The Best Months To See the Northern Lights in Alaska?

Do you want to know when it is the best time to visit Alaska and see the northern lights in Alaska? Are you curious about the best month to see the Northern Lights in Alaska? Do you want to know if you can see the Northern Lights in Fairbanks, Alaska? Or if you are wondering when the best time to see the northern lights in Alaska in September is then read on. Here we dive into when you can see the northern lights in Alaska, where you can see northern lights, and details about spectacular viewing options.

Best Time To See the Northern Lights in Alaska?

best time to see norther lights in alaska

You may be asking yourself when you can see the Northern Lights in Alaska, and when the best time to visit Alaska is. Well, the best time to see the Northern Lights in Alaska is between mid-September and early April. During that time, the nights are long and dark, which makes it easier to see the northern lights in Alaska. The northern lights occur in all four seasons of the year, although they are harder to see under the Midnight Sun. So, the best time to see the northern lights in Alaska is between mid-September and early April, when less daylight leads to darker night skies.

If you are wondering when you can see the Northern Lights in Alaska, you may think the best months are in September or October. In September and October, the weather is not cold yet, and while clear skies are not as reliable as in the Spring, the past few years have had incredibly colorful displays. So, is autumn the best time to visit Alaska? Autumn is very short in Alaska with the rapidly diminishing daylight hours, meaning temperatures soon begin to fall. Autumn begins in mid-September and is more or less over just a few weeks later. Much of the wildlife returns to hibernation, too. During this time of year bodies of water will not be frozen, so you may have the opportunity to see the aurora overhead and reflected on the surface, which makes for stunning views and incredible photographs! October often brings some snow, but it sometimes doesn’t come until November.

Best Time of Day To See The Northern Lights In Alaska?

The best time of the day to see the Northern Lights in Alaska is during the night; because you can’t see them during the day. With certain times of the year having more daylight than others, it is important to note that the best time of the day to see the northern lights is between 9:30 pm and 1 am. The aurora may appear longer than that, but there is no way to predict the duration — nature tends to operate on her own schedule. With all that being said, if you’d like to see the northern lights for yourself, then learn more about our Alaskan Northern Lights Adventure In Fairbanks, Alaska.

see the northern lights in September is the best

What Time of Night is Best to See the Northern Lights in Alaska?

The best hour of the night to see the Northern Lights in Alaska typically varies depending on several factors including solar activity, weather conditions, and geographical location within Alaska. However, there are some general guidelines to consider:

Midnight to 2 AM: During this time frame, geomagnetic activity tends to peak, which can result in more intense and visible auroras. This is often referred to as the “aurora window” or “prime time” for viewing the Northern Lights.

Late evening to early morning: While the aurora can be visible throughout the night, it’s often more active during the late evening hours into the early morning hours, particularly around local midnight. This is because the Earth’s magnetic field aligns with the solar wind during this time, making it more likely for auroras to occur.

Clear skies and darkness: Regardless of the time, the most important factor for seeing the Northern Lights is clear, dark skies. You’ll want to avoid light pollution from cities and towns, so heading to remote areas away from artificial light sources is ideal.

Winter months: In Alaska, the winter months typically offer longer periods of darkness, providing more opportunities for viewing the Northern Lights. The best time of year to see them is generally from September to April when nights are longest and skies are darkest.

Monitor aurora forecasts: There are several websites and apps available that provide aurora forecasts and real-time aurora activity updates. These can help you determine the best times and locations for viewing the Northern Lights in Alaska.

Keep in mind that while these are general guidelines, seeing the Northern Lights is always subject to natural variability, so it’s not guaranteed even during peak viewing hours. Patience and flexibility are key when trying to catch this breathtaking natural phenomenon.

