We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.
We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Traveling to Alaska in February 2013

San Francisco...
Level Contributor
9 posts
Save Topic
Traveling to Alaska in February 2013

My boyfriend and I are from California and will be traveling to Barrow and Fairbanks in mid February 2013 and would like to get suggestions and advice on activities, safety, etc.

Below is our itinerary:

We will fly into Barrow late at night and stay at King Elder Inn in for 2 nights, then catch a flight to Fairbanks on the 3rd night. So far we plan to visit the Inupiat Heritage Center, the bowhead whale bone arch and the direction pole (the one with signs stating distance from various places), and having a meal at the Pepe's North of the Border. We will go around town mainly by taxi. Though we thought about checking out Point Barrow, the tour is a bit pricey for our budget. However, we are open to suggestions/advice!

We will be staying at Fairbanks for 4 full days and have the following activities: Ice fishing, visiting the University of Alaska Museum of the North, snowshoeing at Denali NP, checking out the Santa Claus house in North Pole, touring the ice museum, soaking in Chena hot springs, and of course, viewing aurora borealis if the weather permits.

We will be staying at a hostel but will rent a car to drive out at night when there's aurora borealis activities. After reading some posts in TA, I know that we have to be away from the city lights for better views.

Here are my list of questions regarding activities in Fairbanks:

1. Consider the length of my stay in Fairbanks, we have to combine some activities in one day. I am thinking of having University of Alaska, Santa Claus House, and Chena hot springs and ice museum in 1 day. Will that be too much activities? I am also accounting for travel fatigue, safety, operating hours of the point of interests, etc.

2. I read that there's snowshoes for borrowing at the visitor center in Denali NP. What time should we get there by? Any suggestion on hiking routes? I am thinking of spending 2-3 hours there. Do they provide maps there? The last thing I want would be getting lost in the park.

3. How is the ice museum at Chena hot springs? Is it worth a visit? We are planning to get there around 5PM for the tour then soak ourselves in the hot springs for 1-2 hours (maybe even less). Will bathing suit be proper at -20F? I read a very nice, detailed trip report by JimGinAtlanta and he mentioned bathing suit is not a good idea. Just want to get more information on that. Especially on how to not get frozen to death after getting out of the hot springs (sorry for the exaggeration!). Lastly, we are planning to have dinner and hang out at the resort until midnight. Is there an area where we can stay and not get kicked out before then? I also am concern about safety on the drive back to Fairbanks.

4. We are thinking of joining an ice fishing tour. Any suggestion on what would be a good company to go with? Would you suggest to drop ice fishing for something else?

5. Anyone knows how's the aurora borealis activities so far this year? Any suggestion on good viewing location? Is there a website where we can get reliable prediction on when aurora borealis will occur (will check daily)?

Sorry for the lengthy post. I just rather be detail than vague. Again, any suggestions and/or advice are welcome. Thanks in advance for all the help I get!

jjo
Chicago
Level Contributor
477 posts
168 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: Traveling to Alaska in February 2013

I can respond about snowshoeing in Denali as I did that a couple of years ago. There is no best time to arrive. My impression is that very few people go to Denali in the winter and they had plenty of snowshoes to lend out (it's free). There is a ranger there who will show you which trails are available. Two to three hours should be fine. We did about three hours. We hiked up a trail but not to the top, and still got very nice views. Hope you have warm clothes!

If you can stay a night in Healy, after the snowshoeing, you could go dogseldding at Earth Song Lodge.

San Francisco...
Level Contributor
9 posts
Save Reply
2. Re: Traveling to Alaska in February 2013

Thank you very much jjo! Will definitely look into possibility of dogsledding and going to Healy.

May I know what you wore when you went to Alaska couple years back? So far I have a Jacket (rei.com/product/833185/rei-snowcrest-3-in-1-…). Will wear long underwear, a long sleeve shirt, snow pants, another fleece jacket for extra insulation. I also got a pair of winter boots (www.cabelas.com/catalog/product.jsp…)

Wasilla, Alaska
Destination Expert
for Alaska
Level Contributor
5,065 posts
134 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: Traveling to Alaska in February 2013

Here's the link for the aurora forecasts: http://www.gi.alaska.edu/AuroraForecast

If you use Twitter, you can also follow these guys: https://twitter.com/Aurora_Alerts

fti
MN
Destination Expert
for Alaska
Level Contributor
15,094 posts
27 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: Traveling to Alaska in February 2013

When in February are you going? The Ice Art Championships are in late Feb/early March. Also, the last weekend of Feb is usually the Winter Carnival at Denali and Healy. Though I have never been there for it, it sounds like a fun time with lots of activities. I would try to plan my time around those activities.

