When to Go to Alaska
Alaska by seasons
Bisected by the Arctic Circle, it comes as no surprise that Alaska has a predominately sub-arctic climate. But this doesn’t necessarily mean ice and snow year round. Alaskan winters are cold and snowy, but summers can be warm and sunny, with long hours of daylight. Although summer is the best time to visit Alaska to avoid the bitter cold, it does depend on your interests. So to help you choose the best time for your holiday, here are our seasonal suggestions.
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March - May
As the year moves from March to May, the days lengthen and the cold lifts slightly. Skiing is still possible into April, but the snow melts as May arrives, bringing fast flowing rivers and a variety of birdlife, best spotted in Denali National Park, Glacier Bay and the Kenai Fjords. In Anchorage, the spring crocuses and lilacs bloom, bringing colour and life to the city’s parks.
Slush Cup: held in April at Alyeska Resort, the Slush Cup challenges competitors to ski across an icy pond while in fancy dress. Few make it, adding to the entertainment.
Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival: in early May, 25 species of shorebirds descend upon Kachemak Bay, attracting twitchers and ornithologists in their droves.
June – August
Summer in Alaska is a glorious time, with bright blue skies, long hours of daylight and pleasant temperatures. In fact, despite popular opinion that Alaska is always cold, summer days frequently hit the high 20s, and conditions are ideal for hiking, rafting and kayaking in the Kenai Fjords and Denali National Parks, although rainfall increases towards the end of August.
Midnight sun: in June, the sun doesn’t set until almost 1am, bringing 21-hour days to the state. Celebrate in Nome, where the Midnight Sun festival includes a parade and a swim in the icy sea.
Alaska State Fair: the biggest event of the summer calendar, state fair is held in Palmer and runs for two weeks at the end of August. Come for concerts, horse shows and giant vegetable competitions.
September - November
As mid-September arrives, temperatures begin to cool and the clouds set in, often bringing rain. Crisp autumn days are a delight, especially as the trees turn golden, and salmon fishing is popular on the Kenai Peninsula. The rain really sets in in October, continuing into November, meaning neither month is ideal for travel and many attractions close during this time.
Autumn colours: the autumn leaves turn vibrant shades of reds and golds in Alaska, and you can see them at their best in Denali National Park and in the streets and parks of Anchorage.
Northern Lights: the Aurora Borealis starts making an appearance in the skies over Alaska from around September onwards. Fairbanks is a good place to spot the phenomenon.
December - February
It may be cold (down to -40°C), but winter is a wonderful time to visit Alaska. The land turns pure white, with dog sledging, skiing, snowshoeing and ice carving taking place across the state. The days are short, with darkness often setting in by 3pm, but this gives better conditions to spot the twinkling lights of the Aurora Borealis, which appear all over the state.
Fur Rendezvous: known as the Fur Rondy, Anchorage’s 10-day festival includes snow sculptures, reindeer racing and dog sledging, and is held in February.
Christmas: in Alaska, there’s no need to dream of a white Christmas. With sleigh rides, Christmas tree forests and actual snow, it’s a real winter wonderland.