The Best Times and Places to See the Northern Lights in Alaska

The northern lights are some of the mesmerizing and awe-inspiring pure phenomena on the planet. Often known as the aurora borealis, these dancing waves of colour and lightweight pulsate by the skies in vibrant hues of inexperienced, yellow, blue, pink and violet, placing on a surreal present for spectators.

This dazzling spectacle within the sky is created by energized particles from the solar that attain speeds of as much as 45 million mph as they crash into the Earth’s higher ambiance. Because the planet is protected by its magnetic subject, the particles are then rechanneled towards the poles, interacting with the ambiance in that course of. It is this interplay of power that creates the fluorescence, forming the aurora borealis.

The northern lights really happen 24 hours a day, 12 months a yr, however you should be on the proper place on the proper time to view them – ideally in what’s generally known as the auroral zone. This location falls inside an space that covers a radius of roughly 1,550 miles across the North Pole. The evening will should be clear, and it is best to view the aurora away from the sunshine air pollution of a metropolis, ideally in a wilderness or darkish sky location, if potential. Optimum viewing locales for the northern lights embody locations in Canada, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Iceland, however you do not even have to go away the U.S. to witness the present.

Alaska is among the greatest locations on Earth to catch the aurora borealis. The state is brimming with scenic locations, exhilarating excursions and top-notch inns that provide myriad alternatives to see the northern lights. If this unimaginable pure phenomenon is on the prime of your bucket checklist, it is time to begin planning your Alaska journey.

(Observe: A few of the following actions, sights and areas could also be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. New insurance policies could also be in place, together with capability restrictions, reservation necessities or masks mandates. Test with the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention, the U.S. Division of State and native tourism boards earlier than touring.)

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Whether or not you are a newbie or an skilled aurora chaser, you will respect Discover Fairbanks’ real-time Aurora Tracker. This on-line reference reveals up-to-the-minute info on the temperature, climate and chance of the very best time to catch the northern lights in Fairbanks. A lot of the info comes from one of many world’s foremost aurora analysis facilities, the Geophysical Institute on the University of Alaska–Fairbanks. To additional help in your search, you may also obtain the My Aurora Forecast & Alerts app in your smartphone.

For different components of the state, the Geophysical Institute web site’s Aurora Forecast has every day forecasts of geomagnetic exercise as much as three days upfront and brought at three-hour intervals. There’s additionally a summation on the webpage of whether or not the aurora will likely be lively – or not – and the place you will discover the very best visibility in Alaska.

Aurora near Denali, Alaska

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In the event you’re headed to Alaska to catch a glimpse of the aurora, specialists advise that the very best time to see the northern lights within the Land of the Midnight Solar is from late August by April, with Fairbanks generally known as one of many prime locations on the planet to look at the spectacular pure mild present. And the additional north you go – towards and above the Arctic Circle – the extra time you will have for aurora searching.

On the winter solstice – the shortest day of the yr, which generally falls between Dec. 20 and 23 – Juneau (in southeastern Alaska) has six hours and 22 minutes of daylight. Additional north, by roughly 730 miles, Fairbanks experiences three hours and 42 minutes of daylight. In the meantime, Utqiagvik (additionally known as Barrow) sits about 320 miles north of the Arctic Circle and 500 miles north of Fairbanks; it experiences 67 days of darkness from Nov. 18 to Jan. 23, creating countless alternatives for viewing the northern lights.

Best times and places to see the northern lights in Alaska

(Jody Overstreet/Courtesy of State of Alaska)

Irrespective of the place you determine to journey to in Alaska in the hunt for the aurora, you will be thrilled you made the journey when you see the present. Listed below are a number of the greatest locations to view the northern lights in Alaska.

Fairbanks

Fairbanks, generally known as the Golden Coronary heart of Alaska, sits at 65 levels north latitude, making it a wonderful alternative for aurora hunters, particularly first-timers. It is simply accessible and affords loads of lodging, eating, sights and aurora viewing, together with northern lights excursions. You can even be outdoors of Fairbanks inside minutes to seek out glorious viewing locales. The town’s tourism web site, Discover Fairbanks, advises that the very best occasions for catching the northern lights on this space fall between Aug. 21 and April 21, throughout aurora season. Your possibilities of seeing the aurora borealis are glorious as the town sits the place the exercise of the polar lights is concentrated – below the ring-shaped zone generally known as the auroral oval. Native specialists say that on clear evenings when the sky may be very darkish, it’s best to have the ability to witness the skies mild up on a median of 4 out of 5 nights in Fairbanks.

