I have taken many trips up into the interior of Alaska this last year. As a professional photographer, it’s a goldmine for amazing sights no matter when you go.
Logically, I always needed a place to stay, and so I usually attempt to locate something interesting. Denali National Park has its incredible campgrounds, Chena Hot Springs has spectacular things to see and do everywhere you look, but what about something different than the obvious (more well known) choices?
I have used several resources around Fairbanks, Alaska to help me locate fun new activities, things to see, wildlife around, and of course places to stay.
My favorite among them being Explore Fairbanks which is an amazing resource for all of these things (think of a visitor’s center, parks department, museum, and about 10 other resources rolled into one place, it’s incredible).
I contacted them and, at the time, I had either stayed at the many places they recommended or there was no availability at the places I wanted to go as it was peak Aurora season.
So when I first heard of Pleasant Acres Reindeer Ranch, I was intrigued.
Pleasant Acres Reindeer Ranch
A company offering super modern igloos, with big comfortable decks overlooking a Reindeer Ranch, with fun activities close by, that had excellent Aurora viewing potential, that I had also never heard of? It couldn’t be!
They fortunately had some availability during my desired Aurora viewing window, so my wife and I booked our stay figuring it was worth a try. Fortunately, I can attest, it was a phenomenal experience that was unlike any I had to date!
In this article I will get into my surprising discovery of this new and unique Alaskan stay that delivered more than I would have ever expected.
How To Get There & How To Book
One of the reasons I had never heard of Pleasant Acres Reindeer Ranch, was because it had actually just finished construction in early February 2023. So not only was it brand new (at the time of writing this article), but it was also just beginning to advertise and work with entities like Explore Fairbanks to get their name out there.
I wound up booking them through their website and the process was very simple.
Once I had booked I received a message detailing everything I would need to know about check-in, policies, and etcetera. I had messaged their owner Kenny a few times as I had unique needs for photography and film work. He was extremely quick to respond and accommodate every last one of my needs before I set out.
Getting to the ranch is easy, although a long trip, at around 6 hours 51 minutes from Anchorage, if you are in the Anchorage area, you will head North on the Glenn Highway for about 45 minutes until you take a left onto the Parks Highway.
You will then remain on the Parks Highway for about 5 hours headed towards Fairbanks Alaska. There is a lot of beautiful scenery on your drive from Anchorage to Denali and then on to Fairbanks.
Once in Fairbanks, head East and get on Chena Hot Springs Road and after about 35 minutes you will see the Pleasant Valley Store on the right. As soon as you pass the store, take a right on Cory Ranch Road and then an immediate left when you see the ranch’s sign (as pictured above).
There are 4 igloos on the property which are very comfortably spaced out. We never saw our neighbors once through all the trees during our stay, so take a right at the first one and find the igloo with your unit’s name on it. Once you are parked in your private parking area, it’s time to go inside!
What Is It Like Inside The Igloos?
Walk up the stairs to your deck and around to the front and your mind will likely be greeted by two thoughts that I don’t think ever left my mind during my stay. Modern and Rustic.
The igloo itself is clearly a piece of slick modern engineering, created by a company out of Juneau called InterShelter, makes the silent beautiful forest and surrounding ranch feel so very Alaskan.
The reindeer enclosure is directly underneath your deck area, so if inclined, the Reindeer will come running right below you, which is quite fun to experience while drinking a morning coffee.
They really like the edge of the enclosure to run full tilt playing with each other so keep an eye out.
Inside Your Igloo
Using the wireless keypad on the door you will enter your igloo and walk into the living room/bedroom area (which is quite a treat). The leading lines of the igloo walls leading up to the circular center at the top is just plain cool.
The bed and side tables themselves are uniquely Alaskan as they are made of local reused beetle kill spruce trees from the company Bear Essentials Custom Log Furnishings in Palmer, Alaska. The trees often cannot survive after they are attacked by the beetles, so having trees repurposed like this is always a welcomed sight (plus they are absolutely gorgeous).
The bed itself is worth talking about for a second; my wife and I stayed here for over a week, and this mattress/bed was comfy as all-get-out.
