Alaska in March: Things to Do, Places to Go & What to Pack
March is probably the best month to experience Alaska in winter, thanks to longer light and a long menu of fun activities.
March is when Alaskans fully embrace winter. The famous Iditarod sled dog race kicks off, northern lights viewing is in full swing (it’s probably the best month to see them), winter sports are reveling in spring conditions, and there’s a fun event known as the Fur Rondy (trust us). Plus, the days grow long—each one clocking in with 12 to 15 hours of light—and despite cold mornings, the weather starts busting into sunny, blue-sky conditions. For Alaskans who have paid their dues through the dark winter, it’s a time to start coming to life.
In other words, it's the perfect time for winter activities! You'll find great downhill skiing, dogsledding, and cross-country skiing. While Denali National Park is still blanketed in snow, you can rent snowshoes (for free!) at the entrance and explore. Then finish off an amazing day outdoors with a world-class performance in town; all in all, you’ll see Alaska at its wintry best.
- There’s tons of snow, gobs of daylight, and endless activities. Think of it as the launch of “springtime winter,” part of Alaska’s seasonal rhythms.
- Temperatures are moderate. Most days reach the high 20s or more, with nighttime freezes typically in the teens. Though storms still roll through—and frigid cold snaps are possible—hard-core winter conditions become increasingly rare.
- The nights remain dark enough for stargazing and northern lights viewing, and the snow conditions can be supreme.
Jump to activities by town: Anchorage | Portage Valley | Fairbanks | Denali | Talkeetna | Seward | Homer | Valdez | Juneau
- Stay in town. Inside Anchorage, a network of multi-trails provide direct connections to groomed cross-country ski areas, and it’s easy to ski, snow bike, or hike across the whole town, from the mountains to the seashore.
- Hit the backcountry. Snow-machining season is at its peak, creating routes and travel corridors that are often shared by skiers, snow bikers, and snowshoers.
- Experience downhill paradise. Downhill ski areas experience the deepest coverage, with grooming in full force and powder days possible. Across the state, enthusiasts are enjoying long days of fun along well-maintained slopes and trails.
It's a great time of year to look for tracks, because Alaska’s winter wildlife (just like its people) are energized by the season and become more active. Moose will be the most visible large mammals, and their browsing paths will be well trod. In March, they may be struggling to find food, concentrate on tree buds and even stripping bark. Ravens dominate urban settings during the day, but it’s fun to watch groups migrate back into the foothills in late afternoons. Chickadees and redpolls converge on tree crowns for berries and seeds, often in busy, noisy flocks. Snowshoe hares remain brilliantly white and common, but keep an eye out for their much less common nemesis, the lynx.
What to Pack
Regular winter clothing will handle most March conditions. Pack a hat, gloves, snow parka, insulating fleece, and synthetic inner clothes that wick moisture. Plan to layer, as daily temperatures can fluctuate up to 50 degrees. Bring polarized sunglasses and sunblock, too, as the sun can be extraordinarily bright, as well as a satchel or day pack. If you don’t already have winter wear, consider renting it through Anchorage Outdoor Gear Rental & Outfitters. Here’s more about what to wear in winter.
Things to Do in March
- Hit the trails. Whether you stroll, run, ski, or snow-bike, Anchorage’s extraordinary winter trail system has more than 300 miles of packed or groomed trails. Go Hike Alaska offers guided walks, hikes, and winter snowshoe tips (including heli-snowshoeing!). Or, you can rent snowshoes from The Hoarding Marmot and hit the trails yourself.
- Downhill skiing. Hilltop ski area is in Anchorage's backyard. 90 minutes north of Anchorage is Hatcher Pass - a place backcountry skiers have always loved. Skeetawk Ski Area makes the great terrain available to even more snowsports lovers. Alyeska Resort, in Girdwood, is just 45-mintues south of Anchorage. If you want to rent ski gear to keep with you the duration of your trip, contact The Hoarding Marmot in Anchorage
- Day cruise from Whittier. With snow down to the tideline, Prince William Sound is off-the-scale beautiful. Lazy Otter Charter's Blackstone Glacier Cruise starts the season in mid-February.
- Drive a snowmachine. Go with Alaska Backcountry Adventures or Alaska Wild Guides for an unforgettable adventure.
- Try dogsledding. Here are the operators we recommend near Anchorage.
