Top 8 Activities to do at Chena Hot Springs Resort

Heather Raulerson posing for Aurora Portrait

Chena Hot Springs Resort is my newest favorite winter vacation spot! Just 60 miles from Fairbanks, it is the prime spot to see the northern lights and immerse yourself in the natural outdoor hot springs. Since 1905, visitors worldwide have been enjoying the healing waters at Chena Hot Springs. Here are the top eight activities to do at the resort.

Heather Raulerson posing for Aurora Portrait

Hot Spring (Of Course!)

Hot Springs Lake - Chena Hot Springs Resort

I went and soaked in the Hot Spring Lake every morning. Dipping yourself in the water is an excellent way to start the day all relaxed. It averaged 102 degrees at the entrance but, as you walked around the lake, you could find hotter pockets of water if you wanted. My hair kept freezing with the steam which looked like a spider web, super cool! There is even an indoor family pool for those who don’t want to brave the colder weather. The Hot Spring Lake is one of the most relaxing highlights of staying at the Chena Hot Springs Resort. If you like to visit hot springs and want more possibilities to visit them, check out my friend Amy’s blog that tells you all about the Blue Lagoon hot spring in Iceland.

Visit with the Animals

Caribou up close
white reindeer up close
goat sticking his head out
Goats butting heads

Since I was on a photography expedition, I walked around the resort during the day, taking pictures of all the animals on the property. There were caribou, reindeer, goats, and even chickens. You can get some amazing photos of the animals as they come right up to you by the fence.

Renewable Energy Tour

Chena Power Renewable Energy Generator - Chena Hot Springs Resort

I got to go on a tour to see how Chena Hot Springs is self-sustaining. The first stop was the generator that takes the hot water from the ground and turns it into geothermal energy. The water comes in at 165 degrees and they lower it down to just slightly over 100 for the Hot Spring Lake on the property. The lodge where we were staying was also heated this way. All the floors had radiant heating. When we checked in, we asked how to lower down the heat; they told us open the window.

Lettuce growing in Chena Hot Springs Resort Greenhouse
Apple and Pear Salad with home grown lettuce from Chena Hot Springs Greenhouse

The next stop was the Greenhouse. This is where they grow the lettuce that they use in their salads at the restaurant. Most of their food is grown here in their own greenhouse. My personal favorite was the apple and pear salad with a cider vinegar dressing with the lettuce grown from the greenhouse. I ordered this multiple times. Yummy!

Ice Museum

Aurora Ice Museum - Chena Hot Springs Resort
inside the Aurora Ice Museum - Chena Hot Springs Resort
Heather Raulerson drinking an Appletini in the Aurora Ice Museum - Chena Hot Springs Resort

Have an Appletini in an Ice glass – You are only able to see inside the Aurora Ice Museum in a tour. You walk inside, and it is warmer sometimes in the museum than outside. It stays a constant 25 degrees cold for all the ice sculptures to be enjoyed. The ice art generated inside is from two World Championship Ice Carvers, Steve & Heather Brice. I even got to see them make the ice Appletini glass that I enjoyed later on the tour. The photography was a bit tougher to get good pictures inside with the low light. I ended up switching back and forth with my camera so that I wouldn’t miss anything. Watch out when you ask the bartender to take your photo. You might have a couple of him on your camera when you get home. Sneaky fellow.

Dog Sledding/Kennel Tour

Dog Sledding - Chena Hot Springs Resort
Heather Raulerson playing with puppies at Chena Dog Kennel

The sled dogs are amazing little animals, and they have loud barks so, you can hear them all the way to the lodge. Plus, I was able to play with the cutest little puppies in the kennel. These little guys have the potential to be race dog sledders someday. You can read more about this particular tour in a previous post.

Flight-Seeing Expedition to the Arctic Circle

Flightseeing group to Arctice Circle and Beaver Village
Heather Raulerson on plane
Aerial view of Alaskan mountains and rivers

This tour is pricier but, definitely worth every penny. I went with a great group of fellow photographers, and Seth, our pilot, was terrific. Flying over the Arctic Circle and exploring Beaver Village was a memorable experience to be sure.

Aurora Snow Coach

Snow coach for the Aurora Viewing Tour

The Aurora Snow Coach takes you up the mountain to be able to view the Northern Lights unfettered by the resort’s lights. The back cab is side seating so, you are smooshed up against your new friends and hope that you don’t fall into their laps as you go up and down the mountain. We were laughing so hard the entire time. Once up on top of the mountain, I was fortunate to get my Aurora Portrait (See first photo or Pinterest pin) done by the esteemed photographer, Kristen Bentz. How awesome is this?!

Chasing the Northern Lights

purple and yellow northern lights behind plane
Green Northern Light pillars with tree silhouettes
bright green and purple northern lights streaking up the sky
Star Trails with purple and green northern lights behind evergreen trees
Purple and yellow Northern Lights

I saved the best for last! The whole purpose of my trip was to catch these elusive northern lights, and by golly, I caught them! If you want to do the same, you can read my how-to post

I thoroughly enjoyed my first trip to Alaska. I want to thank Great Escape Publishing and Bonnie Caton for putting this all together. And Kristen Bentz who bestowed upon all of us her photography secrets and wisdom, which I will continue to use in the future.

Have you been to Alaska and enjoyed all the activities that Chena Hot Springs Resort has to offer? I would love to hear about it. Plus, here is a link for more ideas if you are looking for more amazing places in the United States to visit.

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Further Reading

If you are coming to Alaska for a visit, check out these posts for further travel inspiration:


  • Stacey 7May2017 at 11:09 AM Reply

    Stunning pictures of the northern lights! I’m subscribing!

    • Heather 7May2017 at 9:03 PM Reply

      Thank you Stacey! I’m so glad you liked my photos.

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