When is the best time to see the Northern Lights in Alaska?

As all-natural phenomena, the appearance of Aurora Borealis is hard to predict but not impossible so that is why in this article we will talk about the best time to see the Northern Lights in Alaska.

Seeing this amazing show depends mainly on solar activity and even if we can estimate the number of sunspots that might occur on the sun, it is still hard to say when these lights appear.

As far as we know there is not even a study which tells us that particular months of the year are better for seeing the Aurora Borealis.

best time to see Northern Lights in Alaska
best time to see Northern Lights Alaska

The lights appear on the sky all year round but the midnight sun makes them invisible with the naked eye so that is why we have to focus on the rest of the year.

Based on our experience of chasing the lights we can advise you about when is the best time to see Northern Lights in Alaska.

We take into consideration, not just the solar activity but also the number of hours of darkness and the time of the year when the clouds are fewer in Alaska’s sky.

We split the year into 4 main parts and we will tell you why we consider that part of the year to be best for chasing Northern Lights.

January to March

These are among the most popular months of the year to chase the Northern Lights because these months come with long dark nights and clear night sky.

During the daytime you can play in the snow and experience the most interesting activities like skiing, ice fishing, walking or experience a dog mush, one of the most interesting activities to try while in Alaska.

When the night comes, prepare your camera, dress with multiple layers of warm clothes and go hunting these amazing lights.

Aurora Borealis in Alaska Purple Green
Aurora Borealis in Alaska Purple Green

You can do it on your own and plan everything carefully to catch the best time to see the Northern Lights in Alaska or you can get a tour which takes you from your hotel to the best places to see Aurora Borealis from the area.

As Fairbanks is one of the most popular places for seeing Northern Lights in Alaska, I definitely recommend you to book a few nights there and take a tour to chase the polar lights.

The most complete and interesting tour you can book when in Fairbanks is From Fairbanks: Northern Lights and Arctic Circle Tour which is a complete Northern Lights tour which starts at 2 p.m and lasts for 14 hours.

You will see the imposing Yukon River Bridge while travelling along the famous Dalton Highway to the Arctic Circle.

You have snacks, sandwiches, hot punch and beverages included and at the end of the tour you will receive the Arctic Circle certificate as a proof that you crossed the Arctic Circle.

From Fairbanks Northern Lights and Arctic Circle Tour Guide Tour
From Fairbanks Northern Lights and Arctic Circle Tour Guide Tour

As these months are considered to be the best time to see Northern Lights in Alaska, there will be many clear sky nights with high chances of seeing Aurora Borealis.

In the Arctic, January is considered a time of renewal as the sun appears at the horizon but the days are still dark and very cold.

There are all kinds of stories telling that Aurora is more likely to appear on colder nights but there is nothing proved.

Generally, when outside is very cold the sky is clear so you have better visibility and maybe this is why people concluded that cold nights are the best time to see the Northern Lights in Alaska.

During February the weather improves and the days become lighter and even warmer, but there are still enough hours of dark for spotting Northern Lights.

March is known for the spring equinox, a period with increased solar activity and if the sky is clear you have really high chances to spot the lights according to aurora forecasts.

So, plan your trip to Alaska around 20 March as this is for sure one of the best times to see the Northern Lights in Alaska.

More than that, the weather conditions are better than in winter months and it is warmer outside.

Are April to August the best time to see the Northern Lights in Alaska?

As I mentioned earlier, it needs to be dark outside to view the Northern Lights on Alaska sky and the period from April to August does not offer many hours of dark.

So your opportunity to see the Northern lights in Alaska is really low.

This is the time of the year when the midnight sun appears, which means that the lights are visible only with scientific equipment, as the sky is too light for aurora viewing with the naked eye.

April to August is not the best time to see Northern Lights in Alaska (actually is the low viewing season for polar light show), but it is the best time to explore the area and admire its natural wonders.

best time to see Northern Lights in Alaska
best time to see the Northern Lights in Alaska

During this time of the year, the landscapes are bathed in the 24-hour daylight of the summer months, you go ahead and explore this magnificent place!

It might be quite confusing and you might find it weird ( as we did) to see the sun up in the sky at 12 a.m. in the morning but this is Arctic summer.

To be honest, it was very difficult for me to sleep when outside was sunny, but I had to adapt to the situation and sleep for a few hours to be fresh for the following day.

September and October

These 2 months of the year are really the best time to see the Northern Lights in Alaska as the weather is not that cold and you can admire the lights on the sky while avoiding the extreme cold of the Arctic winter.

September is an autumn month which comes with beautiful landscapes, amazing colours of nature and of course the autumn equinox.

It is truly magnificent to see the Aurora Borealis facing into a lake or river or appearing over a colourful forest.

Willow Lake Northern Lights Aurora Borealis Alaska Night Sky
Willow Lake Northern Lights Aurora Borealis Alaska Night Sky

 

Around the autumn equinox, the solar activity is increased and the chances of seeing Northern Lights on Alaska ski are higher.

That is why many consider September and March the best months for chasing the Aurora close to the North Pole.

If you are lucky enough and have a few nights without cloud cover sky you will definitely get some memorable photos to show to your friends and family.

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As seeing Northern Lights is a must for many tourists who visit Alaska, most hotels offer upon request Northern Lights wake up calls.

This means that upon your request, you will be woken up in the middle of the night when the Aurora appears on the sky and you can admire the show from your comfy bed, the most incredible viewing location ever!

Are November and December the best time to see Northern Lights in Alaska?

November is the month of dramatic changes in the Arctic zone and is the time of the year when the first snow appears.

Overnight, the autumn changes into winter and the days become darker and colder with cloudy skies and plenty of snow.

These two months are not necessarily the best time to see the Northern Lights in Alaska as it is mostly cloudy and you cannot see the lights with your naked eyes.

can you see Northern Lights in Alaska
can you see Northern Lights in Alaska

December is the month of celebration, is the time of the year when everybody expects Santa Claus and which is the best place to meet the Old Man if not at the Arctic Circle?!

According to the most recent forecasts, if you travel to Alaska in December you can enjoy 4 nights out of 5 the Green Lady dancing on the sky.

For sure it is colder outside, but there are enough hours of dark so December is also considered the best time to see the Northern Lights in Alaska.

Where to sleep when chasing Northern Lights

Fairbanks is one of the best places to go if you want to chase the Northern Lights in Alaska.

Although full of hotels and AirBnbs, the area is very popular among tourists from all over the world so you’d better book in advance to secure the best price-quality ratio.

When booking your accommodation search for something far from any light pollution and far from city lights, to maximize your chances of spotting the lights directly from your bed.

Aurora Villa is a lodge located far from any light pollution which offers cosy apartments from where you can spot the lights during the dark nights of the Aurora season.

Or, for those of you who dream of catching the double Aurora, I recommend #1 LUX STAY - Views - Water Front-Location/Aurora, a wonderful apartment overlooking the lake where the Aurora mirrors when it dances on the Arctic sky.

The apartment comes with a patio from where you can take really great photos of the polar lights drizzling on the sky.

So, to sum up, when is the best time to see Northern Lights in Alaska, I would say that around spring and autumn equinox( around 20 March and 20 September) and also during February and October when there are enough hours of dark and the weather is warmer than in the long Arctic winter.

Pack many warm clothes and the best camera you have as chasing Northern Lights in Alaska is one of those experiences which will blow your mind!

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