Best Time to Visit Alaska
When is the best time to visit Alaska? Come anytime between May 10 and September 15. The days are long, nature is in full bloom, and the air is alive with energy. But, for the absolute best time to visit Alaska, shoot for June 15 to July 15. Here's why.
Alaska Summer Visitor Season
The peak summer season for Alaskan travel runs mid-June to mid-August. But most tours operate from mid-May to mid-September. Denali is the exception. It doesn't usually open until the second week in June. Shoulder season is May and September; some day tours and hotels offer discounts of 10-25%. Here are some considerations for timing your visit:
June 21 is the longest day of the year. Expect 19 hrs of daylight in Anchorage, 18 hrs in Southeast Alaska, and a whopping 22 hrs in Fairbanks. No matter where you are in Alaska, the summer days are longer than in the Lower 48. In fact, it's bright enough to be out and about almost all night long from late May to late July. And it's light past 10pm for another month on either side of that.
Long days allow for multiple excursions. Raft in the morning, hike in the afternoon, and go on a thrilling flightseeing excursion in the evening. We know travelers that can visit Alaska for only 3 to 4 days--and they can pack so much in! Use our Alaska daylight calculator to find out when the sun will set during your trip!
On average, Alaska's summers are slightly rainier than the rest of the U.S.. But May is dry, with only a 25% chance of measurable rain on any given day. The weather typically gets rainier as summer progresses: By August, the chance of rain is just over 50%. Compare Alaska's rainfall to your hometown.
Alaska's summer temperatures are surprisingly pleasant. Daytime highs range 60°F - 80°F. Nighttime lows are refreshingly cool, dipping into the 40's - 50's. In May and September, expect temperatures to be 5°- 10° cooler. Temperatures can be cooler in the northern regions of Alaska. However, most first-time travelers visit Southeast Alaska on a cruise and Southcentral and Interior Alaska on a land tour--and the temperatures in both regions are as described above.
So When's the Best Season to Visit Alaska?
Put it all together, and we peg June 15 - July 15 as the best time to visit Alaska. It's then you'll find the best weather, the most daylight, and the accessibility of summer activities Alaska is known for (like wildlife viewing, hiking, and glacier tours).
Of course, not everyone can visit during that 30-day window, and that's okay. Alaskans don't let weather interfere with their plans or mood, so you can follow their lead! The trick is to know how to dress and what to wear in Alaska, no matter when you visit. And we always remind ourselves: if the weather were consistently warm and beautiful, Alaska wouldn't remain Alaska for long; it would start to look more like Los Angeles!
Other Magic Dates To Visit Alaska
- Northern Lights: Nights can be dark enough in Alaska to see the aurora from mid-August to early April. If you want to visit during summer but also have a chance to see the aurora, come Aug 15 - Sep 15. You'll experience Alaska's iconic national parks, go on glacier and wildlife tours, and have a chance to see the aurora. However, aurora viewing is better late November through March. Come then and also enjoy Alaska's other wintertime activities like dog sledding, skiing, and snowmachining.
- Hiking: If you plan to hike in the high country or Arctic regions, know that the tundra doesn't really melt until late June. Near Anchorage, trails at lower elevations are hikeable in May, and in the mountains by early June.
- Fishing: The best time to fish depends on the type of fish you're after. Check out our chart to see the best time to angle for salmon and halibut.
- Wildlife Viewing: The summer months of May through September are the best time to see wildlife. If you're driving our roads, May is particularly good; the foliage hasn't fully filled in, so it's easier to spot moose and bear. We have spectacular spring bird migrations, and whale migrations too! Gray whales migrate in March/April; migrating humpbacks are here from May to September; and orcas are here year-round. Moose are spottable year-round. Often, it's easier to see them in winter, as they come into urban areas to nibble on trees. See bears from May to September (in winter, of course, they're hibernating). Alaska's thrilling bear-viewing tours bring you to the best spots, depending on the animals' behavior at that time of year (like fishing or digging for clams). Read our articles for more details about wildlife viewing in Alaska.
- Festivals: Aligning your trip with a festival is a great way to experience local culture. One option is the Alaska State Fair in late August/early September. You'll find rides, food, and enormous vegetables grown under the midnight sun. See our list of festivals.
- Fall Foliage: Alaska may not be famous for leaf peeping, but from the end of August through September, nature puts on quite a show. The tundra at higher elevations begins to turn a deep, rich red, while the birch trees, aspens, and alders become bright yellow. Look up at the mountains at sunset and everything below treeline will shine a bright gold, with patchwork of red filling the tundra above. It's spectacular!
- Winter Wonderland: For a fun, snowy Alaskan experience, visit from late November through March. This is the prime season for skiing fat tire biking, snowmachining, winter dogsled tours, and the famous northern lights. Be aware that December and January are the darkest months, so there's less light for daytime activities. Come February, the sun starts to linger just a little more every day, and it's easy to enjoy multiple activities before it gets dark. Check out all our winter tours.
- Bugs (avoiding them!): Mosquitoes in Alaska may no be as big a problem as you might think. But if you're looking to avoid them, come the last week in July or first week in August; evenings will be chillier, but the night frost will have killed off many of the bugs by then.