How to see the northern lights in Alaska

Updated:
By David Em
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Learn everything you need to know about seeing the aurora borealis, which is also known as the northern lights, in Alaska.

View of northern lights and mountains from a lake.

Best time to go

The northern lights are a result of solar activity clashing with the Earth’s atmosphere. It can happen anytime and is difficult to predict.

While there’s no official season for seeing them, you need the right conditions. The key is to have a clear and dark sky.

During the summer, the skies aren’t dark enough for your eyes to see aurora borealis.

The best time to go is between August and April. During these months, Alaska experiences long and dark nights. Therefore, all you need to look for is a clear night.

Once darkness falls, keep an eye out for the northern lights. There isn’t a specific time of day because the key is darkness. Typically, a few hours before and after midnight are the best times.

Where to see them in Alaska

Alaska is an excellent place to view the northern lights because it’s high in latitude. The interior and northern parts of Alaska are the ideal regions.

Fairbanks is one of the most popular places to view the northern lights. The reason it’s popular is that it puts on a good show due to being in the auroral oval. The auroral oval shows the locations that witness the most auroral activity.

The following are several of the best places in and around Fairbanks to view the northern lights:

  • Chena Lake Recreation Area.
  • Chena Hot Springs Resort.
  • Murphy Dome.

Aside from Fairbanks, other great locations include Coldfoot, Wiseman, Fort Yukon, Utqiagvik, and Prudhoe Bay.

Planning your trip

When you’re planning your trip to see the northern lights, dedicate three or more nights. By having a longer stay, you’ll increase your chances of seeing them.

It’s also important to pack layers. It’ll be cold, so bring the right clothes including beanies, wool socks, and gloves.

Since the northern lights become visible when it’s dark, make sure you have things to do during the day. There are many indoor and outdoor activities that you can do.

Frequently asked questions

What causes the northern lights?

The northern lights form when charged particles from solar winds collide with the particles in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Do the northern lights appear suddenly?

Yes, the northern lights can suddenly appear. However, the sky will need to be dark and clear.

Do the northern lights happen every night?

The northern lights can appear during any season. Since it needs to be dark, the best times to see them are between August and April.

Conclusion

The northern lights are a beautiful phenomenon that you need to see. In Alaska, going inland and north will give you the best chances to view the vibrant pink, green, yellow, blue, and violet skies aurora.

More resources:

Featured image courtesy of Unsplash.

Portrait of David Em.

About David Em

David Em is the founder of Nola & Luna Travel, the destination for travel advice and inspiration. He launched Nola & Luna Travel to share expert advice, useful tips, unbiased reviews, and inspiration about destinations across the globe.