When is the best month to visit Alaska? You can't go wrong visiting Alaska 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 season for Alaskan travel runs from mid-June to mid-August, and Most tours operate mid-May to mid-September, with the exception of those into Denali (which run from mid-June to end of August). Shoulder season comes in spring and fall, when some day tours and hotels offer discounts of 10-25%. Here are some considerations for timing your visit.
On June 21, the longest day of the year, you can expect 19 hours of daylight in Anchorage, 18 hours in Southeast Alaska, and a whopping 22 hours in Fairbanks. But throughout the state, daylights lasts considerably longer than the Lower 48. In fact, sunlight lasts all night long from late May to late July, and it stays light past 10 p.m. for another month on either side of that.
Daylight is important when planning your trip, since long days allow for multiple excursions. Raft in the morning, take a hike in the afternoon, and go on a thrilling flightseeing excursion in the evening. We've known travelers that could only visit Alaska for 3 to 4 days, but took full advantage of the daylight to see a LOT of this magnificent state. 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 does become rainier as the summer progresses: By August, the chance of rain is just over 50%. Compare Alaska's rainfall to your hometown.
Alaska's summer temperatures surprisingly pleasant. Daytime highs range from 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. That's just a general guide, though; temperatures vary depending on which region of Alaska you plan to visit. For example, most first-time travelers visit Southeast Alaska on a cruise, and Southcentral and Interior Alaska on a land tour.
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 have learned not to let the 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. Plus, we remind ourselves: if the weather were better, it wouldn't be Alaska; 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 between mid-August and early April. If you want to see the aurora and experience the tail end of summer activities, come between mid-August and mid-September. You'll be able to experience Alaska's iconic national parks, go on glacier and wildlife tours, AND take advantage of dark-enough skies to see the lights. If you want to enjoy wintertime activities like dog sledding, skiing, and snowmachining, come from late November through March.
- 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.