3 Days in Fairbanks, the Alaska Interior, and Arctic Gateway

3 Days in Fairbanks, the Alaska Interior, and Arctic Gateway

Fairbanks, Alaska, also known as the "Golden Heart," is located in the center of the Interior of Alaska within an arctic desert. At 65 degrees latitude and just two hours north of Mt. Denali, North America's highest peak, the Fairbanks / Chena River KOA campground is just about as far north in North America as you can safely travel in an RV. 

Photo: Relaxing at Fairbanks Chena River KOA

You'll find our location is a perfect base camp for exploring the area. Learn about the Gold Rush and Alaska Native Culture, take a trip on the Dalton Highway, book a tour to the Arctic Circle, or even tip your toes in the Arctic Ocean at Prudhoe Bay

Photo courtesy of Sherman Hogue of Explore Fairbanks

Fairbanks is Alaska's 2nd largest population center, so RVers and campers will find ample supplies, shopping, mechanics, medical centers, and pet care. Fairbanks / Chena River KOA Journey is a perfect stop to relax and prepare or regroup when traveling the ALCAN Highway or exploring the vast and remote State of Alaska.

The following includes a sample three-day itinerary to help you plan your trip, whether you're coming from 3000 miles away or 300! 

Day 1: Find Your Bearings with a River Cruise and History Museum Visit

Morning to Midday

Immerse yourself in local treasures by beginning your day with a narrated Riverboat cruise aboard a Sternwheeler along the Chena River, where it converges with the mighty Tanana River. 

Photo courtesy of Riverboat Discovery

Numerous surprises await around each bend, including close encounters with seaplanes. Make a stop at Susan Butcher's Kennel, a four-time Iditarod winner, where you can witness an impressive and narrated demonstration of dog sledding. Continuing down the river, you'll have the opportunity to explore an Alaskan Native Village, pausing at various stops to experience firsthand the impressive life and history of the Alaskan Natives.

Photo courtesy of Sherman Hogue of Explore Fairbanks

After the cruise, enjoy lunch at Riverboat Discovery or one of many other fabulous restaurants in Fairbanks before heading to your next adventure.


In the afternoon, plan to explore the rich history of Alaska at the Museum of the North at the University of Fairbanks, where you'll find an impressive selection of educational short movies and displays. 

Photo courtesy of Patricia Fisher

In the 2024 season, the original bus 142, made famous by the book and movie 'Into the Wild,' will make its debut on display following an extensive restoration completed between 2022 and 2023.

If time allows, consider a visit to the Ice Museum and the Morris Thompson Visitor Center.


Do you have dinner reservations yet? Be sure to book a table at the Chena Pump House, one of the best Restaurants in Fairbanks and a National Historic Landmark. You will be floating by this venue during your Riverboat cruise.

Day 2: Nearby Cultural Touchpoints and Hot Springs Relaxation

Morning to Midday

Day two provides a mix of light outdoor activity and cultural experience. After a hearty breakfast at one of the fine local restaurants (or homemade at your camper or tent), head to Gold Dredge 8, around 10 miles North of Fairbanks. Gold Dredge 8 is a ladder dredge that was operated by the Fairbanks Exploration Company from 1928 to 1959 and produced 7.5 million ounces of gold.

Photo courtesy of Sherman Hogue of Explore Fairbanks 

The dredge was named a Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Mechanical and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Book a guided and narrated tour, which concludes with an opportunity to try your skills at gold panning. And yes, you get to keep whatever you find! Quite often, guests can pan gold to the value of half the ticket cost for the tour or more.

Less than two miles down the road, you'll find the Alyeska Pipeline Viewing Point, one of the world's engineering marvels. Learn about the $8 billion investment to build the famous four-foot silver thread that snakes its way through 800 miles of Alaskan wilderness to reach the nation's thirsty refineries. Every hour, more than a million dollars of black gold flows through it.

Photo courtesy of Angie Cerny of Explore Fairbanks


Treat yourself to a soak at the Chena Hot Springs, about an hour Northeast of Fairbanks. Indoors, you'll find a hot tub and a heated pool. The boulder-lined outdoor lake is handicapped accessible and restricted to adults. Its sandy bottom makes for comfortable walking, and patrons often stroll around until they find the Goldilocks sweet spot (not too hot, not too cold) for their soak. If time allows, stop by the Aurora Ice Museum across the street from the Hot Springs.

Photo courtesy of Chena Hot Springs Resort

On your way back to the campground, stop by the Santa Claus House in North Pole – where it is Christmas all year and streetlights are shaped like Candy Canes.

Photo courtesy of Jade Frank of Explore Fairbanks

Day 3: Rest or Make Further Plans at Fairbanks / Chena River KOA

The last couple of days, you've had a glimpse of the many things to do in this area. Take a day to relax and rest at the campground, which has many fun amenities

Have the kids burn some energy at our playground while taking care of laundry at our 24-hour coin-operated laundromat, let the dogs get their exercise at the 2400 sqft dog park, relax in one of our swings, or sit in lounge chairs with propane firepits at the deck by the Chena River and watch for wildlife and beautiful sunsets (well, between late May and July the sun never fully sets – but you'll still see beautiful skies).

Photo courtesy of Bill Wright of Explore Fairbanks

Have you decided to spend more time and maybe plan a day or book a trip to the Arctic Circle or the Dalton Highway or tip your toes in the Arctic Ocean at Prudhoe Bay? This is the day to plan and prepare for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. It is recommended not to take your RV on this trip – we have ample dry storage space where you can safely park your RV while you take your truck or tow vehicle onto the rugged Dalton Highway.

Local Tip:

While we love to be out and about exploring and taking tours – one of our favorites is the Riverboat cruise mentioned earlier. It is just as great of an experience to stay a day at the campground, relax, and watch wildlife. In addition to bald eagles, quite often, moose are seen at the banks of Chena River and occasionally stroll through the campground.

Key Lesson from the Road:

Fairbanks is the first major and longer stop for many campers after having conquered the ALCAN Highway. Our guests report lots of interesting stories great (and a few not-so-great) experiences, and recommendations are shared between campers. We have seen mechanical failure of equipment passing through the ALCAN quite frequently. Mostly either material or manufacturing defects, but sometimes missing or not slowing down enough to avoid a large pothole or frost hive. But nothing can't be fixed. Because Fairbanks is the 2nd largest population area in Alaska, you will find ample supplies, mechanics, welders, shops, and medical and pet care centers that will aid your travels.

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