Flowers blooming in front of a mountain landscape in Alaska for the Gondwana Ecotour's post, "The Best Time to go to Alaska."

The Best Time to go to Alaska

mountains in alaska in septemberA vast land of stark beauty, Alaska is one of the top travel destinations for people who are looking to explore “The Last Frontier.” Some travelers venture north in the winter to view the great Northern Lights, but few people realize that there are amazing things to see and do all year round. Visit Alaska only in the winter months and you’ll miss your chance to go on an exciting grizzly bear expedition or on a kayaking trip in the Kenai Fjords National Park. Visit Alaska during the summer and you might miss out on seeing the Northern Lights reflected off a pristine, snow-covered landscape. That’s why we’ve put together a quick guide to help you decide what is the best time to go to Alaska. 

As the largest state in the US, Alaska offers a plethora of activities and sights to enjoy regardless of the season. In the spring, witness the rebirth of nature as colorful wildflowers bloom across the vast wilderness. Summer brings endless opportunities for outdoor adventures such as hiking, fishing, and wildlife watching. Fall in Alaska is a magical time when the landscape transforms into a vibrant tapestry of reds and golds as the leaves change colors. And of course, winter in Alaska is a playground for winter sports enthusiasts, with options ranging from dog sledding to snowmobiling. Whether you prefer the midnight sun of summer or the ethereal glow of the Northern Lights in winter, Alaska truly has something for everyone throughout the year.

The Best Time to go to Alaska if You Want to See the Northern Lights

The Aurora Borealis peeking through the clouds in Alaska

Traditionally, the best time to visit Alaska to see the Northern Lights is in the shoulder season of September-October or  March to April. The skies aren’t as cloudly then and the Aroura tends to be more active. However, it is possible to catch a glimpse of the Aurora all year round. The time of year isn’t as important as the darkness of the sky and the level of solar activity. If solar activity is high, you might even be able to see a faint Aurora display in August or July!

If seeing the Northern Lights is at the top of your travel wish-list, we recommend that you plan your trip between September and April. This maximizes your chances of seeing this spectacular display of light and color. You’ll also have the opportunity to participate in fun winter activities such as snowshoeing or dog sledding. 

For travelers seeking the ultimate Northern Lights experience, staying in remote locations away from light pollution is crucial. Consider booking a cozy cabin or a wilderness lodge where you can witness the Aurora Borealis dancing across the night sky right from your doorstep. Imagine sipping on hot cocoa as you marvel at the surreal beauty of the lights painting the darkness. These remote accommodations not only enhance your chances of catching a breathtaking light show but also offer a unique and memorable Arctic experience that will stay with you long after you return home.

As you immerse yourself in the tranquility of these secluded destinations, you may also have the opportunity to engage in other unforgettable Arctic activities during the day. From husky sledding through snow-covered forests to ice fishing on frozen lakes, the possibilities for adventure are endless. Delight in the silence of the pristine wilderness, interrupted only by the soft crunch of snow beneath your boots or the distant howl of a wolf. Embrace the raw beauty of nature and allow yourself to be fully present in this enchanting winter wonderland. A journey to witness the Northern Lights becomes not just a visual spectacle but a soul-stirring escapade into the heart of the Arctic wilderness.

The Best Time to Go to Alaska if You Want to See Grizzly Bears

Grizzly bear searching for salmon in an Alaskan river.

Alaska is bear country! It’s the only place in the world where you can find all three of North America’s bear species in the same region. While black bears and polar bears are a sight to see, most travelers make the trip to Alaska to see the great grizzly bear. Grizzly bears gather every summer in rivers around Alaska in order to feast on salmon as they swim upstream to spawn. This event, called the salmon run, happens once a year and is the perfect opportunity to see grizzly bears up close and in person.

During the salmon run, the grizzly bears are not the only ones benefitting from this natural phenomenon. The rivers are teeming with life as eagles soar overhead, waiting to snatch a fish from the water below. The entire ecosystem comes alive during this period, creating a vibrant and breathtaking spectacle for all who are lucky enough to witness it. As the bears gorge themselves on the nutrient-rich salmon, their thick fur glistens in the sunlight, showcasing their power and majesty in their natural habitat. It truly is a mesmerizing experience to observe these magnificent creatures in action, embodying the raw beauty and untamed wilderness of Alaska.

The salmon run lasts from June through mid-September. This is prime time bear viewing season as they catch and eat salmon and play in the river rapids. If you travel at the beginning of the season, you might even be able to see a momma bear with her cubs, since mating season runs from May to July. But if you travel after September, you might miss seeing the grizzly bears, since they are starting to prepare for hibernation. 

Bear season corresponds closely with Alaska’s summer tourist season. Few summer activities are available before May or after September. So if you’re interested in kayaking, hiking, deep-sea fishing, or whale watching then you better travel during the summer months or miss out on some amazing activities. 

Still need help to decide when to visit Alaska? Here’s a helpful breakdown:

The Best Time to Go to Alaska to See the Northern Lights

(Also Snowshoeing, Cross-country skiing, and Dog Sledding (December-April))

September-April Interior Alaska- Fairbanks area. Also, Arctic Circle, Wiseman, Coldfoot, Bettles
The Best Time to Go to Alaska to See Grizzly Bears June-September Katmai & Lake Clark National Park, Denali National Park
The Best Time to See Mother Grizzly Bears and Cubs May-July Katmai & Lake Clark National Park, Denali National Park
Alaska’s Summer Tourist Season

(Also Kayaking, Hiking, and Deep Sea Fishing)

May-September Kenai Peninsula, Katmai & Lake Clark National Parks, Southeast Alaska, Denali National Park, etc
The Best Time to Go Whale Watching in Alaska June-August Kenai Fjords National Park, Glacier Bay National Park

Explore Glaciers, Grizzlies, and the Northern Lights with Our Exclusive Tour Packages!

If you’re interested in having the ultimate summer or winter Alaskan experience, check out our Glaciers & Grizzlies Tour or our Northern Lights Adventure. Each Alaska tour package is designed to let you experience the best Alaska has to offer! From grizzly bear viewing tours and kayaking trips to viewing the Northern Lights and dog sledding, we cover it all. Find out more on our tour page today!

Read more about Northern Lights viewing in Fairbanks, you’ll find great spots for catching the aurora. These places offer clear views of the northern sky, away from the city lights, making them perfect for enjoying the magical display of the northern lights in Alaska’s peaceful wilderness.

grizzlies vacation trip

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