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“Good place to see auroras, but....” 3 of 5 stars
Review of Chena Hot Springs Resort

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Chena Hot Springs Resort
2.5 of 5 Resort   |   56.5 mile Chena Hot Springs Rd., Pleasant Valley, AK 99711   |  
Hotel amenities
Ranked #1 of 1 Hotels in Pleasant Valley
Federal Way, Washington
Top Contributor
141 reviews 141 reviews
19 hotel reviews
Reviews in 30 cities Reviews in 30 cities
45 helpful votes 45 helpful votes
“Good place to see auroras, but....”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed April 12, 2014

The auroras were awesome. The hot spring is wonderful first thing in the AM, before the loud international folks and the 20-somethings showed up; OK from 10-12; dreadful after noon. Loved the reindeer, the sled dog kennel tour, the goats clumping around in the snow and did I mention the auroras were amazing? Food excellent. Accommodations so-so; really tiny rooms with paper-thin walls. My moderated enthusiasm is due to the extra cost for absolutely everything. For what I paid, they could have thrown in a free tour of the ice museum for crying out loud, or loaned a pair of snowshoes.The greediness really pissed me off. All the nickle-and-diming contrasts with the Bettles Lodge. Unless you live in Fairbanks and are driving in, or really, truly can't take an extra couple of days to fly above the Arctic Circle, go to Bettles Lodge instead.

Room Tip: Everyone I talked to had the same experience with noisy, tiny rooms, old accommodations.
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  • Stayed March 2014, traveled as a couple
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 2 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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448 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Location
    4 of 5 stars
  • Sleep Quality
    3.5 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    3 of 5 stars
  • Service
    3.5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    3 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    3 of 5 stars
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (91)
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Anchorage, Alaska
Senior Contributor
40 reviews 40 reviews
13 hotel reviews
Reviews in 26 cities Reviews in 26 cities
25 helpful votes 25 helpful votes
2 of 5 stars Reviewed April 2, 2014

My family stayed at Chena over the Spring Equinox weekend, a busy time for the resort. We arrived late morning so could not check in until 3 p.m., but we were given pool passes that gave us immediate access to the pool and hot springs, which we used and appreciated.

We had booked a Signature Room, which was essentially a two double-bed dorm-style room with very basic amenities, in a two-story, eight room building. We were on the ground floor, which meant that it was very disruptive when anyone from one of the other seven rooms came in or exited the building. There were, between the hot springs staying open until midnight, and those heading out through the night to check on the aurora, dozens of instances of the main door banging shut and people tromping up the stairs beside our room. I wasn't expecting a full night's sleep (we, too, hoped to do some aurora-viewing), but the noise of the constant coming-and-going got annoying.

We got up to view the aurora at 3:30 a.m., having been awoken by a staff member who was knocking on our neighbor's door, saying "The lights are out, the lights are out!" This was a welcome interruption, and we headed out as well, walking up the dark hillside to the "aurorium" viewing area. The aurora was not dramatic that night, but we felt fortunate to see them at all, and none of the negativity in this review has anything to do with not getting a better "show". We had heard that the resort did wake-up calls for when the aurora was out but when I asked a staff member about this she thought that we couldn't rely on them as they sometimes "fell by the wayside."

We ate all three of our meals in the main dining room, and in a Groundhod Day-type moment ended up at the same table in a dark interior room all three times. The skinny on the meals: reasonably-priced, decent main courses, salads were as fresh as anything in Alaska (thanks to the greenhouse on site), the service was mediocre. Lots of waiting (for tables, even when there were empty ones), for someone to take our order, to get our check.

There are some things Chena Hot Springs Resort is to be commended upon, especially given its remote location, such as the thermal energy plant and the greenhouse production. But there are so many small touches that could truly set it apart that would cost next to nothing. The dining room often had heavy curtains drawn that unnecessarily blocked out a lot of natural light; extra chairs and tables were dumped just outside the restaurant in the restroom area that gave it the feeling of being a dead zone; historical photos of the area could have been much more prominently featured instead of hung in forgotten corners. And the poolhouse changerooms could have benefited from one of those spinning quick-dryers to get most of the moisture out of bathing suits that were about to be packed in luggage for the trip home. Sometimes, doing things the "Alaskan way" can be charming and quirky, at Chena this mainly means it is amateurish.

Another small but important improvement that would be so easy to make: the pool reception area also serves as a quasi-pharmacy, selling everything from disposable bathing suits to shampoo and toiletries. But seeing condoms and anti-diarrhea products on sale AT THE POOL did nothing to enhance the quality of my experience. Sure, we're 50 miles from the closest drug store, but for goodness sake, sell those items somewhere else on the property.

The rock pool outside (no kids under 18) was the main attraction for me, and it was glorious to stand in the sun, look at the surrounding peaks, and relax. Some areas of the pool have extremely hot water on the surface, and those with sensitive skin need to be careful about where they travel within the pool. At one point walking through a certain section I felt like I was scalding my stomach. Other areas do not suffer from this, but the heat can quickly get overwhelming.

The resort also needs more staff oversight of the hot springs. In several visits to the rock pool over two days, I never saw a staff person out there, and once when I walked past late at night (on an aurora-seeking mission), there were a bunch of younger yahoos in the springs with open liquor bottles. Glass (and alcohol, for that matter) in the pool is not cool. Guests should not have to be policing that.

Overall, I was glad to visit, Chena does have its natural beauty and location going for it, but on the service and accommodation front it falls well short of where many would place their expectations. Having been once, I do not expect to return.

