Best Time to See Northern Lights in Alaska

The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, are a stunning natural phenomenon that can be seen in various parts of the world, including Alaska.

To maximize your chances of witnessing this spectacular display, consider the following factors:

Key Takeaways:

Winter Months: The best time to see the Northern Lights in Alaska is during the winter months, typically from late August to mid-April, when the nights are longest and darkest.

Dark and Clear Skies: Aim for nights with clear skies and minimal light pollution. Full darkness is mandatory, so avoid times around a full moon and stay away from city lights.

Solar Activity: Increased solar activity leads to more intense auroral displays. Check space weather forecasts for solar flares or geomagnetic storms, which can predict heightened aurora activity.

Detailed Exploration:

Prime Viewing Season

The prime season for Northern Lights viewing in Alaska is in the cold, dark winter months. Here’s why:

Darkness: You need dark skies to see the aurora, and in Alaska, the nights are longest from late August to mid-April.

Winter Solstice: Around the winter solstice (December 21st), you will experience the most extended periods of darkness, although the weather conditions can be more challenging due to extreme cold and snow.

Clear Skies: Winter also tends to have clearer skies compared to the warmer, cloudier summer months.

Best Months:

September to March: During these months, the balance between dark skies and clearer weather is often optimal.

Late February to March: This period is known for a relatively stable climate and still offers long nights, making it a preferred time for many travelers.

Peak Hours:

Late Evening to Early Morning: The Northern Lights are most commonly observed between 10 PM and 2 AM. However, the aurora can appear anytime from dusk to dawn.

Location Considerations:

Fairbanks: Known as one of the best places in Alaska to see the Northern Lights, it sits under the “Auroral Oval,” where auroras are seen more frequently.

Brooks Range: This remote area offers some of the darkest skies, enhancing the visibility of the lights.

Denali: The national park provides stunning backdrops for the aurora and minimal light pollution.

Weather and Forecasting:

Clear Sky Forecast: Check local weather forecasts to ensure that the skies will be clear on the night you plan to observe the aurora.

Aurora Forecast: The University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute provides an aurora forecast that can indicate the likelihood of the Northern Lights appearing.

Additional Tips:

Book a Tour: Consider booking an aurora viewing tour or staying in accommodations that offer Northern Lights wake-up calls.

Be Patient: Viewing the Northern Lights often involves waiting in the cold, so dress warmly and be prepared to wait for the phenomenon to appear.

Photography: If you want to capture the Northern Lights, bring a tripod and a camera capable of long exposures.

So, the best time to see the Northern Lights in Alaska typically falls between the late August to mid-April timeframe, with the peak probability occurring on cold, clear nights away from urban light pollution.

Keep an eye on both the weather and aurora forecasts, and allow multiple nights for viewing to increase your chances of catching the aurora.

Remember that patience is key, and there are never any guarantees with nature. However, when you do catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights, it is an unforgettable experience.

About the author

I'm Chloe Raley, the proud founder and curator of this travel haven. As an intrepid explorer and wordsmith, I founded this website to share my adventures.