Northern Lights in Fairbanks: Why and How

In Alaska Travelgram, Fairbanks by scott

Special Correspondent Juno Kim visits Fairbanks often. Here’s a report on the northern lights, aka “Aurora Borealis,” which are v-e-r-y active right now!

Northern Lights in Fairbanks | When & Where to See the Aurora

During my first trip to Alaska many moons ago, I saw the northern lights from Alaska’s Arctic region. It was just me, my travel companions, mountain peaks, and the Aurora. I have been hooked on Alaska ever since. It was only my second time seeing the northern lights after being in Iceland a couple of years before. As a lifelong astronomy enthusiast, I was fulfilling my childhood dreams.

Living in Alaska for the last few years, I never stopped chasing the northern lights. I‘ve spent countless hours reading solar activity data, hunting for the lights, and photographing them. How fortunate to have such amazing opportunities to capture this amazing natural phenomenon.

I’ve photographed the northern lights in many places, and I feel lucky to live in Alaska, where we have Aurora activity during our long winter. Sometimes I was successful, and other times I came home without any photos. The joy of witnessing the Aurora Borealis can be tiring but never boring.

northern lights in fairbanks
The northern lights are on fire in Fairbanks!

Naturally, I prepared for some northern lights hunting during my trip to Fairbanks in March. I’ve been to Fairbanks a few times and was blessed with northern lights each time.

What is the Aurora Borealis?

The Aurora Borealis manifests itself in a massive ring above the Earth’s Geomagnetic North Pole, referred to as the Auroral Oval. You might expect this oval to be visible from the same altitude around the globe, but this is not the case because it is centered on the true north rather than the geographical North Pole.

the northern lights from the Wedgewood Resort in Fairbanks
Watching the northern lights from the Wedgewood Resort.

Best Time To See The Northern Lights

The best time of year to see the Northern lights is from mid-August to mid-April (in Fairbanks, August 21 to April 21 is the official Aurora season). I was only there during the fall and winter, so lucky me!  

Fairbanks is One of The Best Places to Catch a View of the Northern Lights

What makes the Fairbanks area a great place to catch the northern lights? Fairbanks is one of the best places in the United States to get a good view of the Northern Lights due to its location in the interior of Alaska, far away from coastal areas. 

Weather is one of the most important factors of aurora viewing, and Fairbanks is a good place to try because of the potential clear night. It’s also north of Anchorage, and the Aurora will be visible on nights when it’s too low in Anchorage or other locations south.

Due to Anchorage’s population, you might have a more challenging time seeing the Northern lights due to its light pollution.

Fairbanks is a great winter destination because of many fun winter activities such as dog sledding during the day and northern lights during the night. 

People often ask if there’s any guarantee to see the Aurora when visiting Alaska. In Fairbanks, if you stay at least three nights, there is more than a 90% chance of seeing the Aurora! 

But you’ll have to be active outside looking for it during your stay. 

northern lights from Wiseman, north of the Arctic Circle
Viewing the northern lights from Wiseman, north of the Arctic Circle.

Take An Aurora Tour in Fairbanks, Alaska

If you’re new to the area and don’t have a lot of experience in northern lights chasing, it’s best to join one of many excellent northern lights tours. 

They’ll make sure to take you to the right place, take photos for you, keep you warm, and teach you a thing or two about professionally chasing Aurora. 

If you’re searching for the Aurora and want to do it yourself, there are many places to go. You might have to drive out of the city to avoid city lights, but when the Aurora activity is strong enough, there’s good visibility even from downtown Fairbanks. I have gone searching for the lights in different locations in Fairbanks.

Expert opinion: Where should I go this weekend for fun? Sitka, Kennicott Mine, Snug Harbor Outpost, Hope, Alaska.

Drive North to the Arctic Circle to See the Northern Lights

I once made a trip to the Arctic (Coldfoot and Wiseman) from Fairbanks and saw amazing displays each night. I also drove on Chena Hot Springs Road to find an open area to the north between trees.

But sometimes, you get lucky if you are at the right place at the right time. 

watching the dancing northern lights in Fairbanks, Alaska
Watching the dancing lights from my own balcony!

Wedgewood Resort in Fairbanks

One of my favorite memories of Fairbanks is watching the dancing lights from my own balcony at Wedgewood Resort.

Stay at the Wedgewood Resort, which offers a 15 percent discount to Alaska Travelgram readers (use discount code FHH15). The discount also is good at the sister property near the Fairbanks airport, Sophie Station

The night was much colder than I anticipated, so I wasn’t so motivated to go far to hunt for the lights. Then it happened. The Aurora started weak and got more active as time went by. I was warm, comfortable, and happy to see the Aurora lights out my window! 

I did go down to find better angles for photos but knowing my warm room was less than 5 minutes away on a -20 degree night was a huge comfort. 

Alaska summer vacation ideas: Kenai Peninsula for an Alaska Safari

See the Northern Lights in Fairbanks, AK
Cold….but beautiful!

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