Where Is The Best Place To See The Northern Lights In Alaska?

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Three Amazing Alaskan Vacations To Choose From!

Summer Trips To Alaska
Grizzlies & Glaciers Tour

Winter Trips To Alaska
See The Northern Lights

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Denali Discovery Adventure

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Visit The Auroral Oval To See The Dancing Lights

Seeing the Aurora Borealis is a bucket-list vacation for many people. Fortunately, you don’t have to leave the United States to see this amazing phenomenon! The Northern Lights are visible in Alaska from mid-August through mid-April each year. Many tour companies specialize in trips to see the Aurora Borealis in Alaska, so planning your vacation is easy.

What Causes The Northern Lights In The Night Sky?

The Northern Lights are caused by an interaction between charged particles (the solar wind) and Earth’s atmosphere. When this activity is high (and the night is dark and clear) Aurora chasers have a good chance of seeing this impressive display of brightly colored, sparkling lights in the night sky. And, if you visit Alaska’s Arctic Circle, chances are you will see the Northern Lights in Alaska.

When the charged particles from the sun strike atoms and molecules in Earth’s atmosphere, they excite those atoms, causing them to light up in different colors. The colors in the aurora were once a source of mystery throughout human history. Today, we know that different gases in Earth’s atmosphere give off different colors when they interact with the Earth's atmosphere. Oxygen gives off the green color of the aurora, for example. Nitrogen causes blue or red colors.

best place to see aurora borealis in Alaska

Visit Fairbanks To See The Northern Lights

Fairbanks is one of the best places to view the Northern Lights in Alaska. Why? Several factors come into play – mainly, the city’s location, hours of darkness during the winter months, Auroral activity, and the number of tours, activities, and accommodations dedicated to Northern Lights viewing.

Many people consider Fairbanks the best place to see the Northern Lights in Alaska. It is located directly beneath the Auroral Oval, an invisible band that sits above the earth at 65-70° north and south latitudes and is where most Aurora activity can be seen. Fairbanks also benefits from low light pollution and low precipitation, which means the skies are usually very clear. Low light pollution and clear skies are very important factors that contribute to the Aurora’s appearance in the night sky.

The Top 5 Places To See The Northern Lights In Fairbanks

It’s no secret that Fairbanks is arguably the best place in Alaska to see the Northern Lights. It's location below the Aurora Oval almost guarantees it! But where are the best places in (and near) the city to see this incredible phenomenon? Our top five picks are listed below:

  • Creamer’s Field - This spot provides plenty of wide-open spaces and offers striking views of the Northern Lights from October to March, especially on moonless nights.
  • Chena Hot Springs Resort - This is one of the most popular places to catch a glimpse of the Aurora in Fairbanks. The resort is nestled in a remote, scenic area far away from city lights, providing a perfect natural setting for stargazing and enjoying the show of nature's most beautiful nightlight displays.
  • Lookout Trail - Located just outside of Fairbanks, thiMurs trail includes multiple scenic overlooks with pristine views of the night sky that make it easy to enjoy viewing the northern lights from different angles and locations.
  • University Forest Trail: As one of the few dark-sky sites near Fairbanks, this spot is great for avoiding light pollution while seeking out some of Mother Nature’s most stunning artworks.
  • Murphy Dome - Located about 20 miles outside of Fairbanks, Murphy Dome soars above the surrounding hills and valleys. Once home to Murphy Dome Air Force Station, it is now popular with hikers and Aurora viewers!

swirls of northern lights in shades of green in Alaska

When Can I See The Northern Lights In Fairbanks?

