There’s an incredibly high chance you’ll see the Northern Lights in Fairbanks, Alaska if you visit at the right time. After all, Fairbanks is one of the best places to see the Northern Lights in the world.
The city has earned this reputation partly because of its location under the “Aurora Oval,” an area with lots of aurora activity. This prime location means you can even see the aurora borealis from downtown Fairbanks. Additionally, there’s a low amount of precipitation and light pollution in Fairbanks, both key qualities for great aurora viewing.
In fact, staying in Fairbanks for at least three nights during aurora season will give you an over 90% – yes, 90! – chance of seeing the Northern Lights in Alaska. Those are some pretty fantastic odds, so I’m sure you’re dying to learn more about aurora viewing in Fairbanks.
This article will cover:
- the best time to see the Northern Lights in Fairbanks
- the best places to see the Northern Lights in Fairbanks
- the best Northern Lights tours in Fairbanks
- where to stay in Fairbanks to see the Northern Lights
Best time to see the Northern Lights in Fairbanks
The best time to see the Northern Lights in Fairbanks, otherwise known as Fairbanks’ official aurora season, is from late August to late April. Unfortunately, throughout the rest of the year, there’s not enough darkness to see the aurora properly.
In terms of the best time of day, you’ll have the highest chance of seeing the Northern Lights in Fairbanks between 9 PM and 3 AM.
What month is best to see the aurora in Fairbanks?
In summary, these are the best months to see the aurora borealis in Fairbanks:
- August, September, and October – At this time of year, the weather is at its warmest. Additionally, there’s still enough daylight to see and do things during the day. However, the sky can often be quite cloudy, so you might not have the best visibility.
- November, December, and January – This is one of the best times to see the Northern Lights in Fairbanks. The nights are long and dark, which is perfect for aurora viewing as long as the skies are clear. On the other hand, temperatures can get quite chilly, so be prepared to bundle up.
- February, March, and April – As spring nears, the weather starts to get warmer again. The days also begin to lengthen, but there’s still a high chance of seeing an aurora display. Best of all, these months, particularly March, tend to have less cloudy weather than the rest of year.
Best places to see the Northern Lights in Fairbanks
Figuring out where to see the Northern Lights in Fairbanks doesn’t have to be difficult. There are plenty of great places around the city where you can catch a glimpse of the “Green Lady.” Ultimately, choosing your aurora viewing spot will depend on how far you’re willing to travel out of downtown Fairbanks and whether you have an all-wheel, 4-wheel, or 2-wheel drive vehicle.
- Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge: This bird sanctuary, which is one of the best places to see the Northern Lights in Fairbanks, is located just 2 miles from downtown Fairbanks. Even though you’re not far from the city, there is still very little light pollution here. On top of that, the various open fields and trails mean you’ll have a practically unobstructed view of any aurora displays. Plus, the road to the refuge is well maintained, so a 2-wheel drive vehicle can get you here at pretty much any time of year.
- Chena Lake Recreation Area: Hit the trails or admire an aurora display over the lake at this 2,000-acre recreation area, located 17 miles from downtown Fairbanks. There are two separate parks within the recreation area, River Park and Lake Park. Both have very low light pollution and feature plenty of wide-open spaces, so they’re perfect aurora viewing spots in Fairbanks. Best of all, you can easily get here with a 2-wheel drive vehicle, unless the weather is very stormy.
- Cleary Summit: Head to the top of Cleary Summit, located 20 miles from downtown Fairbanks, to enjoy spectacular views of the aurora over Tanana Valley and the White Mountains. You should keep in mind, however, that this is a very popular place for aurora viewing in Fairbanks. If you want a more private viewing experience, there are several locations along Steese Highway (the road to Cleary Summit) where you can pull off and get great views. Note that the summit is best accessed with an all-wheel or 4-wheel drive vehicle in the winter.
- Murphy Dome: The highest point near Fairbanks is perfect for enjoying completely unobstructed views of the sky and valley. This prime location to see the Northern Lights in Fairbanks is a bit of a drive (25 miles) from downtown Fairbanks, but the stunning views are worth it. Just keep in mind that an all-wheel or 4-wheel drive vehicle is the best way to get here during the winter.
Before you head out to your viewing spot, be sure to check the Northern Lights forecast so you know what viewing conditions will be like.
Best Northern Lights tours in Fairbanks
Of course, the easiest way to see the Northern Lights in Fairbanks is to book a Fairbanks aurora tour. There’s no shortage of aurora tour options, but, as always, not all tours are created equal.
My favorite one is this Northern Lights and Arctic Circle tour, where you’ll travel along Dalton Highway, see the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, and hopefully catch the Northern Lights. Best of all, you’ll even get a certificate to commemorate your trip to the Arctic Circle.
Another fantastic option is a dog sled and Northern Lights tour. If you get lucky enough, you may just be able to see the aurora from your sled. Otherwise, you’ll have another chance to see the Northern Lights when you head to a cozy yurt after your sled ride.
Finally, I also recommend this Northern Lights and Chena Hot Springs tour. You’ll enjoy a guided tour of the Aurora Ice Museum and Chena Hot Springs, where you’ll have the chance to soak in the springs’ waters. Then, you’ll head to the Aurorium, where you’ll hopefully be able to watch an aurora display.
We also have a guide to the best Northern Lights tour in Fairbanks that I recommend checking out.
Where to stay in Fairbanks to see the Northern Lights
Yet another way to increase your chances of seeing the Northern Lights in Fairbanks is to book a hotel that specializes in aurora viewing experiences. One great Fairbanks aurora hotel is the Alaska Grizzly Lodge, which features lovely views of the Alaskan wilderness. Even better, the rooms’ private terraces are perfect for enjoying the Northern Lights without having to go very far.
Pike’s Waterfront Lodge is another excellent option. Beyond a sauna, restaurant, and riverside deck, this hotel along the Chena River also boasts a glass-walled Aurora Conservatory, a prime spot for aurora viewing.
If you’d prefer having a vacation home all to yourself, book the Aurora and Denali View Apartment. Take in the views of the city and Denali from this home’s spacious backyard and sit out on the patio to watch the Northern Lights dance overhead.
We have another specific article with the best Northern Lights hotels in Fairbanks, Alaska, in case you need more options.
As you’ll have seen, there are plenty of reasons to see the Northern Lights in Fairbanks: the prime location, low light pollution, beautiful landscapes, and more. You can even increase your chances of seeing the aurora by staying at a Fairbanks Northern Lights hotel or booking a Fairbanks aurora tour.
Ultimately, whether you watch a Fairbanks aurora display with your tour group, from your balcony, or in the middle of the wilderness, you can rest assured that you’ll be in for an unforgettable visual treat. It’s easy to get caught up in the beauty of the moment, so don’t forget to take pictures of the aurora to have as a memento of your adventure.
Good luck chasing the Northern Lights in Fairbanks!