PRIVATE & SMALL GROUP TOURS TO THE WORLD'S BEST DESTINATIONS
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Awesome Northern Lights Adventures in Alaska
The Northern Lights are an atmospheric phenomenon that many stargazers consider to be the ultimate skywatching experience. The lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis, occur when energized particles from the sun crash into the Earth’s upper atmosphere at speeds of up to 45 million miles per hour. Our planet’s magnetic field redirects the particles to the North Pole, which then causes the dramatic and colorful light show we call the Northern Lights! One of the best places to see the Aurora Borealis is in Alaska.
When Is The Best Time To See The Northern Lights?
Alaska has many places with the Northern Lights on display, but the best time to see them is during the Aurora Season. Aurora Season in Alaska runs from August 21 to April 21. While the aurora can appear at any time of night, 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. are the prime viewing hours for this magical display.
The winter solstice, which is the shortest day of the year, is a particularly good time to see the Northern Lights in Alaska. There is less daylight during the winter solstice, which means there is more time to spot the aurora. In parts of Alaska, the amount of daylight during the winter solstice can range from around six hours in Anchorage to less than four hours in Fairbanks. In the remote village of Utqiagvik, which is located 320 miles north of the Arctic Circle, there are roughly 67 days of darkness from Nov. 18 to Jan. 23, resulting in even more opportunities to see the Northern Lights. The Far North of Alaska may be the best place to see Aurora Borealis for this reason alone!
Chasing Aurora In Alaska’s Far North
Why is Alaska’s Far North one of the best places to see the Northern Lights? The answer is simple – science! The city of Fairbanks, and all points North, sit below the Aurora Oval. The Aurora Oval, or aurora belt, is a doughnut-shaped ring around the Arctic where Aurora activity is at its highest. Any area located under this belt generally is considered to be a place with Northern Lights and high Northern Lights activity.
Where are some of the best Far North places to see the Aurora Borealis in Alaska? Keep reading for a list of our Far North favorites below!
- Fairbanks – Fairbanks is one of the best places to view the Northern Lights in Alaska. It sits almost directly under the Aurora Oval and the hours of darkness it experiences during the winter months almost guarantees a nightly light show. Fairbanks is the base camp to Denali National Park and Preserve, where many Northern Lights guided tours take place. The city has plenty of activities for visitors of all kinds, and a plethora of Northern Lights viewing accommodations and tour opportunities for those interested in seeing this spectacular light show during a visit to the city.
- Coldfoot – this remote Alaska community is one of the few North of the Arctic Circle that is accessible by road. It is a stopping place for those who drive the Dalton Highway, but it is also known as one of the best places with Northern Lights in the state. Nestled in the southern foothills of the Brooks Range, Coldfoot serves as a basecamp for Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve or the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Visitor services in town include an inn with rustic accommodations, a café, a gas station, an airport, and tours including flightseeing, northern lights viewing, hiking, biking, and dog sledding.
- Wiseman – located near the boundary of Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, Wiseman is a jumping-off point for adventures in the Arctic. Less than a dozen people live in this former gold-mining town, but its location at the foot of the Brooks Range offers Northern Lights spotters a spectacular chance to see the Aurora against the backdrop of the mountains. The town features three cozy log cabins for guests, and local guides host dog sled tours or guided photography and flightseeing tours for Aurora chasers.
- Utquiagvik – the city formerly known as Barrow is the northernmost community in the United States. From November 18 – January 23, the city is cloaked in 24 hours of darkness, making it one of the best places to see the Northern Lights in Alaska. The city is only accessible by plane, but hundreds of hardy adventurers visit this remote outpost each year to catch a glimpse of the Aurora in the night sky.
- Deadhorse - Deadhorse is located 498 miles north of Fairbanks via the Dalton Highway but is also accessible via daily plane service from Anchorage or Fairbanks. Deadhorse lies at the end of Alaska's famous Dalton Highway, Alaska's most remote and challenging road and a 414-mile journey from Fairbanks. If you choose to drive along the highway, you will be able to enjoy Alaska’s incredible scenery, wildlife, and the Northern Lights along the way. Deadhorse has a few budget-friendly accommodations for solo adventures, but it is worth noting that organized expeditions from Fairbanks to see the Northern Lights in Deadhorse make the trip so much easier!
The best place to see the Northern Lights in Alaska is in the Far North region of the state. It is possible to see the Aurora in other parts of the state; however, your chances are slim the further south you go! And with so many cool towns and remote excursions to places with Northern Lights from Fairbanks to points North, what are you waiting for? Pack your winter gear and get ready for the best light show on Earth!