Northern Lights Viewing in Fairbanks, Alaska
The Aurora Season runs Aug. 21 through April 21.
I chased the Northern Lights in Fairbanks, Alaska, and it was one of the best experiences of my life. It resulted in my latest book, Ghost Lights, the eighth book in my Viola Valentine paranormal mystery series (due out Sept. 15. 2023). If you’d like to view the aurora borealis, otherwise known as the Northern Lights, I’m passing along some suggestions from Explore Fairbanks.
The Aurora Season spans Aug. 21 through April 21, which means there are eight months of opportunities to see the northern lights in this part of Alaska. Fairbanks is a premier northern lights viewing location worldwide because of its rare position under the “Auroral Oval,” a band over the North and South Poles where aurora activity is concentrated. During the season, according to tourism, if visitors to the Fairbanks area spend three nights actively searching the night sky for the aurora they have a 90 percent chance of seeing this natural phenomenon.
Want a snapshot of what you'll experience? Check out this video.
But you need to experience this in person. Explore Fairbanks offers a few suggestions to complement the experience as well.
Here they are…
1. Photography: Capturing the Curtains of Lights
Many local businesses have skilled photographers and guides who are eager to assist you in setting up your camera to capture photographs of the northern lights. If you’d rather step in front of the camera, a variety of tour operators and aurora businesses will take your picture against the stunning backdrop of the aurora borealis giving you the chance to take home a once-in-a-lifetime keepsake.
2. Ice Fishing: Serenity and Solitude Beneath the Auroras
Connect with a knowledgeable guide to help you drill through the ice that can reach up to four feet in thickness. As you patiently wait for the aurora to appear overhead, drop your line to catch chinook or coho salmon, Arctic char, or rainbow trout. Some outfitters will prepare your freshly caught fish in a warm and comfy hut right on the spot.
3. Dog Mushing: An Aurora Adventure with Furry Companions
The swirling aurora in the night sky serves as the perfect backdrop for taking a quick 30-minute ride in the basket of a dog sled. For the more adventurous, learn to mush your own team on a multi-day excursion into the Alaskan wilderness. Whether you opt for a quick jaunt or embark on an extended adventure, Alaska’s high-energy and adorable sled dogs will steal your heart. Note: I visited Trail Breaker Kennels in Fairbanks when I toured the state with John Hall's Alaska tours (highly recommended) and got to hold those adorable puppies at left.
4. Hot Springs: The Ultimate in Relaxation
Easily accessible from Fairbanks, take a dip in a natural hot spring pool while the northern lights dance above you. Imagine yourself floating in the warmth despite the crisp air around you. Enjoy the rejuvenating mineral-rich springs to relax your body and warm your soul at the end of an adventure-filled day. Note: I soaked in these delicious mineral waters (and so did Viola) at Chena Hot Springs on a gorgeous autumn day.
5. Snowmobiling: Riding the Snowy Trails Under the Aurora
Experience the rush of snowmobiling under the northern lights. Snowmachines—as they are most often called in Alaska—are one of the easiest ways to get into the incredible snowy areas that surround Fairbanks. With the assistance of a knowledgeable guide, you'll receive the necessary equipment, expert guidance, and an invigorating journey through the backcountry, all while the aurora swirls above.
6. Reindeer: A Truly Magical Evening
Envision a truly enchanting evening combining the beauty of the northern lights and the fun, playful energy of reindeer. These whimsical, domesticated cousins of caribou make engaging and entertaining companions to stroll alongside and visit with. Let the magic of the reindeer and aurora borealis forever leave a mark on your heart. Note: For a fun and informative immersion experience, visit Running Reindeer Ranch.
7. Arctic Circle: An Extraordinary Journey
Travel north from Fairbanks to discover a landscape like no other. While it’s not recommended to traverse the Dalton Highway yourself, especially in winter, it’s easy to connect with a guide or tour company to fly or drive you to the Arctic Circle and beyond. Whether you opt for a single-day trip or an unforgettable overnight one, scanning the skies for the aurora above the Arctic Circle certainly is an opportunity not to be overlooked.
Cherie Claire is the author of the Viola Valentine paranormal mystery series. Her latest, Ghost Lights, takes place in and around Fairbanks and the Arctic Circle. And yes, Viola witnesses the Northern Lights, just like her author.