101 Guide on the Best Time to Visit Alaska

10 mins read

Alaska, the largest state of the United States of America, feels like a world away from the bustling streets of cities. Having a unique history of its own with its spectacular landscapes and a local culture, which is a mixture of modern America and traditions passed down from local’s ancestors.

People worldwide mainly seek Alaska and Canada for their natural beauty and the winter tourism that can only be experienced here. With Alaska being a state of the United States, traveling here for road trips and vacations away from city life is typical.

The Alaska Cruise is also an attraction for people interested in wilderness and encountering nature in its rawest form.

A scenic picture of Alaska's mountain range
Photo by Cody Doherty on Unsplash

Alaska is a place with fewer crowds and away from the modern setback that we are used to and gives more of a countryside feeling with a raw serve of nature and fresh air. It is heaven on earth for people who regularly go trekking in the Denali national park and Katmai national park and bask in various terrains that we get to see around the globe.

As mentioned by everyone who has been here, Alaska is open year-round and has a myriad of experiences to serve visitors no matter what time of the year they choose to visit Alaska. The best time to visit Alaska is a highly vague question not leading to any specific answer.

We also would have seen Alaskan winter or Alaskan summer in the backdrop of many films like in The Proposal starring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds, Al Pacino’s Insomnia, The Call of the Wild, White Fang, Resident Evil: Afterlife, and in Gold Rush.

With many well-known celebrities hailing from Alaska like Charles Melton, James Morrison, and Bob Ross, Alaska is one place that we cannot miss out on.

Exceptional History of Alaska

Alaska is said to have been home to natives who were different from the ones recognized through the years and found to have been “bearded people who worshipped the icons.” They were later identified as Tlingit peopleHaida, and The Tsimshian people.

Alaska, like most of America, was colonized too. Russians were the ones who primarily settled in Alaska, though they did not colonize the people there with not a lot of resources there which was profitable.

The touch of their time can still be seen there today, with numerous places being named in Russian. The Spanish came here next during numerous expeditions, and by 1785, Alaska was a European settlement.

With considerable powers trying to take control here, military bases were built here during the Second World War, when the population of Alaska increased. The Russians then bought the land in Alaska, only to retreat a few years later and raise the U.S flag. The land was then again subject to occupation by the Empire of Japan.

Today the land there is still not a bustling state with a vast population, but more of a tourist space with myriad attractions (Alaskan wildlife, the Alaska cruise, Midnight Sun, Aurora viewing, and fall colors of Southcentral Alaska).

They contribute to the economy with their fishing industry, agriculture, small ship cruises, land tours during the summer season, and energy resources. Alaska today has a culture that is an amalgamation of all its history, with indigenous traditions and contemporary culture.

Breaking Down the Seasons in Alaska and its Highlights

Summer, aka the Peak Season (Mid-May to mid-August)

A suburban Alaska
Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash

For most people coming to visit Alaska, planning to go during the summer season has many positives and activities that they can get involved in. Summer here is between mid-May and late August when Alaska offers several summer activities like hiking, camping, wildlife viewing, boating, kayaking, river rafting, fishing, local festivities, and visiting the national parks and lakes.

It’s also when the wildlife here is active and can be seen in natural environments. Here you can see Grizzly bears hunting for salmons, Dall sheep, Wolves, Orcas, Mountain goats, Belugas, Humpback whales, Caribou, Otters, a variety of birds, including bald eagles and the Moose, all during the summer months and even in late summer sometimes.

Summer here is also notorious as the mosquito season. Therefore, taking full-arm clothes and mosquito repellants is a must while packing. Packing sturdy footwear with which you can walk long distances is a good choice, no matter what your itinerary might say about minimal foot travel.

Summer is the peak season for adventurous spirits to visit Alaska and gain many experiences that this place has to offer.

Certain places in Alaska also have eloquent festivals for berries and more. Visiting during summer is also an excellent opportunity to see and experience the rare phenomena of the midnight sun.

In some places, it has 16 hours of daylight and some places where the Sun drifts at the horizon and does not set at all.

A cruise ship
Photo by Peter Scholten on Unsplash

Summer is the peak tourist season, as it’s also the time of vacation for most educational institutions, and the local businesses are booming with a swarm of tourists and frequent visitors. It is also the season when cruises to Alaska are busy, with international visitors experiencing Alaska’s maximum.

