Northern Lights Viewing

See more aurora photos from Anchorage.

Anchorage is the best base to chase aurora. Many of the prime locations are easily accessed from the city. There are plenty of Anchorage guides with an eye for those magical lights. Mild winter temperatures keep everyone comfy. And once the sun rises, Anchorage offers plenty of other ways to wow.

The shimmering aurora are seen swirling in Anchorage’s skies from the middle of August through April. They can be incredibly bright, multihued, and fast moving.

Ionized gas particles hit the Earth’s magnetic field, resulting is an amazing phenomenon of undulating curtains of light that glow, ripple, sway, fold, and unfold then suddenly disappear. The most common color is a brilliant yellow-green, and auroras can also produce red, blue, and purples.

Aurora Viewing Tips

Mid-August through April are the best months for viewing the northern lights. It's the only time Alaska skies are dark enough, and the best displays tend to be accompanied by cloudless and moonless skies. Just like stargazing, the best aurora views avoid streetlights and other bright light sources. The show could start as soon as skies get dark, but the best hours are often near midnight.

Of course, no one can guarantee when the aurora will be out. Visitors who wish to spot the northern lights should plan to spend a few days because the aurora is, like the weather, variable. Having more than a single night allows adjustments for weather changes and the best aurora conditions.

Alaska aurora forecasts are available from the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Space Weather Prediction Center.

Summer Aurora Views

Even though the summer evening skies are too bright, visitors still find a way to enjoy the full splendor of Alaska’s northern lights. Projected in high definition, “AurorA, Alaska's Great Northern Lights” is a stunning digital presentation by Aurora photographer Dave Parkhurst, set to original music and shown daily in summer at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts.

5 Best Aurora Locations Near Anchorage

Weather conditions and man-made light greatly influence the ability to see auroras, so it’s best to be in a location known for clear, dark skies. Fortunately, one doesn’t have to travel far from downtown Anchorage to find prime aurora viewing locales.

  • Glen Alps – The trailhead parking lot is a high elevation vantage point for northern lights above the city.
  • Point Woronzof – At the northwestern edge of the city, this coastal park has great northern exposure along the shores of Cook Inlet.
  • Eklutna Tailrace and Knik River Valley – The Knik River drainage has a northern horizon without any mountains in the way. Good visibility even when the aurora are low on the horizon.
  • Girdwood – This quaint ski town is shielded from Anchorage’s city lights, and The Hotel Alyeska offers a northern lights wakeup call.
  • Eagle River Nature Center – At the end of Eagle River Road, this entrance point to Chugach State Park is a serene spot that seems a world away from daily life.

Aurora Tours and Trips Near Anchorage

Catching the aurora can be as easy as looking up at the stars. Going with an expert can help increase your odds, unlock the best vantage points, give you an extra set of eyes to watch conditions, and tap into the local expertise of someone passionate about pursuing the aurora. Below are just a few prime aurora viewing spots and guides focused on northern lights in the winter: