Insider Suggestions for Experiencing Fairbanks Northern Lights

I used to be stunned that many individuals don’t even have Alaska on their radar for Northern Lights journeys! Go do a search, and also you’ll be inundated with Iceland and Norway, however Alaska remains to be a little bit of an outlier. And you recognize what which means? It’s the right place to plan your Northern Lights journey as a result of it’s not as crowded or costly!

Just a few key issues make Fairbanks, Alaska, among the best locations for northern lights viewing. I’ve been there 4 instances within the winter and have amassed just a few of my greatest ideas for experiencing Fairbanks Northern Lights so as to profit from your aurora expertise.

northern lights fairbanks alaska
Northern Lights in Fairbanks

Why Fairbanks, Alaska, is one of the best place for a Northern Lights Viewing

Positioned slightly below the Arctic Circle, landlocked, and close to Fairbanks Worldwide Airport, Fairbanks has the right recipe for viewing the aurora borealis.

The Aurora Oval and Kp Index

aurora oval Aurora cam fairbanksaurora oval Aurora cam fairbanks

The Northern Lights type an oval form above the Earth’s geomagnetic poles. Fairbanks occurs to be completely positioned below the oval surrounding the North Pole. Which means that the aurora in Fairbanks is often seen straight overhead! This distinctive vantage level is nice for aurora images and is barely discovered below the auroral oval.

The Kp index, a measure of electromagnetic exercise within the environment additionally comes into play for aurora viewing. A studying of two or increased is often thought-about good for Northern Lights recognizing; nonetheless, you may see Northern Lights in Fairbanks even when there’s low exercise due to its place below the aurora circle.

“You haven’t seen the aurora till you may look straight up and see it overhead. Once you see it overhead – you may see how a lot construction is in it. So it’s greatest to come back north below the aurora oval.”

Aurora Physicist Peter Delemere

Climate in Fairbanks

Aurora season is between August 21-April 21 within the Fairbanks area. And one factor that’s required to see them is a transparent sky. You’re in luck in Fairbanks as a result of it has many clear nights because it’s positioned within the inland Arctic – an space they name Alaska’s inside. By the coasts, there’s extra humidity, precipitation, and clouds. However in Fairbanks, it’s a dry local weather that means a number of clear skies!

northern lights trip fairbanksnorthern lights trip fairbanks
Stunning clear evening skies abound in Fairbanks

 “The northern lights are so prolific within the Fairbanks area and the Arctic that guests who keep a minimal of three nights and are actively out through the late night hours enhance their likelihood of seeing the aurora to greater than 80 p.c!”

Discover Fairbanks

Fairbanks Geophysical Institute

The Geophysical Institute on the College of Alaska Fairbanks has earned a world popularity for learning Earth and its bodily environments at excessive latitudes. It consists of seven main analysis items and lots of analysis assist services, and it focuses on aurora analysis on Earth and different planets.

Anybody can go go to the Geophysical Institute and take a self-guided tour, nonetheless, I went to speak to a physicist specializing in aurora analysis, Peter Delamere. Studying the science behind the aurora on Earth and Jupiter was fascinating! I discovered what makes the completely different colours we see and easy methods to spot a substorm. His total recommendation was to test the northern lights forecasts and be persistent – very persistent.

A number of the smartest aurora folks on the earth are in Fairbanks, another excuse why it’s an incredible place for a Northern Lights journey!

Go to the Geophysical Institute in Fairbanks: Public excursions of the Geophysical Institute are free and supplied on Wednesdays at 1 p.m. via the summer time. A self-guided tour brochure is offered within the foyer of the Elvey constructing. You’re welcome to go to the constructing and take the self-guided tour Monday via Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Geophysical Institute Web site

The Fact About How We See the Northern Lights

Till I went to go to Fairbanks, Alaska, I believed the Northern Lights have been all simply hype. No – I haven’t joined a Flat Earth Society or determined International Warming is a hoax; I simply didn’t know if I absolutely believed in them. I had good cause to doubt them.

