Nothing captures the magic of Fairbanks quite like the aurora borealis.
Between Aug. 21 and April 21 – Aurora Season in Fairbanks – this natural phenomenon sweeps the night sky with shades of green, yellow and red in a spectacular display of Mother Nature’s talents. In the USA, one of the prime places to witness this lightshow is Fairbanks, Alaska, the state’s second-largest city. During the day, enjoy local museums, events, hot springs and outdoor recreation. For the nighttime, make note of these aurora borealis viewing tips.
Scenic Sites to View the Lights
Within a short drive of Fairbanks are waypoints where you can stop to see the northern lights.
Murphy Dome, site of a former Air Force base, is popular for ATV riding, hiking and viewing the northern lights. Its 40-kilometer distance from Fairbanks means minimal light pollution to interrupt the views.
Cleary Summit is 32 kilometers from Fairbanks. At 680 meters high and surrounded by long-range valley vistas, its vantage point offers unobstructed views of the aurora borealis. There are accommodations at the summit including cabins and lodges.
In the Chena River State Recreation Area, enjoy hiking, rock climbing, dog sledding or kayaking during the day, and take in the northern lights at night. There are many spots along Chena Hot Springs Road for great views. Stay in a hotel room, cabin or yurt at nearby Chena Hot Springs Resort.
Located just three kilometers from downtown Fairbanks, Creamer’s Field is a migratory bird sanctuary with excellent nature trails. With minimal man-made light, it’s another good spot to catch the aurora borealis.
Steese Highway leads northeast out of Fairbanks. Along this paved highway are many pullouts for a northern lights pit stop.
Want to find out your chances seeing the aurora borealis? Check out Fairbanks’ Aurora Tracker for data-informed predictions in various locations.
Spotting the northern lights from a country road
Guided Tour Options to See the Northern Lights
Specialty outfitters can enhance your northern lights viewing experience. Book a sightseeing tour led by an experienced guide to find the best viewing locations. Backpacking through the tundra, comfortable van rides, fly-and-drive day trips and photography tours are just a few fun tour options.
For the adventurous traveler, imagine riding on a dog sled through the tundra, listening to local history and lore or riding a snow machine with an expert tour guide under the otherworldly night skies. These types of excursions that combine an adventure experience with aurora borealis viewing can last a few hours or span several days.
Taking in the scenery on an aurora borealis photography tour
Accommodations that Cater to Viewing the Lights
Stay warm at local accommodations that make your aurora viewing experience as cozy as possible. Some Fairbanks area lodging options have glass roofs, north-facing windows or webcams where you can gaze into the night sky from the comfort of the indoors. Some hotels will even give you a wake-up call if the aurora appears. You can also embrace Alaska’s rugged side by staying in a rental cabin that combines the comforts of full furnishings with the quiet solitude that comes with a stay outside of the city.
A rental cabin, ideal for secluded viewing of the aurora borealis
Book a flight into Fairbanks International Airport (FAI), which offers direct flights from various U.S. and international destinations. Rental cars, taxis and shuttles are available at the airport.
More experiences nearby