Your best chances of seeing the northern lights in Alaska is always between 10 pm and 2 am. That is the best time to see the northern lights in Alaska, but you may not want to wait up for the entire night to see the northern lights. Fortunately on our Northern Lights Ecotour, our night-time Aurora guide stays up watching the skies so you don’t have to. We track the solar activity forecasts, scan the skies and provide wake-up calls whenever the Aurora Borealis appears.

Best Month To See The Northern Lights In Alaska

While auroras can be viewed between September and April due to sufficient darkness in the night sky, the best months to see the northern lights in Alaska are the months that are closer to the winter solstice because of the decreased day lengths. Alaska in March is often considered the best month to see the Northern Lights, as the winter season wanes, providing ample darkness and clear skies for optimal aurora viewing opportunities. This is when you can see the Northern Lights in Alaska. Alaska in March offers ideal conditions for experiencing the mesmerizing dance of the Northern Lights, with the diminishing winter giving way to longer nights. Travelers flock to Alaska during this month, eager to witness the celestial spectacle painted across the dark canvas of the March skies.

What is the Best Month to see the Northern Lights in Fairbanks, Alaska?

MonthsWill You See The Northern Lights?Average Hours of Night/DarknessAurora ActivityWeatherWeather
JanuaryWill there be Northern Lights?
Great Chances to see the Northern Lights in Alaska, but there are high chances of storms that may cause skies to be overcast.
Average Hours:
17.5hrs
Activity:
Medium Activity
Weather:
Chance of Cloud Cover
See The Northern Lights
FebruaryWill there be Northern Lights?
One of the BEST times to see the Northern Lights in Alaska
Average Hours:
14.9hrs
Activity:
Highest Activity
Weather:
Clear Skies
See The Northern Lights
MarchWill there be Northern Lights?
One of the BEST times to see the Northern Lights in Alaska
Average Hours:
12.1hrs
Activity:
Highest Activity
Weather:
Clear Skies
See The Northern Lights
AprilWill there be Northern Light?
Good Chances Your Will See The Northern Lights, but the nights are much shorter than during the winter months.
Average Hours:
9.2hrs
Activity:
High Activity
Weather:
Clear Skies
See The Northern Lights
MayWill there be Northern Lights?
Unlikely That You Will See The Northern Lights In Alaska
Average Hours:
6.5hrs
Activity:
Medium Activity
Weather:
Clear Skies
See The Northern Lights
JuneWill there be Northern Lights?
Unlikely That You Will See The Northern Lights In Alaska
Average Hours:
4.8hrs
Activity:
Low Activity
Weather:
Clear Skies
See The Northern Lights
JulyWill there be Northern Lights?
Unlikely That You Will See The Northern Lights In Alaska
Average Hours:
5.7hrs
Activity:
Low Activity
Weather:
Clear Skies
See The Northern Lights
AugustWill there be Northern Lights?
Unlikely That You Will See The Northern Lights In Alaska
Average Hours:
8.3hrs
Activity:
Low Activity
Weather:
Clear Skies
See The Northern Lights
SeptemberWill there be Northern Lights?
One of the BEST times to see the Northern Lights in Alaska
Average Hours:
11.2hrs
Activity:
Highest Activity
Weather:
Clear Skies
See The Northern Lights
OctoberWill there be Northern Lights?
One of the BEST times to see the Northern Lights in Alaska
Average Hours:
14hrs
Activity:
High Activity
Weather:
Clear Skies
See The Northern Lights
NovemberWill there be Northern Lights?
Great Chances You Will See The Northern Lights
Average Hours:
16.8hrs
Activity:
Medium Activity
Weather:
Clear Skies
See The Northern Lights
DecemberWill there be Northern Lights?
Fair Chances to see the Northern Lights in Alaska, but there are high chances of storms that may cause skies to be overcast.
Average Hours:
18.4hrs
Activity:
Low Activity
Weather:
Chance of Cloud Cover
See The Northern Lights

Best Hours of the Night To See The Northern Lights In Alaska

For an unforgettable encounter with the Northern Lights in Fairbanks, time your venture between the enchanting hours of 10 pm and 3 am, when the celestial spectacle reaches its peak brilliance. While fleeting glimpses may appear during the soft hues of dusk or the hushed predawn moments, committing to an all-night vigil maximizes your chances of witnessing nature’s grandeur in its full splendor. Each shimmering wave and cascading arc of light holds an indescribable allure, captivating the soul with its ethereal beauty.

Photographers, seeking to capture the ephemeral magic of the aurora borealis, should consider using a specific ISO setting to optimize their shots. Utilizing a higher ISO, such as 800 or above, enhances the camera’s sensitivity to light, enabling clearer and more vibrant images of the dancing lights against the night sky. This adjustment ensures that even the subtlest nuances of color and movement are faithfully rendered, immortalizing the breathtaking spectacle for all to admire.

When Are The Worst Times To See The Northern Lights In Alaska?

The worst time to see the Northern Lights in Alaska is during the summer months when the midnight sun dominates the sky, obscuring the aurora’s visibility. Additionally, increased daylight hours and atmospheric conditions reduce the chances of witnessing this celestial phenomenon.

During the summer months, Alaskans and visitors alike often shift their focus from the elusive Northern Lights to the abundance of outdoor activities available under the continuous daylight. Hiking, fishing, and wildlife spotting (like seeing grizzly bears) become popular pastimes, allowing people to immerse themselves in the stunning natural beauty of the Alaskan landscape. While the aurora may take a backseat during this time, the vivid greens of the boreal forest and the snow-capped peaks of the mountains offer a different kind of mesmerizing spectacle for those exploring the Last Frontier.

More About The Best Times To See The Northern Lights In Alaska

In the months of November and December, the cold starts creeping in and the snow starts falling. Alaska in November transforms into a winter wonderland, with snow-capped landscapes and a serene atmosphere. This month offers a unique opportunity to witness the state’s natural beauty adorned in a blanket of snow, creating a magical and tranquil experience for visitors. You’ll be able to enjoy classic winter activities like dog sledding and snowshoeing during one of the best times to see the northern lights. A higher chance of snow equates to more potential cloud cover, but as the nights get longer you also have more hours for potential sightings. Explore the enchanting beauty of Alaska in November, December, and January where the snowy landscapes provide a serene backdrop for unforgettable winter adventures and a chance to witness the state’s wildlife against the stunning, snow-covered scenery. This makes the winter months one of the best times to see the Northern Lights in Alaska, as well as one of the best times to visit Alaska.

ice museum
See The Northern Lights & The Alaskan Ice Museum On The Same Trip!
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January through March Prime Time!

Many people say the months of January through March are the best time to visit Alaska! But are they the best months to see the Northern Lights in Alaska? Yes! These two months are one of the best times to see the Northern Lights in Alaska, although temperatures through February are quite cold, often as low as -20 Fahrenheit, so make sure to wear insulated clothing from top to bottom. If you don’t own everything you need to stay warm in the Arctic (most people don’t!), we offer affordable gear rentals for our tours, which include suitable mittens, a winter hat, snow boots, and insulated pants, and a warm coat.

Just remember if you are visiting Alaska in the winter – January starts out pretty dark, but the days grow longer with 8 hours of light in early January to more than 12 hours by the end of February. It’s one of the best times to visit Alaska and see the Northern Lights in Alaska because many towns have fun winter “cabin fever reliever” festivals. There’s great snow for winter sports, and enough darkness for visitors to see Northern Lights in Alaska.

As March begins, temperatures start rising and since the majority of the snow has already fallen for the season, we often have many clear nights. This may be a great opportunity to see the northern lights, but may not be the best time to see the northern lights in Alaska. However, during the month of March the days are longer (12 – 15 hrs), it warms up (20’s and 30’s), and there’s great snow. The Iditarod sled dog race starts on the first Saturday in March. All of these things make some people think March is the best time to visit Alaska and the best time to see the Northern Lights in Alaska!

