FAIRBANKS is commonly known as America’s coldest city. It is the northernmost metropolitan area in the United States, located less than 120 miles south of the Arctic Circle. The land is rugged and beautiful. With less than four hours of sunlight during the shortest days of the year, the sunsets seem to last all day. Be ready for the night sky as the northern lights are visible on average more than 200 days per year.
Upriver from where this photo was taken a power plant uses river water to cool its pipes. It turns Pioneer Park into a frozen winter wonderland.
Traveling to Fairbanks, staying in a remote log cabin in a snowy forest was high on my wish list. It came true with this cabin at A Taste of Alaska.
If you can, get out every night to witness the northern lights in the winter time. I was here in December and it was -30F between 1 and 3 AM. Bundle up! I recommend taking an aurora class from Sean Kurdziolek Photography to understand and photograph the Northern Lights. Pro tip: I learned the best time to witness the aurora is the first week of March. Bring a couple packs of desiccant to keep your equipment dry.
Some of the best views and experiences during my trip were at Chena Hot Springs, just outside of Fairbanks. They have snow machine tours that take you to the top of a mountain where the views are seemingly endless.
In Fairbanks, in December, there are only four hours of daylight. Get the sun while you can, soak up the rays, and take in the sunsets as they light up the snow.
The University of Alaska Museum of the North is one of the most architecturally beautiful buildings that I’ve ever seen.
The Dalton Highway is a 414-mile road in Northern Alaska. It begins at the Elliott Highway, north of Fairbanks, and ends at Deadhorse near the Arctic Ocean and the Prudhoe Bay oil fields. Once called the North Slope Haul Road, it was built as a supply road to support the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System in 1974. I recommend taking a tour with Northern Alaska Tour Company to get the full experience.
In the winter it seems like the sun never fully sets in Fairbanks; it really never rises either. It keeps moving horizontally across the sky until it finally disappears and fades away into the night. Some of the most magical light happens during this time, so make sure to be out and about to take in this amazing light.
There are so many great places to go cross country skiing around Fairbanks. If you really want to get into it, head up to the Nordic Ski Club of Fairbanks. Otherwise, the town offers many different places to get out and stretch your legs. Here we toured down a frozen waterway to the Chena River.
One of the best places to take a walk is at Creamers Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge, a 2,200 acre wildlife sanctuary and landmark dairy farm offering bird observation and nature education. It’s also a great place to go cross country skiing.
If you are up for a long road trip, head to Coldfoot with Northern Alaska Tour Company for amazing views of the Northern Lights. It’s an experience of a lifetime to pass into the Arctic Circle.
With permafrost so close to the surface of the ground, it’s impossible for trees to grow much past the Arctic Circle. On the Dalton highway, we passed the northernmost tree in North America. The landscape is so rugged, it’s hard to believe anything can survive here.
The farther you travel north, the less cell phone and internet coverage there is. If you need to make a call in the Arctic Circle, you need a calling card and a land line. Don’t worry, they have calling cards available if you need.
I don’t know whether to call Wiseman, AK a town or a community, as the population there is only 14. We departed Coldfoot for historic Wiseman on the Arctic Village Aurora tour. Sip on a hot beverage and watch for the Aurora Borealis in the solitude of the Brooks Mountain Range, while experiencing a very unique cabin visit and way of life.
Flying back from Coldfoot, AK we passed over the Brooks Range, a mountain range in the Arctic Circle stretching across northern Alaska into Canada’s Yukon Territory. The rugged landscape is a treat to see from above.
One of the world’s largest pipelines, The Trans-Alaska Pipeline System zig-zags across Alaska’s 800 miles of barren landscape. During its construction in the late 1970’s, special construction techniques had to be developed to work with the permafrost. It’s intriguing to witness this massive pipeline that is such a central part of Alaska’s economy.
Ice fishing in Alaska is something I’ve always dreamed about crossing off my bucket list. I went out for an evening fishing trip tour with Alaska Fishing and Raft Adventures to a frozen lake just outside of Fairbanks. In no time we had caught two salmon, cooked them on the wood stove, and devoured them all within our heated mobile ice shelter. Make sure to bring a picture ID to buy your Alaska Fishing license.
I was lucky to do some dog sledding with Just Short of Magic Sled Dog Tours. If you’re extra adventurous ask your musher about riding the sled runners and driving the sled out on the trail. After the tour you get to warm up in their house, enjoy hot tea or cocoa, and watch the dog team harness up. If you don’t have the proper winter clothing, they supply supplemental arctic outerwear at no additional charge.
. By Matador Network MICHAEL DYRLAND.