You can always tell how much the owner of an Airbnb, cabin, or other unique stay cares by how much they invest in a good mattress. We would often spend our evenings just loafing on the bed streaming stuff after a long hard day, at it was so relaxing.
Speaking of streaming stuff, we not only had good quality internet in the middle of practically nowhere, but they had Starlink internet. In our cabin we regularly had speeds over 200mbps which is unreal for a normal rental in a city, little less for one in the middle of a forest.
It is also worth noting that the living/bedroom area also had several fast charging USB enabled wall outlets so we could plug in our laptop, drone, cellphones, cameras, battery chargers, and projector without any special setup. Little details like this go a long way to making for a great experience.
Everything You Need In A Kitchenette
Moving into the kitchenette area was also a nice surprise as it had more room than you might guess from looking at the outside. It had a deep medium sized refrigerator, pots and pans, cooking utensils, nice silverware, a modern two burner stove, an elegant space efficient sink, and room for pretty much anything you might bring along.
The kitchenette space was made to be as efficient as possible for its size. My wife and I never felt cramped or like we were bumping into each other. One of us was usually hanging out over in the living/bedroom area or the breakfast bar and so we could chat while we cooked which was so comfortable.
The provided microwave was very powerful and also served as our ventilation fan while cooking. As cooking in certain more remote areas can really get that “base camp” kind of feel, if was a relief to enjoy a bit of modern luxury alongside the rustic tones of all the wood in our igloo. I said it before and I will say it again: Modern and Rustic.
Cozy Breakfast Bar
Most mornings and evenings we spent a good deal of time around the breakfast bar. Whether we were cooking, eating, working, watching shows on our laptop, enjoying the sun rising or setting, or playing chess on the provided wood chess set, it was a favorite hangout.
It was also a nice spot because we could see the Reindeer and what they were getting up too without having to go outside. We could also easily check for the Aurora from the comfort of our warm igloo while it was below freezing outside.
Luxurious Modern Bathroom
The last stop for the inside of our igloo was the luxurious modern bathroom.
At first I was looking everywhere for a light switch before I realized that the touch enabled mirror triggered the ring light for the bathroom which my wife and I are both big fans of (nice cool bright light just feels quite nice in the bathroom).
Their was plenty of room for two of us when we were getting ready in the mornings, it’s definitely more spacious than what you might expect. The shower was not only a decent size, but also the water in the whole cabin was able to get hot… fast!
I think it takes about 20-30 seconds for it to be at full heat which was awesome.
Its also worth mentioning that all of the water for your igloo is purified water that is trucked over and put into your own private huge water tank.
We never ran out of water and whenever we were even halfway close (which we did not have to monitor) the staff would be over to refill it without having to even interact with us.
The Reindeer & Their Secrets
Watching the Reindeer from the back deck, or the trail that surrounds the enclosure was fascinating and… hilarious! They all loved to eat, chase each other, and stand around telling what I can only assume was extremely juicy Reindeer gossip (as pictured above).
They were so animated and friendly, it was just a cool thing to have them so close, doing their thing, right off your secluded back deck.
It was a bit like having a sea-side view that’s just steps away from your ocean bungalow, this is merely a more Alaskan version, with a Reindeer-side view (it was definitely one of the reasons I wanted to stay here to begin with).
They have this huge space in the enclosure that also has trees in the back so they can run and play in the forest, as well as under your deck.
I saw them kissing and being highly social on several occasions and it was really magical to be near them and share those sweet moments (and from an igloo no less).
The Reindeer we got to visit with were named Jeff, Meredith, Deloris, and Little Miss and they definitely knew their names so don’t forget to ask!
You cannot go into the enclosure with the Reindeer as they need their space, but trust me, you will definitely get to see plenty of them, especially around feeding time.
After spending so much time on the ranch, in our igloo, and with the Reindeer, we wanted to go explore what activities were in the surrounding area.
The owner Kenny had given us a tip before we came up that although we could not pet or physically interact with his Reindeer, there was a place right nearby that we could actually go on a hike with them!
We ended up having the owner book two activities for us as he highly recommended them, we really didn’t know much about them, or what to expect, so we just went with it… I am so glad we did.
