Chena Hot Springs Resort is a great spot for hiking in the fall. // © 2014 Chena Hot Springs Resort
Starting in late August and continuing through late September, Alaska’s autumnal colors mesmerize those who make the journey north. Rolling hills of yellow complement the endless expanse of red and orange ground cover and green conifers. The sapphire countenance of Denali and winding alpine glaciers will have even the most well-traveled client standing in awe.
Peak season prices fall with the leaves in Alaska — dropping 20 to 50 percent throughout the state — which is an attractive incentive for budget-minded travelers.
Following are options for clients looking to enjoy Alaska’s dramatic autumn scenery.
Chena Hot Springs
Chena Hot Springs Resort and the Chena State Recreation Area, as well as the White Mountains to the north (which appear more yellow than white in the fall), offer majestic views of the rolling hills of Alaska’s interior. This scenery is often even more alluring this time of year due to the display of the northern lights, which are absent during the perpetual daylight of an Alaskan summer.
A 10-minute hike past the resort’s hot springs leads to the Aurorium, a warming cabin that allows visitors to spend hours enjoying the northern lights in comfort.
“Because of the crisp and invigorating weather in September, the Aurorium — which is free for guests — is heated by geothermal heat from the hot springs,” said Diane Karrio, group sales and special-events manager at the resort. “If the Aurora Borealis is out, our guests have front-row seats at the Aurorium. The northern lights above the fall colors are always amazing in September, and the leaves are so gold during the daytime that you may need sunglasses.”
The View From Above
For those clients with mobility challenges — or anyone who wants to get a bird’s-eye view of the fall colors — consider booking a Chena Hills/Angel Rocks flightseeing tour based from Chena Hot Springs Resort’s air strip. The pilot will fly guests over hills that appear to be on fire with the glow of a fall sunset. Reservations must be booked in advance, and the cost is $99 per person, with a four-person minimum.
On the Road
Visitors on the Arctic Circle Aurora Fly/Drive Adventure from Northern Alaska Tour Company depart Fairbanks at 1 p.m. and take a charter flight from Fairbanks to Coldfoot, Alaska, taking in the fall scenery of the Chena and Yukon rivers. After a tour of Coldfoot, clients return by van to Fairbanks via the Dalton Highway. Along the way, they will learn about Alaska history, observe the Trans-Alaska Pipeline winding its way through a sea of yellow birch leaves and, toward dusk, possibly catch an early showing of the northern lights. The flight costs $429 per person prior to Sept. 19 and $369 per person after that, for a minimum of four people.
Agents should also check out fall offerings from the Alaska Railroad. The company’s Denali Star, for example, offers savings on fall color itineraries from Sept. 1-14.
“The Alaska Railroad offers visitors the chance to view spectacular fall colors in different regions of the state,” said Bruce LaLonde, Alaska Railroad director of guest services and passenger marketing. “It is a great time to travel because the train is less crowded and has more of a community feel.”
A one-way Fairbanks to Denali Adventure Class ticket starts at $53 for adults, while one-way Gold-Star service costs $108 per person. Anchorage to Denali Adventure Class tickets are $124 for adults, and one-way Gold-Star service costs $209.