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Aurora Borealis Viewing

Anchorage is the perfect spot from which to admire the aurora borealis — all it takes is a little planning and preparation.

 
  • Start with some scientific savvy. The aurora borealis is caused by collisions between electrons from space and oxygen and nitrogen gas in earth’s atmosphere. The electrons impart energy, exciting the oxygen and nitrogen molecules, and when those molecules return to their normal state, they release photons in the form of light. Monitoring geomagnetic activity can help predict the best time to catch a show: Connect with a knowledgeable local guiding service, or check the forecasts available via the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Geophysical Institute.

  • When the skies are clear and the forecast’s strong, head for the hills — or one of the many other prime aurora viewing vistas around Anchorage. 

  • Glen Alps provides an elevated overlook for spotting the northern lights shimmer above the city. Point Woronzof, just a short drive from downtown, offers a northern view away from city lights. Try Eklutna Tailrace and the Knik River Valley to catch a show even when the aurora are low on the horizon. At the end of Eagle River Road, the Eagle River Nature Center is also a great spot to see the lights (when the forecast allows). To the south, Girdwood provides clear views and alpine elevation, and The Hotel Alyeska even offers a northern lights wakeup call.

  • Pack plenty of warm layers and durable, insulating footwear for your aurora-hunting adventure: Catching the lights takes patience and planning, and the right clothing will keep you cozy while you wait for the aurora to appear. 

  • While aurora season runs from September through April, longer and darker nights offer the best chances to see the northern lights — so planning a trip around winter solstice can significantly improve your luck. And while forecasts can help predict the next show, it’s an imperfect science, so give yourself some wiggle room: Planning to spend several days on an aurora viewing quest will provide the best odds of catching the lights.