Alaska is home to more than 70 thermal springs. All of the hot springs in Alaska are family-friendly, situated within the countryside, and boast views of the Pacific Ocean or rolling wilderness. You can drive to some thermal springs, while other springs are accessible by ski, boat, kayak, or a short walk. Best of all, most of the hot springs are within reasonable distance of many Alaska vacation rentals. Here are the top five best natural springs in Alaska that are worth checking out.
1. White Sulfur Springs, Chichagof Island, Alaska
White Sulfur Springs occupies a tract on the west side of Chichagof Island, within the Tongass National Forest, Southeast Alaska. There is an outdoor pool and a U.S. Forest Service bathhouse made of red and yellow cedar sourced locally. The bathhouse permits views of nearby Pacific Ocean washing over rocky cliffs. A beach located a stone’s throw from the bathhouse is a popular low-tide stroll for nature lovers, adventurers, and charter boat guests. The bathhouse and outdoor pool are free to use, but they are also very popular.
White Sulfur Springs water temperatures are about 135 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, although the bathhouse and outdoor pool water are temperature controlled. Dense clusters of hemlock and spruce frame the entire area, driving home the Alaskan ambiance. Access White Sulphur Springs by chartered boat ride from Pelican, by floatplane, or plan a kayak day trip up the coast of Chichagof Island.
2. Goddard Hot Springs, Sitka, Alaska
Located 16 miles south of Sitka, on Baranof Island, is Goddard Hot Springs. Europeans discovered and began using the springs around the mid-1800s. An invalid hospital and a hotel previously occupied the site near the springs. Today, the city of Sitka owns the property, maintaining two cedar bathhouses that are free for guests to use. There are also open shelters over hot tubs fed by naturally hot springs emitting water at temperatures of 153 degrees Fahrenheit. The hot spring water mixes with cold water, bringing the temperature down to something pleasurably warm.
Campsites near the springs provide an area for respite during day trips. Boardwalks within the vicinity provide easy access near the springs, with outhouses for relief. A boat is the best means of transport to Baranof Island. Locals recommend you anchor in the bay and approach the shore in a skiff.
3. Trocadero Soda Springs, Prince of Wales Island, Alaska
If your ideal vacation destination doesn’t include tons of people and socializing, consider Trocadero Soda Springs. These springs are under the radar yet well known among devotees, prized for the carbonated water they produce. The temperature is said to be pleasant, and the water issues from the springs at about 7 gallons per hour, bubbling and hissing effervescently.
Situated 12 miles southeast of Craig, Trocadero Soda Springs are accessible by boat and a mile-long walk up a creek without a name. The springs merge with the creek about one mile upstream. Two large gold-hued steps mark the entrance to the springs, which straddle close to 5 acres. The water is drinkable, although the flavor is reportedly sharp. No official authority maintains Trocadero Soda Springs, and wildlife meander through occasionally.
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4. Manley Hot Springs, Manley, Alaska
Escape the outside world with a dip in Manley Hot Springs, boasting three concrete spring-fed tubs within the quiet and beauty of a privately owned greenhouse. The greenhouse sits on a hillside outside the namesake town, at the end of Elliot Road. Each tub connects to a spring that feeds water at its own speed, ranging from 35 to 110 gallons per hour, consistently at a comfortable 135 degrees Fahrenheit.
The springs are very popular, so be sure to call ahead and make a reservation for a block of time. Available blocks of time vary seasonally, but you can reserve the springs for at least 30 minutes. During your reserved time, the spring-fed tubs are yours for private use. The nearest town is Fairbanks. You may camp within the vicinity of the springs, or plan a return trip to Alaska vacation rentals in Fairbanks. In Fairbanks, there are tours of the arctic circle, Northern Lights tours, and guided snowmobile tours.
5. Chief Shakes Hot Springs, Wrangell, Alaska
A little further south of White Sulfur Springs, just off the Ketili River, is Chief Shakes Hot Springs. Fans love these hot springs for their spa-perfect temperature of 122 degrees Fahrenheit. Choose between two hot tubs. One tub has a screen enclosure for discretion, and the other is open-air, with an adjacent wooden deck. Both tubs have changing areas, and there is a nearby picnic hub and a fire pit. Host the Alaskan outdoor barbecue of your dreams.
Trekking to Chief Shakes is half of the fun. The Ketili River is a slough of the Stikine River and part of the Hot Springs Slough Route, an established kayak and canoe route along the Stikine. The slough flows within Tongass National Park, and the Forest Service maintains the area. The Forest Service reports that Chief Shakes Hot Springs attracts high foot traffic during the evenings and weekends, so plan your excursion accordingly if you want to beat the crowds.
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