Northern lights, also known as aurora borealis, are colorful bands of light that dance in the dark night sky. It’s one of the most spectacular natural phenomena in the world, and a huge reason why travelers from all over the world flock to Alaska each winter.

If you’re planning a trip to Alaska and want to maximize your chances of seeing the northern lights, you’ll need to be in the right place at the right time. Ideally, you’ll be located beneath the Auroral Zone, which in Alaska lies between 60deg- 70deg N latitude and covers an area about 1,550 miles around the North Pole.

The best time to see the northern lights is in the autumn and spring, between August and April, when days get shorter and less daylight means that dark nights are more likely to occur. However, you can see the northern lights all year long in places that fall within the auroral zone.


This small town of about 5,000 is a prime location for viewing the northern lights. It’s located just south of Denali National Park and has a number of northern lights tours that visit the area for a chance to see the aurora.

You can also drive out of town and explore areas away from the city’s lights, such as Christiansen Lake or Talkeetna Riverfront Park looking north toward Denali.

Chena Lake

Located between Fairbanks and the North Pole, Chena Lake is another popular spot for watching the northern lights. This 2,000-acre park has very little light pollution, making it an ideal vantage point to catch a northern lights display.

Coldfoot (67deg N)

This rustic gold mining settlement tucked away on the famed Dalton Highway from Fairbanks to Prudhoe Bay is a great base for chasing the northern lights. Many adventure tours head out to Coldfoot Camp, which is a rustic lodge situated on the edge of the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve.

The park is also home to the iconic Moose Falls and provides the perfect location for seeing the northern lights during this time of the year.


Although it is further south, Alaska’s largest city has a decent chance of seeing the northern lights from time to time. However, because of the city’s high levels of light pollution, you may need to leave the city to view them from a dark location.

Glen Alps Trailhead

Located about 15 minutes outside of downtown, the Glen Alps trailhead is a great spot for watching the northern lights from. It is a high elevation vantage point for spotting the lights, with clear views over the city and a wide horizon.

Explore Fairbanks

The best way to find out when is the best time to catch the northern lights in Fairbanks is with Explore Fairbanks’ real-time Aurora Tracker. This online reference shows up-to-the-minute information on the temperature, weather and likelihood of catching the northern lights in the city, with many of the data points coming from the University of Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute.