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Three Amazing Alaskan Vacations To Choose From!
Fun Facts About Aurora Season In Alaska
The Northern Lights are an amazing phenomenon that draws thousands of visitors to Alaska each year. Alaska’s Aurora Season runs from August 21 to April 21, when conditions are just right for Northern Lights viewing. If you’re planning your Alaska vacation to coincide with Aurora Season, you may be wondering how often you can see the Northern Lights in Alaska. During the height of Aurora Season, this magical display of dancing lights can be seen an average of four out of five nights when the sky is clear and dark enough! Aurora chasers are practically guaranteed a sighting with odds like these.
Scientifically speaking, the Northern Lights are active year-round – you just can’t see them during the summer months. You can only see the lights when conditions are right. To see the Northern Lights in Alaska, you need three things: dark skies, clear conditions, and zero light pollution. Since Alaska experiences what is known as “the Midnight Sun” during the summer months, the best time to see the Aurora Borealis is during the fall, winter, or spring seasons.
Finding The Best Location For A Northern Lights Sighting
Where can you see the Aurora Borealis in Alaska? An old-timer will answer this question by telling you to just look up into the sky. But that answer is a little tongue-in-cheek. Location really does matter if you want to see a fantastic Aurora display. A good rule of thumb is to start your Aurora adventure in Fairbanks, and then move north. Fairbanks (and all points north) sit under what is known as the Auroral Oval. This oval is a huge ring above the Earth’s geomagnetic North Pole and is where the Aurora are the strongest. During the peak of Aurora Season, you can often see the Northern Lights in Fairbanks and the Far North almost every night of the week!
Seeing The Northern Lights In Anchorage, Alaska
Anchorage is located in Southcentral Alaska, at the terminus of the Cook Inlet. It sits on a peninsula formed by the Knik Arm to the north and the Turnagain Arm to the south. Anchorage is Alaska’s largest, and most cosmopolitan city. Each year, thousands of visitors flock to the city for its many museums and outdoor activities. This city is also a popular destination for Northern Lights sightings.
If you want to see the Northern Lights in Anchorage, Alaska, you’re in luck! Anchorage is home to many tour operators and guides that can take you on a Northern Lights viewing tour. Joining a professional tour is a great option for many visitors because a professional guide will know how to find the best viewing locations – even when there is low-hanging cloud cover in the night sky. Many tour operators will even let you join a tour the following evening if you don’t see the Northern Lights the first time around.
That being said, you do have to put a little effort into seeing the Northern Lights, especially if you choose an more interior region like Anchorage! Getting out of the city to avoid light pollution is a good first step toward seeing the Aurora. Fortunately, you won’t have to travel too far from Downtown Anchorage to find a good spot to see the Northern Lights. Here are the top five places where you can see the Aurora Borealis in Anchorage, Alaska.
- Glen Alps – this trailhead is located just 25 minutes (by car) from Downtown Anchorage and is a popular gateway to hiking and other activities in the Chugach Mountains. It is also an excellent vantage point to watch for the Northern Lights high above the city!
- Point Woronzof – this coastal park is located at the northwestern edge of the city, along the shores of the Cook Inlet. Visitors can look for bald eagles, ravens, bank swallows, and moose along the shore, or watch the sunset over the water. Once the night sky is dark enough, it’s a great place to look for Auroras, too.
- Eklutna Tailrace and the Knik River Valley - located approximately 34 miles northeast of Anchorage near Mile 3.5 of the Old Glenn Highway, this popular fishing spot is also a great place to see the Northern Lights in Anchorage, Alaska. This area has ample parking and easy access to the Knik River, where Aurora chases can catch a glimpse of the light show even when the Aurora is low on the horizon.
- Girdwood – follow the scenic Turnagain Arm to the quaint mountain ski town of Girdwood and get ready for a spectacular showing of Northern Lights over the Chugach Mountains. The city’s most popular hotel, the Hotel Alyeska, even offers Northern Lights wakeup calls for its guests.
- Eagle River Nature Center – located at the entrance to Chugach State Park, Eagle River Nature Center sits among forested hiking trails. Spend a night in one of the center’s three public-use yurts for an Aurora Viewing experience that you won’t forget!
Make Anchorage Your Base Camp For Northern Lights Viewing
How often you can see the Northern Lights in Alaska depends on the time of year, clear skies, and hours of darkness each night. Knowing that an Aurora sighting is good – but not guaranteed – means that you should plan other activities for your Alaskan adventure. Using Anchorage as your base camp for Northern Lights viewing means that you will have plenty of activities to fill your daytime hours, too. Make sure to include a stop at the Alaskan Native Heritage Center to learn about Alaska’s native traditions and language, or spend a day at Chugach State Park hiking, rafting the rapids, or enjoying the endless views from an alpine meadow. Take a trip down Turnagain Arm to see beluga whales, or book a short flight to Brooks Falls or Lake Clark for an afternoon of bear watching. You can even charter a flightseeing tour for a unique view of Alaska’s mountains, glaciers, and wildlife from the sky!
Where you can see the Aurora Borealis in Alaska depends on several conditions, but the Northern Lights in Anchorage, Alaska are a spectacular sight! Plan your trip to Anchorage around the Northern Lights, but don’t forget to take advantage of all the other activities this amazing town has to offer. From the Northern Lights to the town’s many museums, Anchorage has something for everyone.