Talkeetna

Talkeetna sits about 115 miles north of Anchorage in south-central Alaska, on the base of Denali, the tallest mountain peak in North America. With its outdated clapboard buildings, log cabins and roadhouse courting again to 1917, this historic city affords quite a lot of out of doors winter enjoyable past chasing the aurora. Important Avenue is full of galleries, retailers, eating places and a brewery. The quirky village, as soon as a former mining city, was the inspiration for the imaginary borough of Cicely within the TV present “Northern Publicity.”

In the event you go to in December, try the festivities on the monthlong Winterfest. This occasion includes a parade of lights, a tree lighting ceremony and the Style of Talkeetna meals competition, plus entertaining occasions just like the Bachelor Public sale and the Wilderness Girl Competitors. When it is time to search for within the sky for the lights, native aurora hunters advocate heading out of city to Christiansen Lake or previous the airport on Beaver Street. In the event you desire to remain shut by, look north into the sky towards Denali from Talkeetna Riverfront Park.

Denali Nationwide Park

Denali Nationwide Park is one other prime spot to view the northern lights in Alaska – to not point out one of many prime vacationer sights within the U.S. The Nationwide Park Service says nearly in all places inside the park is free from mild air pollution, so if the circumstances are proper (that means that is it is clear and darkish sufficient), it’s best to have the ability to see the aurora borealis, particularly when wanting towards the northern horizon. Nonetheless, when wintertime rolls round – from September or October by April – it is tougher to entry components of the park, although it is open year-round. Take into account, too, that the lodges closest to the park are closed from mid-September to mid-Could.

In the event you nonetheless wish to head to the park for aurora viewing, take into account staying within the close by city of Healy at Aurora Denali Lodge. Positioned lower than 15 miles from the Denali Nationwide Park entrance, this property affords year-round lodging geared up with queen-sized beds, good TVs and personal loos. Charges on the lodge embody a continental breakfast, free Wi-Fi, free parking and complimentary scorching drinks. What’s extra, the property says guests can count on loads of wildlife sightings, reminiscent of bears, moose, lynx, owls and snowshoe hares, simply outdoors your door.

Coldfoot Camp

Coldfoot Camp is located above the Arctic Circle within the Brooks Mountain Vary, close to the Gates of the Arctic Nationwide Park and Protect and the Arctic Nationwide Wildlife Refuge. The distant wilderness vacation spot is good for aurora viewing because it sits immediately below the auroral oval. It is also the proper locale for backcountry snowshoeing, wildlife viewing and canine mushing.

The Inn at Coldfoot Camp affords rustic lodging positioned in trailers that when housed Alaskan pipeline staff. The rooms embody two twin beds and a non-public lavatory and bathe. Visitors can dine on the on-site Trucker’s Café, which affords breakfast and dinner buffets in the summertime months and all-day a la carte eating within the winter. And if you’re prepared for a chilly one on the finish of the day, try the Frozen Foot Saloon and order an Alaska-brewed beer. In the event you desire tenting and have your personal gear, you may camp freed from cost on the property. Coldfoot Camp additionally hosts a choice of year-round Arctic adventures and excursions, together with a visit to the village of Wiseman for aurora viewing.

Wiseman

This small village of 12 full-time residents is positioned in Alaska’s Brooks Vary, about 15 miles north of Coldfoot Camp, 60 miles north of the Arctic Circle and 270 miles from Fairbanks. Wiseman is an off-the-grid wilderness retreat. The neighborhood sits immediately below the auroral oval, making it among the finest locations in Alaska to view the northern lights. You may count on to see the spectacle within the sky in Wiseman about 250 nights a yr, particularly between late August and mid-April. Wiseman has extra sled canines than folks, and there are three properties to select from for lodging on your go to.

Arctic Hive is a superb lodging possibility on this distant vacation spot that is solely accessible by foot – jump to the section on top hotels for viewing the lights to learn extra about its cosy cabins, aurora excursions and yoga studio. In the meantime, you may drive to bed-and-breakfast Arctic Getaway, which sits between the center fork of the Koyukuk River and Wiseman Creek, providing three cabins. Whereas right here, you may study what it is prefer to homestead in Alaska above the Arctic Circle and revel in out of doors actions like canine sled rides throughout the huge wilderness, cross-country snowboarding, pack rafting and flightseeing by bush aircraft. Lastly, Boreal Lodge (additionally reachable by automobile) has a number of rental choices, starting from lodge rooms to bigger cabins with dwelling areas and kitchens.

