You can see the Northern Lights in a few parts of the world. But if you don’t want to leave the US, Alaska is the place to try out.
The best places in Alaska to see the Northern Lights are mostly accessible by car.
However, there are even a few top remote locations to consider if you want to be away from the populated areas, which are recommended for the best lights’ visibility.
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Nome is a very small town in Alaska perfect for seeing the Northern Lights. While small by comparison with most other US towns, Nome is quite popular as it has been featured in a few movies. It’s the endpoint of a famous dog sled race that takes place in March and which can take up to 14 days for teams to complete. It’s also a place where you can explore the full cultural experience of village-life Alaska.
Juneau is the small capital city of Alaska and it can be an option if you’re coming in from Canada. It is the closest location to the US if you’re driving. However, it’s still far and remote from most other cities. Driving from Anchorage to Juneau takes at least 18 hours. This is why we recommend a Juneau to Anchorage cruise, which offers a different way of seeing the Northern Lights than from the land.
Colfdoot is a geographically-correct spot to see the Northern Lights. Situated right under the Aurora Oval, it offers some of the best views since the area is largely deserted. You might know Coldfoot from the Discovery Channel’s Ice Trucker series. It’s mainly a large parking lot for truckers driving through Yukon. You will need to sleep in your car if you’re considering this location. Alternatively, you can book a local tour van for a bit of sightseeing.
Barrow is another small town that is very difficult to reach by land. But there’s a direct flight from Anchorage which might help you get to this historic region. It is the home of the native Inupiat culture, which is largely dependent on dogs for traveling. You can learn more about snow dogs here. At the same time, you need to prepare properly when traveling to Barrow as the town is situated behind the Arctic Circle.
6. Arctic Circle Tours
You can organize your own Northern Lights trip around the Arctic Circle. Furthermore, you can have it planned out for you by one of the multiple local tour operators. These companies personally take you to see the Northern Lights with a local guide, which can be an educational experience, especially when traveling with children.
Situated on Unalaska Island, the location can be a remote choice to see the Northern Lights. The location has a special role in the history of Alaska but you need to plan weeks before getting there. There’s a ferry that only visits the island every 2 weeks. However, local airports might be a better alternative. You need to know that many flights to Unalaska get canceled due to the bad weather, however.
Fairbanks is an excellent small city in the heart of Alaska. Situated just a few hundred miles away from the Arctic Circle, it has some of the best viewing spots around the state. You can book a local hotel or lodge to view the lights from your window. However, if you’re already in Fairbanks, it’s also worth driving past the Arctic Circle for a unique wildlife experience.
3. Fort Yukon
With a population of just a few hundred people, the town of Fort Yukon is an excellent choice for the Northern Lights show. The city is known for being right on the Arctic Circle. However, this might change as the Arctic Circle is slowly drifting with a few feet every year. The local airport is the best solution for getting to Fort Yukon and you’ll have to arrange a flight from Anchorage to get there.
2. Denali National Park
Driving 3 hours from Fairbanks puts you right in the heart of Denali National Park. It’s here that you can enjoy some of the best views of the Aurora Borealis. The national park is far from any artificial source of light and it’s one of the best spots in Alaska to see the Northern Lights.
You can even bring your camera here as many photographers come here for long exposure photos of the Northern Lights. The national park is also home to the highest mountain peak in North America and there’s certainly going to be plenty to admire in terms of rugged nature here as well.
In terms of timing, you can come in August to see the lights yourself. However, it’s the second week of August that’s the busiest time of year to see the Northern Lights from the Denali National Park. The Dalton Highway is the only road you can take to reach this unique unspoiled land.
Anchorage is the largest city in Alaska with more than 200,000 inhabitants. You might not think of it as the best place to see the Northern Lights, but it works if you’re only in Alaska for a couple of days. You can see the lights of the city. However, local tour operators can take you outside city limits for the best views.
You can consider flying to Anchorage from major US cities if you want to see the Northern Lights. Since there are plenty of good car rental companies within the city, you can even rent your vehicle to start a self-guided tour of the city and to get out of its premises to see the Northern Lights. This is possible due to the low pollution areas in Anchorage compared to most other cities of its size around the world. You’d have to travel to Iceland to find something remotely similar to Anchorage.