The Land of the Midnight Sun. Seeing the sun up until midnight has earned Alaska this nickname. This natural wonder cannot be seen everywhere on Earth. Interestingly, this is not the only extraordinary phenomenon that you can see in Alaska. There are also the aurora borealis or the Northern Lights, and they will leave you staring in wonder.
The spectral lights is one of the magnificent natural wonders of the world. They have drawn many tourists from everywhere around the world in an attempt to catch them. Unfortunately, they become visible when too much darkness to work with. Thus, the cold months are always the best seasons to pursue the lights. After all, it is tough for the lights to come in sight when the sun stays past midnight.
In this list, we have gathered the best destinations in Alaska at which you can catch the northern lights to ease the process for you. Check them out and head to the nearest spot to your fascinating journey.
What are Alaska’s Northern Lights?
Also known as the aurora borealis, the northern lights are natural phenomena that take place in the far north countries. These lights occur when particles from the sun hit the Earth’s atmosphere. Such reaction results in the magnificent strings of colorful lights we see wavering across the sky.
However, this extraordinary incident requires specific conditions in order to take place. Utter darkness is one of the main conditions needed for the lights to be visible. Also, the lack of light pollution is another crucial factor. Thus, the further you get from major cities, the better the chances.
You will usually find the northern lights near the Arctic circle, where the sky drowns in extreme darkness during winter. Alaska falls in the northernmost part of the U.S; it’s even a little far from the rest of the country. If you’re determined to see the beautiful lights, its seclusion works out in your favor.
The Best Places in Alaska to Watch the Gleaming Lights
Honestly, when the aurora borealis are up in the sky, you can see them from several points in Alaska. However, since you are in hot pursuit of the lights, you need to waste no time. Thus, we will guide you to the spots where your chances will be maximized.
Being the second-largest city in Alaska, Fairbanks is a famous travel destination among tourists. Its location improves your opportunities of catching the northern lights. There are several spots in Fairbanks that you can visit, with the Creamer’s Field being the most popular. It’s easy to reach through the Fairbanks downtown. The area has minimal light pollution, so the aurora gets really visible at night.
Chena Hot Springs is another spot in Fairbanks from which you can view the northern lights. And, what could be better than watching the dancing lights while relaxing in a hot tub? Finally, Murphy Dome has expansive sky views for a fascinating celestial display.
Denali National Park
Although it closes off in winter, Denali National Park is a popular destination in Alaska. However, some park areas remain accessible as long as you have your private rental car. The park possesses plenty of spots that serve as an excellent base to see the glaring aurora. Moreover, the park is home to the highest mountain peak in all of North America.
Riley Creek Campground lies near the entrance of the park. Legends have it that there is no better spot than this one to view the lights. Unfortunately, there isn’t much to do while waiting for the lights to show up except for spotting some wildlife.
Eagle River is a small community in Alaska that lies in the suburbs of Anchorage. The locals swear by the undeniable success of catching the lights around different spots in their little town. Beach Lake is one of the popular destinations around this area. It makes for a fascinating viewing spot as it lies far away from light pollution.
Mirror Lake is another beguiling spot to look out for. Most of the winter, this lake is frozen over which you can walk out to get an unobstructed spectacle. However, if you find it unfrozen, you will still enjoy the reflection of the flickering lights over the cold waters.
Nome is among the off-beaten destinations in Alaska, which is a privilege since artificial lights won’t be an obstacle. Located too far from populated areas, Nome has little light pollution and too much darkness to work with.
However, this spot is visited mainly by hardcore chasers of the northern lights, who would go the extra mile to ensure success. If you are determined to head to Nome, make sure you are prepared beforehand. Services and facilities in this area are too limited.
Anchorage is the most populated city in Alaska and the most famous among travelers as well. There are more than a few spots in Anchorage where you can watch the northern lights. Potter Valley is an excellent spot to start with, and it is a little far from where you will need to drive up the mountain. However, it offers the best views of the aurora borealis, isolated from the city lights.
If you are more of the active type, Flattop Mountain will be your best spot. It is a famous hiking trail where you can ambitiously climb for a more explicit auroral show. Hiland Road lies just nearby, and it’s another spot that offers impressive views of the lights.
Eklutna Lake lies at the northern corner of Eagle River. You can reach this destination through a road of the same name. If the weather conditions permit, you can dig deeper into the campground for a better viewing spot. However, staying overnight is usually not an option during winter’s harsh weather.
Besides chasing the northern lights, Eklutna Lake is actually a popular destination in Alaska during summertime. Outdoor activities like hiking and cycling take place where you get to explore the natural landscapes of the site.
Hatcher Pass is a pass between mountains in the southwest part of the Talkeetna Mountains, and the road also leads to the Talkeetna Mountains, where it terminates. You can still head deep until you reach a spot with an open space for perfect viewing.
Unfortunately, the primary road through the pass is usually closed to vehicles due to the accumulation of snow. Lying too close to Palmer city, you can take the road up from that point. You will find snowmobiling and snowboarding the usual activities to reach the peak during the daytime. Besides the top of the mountain pass, you can stay in the parking areas where the view is expansive.
If you have already made the efforts through the Hatcher Pass, it’s essential to stop by the Talkeetna Mountains. Talkeetna is a popular spot in Alaska among travelers to hunt the northern lights. However, the weather in this area is unbearably cold, so make sure you’re prepared with extra layers.
This spot depicts the life of a small community away from the bustling lives of the major cities. However, the services and facilities are limited, the aid of the seemingly empty area in reducing the light pollution. Consequently, the clear skies will pave the way for the aurora borealis to waver through them.
Coldfoot is a spot for die-hard aurora hunters to dive as deep into the north as possible to see the dark skies shining. It lies too far away from the major cities, so you will have better chances to watch the flickering aurora.
Coldfoot is almost a 7-hour drive from the northern part of Fairbanks. You can imagine how far it lies, but this means less light pollution. If you are determined to live the aurora experience and don’t mind the extra miles, then Coldfoot it is.
Barrow is a small town that sits on the very top of Alaska. It lies pretty close to the Arctic Circle compared to the other Alaskan towns and cities. Also, it is another destination for hardcore hunters who won’t back down before seeing the lights.
Besides bearing the long distances to get to Barrow, you will have to tolerate the frosty negative temperatures. After all, you are getting closer and closer to the Arctic Circle, so you need to wrap yourself tightly. Meanwhile, you can participate in adventurous activities like dogsledding until the aurora decides to manifest itself.