Known for its natural beauty, wildlife and gold rush history, The Frontier State is the perfect place for your next family adventure. Whether you’re looking for craggy fjords, serene glacial lakes, ice trekking or cozy lodges, Alaska has something for you.
Of course, another thing Alaska is famous for is the formidable weather. And thanks to the blustery winters and hot summers, the activities you have access to depend on the time of year you visit.
If you’re trying to determine the best time of year to travel to Alaska, read on to learn about the weather, activities and wildlife that each season brings.
When Is the Best Time To Visit Alaska?
Being aware of how your Alaskan experience will vary depending on when you visit is the first step in creating a good vacation itinerary.
So when is the best time to go to Alaska? This depends entirely on what theme you want your vacation to have, who you’re traveling with, as well as what experiences you hope to have while in Alaska.
The following sections offer more information on what you can expect month by month during a visit to Alaska.
What Alaska is Like in the Spring
The average spring temperature in Alaska is around 24 degrees Fahrenheit, though this varies depending on the specific region that you visit. Most days will be cold but clear with occasional rain showers and a sprinkling of snow.
- March: March is a bit of a transitional month in Alaska with very chilly weather and frozen grounds. Though late in the season, you may still be able to see the Northern lights and enjoy other winter activities such as cross country skiing.
- April: Due to the warming of the temperature, ice and snow begin to melt during this month, resulting in a soggy landscape — make sure to pack boots if you visit in April! Most days you will experience clear weather that is perfect for hiking or wildlife viewing.
- May: Tourism season is just around the corner, so take advantage of the fast-warming weather to hit some of the biggest tourism spots such as Denali National Park, Kenai Fjords National Park and the Inside Passage. In just a couple of short weeks, all of these peaceful spots will be overrun with tourists so take full advantage of nature and solitude while you can.
What Alaska is Like in the Summer
The summer months are when you can expect to experience the best weather in Alaska. Temperatures range from 55 to 70 degrees with most days offering clear skies and direct sunlight.
Summertime comes with abundant festivals and events as well as swaths of tourists from around the country and globe, so be prepared to share some of the turf with other travelers.
- June: During this month, tourism will be in full swing and you can enjoy hobbies such as ziplining, hiking, kayaking, horseback tours and wildlife viewing. Don’t forget to pack your binoculars and a lot of energy — as most days last upwards of 18 hours in June and wildlife roam the naturescape freely.
- July: The best (albeit busiest) time of the year to visit Alaska is July. You can experience warm weather, access to all of the wonderful hiking trails, and you have ample opportunities to view wildlife. Fishing season is also in full swing in July so if your primary reason for visiting Alaska is to enjoy fishing, July is the perfect time for your visit.
- August: Though the temperatures and daylight hours are nearly identical to July, August is the end of peak tourist season, and the crowds begin to thin out. So if you’re still chasing nice weather but want slightly fewer crowds, August is a better month for visiting than June or July.
What Alaska is Like in the Fall
While still warm and balmy, the first month or two of autumn is ushered in with less tourism and more peace and quiet. You can enjoy watching the autumn colors explode in vibrant shades of fiery orange and crimson — a photographer’s paradise.
- September: This month comes with sparser crowds and a lower price tag then the previous three months, making it an ideal time to visit if you’re still hoping for a bit of warm weather with less crowds. If you want to experience autumn colors in their full vibrancy consider taking the scenic Alaska Railroad to enjoy the changing foliage.
- October: October is a transitional month for Alaska and consequently you can expect to experience all different types of weather during your visit. Due to the unpredictable weather, October is not the best time to visit unless you’re planning on spending the majority of your time inside.
- November: This is the first month where visitors to Alaska begin enjoying the traditional winter sports such as cross country skiing, snowmobiling, skiing, glacier hiking and more. November is also one of the cheapest months to visit Alaska — yet another reason to visit The Last Frontier during this month.
What Alaska is Like in the Winter
Winter temperatures in Alaska can vary quite dramatically depending on the month and region that you are visiting. For the most part, you can expect extremely cold temperatures that necessitate heavy winter gear.
- December: Winter is in full swing in December. This is an ideal time of year to stay at a cozy lodge and enjoy a relaxing winter vacation. Though extremely cold, outdoor activities such as skiing and snowshoeing are possible.
- January: You can experience all of the winter magic that Alaska has to offer in January — the Northern Lights, multi-hour sunrises that paint the sky in pastels, and snowy landscapes to your heart’s content.
- February: This is a good month to enjoy all of the food scenes that Alaska has to offer. Visit some breweries, indulge in mouthwatering Alaskan cuisine and soak in the atmospheric naturescapes with the luxury of solitude.
Things to Consider When Visiting Alaska
Now that you understand what the different seasons bring to the state, let’s explore a few more things that will help you decide what the best time to travel to Alaska is for you.
These factors include the kinds of activities you’d like to do, how tight your budget is, what weather you prefer, which wildlife you’d like to see and what events you’d like to attend.
Best Time to Visit Alaska for Hiking, Fishing, Snow, and the Northern Lights
What kinds of activities do you want to participate in during your Alaska vacation?
Here are some of Alaska’s most popular activities as well as the best time of year to visit in order to catch them.
- Fishing: June through August is Alaska’s fishing season, so if you’re hoping to enjoy one of The Frontier State’s oldest pastimes, visit during the summer months. One exception — if you’re hoping to catch king salmon, then plan your trip between May and June.
