Insider Ideas 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 understand what which means? It’s the proper 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 finest 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 with the intention to take advantage of 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

Situated slightly below the Arctic Circle, landlocked, and close to a global airport, Fairbanks has the proper recipe for viewing the aurora borealis.

The Aurora Oval and Kp Index

aurora oval

The Northern Lights type an oval form above the Earth’s geomagnetic poles. Fairbanks occurs to be completely positioned beneath the oval surrounding the North Pole. Which means the aurora in Fairbanks is often seen straight overhead! This distinctive vantage level is nice for aurora images and is barely discovered beneath 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 greater is often thought of good for Northern Lights recognizing; nonetheless, you possibly can see Northern Lights in Fairbanks even when there may be low exercise due to its place beneath the aurora circle.

“You haven’t seen the aurora till you possibly can look straight up and see it overhead. Whenever you see it overhead – you possibly can see how a lot construction is in it. So it’s greatest to come back north beneath 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 might be 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 which means numerous clear skies!

northern lights trip fairbanks
Stunning clear night time 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 throughout the late night hours enhance their likelihood of seeing the aurora to greater than 80 %!”

Discover Fairbanks

Fairbanks Geophysical Institute

The Geophysical Institute on the College of Alaska Fairbanks has earned a global popularity for finding out Earth and its bodily environments at excessive latitudes. It consists of seven main analysis items and plenty 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 realized what makes the completely different colours we see and spot a substorm. His general recommendation was to test the northern lights forecasts and be persistent – very persistent.

Among the smartest aurora folks on the planet are in Fairbanks, another excuse why it’s a fantastic 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 on the market within the foyer of the Elvey constructing. You might be 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 Fairbanks Alaska I assumed the Northern Lights have been all simply hype. No – I haven’t joined a Flat Earth Society or determined World Warming is a hoax, I simply didn’t know if I totally 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 photos and movies. There was no coloration (aside from what lengthy publicity images might seize), and there was no dancing. As a substitute what I noticed was a grey, cloudy glowing blob. These aurora sightings might’ve been mistaken for moon glow or fog, and I by no means would have even observed them besides folks instructed me it was the aurora.

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

I instructed Peter Delamere on the Geophysical Institute about my conspiracy principle 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
What our eyes see…
northern lights viewing
What our cameras can seize

I suppose I simply had dangerous luck with the aurora depth in accordance with 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 at all times seen to the human eye.

Our eyes use two various kinds of cells to see gentle: rods and cones. The cone cells understand advantageous element and coloration however want vibrant gentle. Rod cells can solely see black and white and have poor decision however stay delicate even in very low gentle. At night time with none vibrant gentle supply, we usually solely see a monochromatic world. Nonetheless, cameras can present us what our eyes can’t see. That is why you see images with vibrant inexperienced lights.

Methods to See the Aurora in your Northern Lights Journey

Verify the Northern Lights Forecasts

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

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

Take a Northern Lights Tour

It’s possible you’ll need to take a tour, or it’s your decision the liberty of renting a automotive 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 Picture Excursions

In case your objective is to get a fantastic photograph of the aurora, then I extremely suggest signing up for an aurora images workshop the primary night time you arrive in Fairbanks. In spite of everything, this can be a bucket listing merchandise for most individuals and also you need to just be sure you know what you might be doing because the aurora will not be 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 presents starting and superior images lessons and in case you don’t have your individual DSLR or mirrorless digital camera, he rents them together with tripods. You’ll go away with some spectacular night time sky and (hopefully) aurora images.

Aurora Viewing Tour

These excursions usually have large numbers of individuals with a mixture of photograph addicts and simply individuals who need to see the aurora. As you may guess – these aren’t my jam. I hate large excursions and coach buses, nonetheless, it really works for some folks and it’s good to know that Fairbanks presents a majority 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 lodges provide aurora viewing choices the place folks can come and keep up all night time in a heat setting like a yurt or lodge however simply run exterior and benefit from the present when it arrives. We went to Style of Alaska Lodge simply exterior of Fairbanks and so they had an ideal setup for viewing. That they had a warm-ish yurt the place we might keep heat and wait, then run exterior and take images simply. The log cabin lodge offered a gorgeous 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 lovely northern lights sightings.  The attractive factor about Black Rapids is that it’s surrounded by the Jap Alaska Mountain Vary, so you possibly can see the Northern Lights over the mountains!

Fairbanks Aurora

It’s additionally price noting that the entire lodges round Fairbanks can even offer you an Aurora wake-up name in case you join it. This implies you don’t have to sit down up all night time ready, they do all of the exhausting work and name you when they’re out. Nonetheless – it’s exhausting to see the northern lights in Fairbanks because of the metropolis lights, so the wake-up name is greatest if you find yourself at lodges within the countryside away from the sunshine air pollution.

Uncover the place to search out autumn colours in Alaska

Have an Journey Whereas Viewing the Aurora

Loads of ready is concerned when chasing the northern lights, so it’s possible you’ll need to go for an exercise when you wait. Fortunately the folks in Fairbanks know 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 here are just a few examples:

Fairbanks northern lights tours
Picture by Final Frontier Mushing Coop

Lease a Automotive and Go Aurora Chasing Independently

You may as well simply lease a automotive and head out independently for so long as you’d like. Simply guarantee you’ve a full fuel tank because the automotive will probably be your heat ready spot in the course of the night time. The Discover Fairbanks web site has detailed viewing areas good for the impartial aurora chaser full with maps and descriptions of the place you possibly can pull over and wait. Convey heat garments and meals and water!