Nome

Positioned in western Alaska overlooking the Norton Sound of the Bering Sea, Nome is the ending level for the greater than 1,000-mile, 50-year-old Iditarod Path Canine Sled Race in March. As soon as essentially the most populated metropolis in Alaska, Nome had nearly 20,000 residents and a median of 1,000 new folks arriving every day in the course of the peak of the gold rush in 1899. Nome is a bit of quieter now, with a inhabitants of lower than 4,000 residents.

In the event you’re on the town to chase the lights, plan to remain at Aurora Inn & Suites, a 52-room lodge with views of the Bering Sea. A few of the greatest spots for viewing the aurora are a few mile outdoors of Nome. The lodge’s entrance desk employees also can give you further ideas throughout your keep. Plan your journey for mid-March to hitch within the festivities round city surrounding the tip of the Iditarod.

Utqiagvik

Located on the banks of the Arctic Ocean, Utqiagvik is the northernmost metropolis within the U.S. The city, previously generally known as Barrow, modified its identify in 2016 again to Utqiagvik, its conventional Inupiaq identify. Utqiagvik is barely accessible by aircraft, and Alaska Airways affords service from each Anchorage and Fairbanks. For lodging, make reservations at a lodge named for its location – the High of the World Lodge. The property’s comfy rooms provide views of the Arctic Ocean; the on-site restaurant, Niggivikput (that means “our place to eat”), serves conventional native dishes like reindeer soup. Whilst you could also be there for aurora searching, do not miss the wonderful wildlife-viewing alternatives: You may even see polar bears, caribou, foxes, bearded seals, whales, walruses, migratory birds and the nice snowy owl on the tundra.

Best times and places to see the northern lights in Alaska

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In the event you determine you wish to expertise the aurora borealis by becoming a member of a tour group, you are in luck – Alaska boasts a wide range of excursions to select from, led by knowledgeable guides and granting you simpler entry to most of the state’s distant locations, usually with different actions included. (And understand that, on any tour or tour, there isn’t any option to assure that the aurora will likely be seen.) Listed below are a number of the greatest excursions to see the northern lights in Alaska.

Arctic Canine Journey Co.: Aurora In a single day Tour

Canine-sledding is among the prime winter actions in Alaska, and you’ll select to do it by day or evening. If you wish to expertise an Alaska dog-sledding journey whereas chasing the aurora, then guide a once-in-a-lifetime expertise with Arctic Canine’s Aurora In a single day Tour. Highlights of this two-day, one-night excursion – which begins in Fairbanks – are canine mushing your personal sled workforce and glamping in a heated tent below an aurora-filled sky. Different options of the tour embody chilly climate gear, a pictures lesson and Alaska-inspired meals.

Alaska Wildlife Information: Northern Lights & Murphy Dome Tour

Positioned round 20 miles northwest of the town, Murphy Dome is considered among the finest locations to look at the northern lights in Fairbanks at almost 3,000 ft above sea stage. This location, as soon as house to Murphy Dome Air Drive Station with as many as 250 personnel stationed on the base, now homes a long-range radar station that detects navy air threats from abroad. Alaska Wildlife Information LLC leads 5.5-hour northern lights tours to Murphy Dome, sometimes from late August to early April – you may examine with the corporate for day-to-day tour availability. Tour costs embody round-trip transportation from Fairbanks, 360-degree views of the north-facing sky, scorching drinks and bottled water – along with (hopefully) hours of memorable aurora viewing.

Alaska Wildlife Information: Northern Lights & Arctic Circle Tour

This full-day (14-hour) tour, additionally provided by Alaska Wildlife Information, begins in Fairbanks and crosses the Arctic Circle into Alaska’s huge and distant wilderness. The tour features a drive alongside the greater than 800-mile Trans-Alaskan Pipeline and a half-mile stroll alongside the loop at Finger Mountain with views overlooking the Kanuti Flats (relying on the season). Your information may also cease alongside the riverbank after crossing the Yukon River Bridge. Through the tour, you will study concerning the historical past of the pipeline and listen to narratives across the different included stops. A snack and heat beverage are included; then, if circumstances are good, you will have the prospect to see the sensible mild present dance throughout the darkish, clear skies earlier than you arrive again in Fairbanks at daybreak.

