Few would think of heading further north for a summer getaway, especially as far north as the remote landscape of Alaska. Still, there is more to this state than some may initially expect.
In fact, there is so much going on here in the summer months that it offers plenty of must-see spectacles. So, why should we visit Alaska in the summer, and what does “summer” actually mean in such a northern area?
The summer season in Alaska is early May to mid-September, which may be longer than some would expect. The height of the season is mid-June to the end of August when there are better chances of tours, sightings, and improved weather. Still, there is no reason why travelers can’t enjoy a summer vacation to this northern state in those earlier or later periods.
We have to remember how far north Alaska is and how much it differs from sunny Florida and California much closer to the equator. The longest day of the year is June 21st, and the sun barely sets at all on this day. The hours of sunlight that are available will depend on your location in this vast state.
Anchorage sees around 19 hours on Midsummer’s Day, while Fairbanks gets as much as 22. The length of the day in early September remains considerably longer than in more southern states, so there is no wonder that this is a great option for a late summer getaway.
Some cautious travelers may look at this climate and assume that while the sun is abundant, it isn’t strong enough to make a big impression on the temperature. The truth is that there is a moderate temperature on a good day. The peak season can see highs of as much as 80 degrees Fahrenheit, but this will drop at night to around 40 -50. May and September are a little cooler again.
Of course, it is impossible to plan for good weather in this state. One day could offer glorious sunshine and calm conditions, and another could see torrential rain. As long as you pack for each eventuality, you shouldn’t find yourself in too much trouble.
This is a different climate and terrain, with some interesting quirks.
This difference between the states is also clear in the landscape of this vast, sparsely populated state. It is a wonderland of vast tundras, plains, forests, mountains ready to explore by all those ready for a good hike, a long bus or bike ride or even a kayak.
Some may opt for an early visit when the snow and tundra ice are still visible for a summer trip with a difference. It is like trekking to an Arctic wildness without leaving the country. Alternatively, there are the later trips when the ice has gone, and there is a greater chance of exploring the coastal regions, mountains, and forests.
At this point, travelers should note that there is a slight cross over of the summer season and the northern lights season. The best chances to spot these incredible light display come between September and around April 20th.
The height of winter is the best time as this when they are most frequent and visible in the darker skies. Still, those that fancy a later summer trip might try their luck with the right guides in the right parts of Alaska. Research some of the best spots and travel guides for the best chance of seeing the auroras on native soil. Many find that the inland areas around Fairbanks are particularly good.
Most tours are in operation in that peak season of around ten weeks in the height of summer. Those that wish to travel a little earlier or later will need to double check with any tour providers to make sure there are no alterations or days where tours aren’t available. Denali national park is a good example of this. Here operators limit tours to that peak period.
Summer is the best time to spot Alaska’s wildlife. Of course, many of these tours and trips help tourists spot the animals and the natural spectacles of the season. Summer is the time of year when Alaska comes to life with a range of creatures to see across the different landscape.
Tourists come to see many of the majestic creatures that thrive here in the summer thanks to the annual salmon spawn. The adults return to the rivers and lakes to breed, providing abundant food for many species. The fish themselves are quite a spectacle, but many tourists flock to Alaska for the bears.
Male brown bears gather at the rivers for impressive spectacles of cunning and strength. Families of black bears travel deeper in the forest and are more secretive. One option is an ATV trip with guides. Many recommending heading to the two bear viewing lodges by Silver Salmon Creek within Lake Clark National Park. It is a short flight away from Anchorage.
The nation’s symbol – found deeper into the forests and picking off salmon by the water.
A great option for families and photographers is a boat trip out to Resurrection Bay and Kenai Fjords National Park. This usually takes around 2.5 hours from Anchorage. It is a great way to see the wildlife and landscape without a long, exhausting expedition
An alternative for nature lovers is to head to the 200-acre Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center where you are sure to see more species at closer proximity. This Center is a refuge for a range of native creatures orphaned, injured or simply too sick to stay in the wild.
The site is home to everything from coyotes to bears, with plenty of Wood Bison and eagles too. This bison is part of a reintroduction project and a rare treat.
Anchorage’s Earthquake Park is another site of interest due to its history and landscape. Many come here to learn about the earthquake and have a family day out. Others will nature hike and look for wildlife. The scenic park is on the coast between Hood Creek and Point Woronzof.
Summer is also the best time to attend some great events.
Alaska offers festivals and events all year round. Many occur in winter, the snow and ice, but there are also plenty of summer events to enjoy to get to know the state a little better. There are great celebrations of culture and the new summer season in the heart of Alaska. Each major town also has an impressive 4th of July event.
The highlight has to be the Alaska State Fair in the Mat-Su Valley from the end of August through to early September. Alternatively, there is the Girdwood Forest Fair in the first weekend in July that celebrates Alaskan music, arts, and crafts deep within the trees.
Be aware that there is likely to be more choice in the peak period when all the establishments open their doors. However, there will be some better deals in what they call “shoulder season.” This is that period in May and September when summer is still in effect but the full season either is yet to begin or is starting to wind down.
Many hotels can reduce prices in this period to increase their flow of visitors across the year. In some cases, this may mean a reduction of as much as 25%
Once you have your hotel, you need to figure out how you are traveling to Alaska in the summer. The best way to this remote part of Northern America, regarding convenience, is to fly. There are plenty of direct flights from Anchorage, and you can easily arrange any further travel from there.
A cruise or ferry offers a slower, but more scenic route into the area. There is also the chance of a few whale sightings on the way in. The alternative is a long road trip, connecting up to the Alaska Highway.
Alaska is beautiful all year round, but it truly comes alive in summer.
As you can see, there is more to the Alaskan summer than just the sunshine. This is the season when the state comes to life – and in more ways than one. The rise in the temperature and the abundance of light brings everyone out of their state of hibernation. Cities and towns awake in full, ready to welcome new visitors to see the sights and celebration.
Animals and birds flock to the coasts, forests, and Tundra to take advantage of the opportunities on offer. A summer vacation in Alaska may not sound like an obvious choice at first, but there is so much to explore and see that it is sure to be a trip of a lifetime. Choose your dates wisely for the best deals, research the best tours for the creatures you want to see and open your mind to the potential of this remote state.