While packing for a summer visit, one thing to remember is always to pack layers. With excellent sceneries in Alaska, it also has unpredictable weather where it could rain anytime. June is the driest month, July the warmest, and August the wettest.

A point to note is that with Alaska booming with tourism and natural colors this season, the accommodations are limited and likely to be full. In other words, having made reservations for lodging is a must in this season.

One disadvantage is that visiting this season is a little heavy on the wallet. With the recent pandemic, the shops have slowly begun to open businesses again, but checking the travel restrictions and local situation of the place to visit is advised.

Anchorage, Ketchikan, Sitka, Fairbanks, and Juneau are some popular places that are summer destinations in Alaska.

Fall, A Short Shoulder Season (mid-August to mid-October)

Alaskan Fall
Photo by Nicolas Messifet on Unsplash

Autumn, or Fall here in America, is a short season stretching from late August to mid-October with fewer visitors and bearable weather conditions. Alaska during this season is a canvas of reds and golden yellow, making the scenery an extremely aesthetic memory that would stick in our minds forever.

The trees changing colors, with the backdrop of icy mountains in certain tourist spots, is a view to see once, at least in our lifetimes. The contrasting colors with a temperature that isn’t too frigid are the perfect time for tourists who enjoy nature at their leisure and still see most of Alaska.

Most of the animals in the wild can be spotted here and there during early August, preparing for the long hibernation and visiting the Denali National park with a private vehicle by the winners of a lottery.

Viewing the Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Lights, on September 21st is an activity to look forward to, making this one of the best time to visit Alaska. The temperatures drop steadily during this time, with a few small-ship cruises still available.

Again because of the changing seasons, packing layers for clothes, a couple of warm socks, and sturdy footwear is the way to go to have a hassle-free trip. It is also a good time for tourists who are tight on their budgets and still experience the range of experiences in the state of Alaska.

The accommodations, lodgings, and the whole budget would be much cheaper than summer or winter visits.

Moose in Fall of Alaska
Photo by Shivam Kumar on Unsplash

It is also an excellent time to experience local culture in Alaska by walking through charming, quaint towns and trying the regional cuisines.

Alaska does not have a unique cuisine but provides a small-town style of food with greasy hamburgers, Salmon dishes, Reindeer sausage, Oysters, and wild berries. It also specializes in Gin and Smoked Salmon Vodka.

Fall is not a high-activity season to visit Alaska for, but more of a time to enjoy the beauty of the place and experience it in its native essence. With snow not having begun yet in the early months of Fall, hiking is an excellent activity to get involved in to see scenic places and visit some of the natural hotspots.

Traveling during this season is also an ideal option for students and youth who are tight on the budget but seek to experience traveling through road trips and involve themselves in outdoor activities.

Anchorage, Seward & Kenai Fjords, Ketchikan, and Skagway receive tourists during the Fall seasons.

Winter, The time of Northern Lights and Adventure Sports (mid-September to mid-April)

shutterstock 1262838604
By: Ekaterina Kondratova on Shutterstock

While most people visit Alaska to enjoy the winter aesthetic in its rawest form, this season is the peak time for adventure enthusiasts to come to Alaska and participate in various activities.

Winter in Alaska begins to build in mid-September, with winter activities starting much later than early September.

While the scenic photos of the Alaska winter are breathtaking to most of us, surviving in the frigid temperatures in Alaska, especially during November and December, which are the peak winter months, is no joke.

Alaska winter is extremely long from October to March and has short days and long nights. Cruises are on hold in the later months, with only a few functioning in the early months of winter.

Of course, the main attraction during the entirety of this season is the Northern Lights viewing that is quite spectacular and feels unreal for someone who has never experienced it before.

Alaska also hosts several competitions for winter sports and winter activities for adventure enthusiasts, with Iditarod being the key. Iditarod, or the dog sled race, happens only during the winter months and attracts tourists’ attention every time.

The winter scenery here is a mix of greys and blue-black sky. A section of tourists selects this season to avoid mosquitoes (the night frost kills them) and the crowd that comes in the Peak season. While the crowd during this season isn’t scant, it isn’t as crowded as Summer.