I had ‘seen’ the aurora borealis twice earlier than – however to my disappointment, it was nothing like what I had seen in footage and movies. There was no coloration (apart from what lengthy publicity images may seize), and there was no dancing. As a substitute what I noticed was a grey, cloudy glowing blob. These aurora sightings may’ve been mistaken for moon glow or fog, and I by no means would have even observed them besides folks advised me it was the aurora.

After my disappointing experiences, I began to suppose that the Northern Lights have been attributable to a bizarre conspiracy by tourism departments and Northern Lights tour firms.

I advised Peter Delamere on the Geophysical Institute about my conspiracy concept, and he defined, “When it’s faint, your eye doesn’t detect it as inexperienced; it seems as a grayish glow, and it may be a bit disappointing.”

northern lights with the naked eye - alaska aurora adventuresnorthern lights with the naked eye - alaska aurora adventures
What our eyes see…
northern lights viewingnorthern lights viewing
What our cameras can seize

I assume I simply had unhealthy luck with the aurora depth in response to Peter. To see any coloration within the faint aurora, I needed to do images to realize it was there as a result of it’s not all the time seen to the human eye.

Our eyes use two various kinds of cells to see mild: rods and cones. The cone cells understand effective element and coloration however want brilliant mild. Rod cells can solely see black and white and have poor decision however stay delicate even in very low mild. At evening, with none brilliant mild supply, we usually solely see a monochromatic world. Nevertheless, cameras can present us what our eyes can’t see. Because of this you see images with brilliant inexperienced lights.

Learn how to See the Aurora in your Northern Lights Journey

Test the Northern Lights Forecasts

There are a variety of real-time aurora tracker GPS cellphone apps and web sites that can assist predict the aurora. I used a mix of all of them!
Aurora Borealis Tracker
Reside Webcam
Geophysical Institute Aurora Forecast
See the place the aurora oval is at any time

northern lights phone appnorthern lights phone app
Monitoring the aurora, it’s coming our approach!

Take a Northern Lights Tour

Chances are you’ll need to take a tour, or you might have considered trying the liberty of a rental automobile and chasing the aurora by your self. Both approach is nice, and I attempted out just a few completely different Fairbanks northern lights excursions throughout my journey (extra on these within the subsequent part!).

Aurora Photograph Excursions

In case your purpose is to get an incredible picture of the aurora, then I extremely advocate signing up for an aurora images workshop the primary evening you arrive in Fairbanks. In spite of everything, it is a bucket record merchandise for most individuals, and also you need to just remember to know what you’re doing, because the aurora isn’t a simple factor to {photograph}.

A 40-minute drive from Fairbanks will put you firmly within the inside – an ideal place to view Northern Lights. Simply off the Steese Freeway, you’ll discover Aurora Bear Images Workshops, a small intimate workshop in Frank and Miriam’s off-the-grid residence.

Frank gives starting and superior images lessons, and in case you don’t have your personal DSLR or mirrorless digicam, he rents them together with tripods. You’ll depart with some spectacular evening sky and (hopefully) aurora images.

Aurora Viewing Tour

These excursions usually have massive numbers of individuals with a mixture of picture addicts and simply individuals who need to see the aurora. As you may guess – these aren’t my jam. I hate massive excursions and coach buses. Nevertheless, it really works for some folks, and it’s good to know that Fairbanks gives some of these excursions to get you out of town and enhance your likelihood of seeing the northern lights.

Lodges Supply Northern Lights Viewing Packages

Some inns provide aurora viewing choices the place folks can come and keep up all evening in a heat setting like a yurt or lodge however simply run outdoors and benefit from the present when it arrives. We went to Style of Alaska Lodge simply outdoors of Fairbanks and so they had an ideal setup for viewing. That they had a warm-ish yurt the place we may keep heat and wait, then run outdoors and take images simply. The log cabin lodge offered a fantastic foreground within the images.

