Northern Lights in Fairbanks: Why and How

In Alaska Travelgram 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!

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 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. 

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 I was blessed with northern lights each time. 

Northern lights are visible from mid-August to mid-April (in Fairbanks, August 21 to April 21 is the official Aurora season) and I was only there during the fall-winter, so lucky me!  

Watching the northern lights from the Wedgewood Resort.

What makes Fairbanks a great place to catch the northern lights? Fairbanks is located in the interior of Alaska, far away from coastal areas. Weather is one of the most important factors of northern lights viewing and Fairbanks is a good place to try because of potential clear skies. It’s also further north than Anchorage and the Aurora will be visible on nights when it’s too low in Anchorage or other locations south.

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 a more than a 90% chance of seeing the Aurora! But you’ll have to be actively outside looking for it during your stay. 

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 in the area. 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 but when the Aurora activity is strong enough, there’s good visibility even from the city center. I have gone searching for the lights in different locations in Fairbanks.

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

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

Watching the dancing lights from my own balcony!

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 so 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 -20 degree night was a huge comfort. 

The aurora has already been quite active this season. But it’s just the beginning. We have many months left until April 21! Make sure to include Fairbanks in your winter itinerary and get a chance to witness this amazing natural phenomenon yourself. 

Cold….but beautiful!

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