Northern Lights in Alaska is a dream-like occurrence to sight, and no one can resist the pull of the striking celestial display of the Aurora Borealis.
Tourists worldwide travel to witness this natural phenomenon in various remote locations, and Alaska is one of them. In Alaska, nature is in its purest form, with abundant wildlife and marine life.
The Aurora belt in Alaska’s great interior and Arctic Circle regions is among the most active destinations for watching the Northern Lights.
Read on for the Northern Lights Alaska guide to take you through this magical and adventurous journey if you plan your next vacation here.
1. The Science behind Northern Lights
If you know about the northern lights of Alaska, it’s great, but if not, please tag along and read until the end.
Northern Light is a natural phenomenon occurring about 60 or 70 miles above the earth’s surface and can extend far into space.
When electrically charged particles travelling through the earth’s magnetic field collide with gases, it creates a burst of energetic light, and an aurora appears.
It appears in the vivid colour range of mostly green but can be somewhat red, pink, blue, and white.
Its intensity rises across the Aurora Oval, which lies above the geomagnetic north area where most of the aurora activities are concentrated.
2. More about the Northern Lights in Alaska
You can see Northern Lights in Alaska between 65 degrees North and 70 degrees North Latitude.
The further north you go, the better chance you get to experience this beautiful scenery when northern lights occur more vividly and clearly.
Although it’s a year-round phenomenon, the best time to observe the Northern Lights of Alaska is during the Spring and Fall seasons between 21st August and mid-April and between the times of 9 pm & 3 am.
Don’t forget to check the lunar cycle, as you can’t see Northern Lights in bright moonlight, and plan your trip during the new, crescent, or quarter-moon periods for the best results.
2.2 The Best Time to Visit
As your Northern Lights Alaska guide, USA Tales will explain the uniqueness & beauty of both seasons that you can enjoy in places like Denali National Park. Then you can choose your pick.
2.2.1. Fall Season
During the fall season, the temperature is warm, and you can enjoy the view and other activities without worrying about getting cold.
Double your experience of seeing the Northern Lights by capturing its reflection in the lake, which is equally breathtaking as it is in the sky.
But be prepared to give 5 – 7 nights for your Northern Lights Alaska, watching as the weather can sometimes be stormy.
2.2.2. Spring Season
If you want a true Alaska-like feel without being outright cold, spring is the best time for you, as the winter season is about to end by this time.
You may feel like you have entered a magical realm when you see the snow-covered ground and the Northern Lights pulsing and dancing in the sky.
Another great thing about being here in the fall is that the weather is clearest, i.e., late February and early March.
You will find the sky devoid of clouds and air still, perfect for enjoying the Northern Lights tours without obstructions.
2.2.3. Winter Season
During winter, Alaska’s natural beauty becomes even more dramatic. With snow-capped mountains and frozen lakes, it feels like a winter wonderland.
Longer nights and clearer weather compared to other seasons make it the best time for a Northern Lights tour sighting, making the night sky beautiful.
3. Locations to Watch the Northern Lights Alaska
Fairbanks is one of the fascinating places to observe Northern Lights Alaska sightings, located underneath a ring centred on a magnetic pole in the zone known as Auroral Oval.
The chances to see the Northern Lights Aurora activity is highest in Fairbanks. It is the 2nd largest city in Alaska and a hub for loads of winter activities.
3.2 Chena Hot Springs Resort
Another great place for Northern Lights viewing – due to its location under an active aurora band, is 65 miles northeast of Fairbanks.
World-famous for its natural mineral hot springs and the world’s largest year-round indoor Aurora Ice Museum, it offers various activities during your stay.
3.3 Bettles Lodge
Known for the clearest weather in the entire State, Bettles Lodge sits directly below the Aurora Band, making it the best location to watch the Northern Lights of Alaska.
Located 35 miles north of the Arctic Circle, it is another of the best places for Northern Lights viewing.
Reached easily from Fairbanks, this lodge offers modern amenities and easy access to Alaska’s vast wilderness.
3.4 Aurora Borealis Basecamp
Just 25 miles away from Fairbanks, Aurora Borealis Base camp provides a spectacular view of Aurora Borealis from its fibreglass domes’ curved glass window.
You can admire the vividly displayed light show all night long without being in the open from your cosy but luxurious nest.
Coldfoot, to the 67 degrees North Latitude on the Dalton Highway from Fairbanks to Prudhoe Bay, is the perfect Northern Lights viewing Alaska location to watch this spectacular event.