I additionally went to and stayed on the distant Black Rapids Lodge.  It’s south of Fairbanks however often will get stunning northern lights sightings.  The attractive factor about Black Rapids is that it’s surrounded by the Jap Alaska Mountain Vary, so you may see the Northern Lights over the mountains!

Fairbanks aurora borealis vacation packages alaskaFairbanks aurora borealis vacation packages alaska

It’s additionally price noting that all the inns round Fairbanks may even provide you with an Aurora wake-up name in case you join it. This implies you don’t have to take a seat up all evening ready; they do all of the laborious work and name you when they’re out. Nevertheless – it’s laborious to see the northern lights in Fairbanks as a result of metropolis lights, so the wake-up name is greatest if you find yourself at inns within the countryside, away from the sunshine air pollution.

Uncover the place to seek out autumn colours in Alaska

Have an Journey Whereas Viewing the Aurora

Numerous ready is concerned when chasing the northern lights, so you might need to go for an exercise whilst you wait. Fortunately the folks in Fairbanks know easy methods to host out of doors journey! Doing a quintessential Alaska winter journey whereas ready for the lights to indicate up is a good way to maximise your time…and keep heat!

Listed below are just a few examples:

visit Fairbanks alaska northern lights vacation northern lights tours best northern lights vacation packages alaskavisit Fairbanks alaska northern lights vacation northern lights tours best northern lights vacation packages alaska
Photograph by Final Frontier Mushing Coop

Hire a Automobile and Go Aurora Chasing Independently

You can even simply lease a automobile and head out independently for so long as you’d like. Simply guarantee you might have a full gasoline tank because the automobile will probably be your heat ready spot in the midst of the evening. The Discover Fairbanks web site has detailed viewing places good for the unbiased aurora chasers full with maps and descriptions of the place you may pull over and wait. Carry heat garments and meals and water!

My Favourite Fairbanks Aurora Borealis Excursions

When you determine to take a tour, listed below are six of my favorites I’ve completed across the Fairbanks space.

1. Aurora Bear – Images

It was 10 PM, and we have been going to the Aurora Bear Images Workshop. As we pulled into the driveway lit by torches, it gave the entire space a romantic glow within the snow. My pleasure degree perked up and my sleepiness subsided. This was a small, intimate picture workshop in Frank and Miriam’s off-the-grid residence.

TIP: Do an Aurora picture workshop on the primary evening in Fairbanks to make sure the remainder of your time in Alaska chasing Aurora will probably be photographically productive!

Frank and Miriam instantly become quick pals as we talked of their little cabin lit by candlelight. All of us had a lifetime of travels below our belts and we bonded on journey tales over tapas as we bought to know one another. This workshop was non-public in that just one get together may ebook it. Frank’s purpose was to create one thing extra private and memorable for folks quite than doing a tour with a big group.

“Aurora watching is an emotional factor – it’s one thing from their lifelong bucket record. They dream of it for a very long time. And it’s a whole lot of effort, time and cash to get to the place you may see it. After they do see it – it’s emotional and we regularly hear very private tales from folks. And that’s what makes it particular for us too.” Frank defined.

Frank offered us with a scientific background, after which we went into images ideas and settings as he primed us for the large present. I discovered a ton about chilly climate Northern Lights images. Frank may even take footage of you with the lights so you might have an incredible reminiscence of the expertise. In addition they provide different forms of issues to do on their property, like snowshoeing whereas watching the northern lights, or you may simply hang around and luxuriate in their canines. The expertise was all the things I may’ve requested for and extra.

I really like this small, intimate setting a lot that I embody it on my Ottsworld Alaska Winter Tour – and it’s all the time a spotlight of the journey!

Aurora Bear Images: Learn what different folks considered Aurora Bear Images on Journey Advisor. Try all of the Aurora Bear Photograph Workshops.