- Hiking: Due to the heavy snow and rainfalls that Alaska experiences, trails are most accessible during the summer. If hiking is your forte, make sure to plan your trip during the summer months to enjoy Alaska’s majestic trails.
- Northern Lights: Viewing the Northern Lights is often best between December and March, so if this is one of your bucket list items, book your Alaska trip during the winter. If you’d like to view the lights while on a cruise trip, then the best time to visit Alaska is in late September or early October as cruise trips don’t run during the winter months.
- Snow activities: Snow-based activities (ice fishing, skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, glacier trekking, etc.) are best experienced during the winter months (December through February), though you can also access these during the cruise spring shoulder season when the snow hasn’t finished melting yet.
Best Time to Travel to Alaska to Avoid the Crowds
Alaska’s peak tourist season extends from June until August. During this time, the kids are out of school, the weather is hot, cruises are frequent and the coastal cities fill up with tourists.
If you’re trying to avoid the crowds, then you’ll want to plan your trip during the spring and fall shoulder months.
April and May offer decent weather, migratory songbirds, herds of moose and more affordable travel packages.
September and October deliver cooling temperatures, low-cost cruises, and the chance to see the aurora borealis in Fairbanks.
When is the Most Affordable Time to Go to Alaska?
As you can imagine, summer is the most expensive time of year to visit Alaska. Cruises, plane trips, land tours, and all other tourist attractions are operating at peak capacity and their prices reflect this.
If you’re looking for the cheapest time to visit, then you’ll want to plan your trip for November or December.
Not interested in snow sports and colder weather? Then schedule a trip during the cruise shoulder seasons (spring and fall). These seasons bring cheaper cruise deals, fair weather and lots of wildlife viewing opportunities.
When is the Best Weather in Alaska?
What type of weather are you hoping to experience in Alaska?
Do you want to do outdoor activities like hiking and kayaking in lush green landscapes? Or do you hope to have the classic Alaskan experience cuddled up in a cozy lodge, going out only for excursions such as dog sledding and snowshoeing?
For hot weather and long days, you’ll want to visit Alaska during July or August.
Looking for something milder? Visit in May-June or September-October for warm and cool weather.
For snow, northern lights and dog sledding, you’ll want to visit during November or December.
Best Time of Year for Wildlife Viewing in Alaska
If you are hoping to see a specific type of wildlife, it’s important to research when that type of wildlife is most easily spotted in Alaska.
Here’s a brief overview of what types of wildlife you can expect to see during different seasons in Alaska.
- Spring. During the spring months (March to May) you will have some of the best opportunities for viewing wildlife. You may see waterfowl, birds migrating north, mountain goats, black bears, walrus, seals and bowhead whales.
- Summer. Since many animals give birth to their young during the summer months, you might get the chance to see deer fawns, moose calves, seal pups and bear cubs in abundance.
- Autumn. Fall is the mating season for many Alaskan animals such as goats, caribou, moose and more ,so this is also a good time of year for wildlife viewing. Arctic foxes also undergo their coat change during this season, changing from brownish or gray to white, which is an interesting transition to watch.
Winter. Wildlife viewing during the winter months involves Dall sheep, moose, bald eagles, mountain goats, wolves and owls.
Seasonal Festivals and Events in Alaska
Another major tourism draw for Alaska is the many festivals that occur year-round. Some of the festivals and events that you can plan your trip around include:
- Sitka Summer Music Festival: June
- Salmonfest: August
- Fairbanks Midnight Sun Festival: June
- Anchorage Summer Solstice Festival: June
- Alaska State Fair: August through September
- Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race: March
- Juneau Alaska Folk Festival: February
- Fairbanks Golden Days: February
- World Ice Art Championship Festival: February through March
- Stikine River Birding Festival: April
- Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival: July
Best Time to Go to Alaska
In conclusion, Alaska is worth a visit during any time of the year, though different seasons offer different experiences to travelers.
The following two sections review some of the benefits of visiting Alaska during the warmer as well as colder months to help you solidify the best season for you to visit.
Benefits of Visiting Alaska During the Summer
Alaska is one of the most magical places in the U.S. during the summer months.
Here are some of the perks of visiting Alaska during the summer:
- The weather is warm and mild with lots of sunshine during the summer.
- Farmers’ markets and festivals are held frequently during the summer.
- Outdoor activities are far more accessible in the summer months.
- Alaskan towns and cities come alive in the summer.
Benefits of Visiting Alaska During the Winter
Wintertime in Alaska is otherworldly and ethereal with its snowy, majestic slopes.
If you’re hoping to experience traditional Alaskan pastimes such as ice fishing, winter is the season to visit.
Here are some perks of visiting Alaska during the winter months:
- Visiting Alaska during the winter is more cost-effective due to fewer tourists.
- Snow-based activities are abundant during the winter months.
- You can enjoy a more relaxed, less touristy visit during the winter.
- Alaska has a lot of cozy lodges that make for the perfect winter escapes.
Book Your Trip to Alaska Today
At AAA Washington, we offer a large variety of Alaskan cruise and travel experiences. Our trips are ideal for those travelers who’d like to get up close and personal with Alaska’s landscape, wildlife, and vibrant culture.
To start planning your Alaska trip, get in touch with your travel agent or contact your nearest AAA store today. We offer professional travel assistance, affordable cruise and vacation packages, and much more.