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Insider Ideas for Experiencing Fairbanks Northern Lights

I used to be shocked 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 what meaning? It’s the right place to plan your Northern Lights journey as a result of it’s not as crowded or costly!

A couple of key issues make Fairbanks Alaska probably the greatest locations for northern lights viewing. I’ve been there 4 occasions within the winter and have amassed a couple of of my finest 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 just under the Arctic Circle, landlocked, and close to a world airport, Fairbanks has the right recipe for viewing the aurora borealis.

The Aurora Oval and Kp Index

aurora oval

The Northern Lights kind an oval form above the Earth’s geomagnetic poles. Fairbanks occurs to be completely positioned below the oval surrounding the North Pole. Because of this the aurora in Fairbanks is usually 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 ambiance additionally comes into play for aurora viewing. A studying of two or greater is usually thought-about good for Northern Lights recognizing; nevertheless, you possibly can 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 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 finest 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 situated 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
Lovely 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 in the course of the late night hours enhance their probability 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 status for learning Earth and its bodily environments at excessive latitudes. It consists of seven main analysis models and plenty of analysis assist amenities, 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, nevertheless, 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 totally different colours we see and the right way to spot a substorm. His general recommendation was to verify the northern lights forecasts and be persistent – very persistent.

Among the smartest aurora folks on this 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 provided on Wednesdays at 1 p.m. by way of the summer season. A self-guided tour brochure is out there within the foyer of the Elvey constructing. You’re welcome to go to the constructing and take the self-guided tour Monday by way of Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Geophysical Institute Web site

The Reality 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 purpose 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 shade (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 instructed me it was the aurora.

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

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 unhealthy luck with the aurora depth in keeping with Peter. To see any shade within the faint aurora, I needed to do images to comprehend it was there as a result of it’s not at all times seen to the human eye.

Our eyes use two several types of cells to see gentle: rods and cones. The cone cells understand tremendous element and shade however want shiny 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 shiny gentle supply, we usually solely see a monochromatic world. Nevertheless, cameras can present us what our eyes can not see. This is the reason you see pictures with shiny inexperienced lights.

Tips on how to See the Aurora in your Northern Lights Journey

Verify the Northern Lights Forecasts

There are a variety 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

You could wish to take a tour, or it’s your decision the liberty of renting a automobile and chasing the aurora by your self. Both approach is nice and I attempted out a couple of totally 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 a fantastic picture of the aurora, then I extremely suggest signing up for an aurora images workshop the primary night time you arrive in Fairbanks. In any case, it is a bucket record merchandise for most individuals and also you wish to just be sure you know what you might be doing because the aurora just isn’t a straightforward 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 house.

Frank gives starting and superior images courses and in the event you don’t have your individual DSLR or mirrorless digicam, he rents them together with tripods. You’ll depart with some spectacular night time sky and (hopefully) aurora pictures.

Aurora Viewing Tour

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

Lodges Provide Northern Lights Viewing Packages

Some motels 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. They’d a warm-ish yurt the place we may keep heat and wait, then run exterior and take pictures simply. The log cabin lodge offered an attractive foreground within the pictures.

I additionally went to and stayed on the distant Black Rapids Lodge.  It’s south of Fairbanks however ceaselessly 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 all the motels round Fairbanks will even provide you with an Aurora wake-up name in the event 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. Nevertheless – it’s exhausting to see the northern lights in Fairbanks as a result of metropolis lights, so the wake-up name is finest if you end up at motels 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

A variety of ready is concerned when chasing the northern lights, so you could wish to go for an exercise whilst you wait. Fortunately the folks in Fairbanks know the right way 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 a couple of examples:

Fairbanks northern lights tours
Photograph by Final Frontier Mushing Coop

Lease a Automobile and Go Aurora Chasing Independently

It’s also possible to simply hire 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 might be your heat ready spot in the course of the night time. The Discover Fairbanks web site has detailed viewing areas good for the unbiased 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

If you happen to determine to take a tour, listed below are six of my favorites I’ve executed 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 picture workshop in Frank and Miriam’s off-the-grid house.

TIP: Do an aurora picture workshop the primary night time in Fairbanks to make sure the remainder of your time in Alaska chasing aurora might be photographically productive!

Frank and Miriam instantly became quick buddies 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 received to know one another. This workshop was non-public in that just one celebration may e book 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 quite a lot of effort, time and cash to get to the place you possibly can see it. Once they do see it – it’s emotional and we frequently 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 discovered a ton about chilly climate Northern Lights images. Frank will even take footage of you with the lights so you might have a fantastic reminiscence of the expertise. In addition they provide different styles of issues to do on their property like snowshoeing whereas watching the northern lights, or you possibly can simply hang around and luxuriate in their canine. The expertise was every part 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 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 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 received us all suited up for a canine sled experience, one thing I had executed 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 coated with dollops of white. The canine have been desirous to run and we have been bundled up a lot that we resembled Randy from The Christmas Story.

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

After the sledding, we warmed up within the cozy yurt and received our cameras prepared. The forecast was actually constructive 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 constructive 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 movement 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 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 footage, however largely we simply loved the present.

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

Unimaginable canine sledding below the celebrities AND dancing aurora…it was two bucket record objects in a single night time!

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

3. Borealis Basecamp and Viewing Domes

In case you are searching for an extremely distinctive strategy to see the northern lights round Fairbanks and have an even 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 most recent and most glamorous strategy to see the northern lights within the area. I didn’t truly get to have the complete in a single day expertise, however I did go there in the course of 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 reworked to incorporate clear, curved home windows that stretch 16 ft throughout every igloo roof. This enables company to lie in mattress and look at 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 rest room, 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 without delay. It’s undoubtedly not intimate, however it’s enjoyable and informative. That is mainly a cushty viewing level quite than a tour. You arrive (it’s a must to get your self there) and enter the massive constructing the place you’ll be capable of 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 also have a dwell 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 transferring and keep watch over the sky.

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

Reservations are obligatory 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 properly run for my part, and it’s outdated. Nevertheless – 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 in fact.

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 car related 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 night time – removed from any civilization and much from the resort too!

They supply sizzling drinks and snacks in the course of the night. Once 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 reality, I received this cool shot of a moondog and the lights on the similar time!

6. Arctic Circle Northern Mild Tour

It is a lengthy 16-hour tour, but it surely’s a strategy 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, 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 regularly 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 provided 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 by way of the Northern Alaska Tour Firm. They provide drive-up/fly-back variations in winter

What Time Do the Northern Lights Seem in Fairbanks

The everyday 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 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 arrange on 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 occasions and loved viewing the Aurora Borealis there greater than I may depend. You will have every part you want in Fairbanks Alaska for a fantastic Northern Lights journey. And one of the best half is that you simply really feel like you might have 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, nevertheless all opinions expressed listed below are my very own. This submit accommodates some affiliate hyperlinks. If you happen to select to buy objects by way of 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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