SkyFire in Focus Excursions: Aurora Pictures & Viewing Tour

For a magical evening below Fairbanks’ clear skies – and the chance to seize the fascinating mild present on digicam – reserve a spot on the Aurora Pictures and Viewing Tour. This small group tour hosted by SkyFire in Focus Excursions takes friends to the inside of Fairbanks, the place you will study concerning the photo voltaic exercise overhead – and obtain directions on the easiest way to seize the phenomenon in your digicam. Spherical-trip transportation out of your lodge departs in late night and you may return round 3 a.m., relying on the evening’s aurora exercise. You may convey your digicam, tripod and different urged tools, or decide to lease from the tour group for the outing. Scorching drinks are included so you may keep heat whereas hopefully attending to benefit from the lights. As with different aurora excursions, the climate will decide if the tour departs that night. You can even guide a non-public expertise for 3 to 4 folks for extra individualized consideration.

Alaska Excursions: Bettles Lodge Winter Journey

The Alaska Excursions firm has a number of choices for aurora seekers dreaming of viewing the northern lights. The clothing store affords all the pieces from a night outing in Fairbanks − or a daylong driving tour from Fairbanks to the Arctic Circle − to a scenic four-night rail journey from Anchorage to Fairbanks on the Alaska Railroad. The Bettles Lodge Winter Journey is on the market January to March and August to December and contains two nights − or as much as 4 evenings − at this wilderness lodge about 35 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Through the winter days, take pleasure in out of doors Arctic sports activities reminiscent of snowshoeing and cross-country snowboarding or keep heat indoors chatting with different friends on the Aurora Lodge. Within the evenings, you may bundle up and head outdoors at among the finest locations in Alaska to see the spectacle within the sky. Costs embody round-trip airfare between Fairbanks and Bettles, lodging on the lodge, meals, a village tour and complimentary use of the Arctic gear (in season).

Alaska Picture Treks: Anchorage Aurora Quest

Alaska Picture Treks affords among the finest methods to see the northern lights in Anchorage – and you may even learn to greatest {photograph} the aurora, which could be a problem to seize digitally or on movie. This expertise, the Anchorage Aurora Quest, is on the market nightly (when circumstances are proper), sometimes from mid-August to mid-April. The roughly six-hour guided tour with an expert photographer explains the science behind the northern lights and supplies picture ideas for budding aurora photographers in a small-group format. Tourgoers are picked up from their lodge by the information at about 10 p.m. and return round 4 a.m., although that point can range based mostly on the aurora forecast.

On the Alaska Picture Treks web site, you will discover a checklist of advisable digicam tools to convey. In the event you’re utilizing a smartphone, the tour group suggests downloading an aurora app and bringing a tripod. The corporate additionally advises that you will be open air for about two hours, so you should costume appropriately for the climate. For the very best aurora viewing, the guides normally journey between one to 3 areas inside a 70-mile radius of Anchorage. In the event you’re on the town for an prolonged keep, Alaska Picture Treks additionally affords a four-day cross for much more nocturnal viewing of the auroral exercise.

Chena Scorching Springs Resort: Northern Lights and Better of Aurora excursions

Chena Scorching Springs Resort is thought for its therapeutic waters and aurora-viewing alternatives. In the event you desire to move out with a information, somewhat than by yourself, the property affords an in depth 12.5-hour Northern Lights Tour. This in a single day tour contains round-trip transportation from Fairbanks, a soak within the pure scorching springs, an Aurora Ice Museum Tour, dinner on the resort and a 60-mile adventurous aurora-viewing tour on a snowcat.

For a northern lights tour that features a few days on the property’s Moose Lodge lodging – the place you may keep heat whereas ready for the present to start – Chena Scorching Springs has a three-day, two-night Best of Aurora package. This expertise covers round-trip transportation from Fairbanks, passes for the new springs, a canine sled or cart journey, an aurora-viewing tour by snowcat, 5 meals per individual and different actions.

John Corridor’s Alaska: Alaska’s Winter Wonders tour

For an prolonged land tour to chase the aurora – and expertise Alaska’s magical winter wonderland − guide a bucket checklist eight-day journey with John Corridor’s Alaska. The corporate’s Alaska’s Winter Wonders tour is obtainable twice in March and options as much as seven nights of northern lights viewing, in addition to adventure-filled days with snowboarding, snowmobiling and snowshoeing. You may additionally take an awe-inspiring flightseeing bush aircraft journey over Denali Nationwide Park, which features a fly-by of the Foraker, Silverthorne, Hunter and Moose’s Tooth peaks earlier than touchdown on the Nice Gorge of Ruth Glacier – the deepest on the planet.

