Autumn in Alaska may be brief, but this magical time offers an Alaska experience like no other. Trees with yellow and orange leaves pop against a backdrop of snow-dusted mountains. The tundra transforms into a colorful quilt of deep burgundy, orange, and fiery red. Fall is the sweet spot when you can experience all the must-do Alaska summer activities while also having the chance to catch Alaska’s other stunning colorful display – the northern lights. Add on other perks like lower prices and less crowds and it’s easy to see why fall is one of the best times to visit Alaska.
Fall colors begin to emerge mid-August in Alaska’s Arctic and Interior regions and late August/early September as you move further south, with peak hues usually lasting 2-4 weeks. Denali National Park is renowned for vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows across its vast tundra landscapes from late August to mid to late September. In Hatcher Pass, a top spot to catch fall foliage in Southcentral Alaska, you’ll find spectacular colors for most of September. For more tips about where to go, check out these recommendations from local photographers about their favorite places to capture the changing seasons.
Alaska’s endless summer daylight hours allow you to maximize your fun under the midnight sun – but you can’t see one of Alaska’s most spectacular sights, the northern lights. By late August there’s enough darkness to view the aurora borealis, making fall the ideal time to catch Alaska’s colors on land and in the sky. While you can spot the northern lights throughout the state, your best chances of seeing them are in Alaska’s Interior and Arctic regions, which have the most auroral activity due to their dark skies and location under the auroral oval. Keep an eye on the statewide aurora forecast for daily updates.
Most summer tour operators continue operations through mid-September or early October, so you’ll still be able to enjoy Alaska’s top summer activities like hiking, fishing, wildlife viewing, day cruises, rafting, and more. In autumn, Alaska’s wildlife is still on full display, with bears fattening up before their long winter hibernation and whales, birds, and other migratory wildlife just getting ready to head south for warmer climates. Northern lights tours start up in August – making fall the perfect time to make the most of both summer activities and aurora viewing.
Peak travel season in Alaska is June – August, where you’ll find the longest days, warmest temperatures, and most options for tours and activities. This also means that Alaska welcomes the highest number of visitors during these months. Visiting Alaska in the fall is ideal if you’re looking for a little more solitude on the trails, more availability at accommodations, and more space on cruises and tours – which usually means lower prices. Some tour operators offer shoulder season prices and discounts, and you’ll find cheaper rates at hotels and other accommodations. Cruises through Alaska’s Inside Passage in September and October are also typically cheaper than peak season cruises.
With a kaleidoscope of fall colors, crisp air, northern lights viewing, plenty of activities, plus the benefits of more solitude, more availability, and lower rates, it’s easy to see why autumn in Alaska should be on your travel list. For even more fall inspiration, check out our insider’s tips on the best places to view fall colors in Alaska.
The health and safety of Alaska’s visitors and residents, along with its member businesses, remains a top priority to the Alaska Travel Industry Association. We encourage travelers to review the latest COVID-19 travel updates and check with tour operators for individual requirements. To ensure the best travel experience possible, be sure to plan early, be patient with local businesses and staff during busy times, and have a backup plan if your desired tour, accommodation, or restaurant is full. Explore more things to do and planning tools to help you plan your Alaska adventure.
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