Planning a trip and trying to figure out the best month to visit Alaska? When will it be sunny without too many bugs? When can I see the northern lights?
Most people will tell you that June or July is the best month to visit Alaska, and while those are prime summer months, I believe in digging a little deeper to figure out the best time for you.
Ultimately, the best month to visit Alaska is whenever you can. I firmly believe after years living in Alaska and countless visits that you can have an amazing visit any month of the year. That said, depending on your priorities, some months are better than others.
This article is based on my experience as a former Alaskan as well as many visits over more than twenty years as well as my experience as a guide and the thousands of visitors I’ve interacted with over that time. It’s organized by topic, then region and specific month. I invite you to jump to whichever sections are most relevant to your trip planning.
What is the best month to see the Northern Lights in Alaska?
If you want to plan a trip around seeing the Northern Lights, plan your trip to Fairbanks in March. March still has plenty of darkness, generally clear skies in Fairbanks and it’s usually not way too cold to go outside and look up.
The months with enough darkness to see the Northern Lights are September through March.
What month has the most sun?
Summer means long days in the North! June 21st, the Summer Solstice for the Northern Hemisphere, has the most sun everywhere in Alaska as far as the number of hours the sun is up.
Around this time, the sun is up in Fairbanks about 22 hours a day and it never gets fully dark. In Anchorage the sun is up just under 20 hours a day and it doesn’t get fully dark here either.
Further south in Juneau, the sun is up for 18 hours and it’s kind of dark for a few hours at night.
May through Mid August definitely feel light pretty much all the time in most of Alaska. In September, the hours of daylight are similar to everywhere else approaching the Fall Equinox.
As far as rainfall and actually seeing the sun, Southeast Alaska is fairly rainy all year, but the driest months are April, May and June. Anchorage has much less rain, but it can still rain any day in the summer. Fairbanks is fairly dry but gets rain in August (and rain is still possible any time).
What is the best month to take a Cruise in Alaska?
May or June.
The cruise ship season in Alaska is May through September, with some cruises operating at the end of April and beginning of October. Early summer is the sweet spot because it is less rainy than later in the summer, though you must be prepared for rain any day of the year, it’s still wet!
If you’re looking to save money, cruises in May are usually less expensive than mid summer.
It depends on what you’re hoping to see. Winter is not a great time to see wildlife EXCEPT it’s a great time to see moose as they really stand out against the snow, and they are active all winter trying to survive.
June through September is the best time to see bears and late May through September is the best time to see whales (exactly what whales you see varies from month to month). Orcas are in Alaska waters all year, while other whales such as humpbacks and gray whales migrate.
If seeing wildlife is a priority for you, check out my article all about how to see wildlife on your trip to Alaska.
What is the cheapest month to visit Alaska?
Alaska is an expensive destination, but there are definitely months that are less expensive than others. Food and tour costs are generally consistent throughout the year, but airfare, lodging and rental car costs can vary quite a bit.
The cheapest months to visit Alaska are April, November and January. The shoulder season months of May, late September and October can offer lower prices closer to the summer season, especially on cruises. February and March are inexpensive in Southeast Alaska but lodging fills up with winter visitors at that time in Fairbanks and Anchorage. Prices are not as high as summer, but not as inexpensive as you might expect. December is less expensive, though airfare can be high due to holiday travel.
June, July and August have the highest prices on airfare, lodging and rental cars. July is the most expensive month to visit Alaska.
I’ve written extensively about Alaska National Parks so check out those articles for lots of detail about planning your trip, including seasonal considerations for different months.
What is the best month to visit Alaska without bugs?
Anytime things are frozen or cold is a good time to visit without bugs! There might be a few lingering bugs in September but for the most part you can enjoy a bug free or mostly bug free trip from September through April.
If you’re going in the summer, usually May doesn’t have too many bugs yet. Sometimes by August they have improved, but they can still be an issue in August. In June and July bugs can be fierce.
July is statistically the warmest month of the year across Alaska. Temperatures in Fairbanks and other parts of Interior Alaska can be downright hot, while temperatures in Southeast Alaska are generally quite mild (50s and 60s). Southcentral Alaska (Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula) tends to be somewhere in between. The Arctic is rarely above the 40s even in July.
