When I asked a local what trail I should try first in the Chena River State Recreation Area, her response was immediate: Angel Rocks Trail.
The trail begins with a wide graded path meandering along the amazing Chena River for about 3/4 of a mile. Then the trail climbs a steep 800 feet over the next mile to a granite rock formation, the Angel Rocks. Keep an eye out for a spur trail just past the one mile from the trailhead for a spot to fill up with crystal clear, cold, drinkable water.
After reaching the top at around 1800 feet above sea level, you’ll have great views of the surrounding wilderness. At the top, you have three choices. Go back the way you came or continue on the Angel Rocks loop back to the original trailhead (the downgrade is very steep in places), which is shown in my map and is about 3.5 miles in total distance. Your third option is to continue another 6.5 miles to the Chena Hot Springs Resort, which has a natural hot springs lake and a few dining options. Best to have a second car waiting for you there unless you want to relax and then reverse the same route back to the original trailhead.
Directions: From Fairbanks, take Highway 2 north and take the Chena Hot Springs Road exit. Take Chena Hot Springs Road east for about 48 miles until you see a sign for the Angel Rocks trail on the right. Since it is in the Chena River State Recreation Area, there is a $5 fee to park at the trailhead.