2. Final Frontier Mushing Co-op Aurora Evening – Journey

Amanda and Ryne, the 2 ladies who led our Northern Lights tour, have been each skilled mushing racers. They have been younger, badass, and enjoyable to hang around with. They bought us all suited up for a canine sled journey, one thing I had completed earlier than, however I had by no means mushed in the dead of night. With the brand new fallen snow, the black spruce bushes have been magical, all lined with dollops of white. The canines have been desirous to run, and we have been bundled up a lot that we resembled Randy from The Christmas Story.

Fearful of the chilly climate in Fairbanks within the Winter? It simply takes the proper gear.
Try my Alaska winter packing record, and go ready!

After the sledding, we warmed up within the comfortable yurt and bought our cameras prepared. The forecast was actually optimistic for the evening, and the skies have been completely clear. As we ate scrumptious smoked salmon and reindeer sausage inside, Amanda was outdoors waiting for the aurora. The aurora forecast was optimistic for the evening.

“It’s right here!” she exclaimed and we jumped into motion.

We spent the following 90 minutes outdoors watching because the lights grew in depth and began to maneuver and move like a wave within the sky. This was the substorms I had heard about: streaks of sunshine dancing upwards proper above our heads. At that time, I simply watched in awe. I didn’t take many footage that evening as a result of I used to be mesmerized simply watching it with my eyes. The evening was chilly however good. We sat by the fireplace, had scorching chocolate, and took footage, however largely, we simply loved the present.

The Mushing Co-op may even take footage of you with the aurora and do enjoyable mild images whilst you await the aurora to look.

Unimaginable canine sledding below the starry arctic sky AND dancing Northern Lights…it was two bucket record objects in a single evening!

Aurora Watching and Canine Sledding: Learn what different folks needed to say in regards to the Final Frontier Mushing Co-op on Journey Advisor. Try Aurora Watching and Canine Sledding.

3. Borealis Basecamp and Viewing Domes

In case you are on the lookout for an extremely distinctive method to see the northern lights round Fairbanks and have a much bigger funds, then take a look at Borealis Basecamp. It’s a hybrid glamping and aurora expertise about an hour’s drive north of Fairbanks, the place there’s no signal of sunshine air pollution.

Borealis Basecamp is the latest and most glamorous method to see the northern lights within the area. I didn’t really get to have the complete in a single day expertise, however I did go there through the day to take a look at the distinctive glamping constructions.

These fiberglass domes are paying homage to igloos and they’re what expedition and analysis groups use within the far polar areas. Nevertheless, these igloos have been transformed to incorporate clear, curved home windows that stretch 16 toes throughout every igloo roof. This enables company to lie in mattress and think about the northern lights with out leaving their cozy quilt.

Borealis Basecamp aurora viewing fairbanksBorealis Basecamp aurora viewing fairbanks

The igloos are under no circumstances primitive despite the fact that they’re off the grid. They’ve kitchenettes, a full lavatory, an actual mattress and mattress, and they’re heated.

4. Aurora Level Tour Expertise

Aurora Level is a comparatively new expertise simply outdoors of Fairbanks that caters to quite a few folks directly. It’s positively not intimate, however it’s enjoyable and informative. That is mainly a cushty viewing level quite than a tour. You arrive (it’s important to get your self there) and enter the big constructing the place you’ll be capable to comfortably wait indoors.

Consolation is essential on this expertise. There are couches and good tables arrange. There are video games to play, scorching drinks, and all-you-can-eat cookies. When you wait they do a lecture on the aurora explaining the what and the way of the phenomenon.

They’ve somebody who goes outdoors and does the ready within the chilly for you after which will inform you when the lights are out. They also have a dwell webcam of the sky televised within the constructing so you can even keep watch over the exercise and know precisely when to go outdoor.

As well as, they’ve a few beautiful firepits outdoors the place you can even hang around and hold watch on the sky. Or you may hike alongside one of many many paths within the fields to maintain transferring and keep watch over the sky.