What is the coldest month in Alaska?
January is statistically the coldest month of the year across Alaska. December and February are close behind. Interior Alaska is bitterly cold, usually far below zero. Southcentral Alaska is not quite as cold as the Interior, but still cold. Southeast Alaska is warmer with the temperature going up and down around the freezing point most of the time.
Interior Alaska – Fairbanks and Denali National Park
The vast majority of visitors to Alaska’s Interior visit in summer, but winter is the truly magical and unique time to visit here! Despite the frigid temperatures (way below zero) the beauty of this stark winter landscape is absolutely breathtaking. There are plenty of activities like Aurora chasing, dog mushing and ice fishing to keep you busy. Winter brings a much higher chance of seeing the actual peak of Denali too.
Most of Denali National Park is inaccessible but you can still have an amazing winter visit here if you like to get away from it all and do something really unique.
If you are visiting in the summer, I recommend June for the peak summer experience and early September for spectacular fall colors. September is fall, not summer so expect cold weather, nights below freezing and possibly snow.
Southcentral Alaska – Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula
June and July are the most ideal times of year to visit Southcentral Alaska. Long days and generally the driest weather make this the ideal time for sightseeing and outdoor adventure. You have the best chance of your flightseeing tour operating too (less fog)!
If you’re planning a fishing trip, July and August are a good time, though it depends a bit on what you’re planning to fish for and where.
For a winter visit, February and early March are good times. The Fur Rondy festival and the Iditarod start make it extra fun at this time of year. Anchorage gets very busy at this time, so make sure to reserve your hotel well in advance.
Southeast Alaska – Juneau and the Inside Passage
Early summer, May and June, are the best months to visit Southeast Alaska. Long days and the driest months of the year make it truly magical. Whale watching is excellent and it’s less busy than July.
Even though this is the driest time of year (along with April), that doesn’t it won’t rain in this very rainy climate! You need to be prepared for rain any time of year here.
Breakdown of different months – the good and bad
I firmly believe that you can have an amazing trip in Alaska any time of year! However, there are some things to consider and for most visitors some months are better than others. Here’s my complete breakdown by month for the best month to visit Alaska along with a rationale. Keep in mind that “good” is subjective, so trust your instincts about what will be best for you.
Is January a good month to visit Alaska?
January is a bitterly cold month in Fairbanks and can be very cold in Anchorage. Southeast Alaska is cold and very wet and transitioning back and forth between snow and rain.
Probably the most important thing about January is that there are only a few hours of daylight all across Alaska (similar to December) which is great for seeing the Northern Lights but doesn’t give much daylight for anything else.
You can get some great deals on lodging and rental cars in January, as even for winter travel, this is not the busiest month (later in the winter is busier).
Is February a good month to visit Alaska?
February is very similar to January, but with a little more daylight. It can still be bitterly cold as the sun hasn’t gained much traction yet.
February, especially late February, is a good time for a winter visit to Fairbanks or Anchorage.
Is March a good month to visit Alaska?
March is a particularly good time to visit Fairbanks, with 12 hours of mostly sunny days, cold enough temperatures to keep things frozen for winter activities but usually not bitterly cold. Early March can also be a good time to visit Anchorage, especially if you want to see the start of the Iditarod. March is not a great time to visit the rest of Alaska, since winter is wrapping up but summer activities and tours aren’t open yet.
March is the last month of the winter season where you can reliably see the Aurora before there’s no longer enough darkness.
Is April a good month to visit Alaska?
April is not a great month to visit Alaska. It’s a magical time with spring on the way and days rapidly getting longer for Alaskans, but for visitors it can be an awkward time to visit since it’s not yet summer but you can’t really do snow and winter activities anymore. Most seasonal businesses have not yet opened. You can find some great deals on lodging in April, since it’s not a popular time to visit.
If you do choose to visit in April, a community in Southeast Alaska such as Juneau or Sitka is a good choice as April is one of the drier months there. Expect it to still be cold and a bit rainy, just less!
April is often named as the very end of Aurora Season, but in my experience seeing the Northern Lights in April requires a lot more luck, since there aren’t that many hours of darkness anymore.
Is May a good month to visit Alaska?