Here’s Why March Is Good, But Not The Best Time To See The Northern Lights In Alaska

The downside to looking for the Alaskan Northern Lights in March is that with more daylight, you will have to stay up later to watch for the lights. The good news is that if you travel to see the northern lights with us, then you will get a wake-up call when a viewing opportunity occurs! So, if you are a night owl or don’t mind being pulled out of a cozy bed, March might be the best time for you to see the Northern Lights in Alaska!

All of that said, you’ll have a really good chance of seeing the northern lights on any of our tours from September through March. If you want to learn why this is the best time to visit Alaska, scroll down to the last Q&A at the bottom of this page.

Is October in Alaska A Good Time To See The Northern Lights?

Alaska in October is an in-between time of year for vacations and traveling. Summer adventures have ended, and winter fun has not yet begun. Days grow shorter, and the weather can be cold and rainy – or even snowy! Bears are preparing for hibernation after a summer of salmon runs. You can experience dazzling fall color, but only until mid-month, because the leaves fall fast!

when to see northern ligths alaska

Skies Are Often Clearer In Colder Months; When The Northern Lights Are Most Visible
While October isn’t the best time to visit Alaska, there are some bright lights to the month:

  • Summer crowds are gone from Alaska in October, so you’ll have the wilderness to yourself. The hiking is great this time of year, as long as the trails stay clear of snow.
  • Alaska in October is a great time to see the northern lights before it gets too cold!
  • You can still visit Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park or travel to Mile 30 inside Denali National Park.
  • If the temperatures are too cold, you can visit Alaska’s amazing museums.
  • The fishing for trout and steelhead is fantastic this time of year!

What Causes The Northern Lights?

Even though the Northern Lights are only visible when the sky is completely dark, the auroras are actually caused by the sun. During active phases of solar activity, the sun sends energy and particles toward earth, where they interact with gases in our atmosphere, resulting in the beautiful displays of light we see in the sky. Every 10 – 12 years, the sun’s solar cycle increases, and the number of sunspots on the sun’s surface becomes more numerous. The more sunspots on the sun’s surface, the more solar flares – and the more energy is released into space, causing more aurora activity for our viewing pleasure.

If you want to know when the best time to see the Northern Lights in Alaska is, or when the best time to visit Alaska is, you need to pay attention to the Sun’s solar activity cycle. Every 11 years, the sun passes through a Solar Maximum (a time of highest solar activity) that is followed by a Solar Minimum (a time of lowest solar activity). The best time to see the Northern Lights is during the Solar Maximum. In general, the Northern Lights will remain active for two to three years before and after a Solar Maximum, increasing the frequency and intensity of aurora sightings and making this the best time to visit Alaska to view the Northern Lights.

What Are The Best Conditions For Northern Light Viewing?

Finally, the Northern Lights are easiest to see when the sky is clear and free of clouds. Yes, sometimes you can see the Northern Lights if the cloud cover is thin and the aurora is strong, but the best time to see the Northern Lights in Alaska is when the skies are dark, clear of clouds, and the solar activity is strong!

So, when are the Northern Lights in Alaska? When can you see the Northern Lights in Alaska? Read on to learn more about the best months to see the Northern Lights in Alaska, and when you can see the Northern Lights in Alaska.

Where is the Best Place in Alaska to See the Northern Lights?

Can you see the Northern Lights in Fairbanks, Alaska? Fairbanks is renowned as the best place to see the Northern Lights in Alaska. The combination of the city’s proximity to the Arctic Circle and its great infrastructure (airports, hotels, restaurants, and so on) has made it a premier destination for seeing the aurora borealis. While visitors and residents can see the northern lights frequently right from town, many hotels and tour operators drive people away from the city lights so that they can get a better view of the incredible aurora borealis.