Located near the well-known beautiful Gates of the Arctic National Park and Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Coldfoot Camp provides easy access for adventure and play in the surrounding Brooks Range wilderness.
You can stay overnight at Coldfoot’s camp in the Brooks Mountain range if you are staying in a nearby town.
At the 71 degrees North Latitude of Alaska, it’s the northernmost city, making it the perfect position to see the Northern Lights and the coldest for most of the year.
You can stay at the Top of The World Hotel with a breathing view of the Arctic Ocean, an exquisite culinary experience, modern amenities, and exceptional 24-hour service.
It’s the largest city in Alaska by population, and you must go outside the city limit to catch the Northern Lights.
You can head to the popular sites of Flattop and Glen Alps Overlook, overlooking the city, which makes it a good place to watch this celestial activity.
Other good spots are Earthquake Park and Point Woronzof; with city lights towards the east, you can catch the Northern Lights towards the north.
At 62 degrees N latitude, Talkeetna is north enough to provide a clear view of the Northern Lights of Alaska as it is void of city lights.
Head towards Christiansen Lake, Beaver Road, or Talkeetna Riverfront Park; these spots are great vantage points to catch this beautiful celestial phenomenon.
4. Tips for Your Northern Lights Vacation in Alaska
Everyone wants to enjoy their vacations without worrying about any setbacks or last-minute arrangements. Here are some must-do organizing tips for you:
4.1 Reserve Your Tickets and Lodging Early
Flight tickets and lodging facilities get fully booked during the holiday aurora season, like 2 to 3 months early! So please don’t leave it for the last moment.
4.2 Book a Travel Tour Agency Ahead of Time
Travel tour agencies take care of your travel itineraries, from food to lodging, vehicles to which hotspots to visit, and weather in Aurora forecast, and enjoy your time stress-free.
So, always choose reliable agencies upon thorough research.
4.3 Pack the Right Gear
If you plan your Northern Lights Alaska vacation for the fall aurora season, you don’t need to worry about packing many clothes as it’s warm this time of year.
Even though winter is about to end during spring, it can get a bit chilly, so pack some warm layers. But for winter, you need to pack wisely.
The top and bottom layers of clothes should be made of synthetic materials like polypropylene or natural wool as good insulators.
Warm mid-layer like woollen sweaters or fleece jackets and warm pants, windproof coats, warm socks, winter boots, hats, mittens, and scarves are must-packs.
4.4 Check the Weather Forecast
Only venture out in Alaska after checking the weather forecast. Do consult the weather forecast to see if the sky is void of clouds or if moonlight is at its lower intensity.
All these factors are necessary to understand the Northern Lights clearly.
4.5 Prepare to Stay for Multiple Days
There is no assurance that the Northern Lights will be visible every day, and you won’t be able to catch it if you stay for a short period.
Check the weather forecast before viewing hours; if you are lucky, you can see this otherworldly phenomenon on multiple days. Try to stretch your stay for at least 4 to 5 days.
5. Other Activities to Do
You can enjoy other activities during your Northern Light viewing vacation. Some of them are:
- During the spring season, specifically around March, lots of fun stuff is going on, such as the ice carving Championship, where artists from all over the world come to compete, ice fishing, sledge rides, hiking, skiing, kayaking, and much more.
- As for the Fall Season, when the weather is not too hot or cold, it’s perfect for taking a stroll at Alaska’s Annual State Fair in Palmer.
- Wintertime favourite activities other than Northern Alaska Lights viewing are dog sledding, ice fishing, ice climbing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and skiing.
- Each year, the Fur Rendezvous Festival and Iditarod Race offer cultural experiences during the day and night-time rendezvous of the Northern Lights during the night sky.
- In Alaska, nature is most genuine, especially with the midnight sun due to its abundant wildlife presence, where you can watch birds, brown bears, orcas, humpback whales, sea lions resting on the shores, and seals sunbathing on floating ice.
- Alaska’s native culture is vibrant in history, and you can see its glimpse in their arts, totem carvings, local dancing, storytelling, clothing, and museum.
Because of its vivid and mesmerizing beauty, it’s easy to see why Northern Lights Alaska has captured the attention of tourists, bringing them back time and again.
With plenty of options, you can plan the Northern Lights Alaska vacation of your choice and enjoy this otherworldly phenomenon.
Have fun exploring, and do not forget to capture the beautiful moments!