What is the best time to visit Alaska?
Although winter in Alaska can be extraordinarily beautiful, it's summertime that offers the most for visitors. You can experience our state's warmest weather and longest days, choose from the widest selection of transportation and day tours, and enjoy better access to Alaska's wild landscapes. Each of the summer months, which run roughly from mid-May through mid-September, offers something unique:
- For the best rates, travel in May or September.
- For the warmest weather and most activity options, travel in June and July.
- For a chance to see the northern lights, travel in late August and September.
May: On the Cusp of Summer
By May, our days are already long, extending to more than 17 hours of daylight in the middle of the month. Some areas, especially shady spots and higher elevations, may still have snow. The temperature is quite cool, but with the sunlight, plants and wildlife start to bloom and recover from the long winter. More whales are migrating through Alaska's coastal waters as well, with humpbacks returning with newborn calves and grey whales making their way north to Arctic feeding grounds.
May is shoulder season, so visitors can take advantage of reduced rates at many hotels, lower ticket prices on the train, and even some discounted day tours. On the flip side, the train runs a limited schedule, tours into Denali National Park are shorter due to road conditions, and some tour operators don't open until June. There is still more than enough available to fill a trip to Alaska in May.
June and July: Summer in Full Swing
June and July are our liveliest months. Day tours are in full swing. The summer solstice is on June 21, giving us about 20 beautiful hours of daylight. Sockeye salmon run in droves through the Kenai and Russian rivers. The weather in June is also perfect for active outdoor adventures like hiking, kayaking, and glacier walks: It averages a comfortable 60 degrees.
If you are looking to travel when weather is the warmest, plan for July. In some parts of the state, you can experience temperatures as high as 80 or 90 degrees (that's hot for Alaskans!). Seward and Talkeetna throw fantastic Independence Day celebrations. July is the peak month of the peak season, which means the number of travelers is high. July trips should be booked well in advance to make sure you get the tours, transportation, and lodging that you prefer.
August: Wetter Weather and Longer Nights
Although rain comes and goes throughout the summer, August tends to be the wettest. In exchange for the late-summer drizzles, Alaska's notorious mosquitos disappear and wild berries begin to ripen. Nighttime returns, which makes August a better bet if your goal is to see the northern lights. Aurora viewing tours in Fairbanks start operating at the end of the month.
September: A Chance at the Northern Lights
Our summer season winds down by mid-September. Hotel rates and ticket prices typically lower to shoulder-season levels. Taking a cue from the dropping temperatures and shorter days, wildlife becomes increasingly active as they feed constantly in preparation for winter. The landscape fades from green into a rainbow of rusty hues. The Denali Park area is especially beautiful during this time. Just like August, September is a good month for taking northern lights viewing tours.