Check Out an Event
- The Iditarod. The world-famous Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race crosses 1,000 miles of Alaska and transfixes the entire state. The ceremonial start is on the first Saturday in March in downtown Anchorage, with dog teams running down city streets and along park trails into the forest. Tailgate-style barbecues erupt all over town at good viewpoints.
- Winter carnival. The Anchorage Fur Rendezvous is a 10-day celebration of winter with dozens of activities, ice-sculpting competitions, fireworks, live music, and a world-championship sprint sled dog race that begins and ends downtown. Look for it in late February to the first weekend in March.
- Ski time. Check out the Tour of Anchorage ski marathon, which usually happens the first Sunday in March. Hundreds of people ski across Anchorage in four races that range from 25K to 50K. Not racing? You'll still find the best and most extensive grooming of the year.
- Enjoy a show. Anchorage’s Performing Arts Center and local theater scene is hopping. The popular Anchorage Symphony generally has at least one well-attended concert.
- Learn about Alaska culture and history. Take an exclusive Alaska Native Heritage Excursion with Salmon Berry Tours or visit the Anchorage Museum at Rasmussen Center or the Aviation Museum.
Other Cool Stuff
- Ride the rails. Board the Aurora Winter Train to see the snowy backcountry on a weekend trip to Talkeetna or Fairbanks. The train heads north on Saturday and returns to Anchorage Sunday. (Or you can ride one way to Fairbanks, spend a few days, and fly back with RavnAir).
- See the aurora. If the forecast calls for good aurora viewing, get away from the city lights. The Glen Alps parking lot is a popular spot just 20 minutes from downtown.
- Watch local hockey. Take in a University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolves hockey game. Wear yellow and green if you’ve got 'em!
- Try world-class skiing. At Alyeska Resort, spring conditions start hitting lower slopes, while the upper mountain and its advanced runs remain solidly in the realm of winter. Ski conditions can be as good as it gets.
- Treat yourself. Enjoy the spa, dining, and nightlife at Hotel Alyeska; hike through a temperate rainforest on the nearby Winner Creek Trail.
- Get a view. Ride the Aerial Tram on the 2,300-foot ascent to one of the world's most spectacular views, as well as the Bore Tide Deli & Bar, the high-end Seven Glaciers Restaurant, and a way-cool ski museum with free admission.
- Explore dining hot spots. Head to The Double Musky for Cajun Alaskan, Jack Sprat for “fat & lean world cuisine,” and Chair 5 for pizza and pub food.
Portage and Portage Valley
- Visit the animals. Tour the Wildlife Conservation Center for guaranteed wildlife viewing.
- See Spencer Glacier. Most years, snowmachiners, skiers, snow bikers, and even hikers follow a network of unofficial routes to Spencer Glacier (about 12 miles one way) to see royal blue bergs and glimmering caves at the glacier's face on frozen Spencer Lake.
- Get close to Portage Glacier. About three miles across Portage Lake, this active glacier becomes a major weekend destination in March. Hikers, skiers, snowbikers, and snowshoers can easily reach a glacier accessible only by tour boat or adventure hiking in summer. Check the forecast and don’t forget sunglasses!
- See the northern lights. March may be the perfect month—nights are still long and dark, while temperatures have begun to moderate. You can check them out on your own, or opt for a guided excursion or overnight experience. Recommend tours: Arctic Circle Day & Overnight Adventures, Aurora Pointe, Multi-Day Winter Northern Lights Tour, Northern Lights & Chena Hot Springs, Borealis Basecamp clear-roofed igloos & Aurora Ice Fishing.
- Try dog mushing. On mushing guided tour, you’ll see why it became a favorite mode of travel in the Far North.
- Warm up naturally. Visit the historic Chena Hot Springs
to take a soak, see ice sculptures, and try dogsledding or snowmachine tours.
- Explore the Arctic. The Northern Alaska Tour Company offers multiple snow season adventures into Alaska’s Arctic zones.
- Go snow machining. Rod’s Alaskan Guide Service will take you into gorgeous forested areas to look for caribou, coyote, lynx, moose, and more.
- Try ice fishing. Rod’s Alaskan Guide Service
offers both day and night trips to plush, heated cabins perched on
local frozen lakes.
Check Out an Event
Cheer for sled dog athletes. Some of the world's fastest sprint sled dog teams compete in the GCI Open North American Championships, which starts and finishes downtown.