If that is not sufficient journey, check your expertise at canine mushing and curling or take an aerial tram journey. Vacationers also can try the native breweries or simply sit again, loosen up and benefit from the spectacular views. Extra highlights embody spending two evenings below the dancing evening sky in one of many domed igloos at Borealis Basecamp, in addition to classes by famend aurora photographer Frank Stelges of Aurora Bear Pictures. Tour pricing contains all lodging, meals, luxurious land and small aircraft transportation, absolutely guided service, gratuities and baggage dealing with – plus a black subzero jacket to maintain you heat throughout your Alaska journey.

Alaska cruises

For added alternatives for aurora viewing, guide a voyage with a line that provides cruisetours, reminiscent of Holland America. These excursions provide the very best of each worlds, providing you with time on land and at sea to view the dancing evening sky. Holland America’s cruisetours vary from in a single day stays simply 2 miles from Denali Nationwide Park on the McKinley Chalet Resort to a domed luxurious prepare journey by Alaska’s backcountry on the McKinley Explorer. On a Tundra Wilderness Tour in Denali, search for Alaska’s “Massive 5”: grizzly bears, moose, caribou, Dall sheep and wolves.

Borealis Basecamp

Best places and times to see the northern lights in Alaska

(Courtesy of Borealis Basecamp)

In the event you’re up for much more journey, head into the rugged wilderness for a number of nights to look at the dancing lights at this locale outdoors of city. Borealis Basecamp is a distant 100-acre property that sits inside a boreal forest 25 miles north of Fairbanks. The property options 20 particular person igloos, resembling these you’d discover at Arctic analysis stations and on polar expeditions. These spacious igloos have European-inspired interiors, 12-foot ceilings and curved 16-foot home windows throughout every roof in an effort to gaze up on the aurora and the starry evening sky whereas snuggled up in your cozy mattress. You may additionally take pleasure in many facilities you’d discover in a lodge, together with full loos with toiletries and a choice of espresso, scorching cocoa and tea.

This top-notch glamping vacation spot additionally boasts a brand new village with 5 glass cubes good for aurora viewing. These lodging are 12 ft tall, 13 ft extensive and 32 ft lengthy – and the northeastern wall is manufactured from Arctic glass. Borealis Basecamp affords a wide range of packages that embody lodging and actions like dog-sledding, UTV excursions, helicopter sightseeing experiences and extra.

Arctic Hive

Arctic Hive has the excellence of being the northernmost yoga studio within the U.S. Positioned outdoors of the village of Wiseman – between the Brooks Vary, Arctic Nationwide Wildlife Refuge and Gates of the Arctic Nationwide Park – this basecamp is reachable solely by foot. The guts of Arctic Hive is a typical fiberglass lodge the place friends collect for cooking and meals; it additionally has a geodesic dome for meditation, academic gatherings and different actions. Come winter the brand new two-story lodge will present friends with extra perception into the Arctic life-style and provide direct entry to nearly all of the property’s maintained winter trails for dog-sledding, cross-country and backcountry snowboarding, and snowshoeing. For lodging, Arctic Hive affords 4 particular person cozy cabins for in a single day stays. Arctic Hive packages accessible embody northern lights excursions, yoga, meals and varied actions.

Aurora Villa

Best places and times to see the northern lights in Alaska

(Courtesy of Aurora Villa)

Positioned on the outskirts of Fairbanks, Aurora Villa affords seven luxurious visitor rooms with floor-to-ceiling home windows for viewing the northern lights in a comfy personal house. The fashionable picket cabin sits on 10 acres surrounded by forested hills, but it is shut sufficient to the town (lower than 15 miles northeast) to discover all that Fairbanks has to supply. While you’re not chasing the lights, head out to the native breweries and distilleries, or go to cultural sights just like the College of Alaska Museum of the North. You may even take a stroll with the reindeer at Working Reindeer Ranch. For one more unforgettable out of doors journey, guide a guided ice fishing tour – full with heated cabins – with Rod’s Alaskan Information Service.

Pike’s Waterfront Lodge

Positioned alongside the Chena River in Fairbanks, simply minutes from Fairbanks Worldwide Airport, this property affords 180 rooms and 28 cabins for aurora-hunting adventurers. As a visitor of the lodge, you may request that the entrance desk warn you when the northern lights seem – irrespective of the time of day or evening. Pike’s Waterfront Lodge additionally affords facilities to maintain friends heat whereas viewing the sunshine present open air. You may share your pleasure with different vacationers whereas chatting by the fireplace pit on the riverfront deck. And if it is too chilly to remain outdoors, seize a spot within the heated glass conservatory and watch the colours dance throughout the sky from the consolation of the indoors.

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