We’ve opted to use a pair of lodges ten miles outside of Fairbanks and away from the city’s light pollution. The location means that the lights appear vibrant in the skies on clear nights and we never have to drive anywhere to see them. Even more convenient is that our aurora guide will wake you up when the lights appear and you can simply roll out of bed, put on some warm clothes, and step outside the lodge to take it all in! They can even help you get photos or get photos of you!

Will I see the Northern Lights on my Tour?

chances of seeing the northern lights

When can I see the Northern Lights in Alaska? It’s highly likely that you will see the northern lights on our Northern Lights Adventure. Since it’s a natural phenomenon, we cannot guarantee that you will see the lights, but the odds are in your favor because when we travel we choose the best time and month to see the northern lights in Alaska. All of our guests on our past three seasons of departures (2018-19, 2019-20, 2020-21) saw the lights at least once.

The Northern Lights Are Unpredictable

You are able to see the northern lights because of tiny particles from the sun that enter the Earth’s atmosphere. As particles from the sun collide with gasses in the Earth’s atmosphere, brilliant lights are formed. The unfortunate side of things is that, though you may be able to predict the best months to see the northern lights in Alaska, you may not know exactly when the exact best times to see the northern lights in Alaska will be. The good news is that we have seen the aurora borealis on nearly every trip we have gone on, making our guides some of the best at predicting when it is the best time to see the Northern Lights in Alaska.

When can you see the Northern Lights in Alaska?

The northern lights occur because of solar activity, and because the sun is presently near what is called solar minimum, there is a smaller chance now of experiencing a full-on auroral storm than during solar maximum. However, there will be nightly displays of northern lights right through the moment of solar maximum returns in 2024. The real trick is finding clear skies, and knowing that the clear skies mean the best time to see the northern lights in Alaska.

So, when can you see the Northern Lights in Alaska? When is the best time to visit Alaska to see the Northern Lights? Displays of the northern lights tend to intensify around the equinox months of September and March because Earth’s tilt in relation to the sun means that the magnetic field of Earth and the solar wind are in sync. Combine that with a higher chance of clear skies in Alaska during the spring months, and March at an inland location will likely be the best time to see the northern lights in Alaska. If you are searching for an intense viewing experience, September and March may be the best time to visit Alaska.

What Are My Chances Of Seeing The Northern Lights In Alaska In September?

arora borealis alaska best time september

We run the tours from September through the end of March/early April. So why are the odds so great? It’s a combination of several factors:

  • Location: the area around Fairbanks is situated near the Arctic Circle and is well known for frequent northern light sightings. The skies are dark outside of the city, which makes them easier to spot.
  • Duration: Our northern lights tours offer six nights of potential viewings. The more time you spend around Fairbanks in the winter, the greater the chance of seeing the aurora. In fact, the northern lights are visible four out of five nights during the season up here—as long as the skies are clear.
  • Night watch: In addition to our daytime guides, we have a nighttime guide on staff to watch for the lights. Whenever they appear in the skies, he or she will wake you up with a text message, phone call, or knock on your door so you won’t miss them.

If you’re interested in learning more about our Northern Lights Adventure, which offers one of the best chances to see the northern lights in Alaska — or anywhere for that matter — head on over to our tour page. We know when you can see the Northern Lights in Alaska! We’ve created hand-crafted travel to Alaska that you will certainly agree is the best time to see the northern lights in Alaska. Submit the form on that page to download the brochure, which includes the full itinerary, upcoming tour dates, and pricing.

See why everyone is just amazed by the Northern Lights in Alaska, visitors are spellbound as vibrant ribbons of color dance across the darkened sky, painting a breathtaking celestial masterpiece. The ethereal display leaves onlookers in awe, capturing the imagination with its otherworldly beauty and magnificence. Experiencing the Northern Lights in Alaska is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure that leaves a lasting impression on all who witness its splendor.

see the northern lights in alaska


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