They’ll take footage of you and the aurora and make it easier to with your personal images too. This expertise is a good discount – however you definitely received’t be alone.

Reservations are crucial, and you’ll have to present your personal transportation there.

5. Chena Scorching Springs Resort Aurora Tour

I’m not an enormous fan of Chena Scorching Springs – the standard has actually diminished each time I return, it’s not properly run in my view, and it’s outdated. Nevertheless – they do have an incredible and distinctive aurora tour they provide that’s price one in a single day keep. Plus, you get to benefit from the scorching springs, too, in fact.

The tour is like nothing I’ve skilled earlier than. They name it a snow coach tour, nevertheless it’s not a bus, it’s an previous military-style monitor automobile linked like a practice to different ‘vehicles’. It slowly and loudly makes its approach up the mountain to the highest of Charlie Dome, the place there are two Monolgian-style yurts. That’s your base for the evening – removed from any civilization and much from the resort, too!

They supply scorching drinks and snacks through the night. After I went, it was a full moon, however don’t let that deter you. You may nonetheless get good images throughout a full moon. In truth, I bought this cool shot of a moondog and the lights on the identical time!

6. Arctic Circle Northern Mild Tour

It is a lengthy 16-hour tour, nevertheless it’s a method to expertise one of the best of the area and cross the Arctic Circle!
Embark on a journey excessive above the Arctic Circle to Coldfoot by air. Get pleasure from lunch on the truck cease (a singular expertise itself), after which transition to a van for the charming return drive alongside Dalton Freeway to Fairbanks.

Alongside the best way, we made stops to marvel on the pipeline, interact in some exhilarating sledding, and savor the distinctive landscapes of the Arctic Circle and the Yukon. Roughly 90 minutes north of Fairbanks, we stopped at a small cabin to see the aurora. It regularly emerged throughout our van journey, reaching its full, mesmerizing show by the point we reached the cabin.

This was one in all my most memorable nights for aurora exercise, with the lights gracefully dancing throughout the sky for hours. Furthermore, the cabin supplied a pleasant haven for warming up and indulging in snacks throughout breaks between aurora spectacles. This was a protracted day – nevertheless it was price it.

Guide this tour via the Northern Alaska Tour Firm. They provide drive-up/fly-back variations in winter.

Why an Alaska Prepare Journey Ought to Be On Your Winter Itinerary

What Time Do the Northern Lights Seem in Fairbanks

The standard time the northern lights seem round Fairbanks is 10 PM to three AM. Oof – thanks, Aurora Oval, for preserving me up all evening. I made a decision an Aurora Borealis journey in Alaska can be like a visit to Vegas. You find yourself in a bizarre sleep sample the place you’re awake from 10 PM to 4 AM when the lights are hopefully seen after which sleep till 11 AM the following morning.

There are tons of nice issues to do in Fairbanks apart from chasing the Northern Lights, however simply don’t plan too many early-morning actions. Late nights and early mornings don’t combine!

TIP: Take a nap within the afternoon to organize in your late-night aurora chasing.

what to do while waiting for northern lightswhat to do while waiting for northern lights
Keep heat and awake with scorching chocolate!

“Every little thing good occurs after midnight right here.”

Peter Delemere Aurora Physicist

I’ve visited Fairbanks quite a few instances and loved viewing the Aurora Borealis there greater than I may rely. You have got all the things you want in Fairbanks, Alaska, for an incredible Northern Lights journey. One of the best half is that you just really feel like you might have a spot for your self since you’ll be blazing your personal path whereas others head to costly Scandinavian nations. Come to Fairbanks, Alaska, to see for your self!


I used to be a visitor of Discover Fairbanks throughout this journey, nonetheless all opinions expressed listed below are my very own. This put up comprises some affiliate hyperlinks. When you select to buy objects via these hyperlinks, I’ll earn a small fee at no additional value to you. These commissions assist cut back the prices of working this website

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *