When Can You See The Northern Lights in Alaska?

by Ray Roman | Last updated on November 26, 2023

Have you heard of the Northern Lights? If you haven’t, you should, as they are one of the many things you can do in Alaska. But when can you see the Northern Lights in Alaska? When and where is the best place?

Let’s find out…

What are the Northern Lights?

Before we answer the question “When Can You See The Northern Lights in Alaska” we’ll tell you a bit about the Northern Lights, aka the Aurora Borealis.

When Can You See The Northern Lights in Alaska?
Northern Lights, also known as aurora borealis

Northern lights, also known as aurora borealis, are a natural phenomenon that occurs when electrically charged particles from the sun interact with atoms in Earth’s atmosphere.

The result is a spectacular display of colorful light that can be seen in the night sky. Northern lights frequently occur in high-latitude regions such as Alaska, Canada, Norway, and Finland. They can also be seen occasionally in other parts of the world.

When Is the Best Time To See The Northern Lights?

Now that we know a little about the Northern Lights, when is the best time to see them in Alaska? Surprisingly the northern lights happen during all four seasons of the year. However, they are harder to see under the Midnight Sun.

The best time to see the northern lights in Alaska is between August and April, as there is less daylight and, thus, darker skies.

Where Is The Best Place To See the Northern Lights?

There are several places in Alaska where you can view the northern lights, but if you want the best view, then Fairbanks, Alaska, is the place to be.

Explore Fairbanks, Alaska During Aurora Season | August 21 – April 21

Fairbanks, Alaska

Fairbanks is considered by many to be the single best place in Alaska for viewing the northern lights. Fairbanks is located directly beneath the oval of the Northern Lights, and due to how far north Fairbanks is located, you don’t have to venture far from the city to see the aurora borealis.

Best Northern Lights Tours in Fairbanks, Alaska

Fairbanks Northern Lights Tours
The Northern Lights

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Anchorage, Alaska

If you can’t make it to Fairbanks, Anchorage is the next best option to see the Northern Lights in Alaska. Since Anchorage is not as far north as Fairbanks, you will see the lights lower on the horizon.

You’ll need to get out of the city to get a good view, as there is quite a bit of light pollution after sunset. The locals highly recommend several locations, the best being Gleen Alps and Flattop Overlook.

Denali Park and Reserve

Denali National Park and Preserve is a national park in Alaska, United States. The park is home to the highest peak in North America, Denali (also known as Mount McKinley), which stands at an elevation of 20,310 feet.

The park offers various activities such as camping, hiking, backpacking, wildlife viewing, and mountaineering.

As for the Northern Lights, they are visible in Denali National Park, but only under the right conditions. The best time to see the Northern Lights in Denali is during the winter months, when the nights are the longest, typically from September to April.

The park provides information on the best viewing spots and the forecast for aurora activity.

Barrow, Alaska

Barrow, also known as Utqiagvik, is a city located in the northernmost part of Alaska, United States. It is the northernmost city in the United States and the largest city within the Arctic Circle.

Braving Barrow refers to the experience of visiting Barrow, which can be challenging due to the harsh weather conditions and remote location.

If you can brave the climate during winter, you will have the best seats in the house to view the Northern Lights. And if traditional Alaskan culture is something you are interested in, you’ll find plenty of it in Barrow.

Is It Possible To See The Northern Lights in Alaska During the Day?

It is possible to see the Northern Lights during the day in Alaska, but it is much less common than seeing them at night. The Northern Lights are caused by solar particles colliding with atmospheric gases in the Earth’s ionosphere.

These particles are more active at night when the sun’s rays are not as intense, so the lights are typically more visible during the hours of darkness.

However, under certain conditions, such as a solar storm, the aurora can be strong enough to be visible during the day. This is rare and is more likely to happen when solar activity is exceptionally high.
So, while it is possible to see the Northern Lights during the day in Alaska, it is uncommon.

What Colors Can We Expect To See From The Northern Lights In Alaska?

The Northern Lights, or aurora borealis, can appear in various colors, but green is the most common color. The color of the aurora is caused by the different gases in the Earth’s atmosphere, with green auroras typically produced by oxygen molecules around 60 miles above the Earth’s surface.
Green auroras are the most common, but you can also see other colors, such as pink, red, yellow, blue, and purple.

The blue and purple auroras are caused by nitrogen molecules and are typically seen at higher altitudes, around 100 miles above the Earth’s surface.

Oxygen molecules cause the red auroras at higher altitudes, around 200 miles above the Earth’s surface. The pink auroras are a mixture of red and green auroras.
t’s worth noting that the exact colors that can be seen can vary depending on several factors, such as the strength of the solar activity, the altitude of the aurora, and the atmospheric conditions in the location where you are viewing the aurora from.

Are The Northern Lights Worth Seeing

Now that we know about the Northern Lights and the best time and place to see them in Alaska, is it worth visiting?

Absolutely! Seeing the mesmerizing Northern Lights is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that should not be missed. Being able to witness first-hand the multicolored lights which are the result of solar winds interacting with our atmosphere is an incredible natural phenomenon.

There’s nothing like standing out under a crisp starry night sky and catching these dazzling lights dancing across the horizon; it truly is an unforgettable sight worth seeing.

When Can You see the Northern Lights in Alaska? Final Thoughts

Seeing the Northern Lights should be on any traveler’s bucket list. We consider this a top-rated destination and one of the best things to do if you travel to Alaska.

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