Aurora Season lasts for approximately half the year. From mid-August to mid-April, visitors have a good chance of seeing the Northern Lights in the night sky near Fairbanks if the skies are clear. Most expert Aurora chasers recommend that you stay for at least three nights during the Aurora season. This will increase your chances of seeing the Northern Lights to more than 90 percent! If you’ve reserved a spot on one of the trips to see the Aurora Borealis in Alaska, the following tips will help you on your hunt:

  • Look for the Northern Lights at the right time of day – the best time for seeing the Aurora during Alaska’s winter is 11:30 p.m.- 3:30 a.m. with the peak at 1:30 a.m. During Alaska’s spring and fall (September and March), the best time to view the aurora is 12:30 a.m.- 4:30 a.m.
  • Observe the weather conditions – if it’s clear and dark enough to see stars, there’s a chance you’ll be able to see the Northern Lights in Alaska. You can also check the local weather forecast or visit the University of Fairbanks Alaska Aurora Tracker to see the Aurora Forecast for the night. You can even download the Aurora Forecast app for your phone!
  • Avoid the full moon – the moon is a natural light source, and the Northern lights may not appear if the moon is bright. If you want to increase your chances of seeing the Aurora, don’t go Aurora-hunting during the full moon.
  • Be patient – there is no set schedule for when the Northern Lights will appear. You may wait into the wee hours of the morning, or you may get lucky and see them right after the sun goes down. Patience is the key, whether you are a seasoned Aurora chaser or you are on one of your first trips to see Aurora Borealis in Alaska.
  • Pro tip – make sure your are wearing warm clothes and several insulating layers to keep you from freezing during your Northern Lights vigil. Don’t forget boots and warm wool socks!

Getting Ready For A Cold Night Under The Stars

If you are not part of a special tour to see the Northern Lights, how will you know when to wake up and go outside? Many hotels and lodges offer a wake-up call when the Northern Lights are out! So, if you are worried that you will oversleep and miss the light show – have no fear. The front desk staff is more than happy to monitor the Aurora Forecast for you and make sure you have a chance to see the Aurora in the night sky.

Once you’ve alerted the front desk, make sure that you’ve packed a camera and a thermos of hot cocoa to keep you warm. Pick out your warmest clothes, so that you can stay cozy at your viewing location during a long wait. You may also want to pack some hand warmers to help stave off the winter chill. And, if you are worried about falling asleep while you wait, pack a few simple card games to keep you busy. There’s nothing worse than missing out on the show because you fell asleep or had to retreat inside to warm up!

Fairbanks – More Than Meets The Eye

Even if your main reason for going to Fairbanks is to see the Northern Lights, there are plenty of other things to do in and around the city. The city has many historic buildings that date back to the gold rush days, a vibrant contemporary art scene, museums, shops, a cultural and visitors center, and several distilleries and breweries where you can taste Alaskan potato vodka! Here are a few places or events that you won’t want to miss:

  • The University of Alaska Museum of the North – this museum is a great place to learn about Alaska’s native landscape, wildlife, and culture. It also features exhibits and movies about the Northern Lights, so you can learn more about the phenomenon.
  • The Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum – this small museum features perfectly restored early-20th-century luxury cars.
  • The World Ice Art Championship – this ice-sculpting contest is the largest of its kind in the world and draws more than 100 competitors from 30 countries each year!
  • Ice fishing – find a local fisherman who also gives tours, and you can drive out on a frozen river, dig a hole through the ice, and lower your line! Although chilly, ice fishing is now done with a warm and sheltered mobile cabin, so the activity is much more pleasant than in the past.
  • Running Reindeer Ranch – take a walk with the ranch’s reindeer. This rescue is family-owned and features guided, educational tours. Don’t forget to get your picture taken with the friendly beasts.
  • The Arctic Circle – Fairbanks may feel far North, but if you want to see the true Arctic, you can charter a flightseeing tour to the Arctic Circle. Along the way, you’ll have a chance to see the mountains, Yukon River, remote villages, and wildlife from the air. Many flightseeing tours include a stop in Colfoot, where you can get a guided tour of the small and very scenic town nestled in the Brooks Mountain Range.

Visiting Fairbanks For An Epic Aurora Adventure

If you want to see the Northern Lights in Alaska, Fairbanks is the place to go! This town has been unanimously named the best place to see the Northern Lights in Alaska and for good reason. Don’t forget to explore the many other fun activities Fairbanks has to offer on your trip to Alaska's Far North. But no matter what you do, pack a healthy sense of adventure and get ready for the experience of a lifetime.

Download all three Alaska tour brochures for tour dates and pricing.