5 Things to Consider before Visiting Alaska in Spring (April and May)

Thinking about visiting Alaska in Spring? It can be an amazing time to visit but there are definitely a few drawbacks and things to consider before deciding to do it.

The biggest benefit of visiting in Spring is lower prices and fewer crowds while the biggest drawback is not everything you may want to do will be available and the trees may not be green.

In this article, I’ll dive into five things to think about when considering a spring trip to Alaska. I’ll wrap up with sharing my thoughts on Alaska cruises in April and May.

I’m a former Alaskan and still spend several weeks in Alaska each year in all different months and seasons. I also help travelers plan their trips and host the Alaska Uncovered Podcast and I’m here to share everything to know about visiting Alaska in Spring.

Before we jump in, let’s talk about when spring is in Alaska. There are really two seasons that make up spring in Alaska – Breakup, when snow and ice melt and Green up, when plants start to bloom and everything gets green. I also want to point out that March is NOT a spring month in Alaska – it is definitely a winter.

The Love Alaska sign seen across the Chena River. The trees are still bare in early May and there is still a bit of snow and ice next to the river.
The Love Alaska Sign along the Chena River in Fairbanks, after break up but before Green up

Breakup is generally April in the Interior (Fairbanks and Denali National Park) and in Southcentral Alaska (Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula). April is typically brown and muddy, but with lots of clear skies and sun.

In mid May, leaves come out, everything is green and it turns to summer in a flash. It’s an exciting time to be in Interior and Southcentral Alaska, though it’s hard to predict exactly when this will happen. Typically by the end of May it is definitely summer.

In Southeast Alaska where cruise ships travel, April and May are among the driest months in this very wet climate. While there’s still rain, April through June are the driest months here.

#1 – Budget

A big benefit to traveling in April and May is lower prices, especially on cruises where prices may be dramatically lower than the middle of the season.

Late season (after September 15th) also has lower prices on cruises but the weather is very rainy and foggy in the fall in Southeast Alaska so if you’re looking for a less expensive cruise, May is the time to do it!

For land based trips, prices will be lower with more availability (on things that are open) in April and May. Lodging and rental cars are always more expensive in Alaska than other parts of the US, but you will find some less expensive options and more availability in April and May than the rest of the summer.

#2 – Availability of Activities and Tours

Alaskans go out and have fun all year and especially in cities and towns you’ll have lots of options for restaurants and things to do. However, places that are more dominated by the visitor industry such as Denali National Park have very limited visitor services until mid May.

Denali National Park is open all year, however there are no hotels, restaurants or trips into the park until mid May. April can be a great time to explore the first few miles of the park road on your own, if you are completely self sufficient.

Many tours operate in summer only and start up sometime in mid to late May or the beginning of June. Other tours offer winter and summer tours, but may take a break for a few weeks in April and early May while transitioning between seasons.

Some tours, such as flightseeing are available all year and whale watching tours in Seward begin in March for Gray whales and Orcas. Humpback whales arrive in May.

A red airplane wing on a small flightseeing plane above a mountain covered in glaciers and snow.
Flightseeing over Denali National Park in early May.

If you are taking an Alaska cruise in late April or early May, it is possible that not all shore excursions will be operating yet.

#3 – Daylight hours and Weather

If you are visiting Alaska in spring, you need to be prepared for very unpredictable weather. I have personally experienced significant snowstorms in early May (though they usually melt in a day) as well as unexpectedly warm days in April.

A rocky beach on a gray day with a few inches of snow on the rocks.
A few inches of slushy wet snow on an early May day in Seward

The one thing you can count on is that it is one of the drier parts of the year all across Alaska and there will be lots of daylight! There is too much daylight to see the Northern Lights in April and May. Perhaps early April if you happen to catch a clear night and are up for the short amount of night, but do not plan a trip to Alaska in spring if your primary goal is to see the Northern Lights (make it late February or March instead).

April and May (along with June) are the driest months in Southeast Alaska so it’s a great time for an Alaska cruise, especially May when most tours are operating and shops are open. It’s still a very rainy place so you need to be ready for rain any time.

A few rocks in the water in the foreground and in the background the port of Sitka. In the distance is a snow covered volcano
A sunny early May day in Sitka

In April, during breakup, expect enormous puddles and some lingering snow in both Fairbanks and Anchorage.

Except it to be freezing at night in April in the Interior and Southcentral and often well into May. Southeast Alaska will probably not be freezing at night by April.

#4 – Wildlife

If seeing wildlife is a high priority for you like it is for many travelers, pay attention to when you are going and what wildlife you can see at that time of year.

For example, bears are not typically active until sometime in May.

Humpback whales arrive in Alaska’s waters in May and Gray whales arrive earlier in March. Orcas are in Alaska year round.

Moose are often around in Spring, especially near roads and in town, looking for food and desperate for their plant diet to green up! Be cautious and watch your speed when driving and keep an eye out for moose.

The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is a wonderful place for visitors to see most of Alaska’s land based wildlife year round.

#5 – Bugs

I have definitely encountered bugs in April and May in various parts of Alaska, but in general bugs will not be nearly as bad as June and July. This varies widely from year to year and location to location and even day to day, but in general spring is more manageable if you’re worried about bugs.

Is April or May a good time to take an Alaska cruise?

Yes! Lower prices and drier weather make April and May a wonderful time for an Alaska cruise.

If you are prepared to deal with cooler temperatures and don’t mind the possibility of some tours not being available it’s a fantastic time to cruise at a lower price and with less crowds.

A rocky beach on a gray day with a few inches of snow on the rocks. Text reads 5 things to consider before visiting Alaska in April and May
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Jennie Flaming
Hi! I'm Jennie. I’m a fourth generation Seattleite. I lived in Alaska for many years and I still spend lots of time there every year visiting friends and working as a tour director. I've been a guide for many years in both Alaska and Washington, am a field editor for the Milepost and host the Alaska Uncovered Podcast about Alaska Travel as well as the Washington State Hiking Podcast. I love to share the places I love with visitors, newcomers and my fellow locals. I’m so glad to have you here!