Fairbanks, Alaska is Alaska’s largest inside metropolis, it’s positioned proper within the Aurora oval, and is slightly below the Arctic Circle.

It’s additionally a navy city, is simple to get to, and is well-situated for anybody hoping to see the northern lights in addition to street tripping to a few of Alaska’s most magical winter locations.

I visited on the finish of February, early March in 2021 and these are the entire great issues I discovered to do in and round Fairbanks:

Chase the Northern Lights

alaska in winter aurora borealis
Aurora over Denali Nationwide Park and me huddled within the who-ville bushes

My predominant cause for heading to Fairbanks within the winter was to see the northern lights, additionally generally known as the aurora borealis. Fairbanks is located within the aurora oval (as is Iceland, Finnish Lapland, and elements of Canada), and has a greater place than Anchorage, or particularly Juneau, for lights viewing. Even when exercise is a bit decrease, you might have a greater likelihood of seeing the lights inside the Aurora oval than exterior of it. You possibly can see what I imply by trying out the aurora forecast.

So how do you see the northern lights? You want clear skies, darkish skies, and excessive exercise. The KP index measures how sturdy the aurora are on a scale of 1 to 9. Even when it’s solely a two or three, you continue to have an opportunity of seeing a faint glow supplied you’re inside the aurora oval. Nonetheless in the event you get fortunate and see a KP 4 or 5, you’ll actually see the sky dance!

aurora
the lights over our lodge in Denali (test it out within the Denali part under!)

Though we flew into and primarily based ourselves round Fairbanks, the town itself will not be an amazing place to see the lights as a result of gentle air pollution of the town. I’d keep on Moose Mountain, a ski space exterior of city, or head all the way down to Denali Nationwide Park like we did (extra on that later). You can even drive or take an aurora to the Chena scorching springs, which you’ll see extra on under.

Though you may take Aurora excursions, which is able to drive you out to the very best viewing places and can aid you get pictures of the northern lights, the way in which I’ve all the time finished it’s by having a rental automotive and driving myself. The great factor about touring in Alaska within the winter is there aren’t many vacationers, and lodging hardly ever runs out forward of time, so leaving room and your itinerary for serendipity may work in your favor in case your predominant goal is to see the northern lights.

Nonetheless I perceive not everybody is aware of learn how to {photograph} the lights, and never everybody feels comfy driving at night time within the snow, so listed below are some nice choices for lights viewing round Fairbanks:

  • The Aurora Lodge: Completely located yurts that you could keep in whereas watching the skies for aurora. This expertise contains transport and studying about canine mushing as effectively.
  • Arctic Circle and Aurora Tour: Drive alongside the well-known Dalton Freeway to the Arctic Circle with probabilities for wildlife and northern lights viewing (notice that the majority automotive rental firms won’t permit their autos on this treacherous street, so a tour like that is your finest guess!)
  • Moonlight dogsled, dinner, and northern lights: Get a magical expertise mushing at night time whereas wanting on the aurora.

The Castner Glacier Ice Cave

alaska in winter
This ice cave positive was cool! However we needed to snow shoe via deep snow to get to it

The Castner glacier ice cave is a few 2 1/2 hour drive south of Fairbanks. Hill additionally handed by the north pole, which has Santa themed actions. I’ll discuss extra about that under, however in the event you don’t have children and would quite have an outside journey, the ice cave is tremendous cool (pun meant).

Although I’m used to ice caves showing and disappearing in a single day in most glaciers, this ice cave is all the time there. Even in the event you go to in the summertime, you’ll nonetheless discover an ice cave! Watch extra within the video:

That mentioned, within the winter you may stroll alongside the frozen river to entry it. I used to be in a position to comply with a fairly clear set of snowshoe tracks to achieve it, making it straightforward to seek out. Nonetheless that doesn’t imply it was straightforward to hike to! Though the path is flat, the snow was very deep once I went, requiring snow footwear. Most individuals who didn’t have snow footwear stored sinking into the waist-deep snow and didn’t make all of it the way in which. I perceive it’s not all the time like that, however it’s onerous to know the circumstances earlier than you go, so in the event you do have snow footwear, convey them together with you. It could be a bummer to drive all that means and never attain the cave.

Yow will discover the cave’s roadside parking space right here.

Denali Nationwide Park

alaska in the winter
May you stand right here in the summertime in Denali? No means!

Denali Nationwide Park is swarming with folks within the summertime. It’s not onerous to grasp why, for the reason that park is attractive and Denali is the tallest peak in North America. Nonetheless though I’ve been to Alaska twice in the summertime, the crowds have stored me away from Denali.

However what about within the winter time? Many of the nationwide park is inaccessible within the winter, with solely the street as much as mile 3 cleared. However ever since 2018, in February they start to plow the park’s predominant street all the way in which as much as mile 12.5 (sure, even in 2021 COVID instances when this put up was written). This lets you get wonderful views of the mountains throughout.

Only a few folks whom I spoke with advisable going to Denali within the winter, however I’m glad I didn’t hear. There are nonetheless loads of snowshoe trails, and we solely handed a handful of different folks within the park all day. Are you able to think about having Denali Nationwide Park virtually completely to your self?

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