I have also done dogsledding with Jon at Earthsong Lodge. Well worth it.

Atlanta, Georgia
Level Contributor
4,865 posts
16 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: Traveling to Alaska in February 2013

Actually you will need a bathing suit for the hot springs. We neglected to pack them for our trip and had to stop in Fairbanks to purchase a couple (on New Year's Eve, no less). The spring is outdoors and you will be fine in the water, even in extremely cold weather. There is a short walk (actually more like a run!) from the bathhouse to the spring via a covered breezeway - being outdoors in a swimsuit at -20F is not much fun, but certainly tolerable.

I would not drive out to Chena just for the ice museum, but if you are staying out there overnight it is worth a visit.

Snowshoeing in Denali is a lot of fun. There were no other visitors in the park the day we were there, and everything was very pretty in the snow. We hiked for maybe an hour or two on one of the more popular trails by the Murie Center. As someone else mentioned, the snowshoe rental is free.

Also, two nights and two full nights in Barrow might be a little much at that time of year. The town is very small and there is not much to do in the winter. I would not waste my time going out to the point (if you can even find anyone to take you our there). It will be frozen over as will the ocean, so I don't know that it would be worth the effort - there certainly won't be anything to "see". I'd probably opt for a full day and two nights myself, or perhaps just a day and a night.

Have fun on your trip - we certainly enjoyed ours.

-JimG

USA
Level Contributor
9,465 posts
44 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: Traveling to Alaska in February 2013

If I had your set-up, I would add another layer to the top layering system. Probably a down anorak! Especially for Barrow!!

Add some base layers on top too.

Hopefully, you're ice fishing in a hut with heat.

Plus fleece head band, wool cap,double pairs wool socks, fleece turtle fur neck gaiter, down mittens with fleece liner mittens.

We loved the ice championships! North Pole was just a Christmas shop so wasn't too thrilling to Mr & I; especially, we'd never drive that in the winter for that.

Sounds like a wonderful trip, hopefully a great peak of the aurora cycle. Come back to tell us all about it!

Edited: 17 December 2012, 19:40
jjo
Chicago
Level Contributor
477 posts
168 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: Traveling to Alaska in February 2013

Denalicat knows much more about clothing, but I do recall we bought those little packets that are hand warmers and foot warmers. You break them and stuff them in your shoes and mittens. As I recall, they worked pretty well.

USA
Level Contributor
9,465 posts
44 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: Traveling to Alaska in February 2013

Great suggestion, jjo! We use those too! You can get them as singles in a lot of stores.

USA
Level Contributor
9,465 posts
44 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: Traveling to Alaska in February 2013

Here's a great thread regarding winter gear for Fairbanks trip:

tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g60826-i1068-k5954…

San Francisco...
Level Contributor
9 posts
Save Reply
10. Re: Traveling to Alaska in February 2013

@AKStafford: Thanks for the link. I added that to my phone so I can check the forecast daily.

@fti: Unfortunately I will leave Alaska before the Winter Carnival. We will only be there 2/11 to 2/18.

@JimGinAtlanta: Thanks for the clarification! My main purpose going to Chena is for the hot spring. We have already booked our flight ticket through Alaska airline. I will check how much it costs to change date. If the fee isn't too expensive, I will stay in Barrow for 1 night instead, and it will allow 1 extra day to stay somewhere outside of Fairbanks. We will be stay at King Elder Inn in Barrow. Anyone stayed at this hotel before? How was your experience there?

@denalicat and jjo: Thanks for the tips on the layering system. I will try to catch the after Christmas deal from REI or Cabelas for more gears. For the foot warmers, which brand would you recommend? I have used them before but the ones I had was bulky and not comfortable to walk around.

As for ice fishing, I found this company called 1st Alaska Outdoor School. It didn't mention if there's heater in the hut but they will provide arctic gear. I will let you guys how it goes.

Edited: 18 December 2012, 15:30