When Should You Travel in Alaska? It Depends

Resurrection Bay Cruise

There’s something to be amazed by in Alaska at any time of the year, be it whales migrating in May or the northern lights glowing in December. But for most visitors, the best time to visit Alaska is from mid-May to mid-September, with the peak travel season from about June 15 to August 15. These months offer the most tour options, a good probability of clear weather, and the best wildlife viewing opportunities. Below is a breakdown of what is great (and not so great) about each month.

May

Come mid-May the weather is warming and the mountainsides grow greener by the day. The trees in Anchorage usually leaf out around May 10, but the further north you go the more likely to encounter ice and snow even through Memorial Day. Summer is slow to come in Interior Alaska.

Pros:

  • Driest summer month.
  • Some tours and most hotels offer discounted “shoulder season” prices.

Cons:

  • Temperatures are still cool.
  • Denali National Park tours cannot go as far into the park due to early season road conditions. The Park Road is not usually fully plowed until the first week of June.

June

Many locals argue that June is the best month to see Alaska. With the long days and warmer air the land bursts with life. Moose cows birth their calves, huge flocks of migrating birds return, and the state’s major salmon runs begin.

Pros:

  • Longest days. Summer solstice is around June 21.
  • Warmer days.
  • Flowers are in bloom.

Cons:

  • Something else bursts to life: Mosquitoes. Pack repellent.

July

If Alaska can get crowded, July is when it happens. Trains, buses, boats, and hotels are full and advanced reservations are imperative. If you are planning to visit Alaska in July, we recommend booking your vacation no later than February for best availability.

Pros:

  • Warmest month of the year.
  • Eclectic statewide Independence Day celebrations.

Cons:

  • Less flexibility for making plans on the fly.
  • Main tourist destinations have less elbow room than normal, but Alaska is a huge state. If you want to avoid the crowds there are plenty of places to go.

August

Starting in mid-August the crowds lessen as the flurry of summer travel winds down. Wildlife, on the other hand, become more active as they spend their days feeding in preparation for winter.

Pros:

  • Most of the mosquitoes are gone.
  • Wild berries ripen.

Cons:

  • Typically the rainiest month statewide.

September

By mid-September our brief summer tourism season is over. Temperatures are cooler and nighttime once again sees true darkness. Beautiful fall colors come to the trees and tundra.

Pros:

  • Fewer people.
  • Lower “shoulder season” prices.
  • Dark night skies afford a chance to see the northern lights.

Cons:

Winter Months

Winter is long in Alaska. All but the hardiest opt to visit in late February and March when there’s more daylight and the temperatures are less extreme. Anchorage offers a plethora of cross-country ski trails and the world class ski resort, Alyeska, is just 35 miles south. 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.

One More Thing…

Summer in Alaska is cooler and wetter than much of the lower 48, but Alaska weather is also highly unpredictable. Rarely is the forecast accurate. So, whatever the weather brings for your vacation, embrace it! The variability is part of the Alaskan experience. Come prepared and enjoy yourself whether the sun is shining or not. We hope to see you soon!

 

At Alaska Tour & Travel, we specialize in building custom trips for every timeline, personality, and budget. If you’d like to have an Alaskan plan your Alaska vacation, give us a call at 800-208-0200.

 

Comments

  1. February 6th, 2012 | 10:57 am

    […] For further details you can also check out our blog post on Best Months for Travel to Alaska. […]

  2. Jeff R
    February 6th, 2012 | 11:04 am

    Great post Susan!

  3. February 9th, 2012 | 2:06 pm

    […] whether it is a good time to come to Alaska depends on what you are seeking to do. Please visit our blog for our recommendations on the best time to visit Alaska. […]

  4. deb UK
    February 18th, 2012 | 12:26 pm

    Really helpful , I’ll keep visiting!

  5. May 3rd, 2013 | 12:43 pm

    […] safe to always be prepared and bring a rain jacket and clothes to dress in layers. Please visit our blog on best months to travel to Alaska for more information on what to expect on your […]

  6. May 9th, 2013 | 11:39 am

    […] offers something a little different and weather is difficult to predict. Read our blog on the “best months to visit Alaska” to find the pros and cons of each […]

  7. Bill P
    March 25th, 2015 | 11:39 am

    I will be in Fairbanks for a few days in Oct. I understand most tourist places close down that time of year. Can anyone recommend some interesting things to in October? Thanks

  8. April 30th, 2015 | 7:32 am

    October is really a transition month between the summer activities and winter ones. Most folks that come up in October are seeking to see the Northern Lights. There are a few tour operators that provide services that time of year – we’d suggest contacting Northern Alaska Tours or 1st Alaska Outdoor School both based in Fairbanks.