See a gnarly outdoor race. A 100-mile human-powered endurance race winds through the White Mountains north of Fairbanks at the end of March.
View dazzling ice art. The annual World Ice Art Championships features the world’s best ice sculptures—think animals, castles, and more—which are on display all month at the Tanana Valley State Fairgrounds.
Other Cool Stuff
- Learn about the north. Great museums are open all month. The Museum of the North features world-class exhibits, including an otherworldly experience where light and sound are powered by the solar wind in real time.
- Walk with reindeer. Visit Running Reindeer Ranch, where you can take the reindeer for a walk and pose for photos.
- Travel like a local. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, you can travel Interior Alaska Bus Lines’ route between Anchorage, Glennallen, Fairbanks, and Tok, making stops in off-the-beaten-path destinations.
- Plan your stay. Most hotels, restaurants, and venues won't open until mid-May. But you can still do a lot and stay in a B&B.
- Go snowshoeing. Borrow a pair at the Murie Science & Learning Center.
- Take a guided tour. Join Northern Alaska Tour Company on a guided tour to Denali National Park with a road trip through an landscape blanketed in snow.
- Go by plane and train. Year-round flightseeing tours around Denali are one highlight of this picturesque community, which you can get to on an easy train ride from Anchorage on Saturdays (and sporadic midweek days) on the Aurora Winter Train.
- Do an epic ski tour or marathon. The Oosik Ski Classic sends hundreds of skiers out into the hills for 25K and 50K classic style fun. The whole village celebrates during this mid-March event.
- See the Iditarod Race restart. The world-famous 1,000-mile sled dog race across Alaska begins in earnest on the first Sunday in March, almost always at the Willow Community Center. Drive to Willow for the day if you want to witness Alaska’s state sport when the stakes are highest and the dogs go all out.
- Ride snowmachines on private trails through forests while keeping an eye out for wildlife on your way to visit sled dogs and mushers and learn what it’s really like to run the Iditarod while mushing your own team with Alaska Wild Guides: Denali View Snowmobiling & Dog Sledding.
- Rendezvous with gray whales. The annual epic migration from Baja California to the feeding grounds in the Arctic begins during March, with the vanguard of whales crossing the mouth of Resurrection Bay. Call Major Marine and Kenai Fiords Tours before booking, to gauge what the boats have been seeing.
- Meet other marine mammals. Tour Resurrection Bay by boat with Seward Ocean Excursions or visit the public aquarium inside the Alaska SeaLife Center to see seals, sea otters, ocean fish, and more.
- Go fish. Take a charter to angle for king salmon, then participate in the Homer Winter King Salmon Tournament.
- Enjoy winter sports. Skiing and snowmachining are favorites in the mountains and windswept hills. The groomed cross-country ski trails at Lookout Mountain, maintained by the Kachemak Nordic Ski Club, include some of the most challenging and exhilarating terrain in the state.
- Explore art or traditional crafts. Check the Homer Arts Council calendar for live performances and art shows. Learn traditional skills and crafts at the Homer Folk School.
- Get back to nature. Learn about the area’s natural history at the Pratt Museum and the Islands and Oceans Visitor Center. Or go tidepooling with the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies.
- Backcountry skiing in Alaska is unlike anywhere else on the planet, and spring is the season to take advantage of this thrilling sport in the Valdez area. Take a ski-bump flight or book a multi-day trip to a glacier ski camp with Tok Air Service. You'll fly from Valdez or Thompson Pass to dramatic areas of the Chugach Mountains, Eastern Alaska Range, and the mountains in Wrangell St. Elias National Park.
- Explore the culture. Visit the Juneau-Douglas City Museum for a better understanding of Juneau's cultural heritage and community history, and tour the Alaska State Museum.
- Go skiing. The snowpack will be at its peak at Eaglecrest Ski Area, with sunny days and spring conditions possible.
- Find solitude and inspiration. Visit the Shrine of St. Therese, north of Juneau. Stroll peaceful trails and even stay the night in a cabin.
- Learn about salmon. Make an appointment during the week to visit the Macaulay Salmon Hatchery and view its saltwater aquariums.
- Take a hike and explore natural history. The Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center remains open all year.
- Sing your heart out. Or just listen at the Thursday night Open Mic at the Alaskan Hotel & Bar.