If you're looking for a taste of the tundra, some really cool rock formations, and wilderness near Fairbanks, Alaska the Granite Tors Trail is worth exploring.

The Granite Tors Loop Trailhead is located at Milepost 39 on Chena River Road east of Fairbanks. It starts at about 700ft above sea level and climbs to about 3200ft, peaking around the 8 mile mark. The climb is slow and continuous adding to the difficulty of the hike.

The Chena River State Recreation Area has a much different landscape than the mountainous areas of Denali or Anchorage. It doesn't have the same breathtaking feel. It's giant hills roll through the tundra and make the rock formations, known as Tors, seem minuscule.

You can see the Tors from Chena River Road. They litter the landscape and there are hundreds located through out the wilderness. The Tors are a popular place to rock climb but are very icy in the winter. There are even some bolted routes on a few of them.

As the days get shorter and colder this hike becomes increasingly more difficult. It's easy to lose the trail in the snow when you are above the tree line. Bushwacking would be very difficult, so finding the trail before you reenter the forest is important. You will enter and reenter the forest a few times through out the trail. Coupled with darkness and cold it can be even more difficult and dangerous.

It took us about 10hrs to navigate the loop. Our pace slowed down considerably when it got dark, and we spent a few hours looking for the trail markers and signs of a trail. I would not say it is well marked, but there are reflective markers occasional placed on it and the trail is very clear when in the forest. After we found the trail, the descent went very smoothly.

For more information check out the Trail Map and dnr.alaska.gov. After you've completed the hike you might even want to drive up the road about 20 miles to Chena Hot Springs to warm up.

Pack List

  • Arctic Survival Kit (Just in Case)
  • TOPO Map or GPS
  • Headlamp
  • Warm Layers
  • Snowshoes
  • Extra Food
  • Camera
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RT Distance 15 Miles
Elevation Gain 2900 Feet
Activities Photography, Snowshoeing, Hiking
Skill Level Advanced
Season Autumn, Winter
Trail Type Loop
Features
Bathrooms
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Forest
River
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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