May is one of the best months to visit Alaska, especially Southeast Alaska. Usually the bugs aren’t too bad yet, but the days are long and summer is definitely on the way! Nights may still be below freezing, especially in Fairbanks and Denali. Denali still has snow in May.
Most tours are open and fully operating by the end of May, but might not be open earlier in the month. If you’re planning a May visit, keep an open mind about the weather which could be all over the place, and check with any tours or places you really want to go to make sure they are open.
Is June a good month to visit Alaska?
June may be the very best month to visit Alaska overall, if you’re planning a summer visit. It’s fully summer, everything is open, but it is not quite as crowded and busy as July. The bugs can be fierce, but they might not be too bad (especially earlier in the month). June has the longest days of the year with most of Alaska not seeing full darkness all night!
Is July a good month to visit Alaska?
July is the most popular month to visit Alaska and is the warmest month on average as noted. This does not necessarily mean that it’s the best month, just because it’s the most popular!
If you’re traveling to Alaska in July, expect high prices and crowds and you’ll need to book lodging and rental cars for in advance. Everything is open and operating. The bugs can be bad, though not all the time and not in every location.
Is August a good month to visit Alaska?
August is another popular month to visit, but it is a bit less busy, especially later in August. August is one of the months with more rain across the state (including the very dry interior), so if you’re planning an August trip, make sure to be ready for rain.
August is a strong month for salmon runs, and the bugs are often less intense than in June and July.
There is a chance of seeing the Northern Lights at the very end of August if you get very lucky, but if you really want to see them, plan your trip for September – March (and go to Fairbanks).
Is September a good month to visit Alaska?
September is one of my favorite months to visit Interior Alaska, but the rest of Alaska tends to be really rainy and gray. A beautiful September day is unforgettable anywhere in the state, but especially Southeast Alaska doesn’t have many sunny days this time of year!
Fairbanks and Denali National Park have absolutely stunning fall colors in early September, making it a wonderful time to visit if you don’t mind unpredictable weather and nights below freezing. No bugs are another benefit!
Denali tours close in mid September so depending on what you want to do, early September could be better than late September (if you want to do the bus tour into the park, for example).
Is October a good month to visit Alaska?
October varies a lot both in different parts of Alaska and from year to year and day to day. October is often fully winter in Fairbanks, with snow on the ground and everything frozen, though sometimes there’s not much snow since it’s so dry. Expect cold temperatures and possibly snow. Denali is definitely fully winter in October.
The Anchorage area is usually in some version of fall, there could be snow or not, it could be cold or not, it’s really hard to predict! Some summer tours are usually still operating into October, but many are not so make sure to check if what you want to do is an option then.
October is not a great month to visit Southeast Alaska or take a cruise, unless your main priority is to avoid crowds and you don’t care about weather! In that case, you can find a great bargain and will probably have a great time. Southeast Alaska is very wet and foggy in October.
Is November a good month to visit Alaska?
Not really. Similar to April, it’s a transition month which means neither summer or winter activities are reliably available. It can be bitterly cold, it also might not be extremely cold yet. There may be snow or not. Seasonal businesses are closed. In remote locations, everything is closed.
Lodging and rental cars are as inexpensive as they get in November.
Is December a good month to visit Alaska?
Probably not for most visitors. December is very cold and very dark (only a few hours of daylight) though if you don’t mind that you’ll have a great time! Alaskans go all out decorating and celebrating the holidays so it can be a really fun time to visit if you’re ok with mostly darkness. You do have an excellent chance of seeing the Northern Lights with all those hours of darkness! Airline prices tend to be high around the holidays.
Lodging and rental cars tend to be relatively inexpensive, though not necessarily right around the holidays.
Determining the best month to visit Alaska depends a lot on what you want to do and what part of the state you’re going to.
The bottom line is that the best time to go is whenever you can!
Hi! I'm Jennie. I’m a fourth generation Seattleite who lived in Alaska for 7 years and I still spend lots of time there every year. I've been a tour guide for many years in both Alaska and Washington and am a field editor for the Milepost. I love to share the places I love with visitors, newcomers and my fellow locals. I’m so glad to have you along on the journey to experience your best adventure in Washington, Alaska and Western Canada!
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