  • Stayed March 2014, traveled with family
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 1 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 3 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 2 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Travelers are raving about these Pleasant Valley hotels

Sydney, Australia
Senior Contributor
49 reviews 49 reviews
11 hotel reviews
Reviews in 22 cities Reviews in 22 cities
23 helpful votes 23 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed April 2, 2014

Follow Chena Hot Springs Road until it ends, there are no signs until just before the entrance to the resort (about 56miles).
Our accommodation was basic, but we weren't here for the accommodation. I had read this is one of the best locations to view the aurora and they weren't wrong.
Accommodation includes access to the hot springs which are amazing, lockers take a $0.25 and you don't get your money back so once you lock the locker you will need to pay another $0.25 if you forget to put something away. Towels are also included. skip the "spas" and just head straight for the giant hot springs, as you wonder around you will find reallly hot pockets of water, take care on the ramp as it is slipery in some spots.
Lots of activites at the resort but book early as most things are booked out by early morning.
The aurora tour is $75pp, the ride up is about 30mins and very bumpy. Up the top you can keep warm in the yurt which is toasty warm and they provide unlimited warm drinks and noodles.
We were lucky enough to witness the aurora on both nights we went up and the sight was just magical.
There is plenty of room up the top for people to spread out and take photos of the aurora.
Make sure to dress super warm, you can hire snow boots for $15 and other clothing.
The restaurant is ok, with nothing else around there is not much choice.

  • Stayed March 2014, traveled as a couple
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Yellowknife, NWT
Top Contributor
160 reviews 160 reviews
26 hotel reviews
Reviews in 64 cities Reviews in 64 cities
73 helpful votes 73 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed March 29, 2014

My wife and i drove up to the hot Springs in March. The drive was difficult, we stopped to push a local person out of the ditch. I can see how at times the road would be impassable.

We went on both the ice museum tour and the geothermal tour. Both were great, conducted by James who was very knowledgeable.

The hot springs themselves were great, with interesting temperature variations from place to place.Because the pool was 18 and over, it make the experience more relaxing that it might have been otherwise.

  • Stayed March 2014, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Honolulu, Hawaii, United States
Reviewer
3 reviews 3 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
4 of 5 stars Reviewed March 23, 2014

An excellent base for viewing the Aurora Borealis at the Spring Equinox, a prime time. While pricey, the resort provides easy access to Charlie Dome; we took their tracked transport ($75 pp)twice in four nights--and would have done four out of four except for viewing tmes , 10:00 pm to 2:00 am; and the 4-degree (F) temps. The Resort provides excellent support in its warming yurts. Meals at the restaurant were excellent. A number of day-excursions, including free tours of its geothermal plant and greenhouse..

Room Tip: Moose Lodge rooms have phones, their Signature rooms do not. Only Verizon wireless service (1X).
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  • Stayed March 2014, traveled with friends
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Anchorage, Alaska
Top Contributor
115 reviews 115 reviews
38 hotel reviews
Reviews in 54 cities Reviews in 54 cities
65 helpful votes 65 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 20, 2014

Although we did not stay at the resort, my family was visiting Fairbanks and decided to also make the drive to Chena Hot Springs. It's about 1.5 hours from Fairbanks (in the winter, so driving is a little bit slower). In addition to the hot springs, the resort offers many other activities. We went on a dog sled ride and it was the best 15 minutes of excitement money can buy. The resort also has its own restaurant for both guests and day trippers.

  • Stayed March 2014, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
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Pleasanton, California
Top Contributor
376 reviews 376 reviews
39 hotel reviews
Reviews in 147 cities Reviews in 147 cities
434 helpful votes 434 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed March 19, 2014

I had a bit mixed feelings, so instead of trying to summarize them in one grade, let me discuss them one by one.

1. Location. The location is perfect. It's a remote scenic river valley between the mountains, right by the hot springs. So that gives a lot of potential. Swimming in hot springs in winter is surely fun, as well as exploring the wilderness around.
2. Access. There is a really nice highway which actually ends at the resort, so if you have a car, a day trip is not a problem. Or you can get out to Fairbanks - takes about 1.5 hours to drive one way.
3. Geothermal and green technology. The place feels more like some kind of industrial lab dedicated to harnessing geothermal energy. They do a lot of cool stuff trying to stay off the grid and hit up the houses, greenhouses, supply electricity etc. It's cool, but not everyone likes it.
4. Cozy/romantic feel (or lack of it). As I said above, the place feels more like industrial proof of concept than a romantic getaway. Sorry.
5. Upsell. When I went for a day trip, I paid only for the pool and the towel service. The entrance/parking/trails/geothermal tour were free. So that part looked like a great value. Then I went to the ice museum and it didn't feel worth the price. Then I started looking over other prices and it did look like it could be easy to blow through the budget - a lot of things are quite pricey.

Obviously, one of the biggest attractions is the Aurora lights, they might not be happening every day, and there is not much to do in the darkness of long arctic nights, so I can see people going to Chena Hot Springs, spending days in the hot pools and nights catching Aurora. But it doesn't have that romantic cozy escape in the middle of the cold forest feel, so you may be better off considering a day trip instead.

  • Stayed March 2014, traveled solo
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Chena Hot Springs Resort

Address: 56.5 mile Chena Hot Springs Rd., Pleasant Valley, AK 99711
Location: United States > Alaska > Pleasant Valley
Amenities:
Free Parking Restaurant Room Service Spa Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 1 Hotels in Pleasant Valley
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$
Hotel Class:2.5 star — Chena Hot Springs Resort 2.5*
Number of rooms: 80
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Also Known As:
Chena Hot Springs Hotel Pleasant Valley
Chena Hot Springs Resort Alaska/Pleasant Valley

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