While frigid glaciers may come to mind when you think of Alaska, the warmer months are the state’s most popular time to visit. (But not to worry, there are plenty of glaciers then, too!) And no matter when you travel, there are extraordinary sights to see in every season.
May is considered a “shoulder” month for travel to Alaska, so the region will have less visitors and less activity this time of year. The weather is dryer than in the upcoming summer months, making springtime great for hiking and outdoor activities.
The landscape is particularly dramatic in late spring, with wild flowers starting to bloom against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains. With the cold winter behind them, animals start to move around in anticipation of summer. Similar to a safari’s must-see wildlife, Denali National Park has its own Big Five: grizzly bears, wolves, moose, caribou, and Dall sheep.
June and July are the brightest months of the year, topping off at 20 hours of daylight in Denali National Park on June 21. The summer period is a particularly lively time to visit Alaska, as the almost endless light seems to give both locals and travelers extra boosts of energy. Likewise, animals take advantage of this short-lived burst of warm weather.
Summer is also ideal for whale watching; nature enthusiasts can spot humpbacks and orcas from April to November, with peak season in June through early September. This is prime time to also see smaller swimmers as the salmon run upstream, which causes a host of other creatures to follow suit, like brown bears, black bears and bald eagles.
Come September, fall foliage is in full force in Denali National Park. It’s also the beginning of the season when you can see the Northern Lights, or the Aurora Borealis. Though the phenomenon occurs year-round, you can only catch a glimpse of the pearly colors and mystical-looking patterns in the sky during Alaska’s darker months. Far from the big cities of the continental United States, these darker skies are great for stargazing as well.
What must-see Alaskan sights would you love to see firsthand?