5 Best Places to See Northern Lights in Alaska

One of the best things to do in Alaska is being outside on a clear night and seeing the Northern Lights. They are beautiful and it's a great way to spend a clear night; if it's not freezing! Among the most beautiful places in the world, Alaska is one of the stunning places to see the Northern Lights conveniently in a nice city, cute town or a stunning National Park!

At a latitude of 66-69 degrees north is the band across the globe known as the Aurora Zone or Northern Lights Zone. This is the ideal location to see the dance and beauty of the Northern Lights. These countries include, Canada, Norway, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, Scotland and Greenland. A lot of places to see Northern Lights!

The lights are the result of colliding, fast moving electrons in the magnetosphere and oxygen and nitrogen molecules in the upper atmosphere. The different colors are the result of whether the electrons collide with oxygen or nitrogen and with how much energy. Just because you can't always see the Lights doesn't mean they are not there. Apparently, they are always there, just not to the naked eye.

Sightings of the Aurora Borealis has been recorded as early as the 500's, even some ancient cave paintings believe to have depictions of this natural phenomenon. There's an app for that! The Aurora Forecast is a downloadable app that tracks such variables as solar rays, wind speed and density.

where to see northern lights in Alaska

If you are wondering on where to see northern lights in Alaska, here are some of the best places:

1. Fairbanks

Fairbanks, at latitude 65 is the best place in Alaska to see northern lights. The viewing season begins in late August and ends around mid-April. Summer is the time of midnight sun and you can’t see the aurora. Green and white Auroras are the most common colors of the Aurora Borealis. You want to be between 65 to 70 degrees north latitude. The arc of activity varies from night to night.

March is the month of clearest skies in Fairbanks. Even so, only about 50% of March nights are clear in Fairbanks, so plan to spend a few days visiting. Book your hotel well in advance because you probably don’t want to camp in freezing weather. You don't need to trek to some remote spot for Aurora viewing.

Fairbanks is 150 miles south of the Arctic Circle and has many spots with no or low light pollution, so you don't need to go far to enjoy a evening light show! Since Fairbanks is a large city it's easy to find spot and tours to see this natural wonder!

Fairbanks has some top notch spots for easy and prime viewing, like Chena Lake and Murphy Dome. Tours are offered to these spots, renting a 4 wheel drive truck is another option if you are not a tour person. Hot Springs are a fantastic spot for getting a birds eye view of this stunning natural phenomenon.

Chena Hot Springs is 60 miles from Fairbanks and is to located under one of the most active of the Northern Light bands in the state. The resort offers some good choices of specialized Aurora tours.

Some Native's believe that if you whistle loud enough you can make them dance! They actually aren't that random and there actually is forecasting for likelihood of seeing the lights. One really doesn't need to go that far out to see them. Just driving on the highway late at night is plenty opportunity to see them. Also, you won't be the only one who will enjoy the light show, some more than others.

There are actual tourists that come to Alaska in the winter, and most of them are Japanese. They come for the northern lights and the natural hot springs as well. But they only really start coming when it gets really cold.

2. Denali National Park

There aren’t too many national parks that have just one 92-mile-long road, most of which is closed for eight months of the year, and where rangers use dog-sleds to patrol nearly 9,500 square miles. Well that majestic park is Alaska’s Denali, home to the tallest mountain in North America.

Alaska has many beautiful national parks, Denali is one of the states outstanding gem! The park has no light pollution and it's altitude will afford many spectacular spots to see the Aurora Borealis. Bring your camera for the light show and the amazing animals! Nome and Barrow: These small towns are remote and frigid but you could simply look out your window to see the Northern Lights. Both towns have cultural and historical significance.

Lack of light pollution and a clear night are two of the most important elements when trying to optimize the viewing experience. The University of Fairbanks has a geophysical institute that has a aurora forecast that is an invaluable tool!

3. Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve

The descent of the glaciers from the snowy peaks to the bay of the glaciers creates one of the best landscapes in the world to observe the creation of icebergs. The most famous glacier in the Glacier Bay Basin located on the Pacific Ocean coast of Alaska, is the Muir Glacier, 3 kilometres long and 80 meters thick. Until 1750 the bay was a huge glacier.

4. Sitka

Sitka is gorgeous and well worth visiting, containing a staggering 4,811.4 square miles of land and water! That's more than three times the size of Rhode Island! In fact, Sitka is larger than the land area of three US states and territories - Rhode Island, Delaware, and Puerto Rico - and it’s virtually identical to the land area of Massachusetts!

Sitka’s city limits contain more than 143 times the land area of Manhattan, the well-known New York island. Sitka is larger than 40 different countries, surpassing each of the 40 smallest nations in the world including Singapore, Samoa, and Luxembourg!

5. Anchorage

If you are in Anchorage smack in the middle of winter when the temperature is extra biting-cold and the skies are extra clear of clouds, look up and in the direction of Eagle River/Palmer and you might get lucky!

August is a lovely time to visit. Come in the last half of the month and enjoy the cooler temperatures. The average temperature in Anchorage around that time is about 58°F. Dress in layers. Because, at times, it can be unseasonably warm.

Best Time to See Northern Lights in Alaska

Generally, the optimal conditions for viewing the Aurora Borealis in Alaska is around the times of equinox (mid-March and mid-September) when the earth’s tilt and solar winds are in sync.

The best time to see Northern Lights in Alaska is late August through early April, but the period between late September to February or March can be very cold in Alaska! September and October are also perfect time to see northern lights in Alaska and the Spring Thaw in late March or early April can be fun filled as well as Aurora viewing filled!

When planning a trip to Alaska to view the Northern Lights be aware that late night to early morning hours are the best (10pm-3am) and the darker the night the better your chances. The clearer the sky the better and understand that many light displays may only last a few minutes; although they may come back. Auroras will be more vivid and frequent during high solar activity and high sunspot activity.

The Northern Lights, like all of nature, is unpredictable and will not show up just because you will it. But with tips, science, and the right conditions you can experience this wonder of wonders!
Kalyan Panja