When to Go: Alaska and the Arctic

Denali
NPS, Rick McIntyre
No matter when you visit Alaska, be prepared to experience some of the most beautiful nature in the United States. Most people think of summer when planning an Alaska vacation, but don’t forget that winter also has its charms.

At the height of summer, Alaska’s weather is warm, the days are impossibly long and the state’s renowned wildlife is most visible. The prime months are June, July and August.

June is when the Alaska summer hits its stride. The salmon are returning, the sun rises early and sets late – if it sets at all – and the mountains are still draped with large swaths of snow.

Visit Alaska in summer

Early tourists start arriving in Alaska in May, but June is when Alaska’s warmer months really hit their stride. This is when you’ll find salmon returning from the sea and snow still draping the state’s dramatic mountains. It’s also when the sun rises early and sets late -- if it sets at all.

In summer you can:

  • Enjoy Alaska’s best time of year for visiting wild landscapes.
  • Easily spot animals, such as grizzly bears, Dall sheep, moose, whales and eagles. If you’re lucky you may just see a moose wandering within the city limits of Anchorage or any Alaska town.
  • Choose from endless worldclass outdoor excursions, such as:
    • fishing on the Kenai Peninsula
    • hiking at Denali National Park
    • nature walking through ancient rainforests in Tongass National Forest
    • taking a trip to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
  • See Alaska’s famed midnight sun.

Visit Alaska in winter

By mid-September, most visitors have left and most seasonal businesses are shutting down. But the approaching winter provides its own reasons to visit Alaska:

In winter you can:

  • View the aurora borealis.
  • See the start of the famous Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
  • Do a range of winter sports such as mushing, skiing and snowshoeing.