We often get inquiries from folks interested in seeing the Aurora Borealis, locally known in Alaska as the Northern Lights. During the summer months, it is very unlikely that you would see the Northern Lights due to Alaska’s Midnight Sun. Alaskans and visitors alike love our Midnight Sun as it provides up to 19 hours of daylight in June (or more depending on your location) and we are often seen enjoying outdoor activities late in the evening. On rare occasions in fall from Talkeetna to Denali and further North to Fairbanks, we are fortunate enough to have clear skies and atmospheric conditions that result in Aurora sightings. Lodges such as the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge and Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge provide “Northern Lights” wake up call service upon request. So, if you are traveling in the fall, be sure to check with the front desk of the lodges that you are staying at to see if they have such service. If they do, the Front Desk will call your room and wake you up, regardless of the time of night, if they observe the northern lights.
A friend of mine who was once manager of the McKinley Princess Lodge has a great memory of one night in early September when he was able observe the Northern Lights dancing around Mt. McKinley. He recalls that the Northern Lights were so bright that it silhouetted Mt. McKinley and all the guests at the lodge were out on the lodge deck late into the evening. Guests’ were amazed at the site and for staff and visitors alike; it was a great way to end the summer.
During the winter months, the opportunity to see the Northern Lights increases the further north you travel. For the greatest likelihood of observing the Northern Lights, I’d suggest planning a visit to Fairbanks or Interior Alaska. Both Fairbanks Princess Lodge and Sophies Station Hotel will provide “Northern Lights” wake up calls upon request. There are a few local companies, such as Northern Alaska Tours, that have multi-day winter tours that travel up the Dalton Highway to such places as Coldfoot seeking out the Northern Lights. For more information on Alaska’s Northern Lights, visit the website of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute. The Institute has a lot of information on the Aurora available and they also report and forecast the likelihood of seeing the Aurora Borealis at various locations around Alaska.