season, but many trails are closed during the winter months. Chena Lake is open year-round for recreational use, 24 hours a day from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Lake beaches and day-use areas are closed from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. There is no general entrance fee: Camping costs $10 to $45 per night, boat launches run $10 to $20 per day and daily parking is $5 to $10 per vehicle. Check the attraction's website for seasonal trail closures and additional information or to make camping reservations.

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Type
Time to Spend
#1 Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center

The Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center is a great first stop to pick up maps and information on things to do in Fairbanks. In addition to exhibits on the natural history of the region and the cultural history of Alaska natives, the center offers a free film on Alaska's history and nature. What's more, on the first Friday of every month, the center hosts a free reception featuring the work of an Alaskan artist from the interior region. This is also where you'll find the city's famous Antler Arch, a piece constructed with more than 100 moose and caribou antlers collected from all over interior Alaska.

Most recent visitors said this free museum was an ideal first stop for learning about Alaskan life, with a good mix of history and culture. Many found the central downtown location convenient, and families particularly enjoyed the interactive displays for kids. Some visitors were disappointed that the informative movie only runs once per day, but all travelers complimented the friendly and knowledgeable staff.

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Angie Cerny/Explore Fairbanks
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