My Favourite Fairbanks Aurora Borealis Excursions

Should you resolve 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 stage perked up and my sleepiness subsided. This was a small intimate photograph workshop in Frank and Miriam’s off-the-grid residence.

TIP: Do an aurora photograph workshop the primary night time 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 mates as we talked of their little cabin lit by candlelight. All of us had a lifetime of travels beneath 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 might ebook it. Frank’s objective 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 listing. They dream of it for a very long time. And it’s numerous effort, time and money to get to the place you possibly can 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 massive present. I realized a ton about chilly climate Northern Lights images. Frank can even take photos of you with the lights so you’ve a fantastic reminiscence of the expertise. In addition they provide different kinds of issues to do on their property like snowshoeing whereas watching the northern lights, or you possibly can simply hang around and revel in their canines. The expertise was all the pieces I might’ve requested for and extra.

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

Aurora Bear Images: Learn what different folks considered Aurora Bear Images on Journey Advisor. Take a look at all of the Aurora Bear Picture Workshops.

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

Amanda and Ryne, the 2 girls 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 experience, 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 timber have been magical all lined with dollops of white. The canines have been desperate to run and we have been bundled up a lot that we resembled Randy from The Christmas Story.

Petrified of the chilly climate in Fairbanks within the Winter? It simply takes the appropriate gear.
Take a look at my Alaska winter packing listing and go ready!

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

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

We spent the subsequent 90 minutes exterior watching because the lights grew in depth and began to maneuver and circulate 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 photos that night time, as a result of I used to be mesmerized simply watching it with my eyes. The night time was chilly however good. We sat by the hearth, had sizzling chocolate, and took photos, however largely we simply loved the present.

The Mushing Co-op can even take photos of you with the aurora, in addition to do enjoyable gentle images as you look forward to the aurora to seem.

Unimaginable canine sledding beneath the celebs AND dancing aurora…it was two bucket listing objects in a single night time!

Aurora Watching and Canine Sledding: Learn what different folks needed to say concerning the Final Frontier Mushing Co-op on Journey Advisor. Take a look at Aurora Watching and Canine Sledding.

3. Borealis Basecamp and Viewing Domes

If you’re searching for an extremely distinctive approach to see the northern lights round Fairbanks and have an even bigger funds, then try 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 most recent and most glamorous approach to see the northern lights within the area. I didn’t truly get to have the total in a single day expertise, however I did go there throughout 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. Nonetheless, 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 consider the northern lights with out leaving their cozy cover.

Borealis Basecamp aurora viewing fairbanks

The igloos are by no means primitive though 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 exterior of Fairbanks that caters to quite a few folks directly. It’s undoubtedly not intimate, however it’s enjoyable and informative. That is principally a snug viewing level quite than a tour. You arrive (you need to get your self there) and enter the massive 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, sizzling drinks, and all-you-can-eat cookies. Whilst you wait they do a lecture on the aurora explaining the what and the way of the phenomenon.

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

As well as, they’ve a few pretty firepits exterior the place you too can hang around and maintain watch on the sky. Or you possibly can hike alongside one of many many paths within the fields to maintain shifting and keep watch over the sky.

They are going to take photos of you and the aurora and enable you to with your individual images too. This expertise is a superb cut price – however you definitely gained’t be alone.

Reservations are essential and you’ll have to present your individual transportation there.

5. Chena Sizzling Springs Aurora Tour

I’m not a giant fan of Chena Sizzling Springs – the standard has actually diminished each time I return, it’s not nicely run for my part, and it’s outdated. Nonetheless – they do have a fantastic and distinctive aurora tour they provide that’s price one in a single day keep. Plus – you do get to benefit from the sizzling springs too after all.

The tour is like nothing I’ve skilled earlier than. They name it a snow coach tour, but it surely’s not a bus, it’s an outdated military-style monitor automobile related like a prepare to different ‘automobiles’. 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 night time – removed from any civilization and much from the resort too!

They supply sizzling drinks and snacks throughout the night. After I went it was a full moon, however don’t let that deter you. You possibly can nonetheless get good images throughout a full moon. The truth is, I bought this cool shot of a moondog and the lights on the similar time!

6. Arctic Circle Northern Mild Tour

This can be a lengthy 16-hour tour, but it surely’s a approach 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. Take pleasure in lunch on the truck cease (a novel 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, have interaction 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 step by step emerged throughout our van experience, reaching its full, mesmerizing show by the point we reached the cabin.

This was certainly one of 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 an extended day – but it surely was price it.

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

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 retaining me up all night time. I made a decision an aurora borealis journey in Alaska is sort of a journey to Vegas. You find yourself in a bizarre sleep sample the place you might be awake from 10 PM to 4 AM when the lights are hopefully seen after which sleep till 11 AM the subsequent morning.

There are tons of nice issues to do in Fairbanks moreover 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 arrange to your late-night aurora chasing.

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

“All the things 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 might rely. You will have all the pieces you want in Fairbanks Alaska for a fantastic Northern Lights journey. And one of the best half is that you just really feel like you’ve the place to your self since you’ll be blazing your individual path whereas others head to costly Scandinavian international locations. 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 submit comprises some affiliate hyperlinks. Should you select to buy objects via these hyperlinks, I’ll earn a small fee at no further value to you. These commissions assist scale back the prices of operating this website


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