What is the best time to visit Alaska?

Winter in Alaska is extraordinarily beautiful, but for most travelers summer is the best time to visit Alaska. You can experience our state's warmest weather and longest days, choose from the widest selection of activities and transportation, and enjoy easier access to Alaska's wild landscapes.

Each of the summer months, which in Alaska run roughly from mid-May through mid-September, offers something unique:

  • For the best rates, travel in May or September.
  • For the best weather and widest array of activities, travel in June and July.
  • For a chance to see fall colors and the northern lights, travel in late August and September.

May: Alaska Comes to Life

By May our days are already long, extending to more than 17 hours in the middle of the month. Some areas, especially shady spots and higher elevations, will still have snow. Even with traces of the long winter still present, the landscape buzzes with swiftly blooming plants and energized wildlife. Whales are freshly present in Alaska's coastal waters as humpbacks return with newborn calves and grey whales make their way north to Arctic feeding grounds.

May is Alaska's 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, some transportation run on limited schedules, tours into Denali National Park are shorter due to road conditions, and some tour operators may still be closed. Use our Activity Finder to see what tours are running in May.

June and July: Summer in Full Swing

June and July are Alaska's liveliest months. The summer solstice is on June 21, giving us about 20 beautiful hours of daylight to fill with fun. Day tours are in full swing. 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. Temps typically average a comfortable 60 degrees.

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 transportation, tours, and lodging that you prefer. Check out our Transportation Finder to check on availability of coach and rail seats during peak season.

August: A Chance at the Northern Lights

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: Fall Colors, Alaska Style

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. That said, most Denali hotels begin to close their doors in September. Use this Alaska Lodging Finder to see what hotels are still open in September.