Aurora Boraelis
Photo by Jonatan Pie on Unsplash

It is also the season when most of the wildlife in Alaska hibernate, and only a few varieties can be seen around in nature. Some of the winter sports and activities to try during this season would be Nordic skiing, Dog-sledge rides, Snowmobiling, and watching the night sky. Watching the extraordinary places where the glaciers have frozen could also be explored with the proper guides.

With quite a crowd here, booking accommodations in advance is advised during the visits in this season to avoid any hassles. Some lodging even has a facility of alerting the guests when the Aurora Borealis shows up, which is an exceptional initiative.

Winter is also when hot springs in Alaska are an attraction, with numerous places having lodgings of their own, some even with their unique, relevant history and culture.

Dressing warmly with thermals and layers of clothing helps in experiencing Alaska without worrying about falling sick.

Local food is abundant during this season, with various meat and seafood. They also have delicious delicacies for breakfasts. Packing a good amount of socks, gloves, mufflers, and hats is also beneficial.

Anchorage, Fairbanks, Alyeska Resort and Girdwood, and Chena Hot Spring are some of the top tourist attractions in this season.

Spring, A Surprisingly Scenic Shoulder Season (mid-March to mid-June)

Greenery in Alaska
Photo by Rich Manalang on Unsplash

This is the time of year when the snow begins to melt, slowing around the state of Alaska, and it is a pretty brief season by itself. The span of Spring here is from late March to mid-June.

This is one of the times around the year when the tourist population is low, and the state still has a lot of things in its bucket to show us. It is one of the best times to plan a trip here, especially if you are not fond of tourist crowds and bugs.

The scenic colors of Alaska in this season are slowly transitioning from a plain Greyscale to Greens and blues. Nature now is vibrant and alive, with animals here slowly waking up from their long winter slumbers. Spring is also the season to watch the migration of Gray whales.

Fishing around the shores, hiking in safe places, going sledding in northern cities that still have some snow, talking walks among wildflowers, going around small cruises, and watching glaciers transform are just some activities that one can pursue during this time.

Spring season also brings around smaller festivities and the time of berry harvesting in agricultural spaces and towns that harvest them. Hot springs are still a trend at this time, with some world-renowned destinations.

They are also known to avail their clients’ massages, dog kennel tours, and a bicycle to explore the areas around.

Lavender fields
Photo by Edward Koorey on Unsplash

Once again, being the shoulder season this time around, Alaska has minimal crowds and low expense available lodgings. This season works out for students traveling once again and helps those who seek to maximize their experience in this place under time and money constraints.

Though rain isn’t regular this season, it is advised to have umbrellas and rain boots ready, not to be caught unawares. The lodgings during this season are limited, much like winter, and it would help to book accommodations in advance than planning to book there in person.

Alaska even has a touring train system that is an excellent option for those traveling here on a cruise. It covers numerous scenic spaces and is known to have prominent service, and does all this in a short period.

This is also a great season to take a road trip to Alaska with the scenery being exceptional and breathtaking, with the beginning of the transformation of seasons.

Anchorage is the center of attraction during this season, followed by Skagway, Haines, and Sitka.

In Conclusion: Peak Season (June-July or February-March) or Shoulder Seasons?

Anchorage Alaska
Photo by Simon Hurry on Unsplash

With numerous travel websites giving various information and travel tips on any place that we look for, some put together information in an organized manner. In contrast, others provide them in a contradictory fashion. Sticking with the latter, the individual must choose the visiting season for any destination.

If you enjoy outdoor activities and hikes in Nature, Spring or Summer is an excellent time. We can further timeline the visit depending on the expenditure limits and how good the crowd is to us.

On the other hand, Winter and Fall might be better with limited activity options for people who enjoy sitting back and taking in a place.

Every trip has four parts of organizing: the expenditure, timeline, destination, and involvement/ activities to involve in.

Considering all the four categories helps one choose the best option for us, and Alaska is a land that is open year-round and could be the destination for anyone and everyone.

As any traveler would say, “Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer,” and Alaska is a place abundant with the riches of nature and experiences.

Visit Alaska for all it is and create memories of your own!

Also read: Best Time to Go to Puerto Rico.

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