We finished up our journey in McCarthy and hit the road. After a day of driving we made it to Fairbanks, AK. The weather was cloudy in the evenings, which didn't bode well for us trying to see the northern lights. Adding insult to injury, our host described the most amazing light show that had happened the evening before. Luckily seeing the lights weren't our only plans.
The next day we headed out of town to the Chena Lakes recreation Area for the Granite Tors Loop. The trail was very well maintained. The half day loop was magical with the fall colors peaking in areas. We chose to hike the trail counterclockwise (against recommendation) which turned out perfect. The climbs to the top were steep, but the the trail was easily followed. Once on top a storm began to move in and we worked our way over to the man made shelter. By the time we finished our lunch the rain had passed and we began the decent into a golden forest. The colors, trail and ideal weather combined to make a great hike, magnificent.
Every night in Fairbanks I was keeping an eye on the weather. It wasn't going well. Cloudy almost every night. Our last evening there, a break in the weather formed and we made a drive out of town. Thirty minutes out of town on a mountainside pullout we sat watching the display. It wasn't the most active, but it was still amazing to see. Don't waste your money on a tour. A rental car and a little research will go a long way.