Although the Jim Whisenhant Cross Country Ski Trails at Birch Hill Recreation Area offer some of the best cross-country skiing in the nation, the wider area has many other trails to choose from.
Groomed for Cross-Country Skiing
Birch Hill Ski and Snowboard Area: This Fort Wainwright facility has three cross-country trails. One, the Sonot Connector, is groomed for both classic and skate. It connects the bottom of the ski hill to the Jim Whisenhant Cross Country Ski Trails. The other two are classic only. All can be accessed from either the downhill area or the Jim Whisenhant trails. See the NSCF Birch Hill maps.
University of Alaska Fairbanks West Ridge: Includes many kilometers of trails groomed for skate and classic skiing, some for classic only, and some that are lighted. A warming hut (without a bathroom) is located on the West Ridge near the Geophysical Institute.
Pearl Creek Nordic Park: A classic-only trail system near Pearl Creek Elementary School. This system ties into the UAF system through the Skarland Trail. Park at the school.
Creamer’s Field: Groomed by the Alaska Skijoring and Pulk Association, these trails offer good, fairly flat skate skiing. See the ASPA Trails webpage for more information. For general information about Creamer’s, see the Friends of Creamer’s Field Web site.
Tanana Lakes Recreation Area: A borough park with some trails groomed for skate and classic. Also connects to snowmachine trails, including those that head out onto the Tanana River and go for miles.
Alaska Dog Musher Association Trails: Used and groomed by dog mushers and skijorers, this trail system is open to skiers. If you access the trails from Mushers Hall on Farmer’s Loop (as opposed to from elsewhere in Creamer’s Field), you’ll need a trail pass. Get information about passes and the trails at the ADMA Web site.
Chena Lake Recreation Area: Trails groomed for classic and skate. Relatively flat. No entrance fees charged during winter.
Two Rivers School: A system of trails groomed for skate and classic skiing with loops up to 7.5 km. Leave right from the school parking lot.
The Darrell Coe Trails at Salcha Elementary School: This system is groomed for skate and classic skiing. It is an expanding loop system, with a 15-kilometer loop currently the longest. Leave right from the school parking lot.
Goldstream Sports classic trails: A classic-only system maintained by employees of Goldstream Sports.
Not Groomed for Cross-Country Skiing
Goldstream Public Use Area: A parking area at about mile 2.5 of Ballaine Road is the most popular access point for this system of multi-use trails.
Isberg Recreation Area: Still in development, this area now has a parking lot off Oboe Court near the intersection of Cripple Creek and Isberg roads. It has access to several ungroomed snowmachine trails, and the skijoring club grooms a few of the trails for skiing.
Chena River State Recreation Area: This recreation area out Chena Hot Springs Road has many miles of trails. Some are groomed for snowmachines and are popular with skiers looking for a backcountry experience. Some are completely ungroomed. Several trails have backcountry cabins.
White Mountains National Recreation Area: This BLM-administered area has many miles of trails groomed for snowmachines that are popular with backcountry skiers. The area has several backcountry cabins.
Chena and Tanana Rivers: No specific website. These rivers typically freeze and are used by a variety of winter trail users. Be cautious of open areas, especially next to the power plant just downstream of the Cushman Street bridge in downtown Fairbanks. Both rivers have sloughs that often have winter trails.
Other Trail Resources
The Fairbanks area has many more trails that are not a part of any contained system. Finding them can be difficult without some guidance. No comprehensive trail guide of the area exists. However, these resources can help:
- The Alaska Skijoring and Pulk Association trails page. Skijorers are always looking for new places to ski with their dogs, and they’ve compiled an impressive list.
- Trail Mapper, a website dedicated to trail information across Alaska. It can be a little daunting to figure out, but once you do it has a wealth of trail resources.
- Outside in the Interior: An Adventure Guide for Central Alaska, Second Edition by Kyle Joly includes information on a variety of trails for skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, backpacking and canoeing.
- Fairbanks Area Trail Conditions is a Facebook page that allows user to post conditions on area trails. However, postings typically don’t tell you where the trails are and sometimes use informal names that are not always consistent. But you can always ask for clarification!