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Three Amazing Alaskan Vacations To Choose From!
Where Can I Go To See The Aurora Borealis?
The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, is a natural phenomenon of colorful lights in the nighttime sky caused by charged particles from the sun. This spectacular natural light show is visible only at certain times of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. Many people ask “Where can I view the Northern Lights?” The Aurora is visible in places like Jokulsarlon, Iceland; Cairngorms National Park, Scotland; Abisko, Sweden; Muonio, Finnish Lapland; and Yellowknife, Canada.
But what if you don’t want to travel outside of the U.S. to see the lights? Have no fear! One of the top Aurora viewing destinations is right here in our own backyard – Alaska! Alaska is one of the best places to see the Northern Lights because its backcountry has little to no light pollution and there is a window of time when the skies are clear and the rain is minimal, offering Aurora chasers the show of a lifetime.
If you are still wondering “Where can I see the Aurora Lights in Alaska,” keep reading! We have all the information you need to plan an amazing Northern Lights getaway in Alaska.
The Best Time To See The Northern Lights In Alaska
If you want to see the Aurora Borealis in Alaska, there are two questions you have to answer before you plan your trip. The first is where can I go to see the Aurora Borealis in Alaska? The second is, when is the best time to see the Northern Lights in Alaska? Alaska’a Aurora season begins in late August and runs through mid-April. Peak Aurora viewing season is March, although the winter months are a great time to see this phenomenon because of the clear skies. Aurora displays tend to intensify around the equinox in September and March because the Earth’s tilt in rotation to the sun means the Northern Lights are more apt to appear.
Aurora Viewing Hot Spots In Alaska
The best places to see the aurora borealis in Alaska offer little to no light pollution, clear skies, and no precipitation. Keep in mind that the Northern Lights are only visible at northern latitudes when it's dark outside. Fortunately, the winter months in Alaska have extended hours of darkness, making an aurora sighing almost guaranteed! Alaska also has its very own Aurora Tracker, which can help you determine if conditions are right for this spectacular display to dance across the nighttime sky.
Here is a list of the three popular Aurora viewing locations in Alaska:
- Fairbanks – if you ask “Where can I go to see the Aurora Borealis in Alaska,” locals will unanimously answer “Fairbanks!” Fairbanks is one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights, because it is located directly under the Auroral Oval. This ring-shaped zone sits over the Earth’s magnetic pole, where aurora activity is localized. Visitors can expect to see the Northern Lights on an average of four out of five clear nights during the Aurora Season. Fairbanks is a great place to see the Aurora, but it is also a great place for a vacation in general! Summer activities include panning for gold or exploring nearby wildlife areas, while wintertime could include a trip to the Santa Claus House in the city of North Pole. Fairbanks’ top aurora viewing spots include Chena Hot Springs, Creamer’s Field, Chena Lakes, Clearly Summit, and Murphy Dome.
- Denali National Park – although most of Denali National Park is closed in the winter, it is still popular with Aurora chasers. Riley Creek Campground, which is located near the park entrance, is open year-round with no camping fees in the winter. For a truly unique Northern Lights viewing experience, plan a winter camping trip and camp here! Alternatively, the Aurora Denali Lodge in Healy is open in the winter and offers easy access to the park for those who want a less rugged option for their Aurora viewing experience.
- Anchorage – this is Alaska’s largest city, and the one most travelers visit at least once during a trip to Alaska! If Northern Lights viewing is on your bucket list but you want the amenities and excitement of a city, Anchorage is the place for you. Anchorage’s top Northern Lights viewing spots that are accessible by car include Beluga Point, Potter Valley, Flattop, Hiland Road, and Point Woronzof.
Four Proven Tips For A Successful Aurora Sighting
Now that you know where you can view the Northern Lights in Alaska, it’s time to learn how to guarantee a sighting. Below are four proven tips for a successful aurora sighting. Follow these, and you will be able to enjoy the spectacular light show in the nighttime sky.
- Check the Aurora forecast. The auroral band is generated by the solar wind, so scientists monitoring the sun can predict when it will become active. The Aurora Forecast Tracker was created by the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and will give multi-day outlooks as well as a short-term forecast that can help you plan your Northern Lights viewing expedition!
- Check the weather. Even if the aurora is active, cloudy skies or precipitation will obscure your view. To see the aurora, you need clear skies. So, if it’s cloudy or foggy near your base camp, you may need to drive from sea level to a higher elevation to see the Northern Lights. Or, you may have to drive to a different viewing location to have a chance of seeing this natural phenomenon. Fortunately, the National Weather Service’s online app can help you determine a location that will work, in real time.
- Consider the phase of the moon. A full or half-moon can make a dark Alaska winter night seem as bright as day. The light reflecting off the snow cover can make seeing the Aurora impossible! So, the rule of thumb is to plan your aurora viewing trip during the two weeks around the darker new moon phase.
- Stay up late! The best time to see the Aurora is between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. Plan to stay up late if you want to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. And make sure to dress warmly, as you will want to be comfortable waiting outside for the show to begin!
A Northern Lights Viewing Vacation
Visitors often ask where they can go to see the Aurora Borealis in Alaska. Locals like to joke around by answering “everywhere,” but the truth is there are some places that are better than others for Northern Lights viewing, even in Alaska! And if you are interested in combining your Aurora viewing trip with some other uniquely Alaskan activities, picking a location to do both may require a little research. Don’t hesitate to contact local tour operators, though – you may find the adventure of a lifetime through a guided tour.