  9. Diane B
    June 15th, 2015 | 3:40 pm

    I very much enjoyed your review. I wonder if you can help me with the average temps. from the middle of August to middle of Sept. I have no idea what type of cloths to bring. I’m 62 and my first time away from home. I need all the help I can get.

    Thank you for your assistance.

    Diane B.

  10. Mark Nelson
    July 20th, 2015 | 12:34 pm

    I will be in the Anchorage area the last week in September. Can you tell me if I can still travel from Anchorage to Seward and back on the train. Also other things that will still be available to do in the Anchorage area.

  11. August 19th, 2015 | 2:59 pm

    The scheduled rail and motor-coach services will be done for the season by the time you arrive. You could still rent a car and visit Seward though. The drive should still be beautiful!

  12. August 19th, 2015 | 3:01 pm

    Bring lots of layers and rain gear to give you the most flexility. Day time temps will be in the 50’s once September arrives.

  13. Connie Ryder
    January 26th, 2016 | 12:57 pm

    I will be traveling the Alaskan Highway in beginning of March. Is it safe to travel then and are the roads clear during this time of year? Thank you.

  14. February 4th, 2016 | 10:34 am

    Generally speaking the Alaska Highway is well maintained but you will want to make sure your vehicle is in good condition and have the appropriate emergency – safety equipment on board. The distances are far and if there is a winter storm there are a lot of miles for the highway maintenance crews to maintain so it can take a while. Be sure to bring a cold-weather sleeping bag and other gear as well in case you get stuck or delayed on the highway due to winter weather conditions. We always recommend that anybody traveling on the Alaska Highway purchase a MilePost to use as your planning resource and be sure to know where and how far a part gas stations are to refill because some stations are closed seasonally.

  15. Ken Crooks
    January 7th, 2017 | 11:45 am

    We are planning a visit to Alaska in July 2017.

    What are the normal Black Fly conditions at that time?

    We will be crusing with some inland excursions.

  16. January 28th, 2017 | 1:02 pm

    We do have flies in Alaska but they aren’t prevalent enough to be an issue.

  17. March 4th, 2017 | 9:03 am

    Can you recommend a cruise up from Seattle or Vancouver to a destination and perhaps a train;sighseeing; back to Seattle or rental car to include the best park to visit and see the most. Thanks, Dick Faunce

  18. March 4th, 2017 | 9:04 am

    i forgot it would be late July

  19. March 7th, 2017 | 9:35 am

    Dick – We usually recommend the Gulf of Alaska / Voyage of the Glaciers cruises from Vancouver BC to either Seward (Holland America, Royal Carib) or Whittier (Princess). Choose one that visits Glacier Bay National Park. From Seward or Whittier you can travel by motorcoach to rail into Southcentral and Interior Alaska. You’ll have to fly back to home though. No one does land tours through Canada these days.

  20. Sheryl Forney
    February 27th, 2019 | 8:24 am

    Hello, my husband and I are wanting to plan a vacation to Alaska. My biggest wish is to see the northern lights. I also would love to go on a dog sled outing. My husband is retired and I will be come October of this year. So what is the best plan to make this happen? Should we cruise and then fly to Fairbanks? Or is it better to fly directly to Fairbanks? I would consider cruising one way and then flying to Fairbanks and then home??May not be able to do that with the cruise? Any suggestions to time frame of visits and means of transportation and accommodation would be appreciated. Thanks

  21. April 2nd, 2019 | 2:08 pm

    Hello Sheryl, Alaska cruises end in mid September so you couldn’t travel by a cruise and then travel onward into southcentral and interior Alaska in Alaska.

  22. Allan Hewitt
    June 2nd, 2019 | 6:08 am

    Hello, planning a Bear Viewing excursion (only a day trip) most likely out of Homer to the Katmai and my available time fame is late August or early September. Any suggestions which time is best and would this be an appropriate/excellent time to see the bears. I’ve been researching tour companies on line and plan to make reservations within the next couple of weeks. Any comments/recommendations would be greatly appreciated.

    Allan

  23. June 3rd, 2019 | 7:26 am

    Hi Allan, bear viewing destinations are very seasonal. Late August to early September may be a little late for Katmai. Lake Clark is a little closer and tends to have good bear viewing into mid-september. Check out day trips to to Redoubt Mountain Lodge. https://alaskatravel.com/anchorage/lake-clark-alaska-bear-viewing.html.

  24. D.kelly
    July 9th, 2019 | 3:18 am

    We are planning to drive to Alaska from MD in September. Any suggestions?

  25. July 15th, 2019 | 7:40 am

    Are you coming up for pleasure or are you moving to Alaska? September is a bit late for a visit by car so you will likely find that many campgrounds in Alaska are starting to close and other roadside services are limited.

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