Nearby Activities – Reindeer Hike
The first activity that was booked for us was a Reindeer Hike where we would finally get the chance to learn about, and then be hands-on with/feed some of these cool creatures.
When we asked for the address for the activity, I plugged it into my GPS and then I laughed out loud (literally). My wife asked what was so funny, and I told her, “It’s less than two minutes away!”
Less than two minutes later we arrived at the Chena Outdoor Collective to start our hiking experience and were greeted by several extremely friendly staff members. They had an educational area and taught us about Reindeer before taking us down to their enclosure to meet and feed them.
The Reindeer had the temperament of happy well trained dogs, gleefully bounded around us, and ate handfuls of lichen from our outstretched palms.
We walked on the well groomed trail for about 30 minutes stopping to take photos along the way and pet the Reindeer to our heart’s content. After our very easy hike we returned to our igloo, cooked a big dinner, and hoped we might see some Aurora that evening.
Sled Dog Adventure
We didn’t see any Aurora that night but the next day we returned to the Chena Outdoor Collective with its still hilariously short 2 minute drive. Today was our sled dog adventure, which was very exciting for me as I had somehow, never in my life, been on a sled dog activity of any kind (despite having lived in Alaska my whole life).
When we met all the dogs and were introduced to them individually, there was something that was quite clear right off the bat. These dogs were obsessed with the desire to run, maybe even more so that the prospect of a juicy steak, running was their favorite thing in the whole world.
We got seated in the front of the sled and when these dogs took off, it was crazy their collective power. Our musher had run the Iditarod, several other long format sled dog races, was extremely knowledgeable, and taught us a great deal about this incredible Alaskan sport.
The dogs are so well loved/taken care of and it really opened my eyes to the fact that the dogs are not convinced or enticed to run, they are bred for it. Running is their treat!
All-in-all the sled dog adventure was about 1.5 hours and was a non-stop thrill ride!
We couldn’t believe how fun these ridiculously accessible and unique Alaskan activities were from our igloo lodging. It gave us so much time to work, play, eat, and enjoy ourselves without having to drive huge distances to experience them.
Once more we got home to our igloo in the forest and hoped we might get treated to some Aurora that night…
A Perfect Place To Enjoy The Aurora
Success! From our back deck at Pleasant Acres Reindeer Ranch we were able to observe some of the best Aurora activity I have ever seen.
Additionally, as the back deck areas are located facing the Reindeer enclosure (which is mostly a large field) the depth you can see is phenomenal as there are no trees blocking your view.
The view is also further enriched by the fact that it is facing exactly due North, which is the most optimal direction for Aurora sightings to occur. No need for long 6 hour trips out to far flung, or worse, overcrowded Aurora viewing locations.
Simply take 10 steps outback and you have a chance at world class Aurora viewing.
We saw the Aurora out strong 2 of the 8 days we stayed in our igloo, but we saw them 4 nights in total (just a bit less intense on 2 of the days).
That, I would call, is a pretty excellent viewing probability at 50%, it will not always be like this, and you could miss them entirely. However, these were some of the easiest and most comfortable Aurora shots I have ever captured.
The Aurora was out often enough this February and March that the owner was able to create an amazing timelapse video of the Aurora dancing over the 4 igloos as seen below.
Final Thoughts On The Pleasant Acres Reindeer Ranch
I wanted to travel up north to find a new unique place to stay. To find a place where I had good chances and angles to see the Aurora.
I wanted a place that would be quiet and off the beaten path, but comfortable for a longer stay with my wife. If we could be close to cool activities and places to photograph, that would have also been a bonus. I am pleased to say that the Pleasant Acres Reindeer Ranch checked every single box and more!
I was able to knock out some killer astrophotography, hangout with amazing and loving animals, stay in a form of lodging I have never experienced before, got out with some happy sled dogs, relaxed easily, and most importantly, I was able enjoy every moment of my time here.
If you are ever in the area, or planning to be, I couldn’t recommend this stay enough.
Pleasant Acres Reindeer Ranch
- Address: 464 Cory Ranch Rd Pleasant Valley AK 99712
- Website: pleasantacresrr.com
- Social Media: Facebook | Instagram | TikTok
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