Alaska is a great place to visit anytime of the year. The “best” time really depends on what you want to do in Alaska. For instance – the driest, warmest months don’t offer views of the Aurora Borealis due to extended hours of daylight, so if the Northern Lights are what you are coming to see June is not the best time for you to visit. Most visitors come to Alaska from mid-May to mid-September, with the peak season from June 15th to August 15th. The peak period offers the most tour options, the best weather and the best wildlife viewing opportunities. Below is a breakdown of what is great and not so great about different travel time periods.
MAY is a great value time to visit Alaska – the weather is warming up, the trees are blooming and the grass gets greener every day. Usually, May is a drier month than later in the summer. Alaska tends to get more rain as the summer goes on. Temperatures are cool at the start of May and warm up as the month progresses. The days are long and Alaska begins to bloom. The trees in Anchorage usually leaf out around May 10th and a bit later than that further north. Keep in mind that the further north you go during early May, the more chance you have of encountering ice and snow that have yet to melt. Summer is slow to come in Interior Alaska!Many tours throughout Alaska begin operating around May 15th. Due to the early season, many tours and hotels offer discounted prices. The time periods prior to Memorial Day and after Labor Day are considered the “shoulder” season which translates to less crowds and more opportunities for discounts. Tours into Denali National Park begin mid-May but they cannot go as deep into the Park as usual due to early season road conditions. The Park Road is not usually fully accessible until after the first week of June. The further you go into the park, the more opportunity there is to see wildlife and Mt. McKinley.
JUNE is the driest time to visit Alaska and offers the most hours of daylight – June 21st is the longest day of the year. The flowers around town are in bloom and the tourist season is in full swing. Many believe that June is the best month to see Alaska. June is probably the worst time for mosquitoes but that should only be a consideration if you are planning on an active hiking and camping vacation.
JULY is peak season in Alaska and is the warmest month of the year. If Alaska can get crowded, July is when it happens. The buses and boats are full and advanced reservations are imperative! If you are planning to visit Alaska in July, we recommend booking your vacation in January for best availability. In July, the main tourist destinations have less elbow room than normal but Alaska is a huge state so if you want to avoid the crowds there are plenty of places to go.
AUGUST may be a little rainier but it is generally warmer than June and the bugs have decreased. The crowds begin to diminish as the summer comes to an end. We also see less daylight in August but unless you have seen Alaska in June you probably won’t notice! August features the Alaska State Fair in Palmer – about an hour drive from Anchorage. The fair usually starts in the last week of August and runs through Labor Day.
SEPTEMBER brings cooler temperatures and darker nights. The cooler temperatures bring beautiful colors to the trees and tundra and the darker nights offer the opportunity to view the Northern Lights. The tourism season is winding down so you will find fewer crowds and lower prices. There will be some tours that stop operating in early September but most tours continue until mid-September. Denali hotels and businesses close for the winter about that time as well.
Summer temperatures in Alaska are cooler than you may find in the other 49 states but visitors describe Alaska temperatures as “pleasant and refreshingly cool”. Keep in mind that Alaska weather is highly unpredictable and whatever the weather brings for your vacation, we recommend getting out and having fun. The variable weather is part of the Alaskan experience so come prepared and enjoy the experience whether the sun is shining or not!
Winter is long in Alaska. I believe that the best time to visit Alaska in the winter is late February and March, which offers more daylight and less extreme temperatures. Anchorage offers a plethora of cross-country ski trails and the world class ski resort, Alyeska, is just 35 miles south of Anchorage. Two popular winter events also occur during this time. Fur Rendezvous, a winter festival in Anchorage, begins in late February. The Iditarod sled dog race starts the first week of March.
Alaska is a unique experience whatever time of year you choose to visit, but I believe Alaska has the most to offer in summer or late winter. Tourist activities are at a minimum during the months of October, November and April. These months are transition times between the seasons and visitors don’t have the opportunity to see Alaska at its best.
Every Alaskan has their own opinion on “When is the best time to visit Alaska?” Ask ten different people and you will get ten different answers. Hopefully, the information included in this blog will help you determine when is the best time for YOU to visit? We hope to see you soon!