November can be a challenging month to travel to Alaska. It's a time of increasing darkness (in Anchorage, the month starts out with about 8.5 hours of light a day and ends with just 6) and a time when hibernation sets in for both bears and humans alike. And despite the cold temperatures, there probably won't be enough snow for winter sports until at least the second half of the month. Plus, many of the famous tourist attractions are closed for the season, and it can be tough to spot wildlife.
Of course, with fewer travelers in November, you'll have more space for yourself, and you'll find lower prices. And once there’s enough snow, Alaska starts coming alive again: The world gets brighter, and kids of all ages start heading outside with sleds, skis, and snowboards.
- The temperature isn't as cold as it is in January or February. In early November, the high in Anchorage hovers around freezing and drops to around 25 by the end of month.
- What about the darkness? Alaska’s northernmost city, Barrow, doesn’t see the sun for six weeks in winter. But in Anchorage this month, sunrise is around 9:45 a.m., with sunset coming at 3:50 pm by the end of the month.
- The big upsides of November: You'll see increasing amounts of cheery light displays, and there are plenty of lit trails around town for a winter hike or ski. Plus, the darkness means it’s easier to see the famed northern lights!
In the winter, it’s easier to spot moose among the leafless trees, where they spend most of their time eating. Ravens are ubiquitous in winter, and you’ll find these opportunistic omnivores near dumpsters or anywhere else with free food. You won’t, however, see bears, as they enter hibernation mode in the fall and don’t emerge until spring.
What to Pack
Once you know how to layer—using synthetic materials that wick away moisture—you’re ready for a winter trip to Alaska. November is not the coldest month, but it still deserves some thermals. If you don’t already have winter wear, consider renting through Anchorage Outdoor Gear Rental & Outfitters, which carries everything from base layers to outerwear and snowshoes to sleds. Here are more details on what to wear in winter.
Things to Do in November
- Hit the trails. The crisp November air is invigorating, and you can hike or bike no matter the conditions. When the snow finally sticks, explore groomed trails in Anchorage and at the Eagle River Nature Center, about 40 minutes from downtown. Fat-tire bikes are extremely popular; ride one on a guided trip with Alaska Trail Guides.
- See the northern lights. If the forecast calls for good aurora viewing in Anchorage, you’ll want a close spot where you can get away from the city lights. The Glen Alps parking lot is a popular spot, just 20 minutes from downtown.
- Try dogsledding. Experience this thrilling sport with Salmon Berry tours or Alaska Mushing School.
- Enjoy a show. Anchorage’s Performing Arts Center and local theater scene is hopping, and the Nutcracker Ballet is a highlight of the Thanksgiving season.
- Learn more about Alaskan culture. Take an exclusive Alaska Native Heritage Excursion with Salmon Berry Tours, visit the Anchorage Museum at Rasmussen Center, or check out the Aviation Museum.
Other Cool Stuff
- See local wildlife. Check out the The Alaska Zoo. Starting the Saturday after Thanksgiving, the zoo is lit up with colorful Christmas light displays from Thursday to Saturday.
- Ride the rails. Take 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 local hockey. Take in a University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolves hockey game. Wear yellow and green if you’ve got ’em!
- Meet marine mammals. Tour Resurrection Bay by boat with Seward Ocean Excursions or visit the Alaska SeaLife Center to see seals, sea otters, and more.
- Go adventuring. Get out there with guided sea kayaking, camping, and snowshoeing.
- Experience the off-season. Enjoy the relaxed vibe of the spa, dining, and nightlife at the luxurious Hotel Alyeska; hike through a temperate rainforest on the nearby Winner Creek Trail.
- 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.
- Visit the animals. Tour the Wildlife Conservation Center for guaranteed wildlife viewing of Alaska's unique creatures.
- Go flightseeing. Take a once-in-a-lifetime flight around Denali, North America's tallest peak. It's just one highlight of this picturesque community, which you can get to on an easy train ride from Anchorage.
- Go snowshoeing. Explore the trails in a unique way. You can borrow a pair of snowshoes at the Murie Science & Learning Center for free!
- Chill out at a free campground. Riley Creek campground is about 1.5 miles from the Science Center; just come prepared, as the average low is a chilly minus-3 degrees!
- Travel to Fairbanks. Fly RavnAir from Anchorage, take the Aurora Winter Train on weekends and sporadic weekdays, or rent a vehicle from Alaska 4x4 Rentals. Or travel like a local with Interior Alaska Bus Lines, which departs three times a week and makes stops in off-the-beaten-path destinations.
- See the northern lights. 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.
- Visit the Arctic Circle. Fly up with Warbelow’s Air Ventures and you may see northern lights here, too.
- Check out Denali National Park. Join Northern Alaska Tour Company on a guided tour with a guided nature walk.
- Warm up naturally. Visit Chena Hot Springs to take a soak, see ice sculptures, and try dogsledding or snowmachine tours.
- Learn about the north. Fairbanks has great museums for chilly November days.
- Walk with reindeer. At Running Reindeer Ranch, you can take reindeer for a walk and pose for photos.
- Catch a king. Take a charter to fish for king salmon and halibut in Kachemak Bay.
- Enjoy winter sports. Skiing and snowmachining are favorites if there’s enough snow.
- Take in a live performance or art show. Check the Homer Arts Council calendar.
- Get back to nature. Learn about the area’s natural history at the Pratt Museum and the Islands and Oceans Visitor Center.
- Solve a murder! A new Homer mid-November tradition is the fun and intriguing Land’s End Resort interactive Murder Mystery.
- Learn the history. Stop at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum for a better understanding of Juneau's cultural heritage and visit the Alaska State Museum.
- 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 see its saltwater aquariums.
- Sing your heart out. Or just listen at the Thursday night Open Mic at the Alaskan Hotel & Bar.
- See bald eagles. There’s no better time of year to visit the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve, where thousands of eagles gather to feast on salmon. Go mid-month and check out the Alaska Bald Eagle Festival.