Chena Dome Backpack

Distance

29 miles

Difficulty

Moderate

Why Choose This Trip?

One of the best trips near Fairbanks features incredible views, excellent walking, and easy logistics.

Trip Type

Backpacking

Region

Central Alaska

The Route

A well-developed trail leads out of the Upper Chena Dome trailhead. After roughly three miles, you'll emerge from the forest and move into the alpine. For much of the rest of the route, you'll follow rock cairns accompanied by mileage posts as you cruise through undulating alpine terrain. Then, 10 miles from the trailhead, you'll reach Chena Dome - at 4,421 feet, it's the hike's high point. Enjoy the views! At mile 17, you'll come to the trail shelter, which is free to use, but first come, first serve. At mile 26, you'll descend out of the alpine as you travel the final few miles to the Lower Chena Dome trailhead. This trip offers endless views of the White Mountains, the Alaska Range, and the Tanana Hills. But don't forget to look down as well; there are excellent wildflowers along the route in June and July.

Distance

29 miles; 8300' elevation gain

Number of Days

2-4

Backcountry Starting Point

Upper Chena Dome trailhead; Chena Hot Springs Road, mile 50.5

Backcountry Ending Point

Lower Chena Dome trailhead; Chena Hot Springs Road, mile 49.4

Trip Logistics

Simple

One of the perks of this trip are the simple logistics! To get to the trailhead, drive north from Fairbanks on the Steese Highway/Highway 2 for roughly four miles. Take the Chena Hot Springs Road exit and travel 50.5 miles to the Upper Chena Dome trailhead. At the end of your trip, if you left a vehicle at the Upper trailhead, walk the one mile along the Chena Hot Springs Road from the Lower Chena Dome trailhead to the starting point.

Experience Level Necessary

Beginner

This is a suitable trip for a beginner backpacker who has a high level of fitness. Be sure you're comfortable covering the 29 miles of this route, and be advised that there's 8,300 feet of elevation gain over the entirety of the route. If in doubt, give yourself an extra day to complete the mileage.

Expected Hazards

  • Scarce water. Always carry a day's worth of water on this route.
  • Weather. Much of this route is in the alpine; if the weather becomes inclement, visibility may be significantly reduced. In low visibility, you'll need map-reading and/or solid GPS skills to navigate your way between the route's rock cairn markers.

Other Advice

It's a rare trip to Alaska where water is not in copious and frequent supply, but this is one of them. Carry at least a day's worth of water at a time. The State of Alaska indicates that water may be available at the saddle at mile 7.5, a spring at mile 9, pools at mile 11-13, a spring at mile 14.5, the trail shelter water catchment system at mile 17, pools near mile 18, and pools at mile 20.5. You may also be able to melt snow from remnant snowbanks in early summer. At 8.5 miles from the Upper Trailhead, you'll find the wreckage of an 1850s military plane crash; feel free to observe, but don't remove any debris or artifacts.

Will you see other people in the backcountry?

Probably. The beginning and ending trailheads of this route are also popular with day hikers.

Land Manager

State of Alaska Department of Natural Resources - Chena River State Recreation Area

GPS Coordinates

Starting Point: 65.03514, -146.21500

Chena Dome (highpoint): 65.08318, -146.46738

Trail Shelter: 65.013750, -146.555167

Ending Point: 65.01371, -146.22322

USGS Maps

Circle A-5

Circle A-6

Cost: $

The only expenses are gas or transportation to/from the trailhead and food for your trip. There are no permits, reservations, or fees associated with this route.

Getting There

Coordinates
Latitude: 65.03514
Longitude: -146.215