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CIRCLE & CHENA HOT SPRINGS- ALASKA

Hot Springs in Alaska's Interior

Before gold fever hit the Klondike, Circle was the largest town on the Yukon River. Gold was discovered on Birch Creek in 1893 and the town grew as a supply point, servicing the new diggings with modern buildings and services.

Circle Hot Springs | Chena Hot Springs | Hotels

Before gold fever hit the Klondike, Circle was the largest town on the Yukon River. Gold was discovered on Birch Creek in 1893 and the town grew as a supply point, servicing the new diggings with modern buildings and services. Circle is 50 miles (80 km) south of the Arctic Circle, and was erroneously named by miners who thought it was far closer. 162 miles from Fairbanks via the Steese Highway (State Route 6), Circle provides a scenic overnight side-trip with the opportunity to enjoy two hot springs resorts, and to stand beside the impressive Yukon River. Along the highway are old mining camps, several excellent spots for viewing northern wildflowers, picnic areas, and camp grounds. You'll meet the Yukon River at the tiny village of Circle, set at the very end of the road.

Chena Hot Springs is much closer to Fairbanks, via the Steese Highway and then an 8.5 mile road.

Circle Hot Springs

The hot springs near Circle were discovered by prospector William Greats in 1893. Many miners spent their winters at the springs, using tents for bath houses, when the creeks were too frozen to work. The Circle Hot Springs Road junction is located 128 miles (206 km) from the start of the Steese Highway. A side road runs for 8.3 miles to the resort. The resort is built around the Olympic-sized pool, and a historic hotel which offers rooms, cabins, a hostel on the fourth floor, and dining.

Most local residents live not in the village, but along the river, coming to town by boat to pick up supplies. The Yukon Trading Post houses the restaurant, saloon, post office, a gas station, and liquor store. The H.C. Company Store also has gas, and sells groceries and snacks. To catch a feeling for the founding of Circle during the 1893 gold rush, walk through the small Pioneer Cemetery, with its old markers. You get there by walking upriver on a gravel road, past a barricade, and to a trail which is reached by crossing a private front yard. Please respect this privately-owned access.

A campground is located two miles before you reach the resort, and camping spots are also found at the end of the road, beside the Yukon River. Here, there is a parking area, picnic tables and toilets

Chena Hot Springs

Chena Hot Springs Resort is accessible via Chena Hot Springs Road. Turn off the Steese Hwy. at mile 4.6 (km 7.4) and drive for 56.5 miles (91 km). This is an easy day-trip from Fairbanks, leading you to a relaxing time in the large, enclosed thermal pool, a 2,800 square-foot redwood deck, and a 10-person whirlpool. There is a dining room and overnight accommodations, including hotel rooms, cabins, and camping. The resort has an RV park with electrical hookups and dump station. Winter activities include cross-country skiing, guided snowmobile rides, and warm soaking with piles of snow outside.

The first ice hotel to be built in the United States was constructed in 2004 at the hot springs resort, 60 miles northeast of Fairbanks. The gothic-style hotel was designed and built by World Ice Art Championship winner Steve Brice. Chena Hot Springs erected the first version of the Aurora Ice Hotel -- renamed the Aurora Ice Museum -- in January, 2004. This building is refrigerated year-round, maintaining the ice.

The museum features a gallery and ice bar, overhead chandeliers made of individually carved ice crystals which change color every six seconds mimicking the northern lights, many sculptures including a gigantic chess set, life sized jousting knights, an ice fireplace and four galleries with varying themes. The architect of most of the art is 14 time World Ice Art Champion Steve Brice and his wife, Heather.

For more information, go to the resort's web site.

Where to Stay

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Yukon Trading Post
Circle AK 99733, (907) 773-1217
At the end of the Steese Highway, beside the Yukon River, the Trading Post has several basic hotel rooms, as well as a restaurant (great pies), a saloon and a grocery store.

Arctic Circle Hot Springs Resort
Central AK 99730, (907) 520-5113
Located on Hot Springs Road , this is a modest resort hotel with Olympic-sized hot springs pool, dining room, lounge, store, and RV parking. The original hotel has been restored and offers rooms plus a hostel on the fourth floor. The resort is eight miles off the Steese Highway.

Central Motor Inn and Campground
Central AK 99730, (907) 520-5228
If you're on a driving tour ending at Circle, you may wish to stay along the Steese Highway. The village of Central is located at Mile 127 (km 204). The motel has a restaurant, lounge, laundry, R.V. spaces, and tent sites. It's open year-round.

Chena Hot Springs Resort
P.O. Box 73440, Fairbanks AK 99707, (907) 452-7867
The resort is situated at the end of a 60-mile (96 km) spur road, off the Steese Highway. The resort hotel features rooms, suites, and cabins, with the main attraction a hot springs pool. A restaurant and lounge are located on the property, as is a campground with basic sites.

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