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When & Where to See Northern Lights in FAIRBANKS ALASKA

where to see northern lights in fairbanks

Planning on going to Fairbanks AK to experience the breath-taking aurora? In this article, we explain precisely when and where to see Northern Lights in Fairbanks Alaska, to help make your trip a success.

Fairbanks is one of the most popular destinations in the world for Aurora hunters. The region in and around Fairbanks is renowned for offering some of the most awe-inspiring displays of the northern lights imaginable. If you are planning to visit Alaska this year to capture a glimpse of the elusive lights, then you should know when and where to see Northern Lights in Fairbanks Alaska, to give yourself the best chance of getting sighting them.

In this article, we discuss the best time to see northern lights Fairbanks, and explain exactly where to see Northern Lights in Fairbanks and nearby areas.

Best Time to See Northern Lights Fairbanks

Although the northern lights exist year-round, they are not visible during the peak of the summer months. During the summer, the days are much longer, and there is a very short period when the night skies are perfectly dark.

Timing Considerations for Fairbanks Northern Lights

Peak Months for Aurora Activity

Peak Months: Late September to Early April

The peak months for viewing the aurora borealis start in late September and go until early April. During the winter months, the nights are much longer than the days, which allows for extended periods of darkness and clear skies. Although it may be possible to see the auroras during the peak of the solar cycle outside of this window, if you wish to increase your chances of viewing some of the most vibrant auroras imaginable, then you will need to make your way to Fairbanks between December and March.

For more tips, check out out article on choosing the best time to see the aurora borealis in Alaska.

Peak YEARS for Aurora Activity

Peak Years: 2023 to 2025

The solar cycle plays an important role in determining just how visible the aurora borealis will be. The modern-era solar cycle is roughly 11 years long, during which time, activity on the surface of the sun increases during the peak. It is during this peak that the amount of solar activity is at its greatest, and it is commonly known as solar maximum. The number of solar storms and bursts of radiation being ejected from the sun increases and that energy interacts with the earth’s magnetosphere. As the solar winds carry this highly charged radiation around the earth, it creates a charge similar to that of a fluorescent light bulb.

Fortunately for aurora hunters we have recently entered the next solar cycle peak, and can expect to see higher solar activity (and therefore higher aurora activity) between 2023 to 2025. After this time, aurora activity will gradually diminish a little each year until the next trough, after which it will start to increase again for the next peak in 11 years time, repeating like this, ever onward.

For more tips, check out our article on choosing the best years for the aurora based on solar activity.

best time to see northern lights fairbanks winter
The cooler months are the best times for seeing the aurora in Fairbanks (late Sept to early April).

Where to See Northern Lights in Fairbanks?

Best Places to See Northern Lights in Fairbanks Alaska

Fairbanks Alaska is without a question a popular destination for Aurora hunters. Not only is there an increased chance of viewing the elusive lights in and around the city, but there are also a number of excellent locations where you can sit back, relax, and stare up at the night sky hunting for hours.

Murphy Dome

You will find Murphy Dome located to the northwest of Fairbanks, and it provides visitors to the region with one of the most picturesque vantage points imaginable. Murphy Dome is situated at nearly 2,890 feet above sea level, and towers over the surrounding Alaskan countryside. Its elevation also helps to prevent clouds from interfering with the awe-inspiring spectacle. Many of the local guided tours take you up to Murphy Dome in order to hunt for the auroras.

Why it’s an Excellent Location

Naturally, there are several excellent reasons for choosing Murphy Dome over any other destination in the Fairbanks area.

Elevation Advantage

Not only is the mountain fairly close to the city of Fairbanks, but its higher altitude provides hunters with a clearer view of the horizon in all directions. At the same time, the elevation also reduces the amount of light pollution that can impact the overall viewing experience.

Unobstructed Views

Because you are viewing from a higher elevation, you are provided with an unobstructed view in all directions. For those looking to photograph the elusive lights, Murphy Dome provides you with the ability to capture breathtaking panoramic photos and videos of the ghostly lights as they dance through the night skies.

Considerations for Visiting

When choosing to visit Murphy Dome, there are several things that you must take into consideration before you head out into the wilderness.

Remote Location

Although close to the city of Fairbanks, Murphy Dome is still considered to be a remote location. As a result, it is important to make sure that you have reliable transportation, especially during the winter months. You will also need to pay close attention to weather conditions before you choose to head out into the countryside. Keep in mind that during the winter months, the road that leads to Murphy Dome can be quite challenging.

Chena Lakes Recreation Area

Just outside of Fairbanks, you will also find the Chena Lakes Recreation Area. This park is a very popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, as it provides them with access to the Alaskan wilderness, without having to venture too far away from urban life. It is also an excellent location for those wanting to witness the northern lights. Not only is the region known for its stunning beauty, but it also provides an excellent backdrop for viewing the lights.

Why it’s an Excellent Location

Of course, we can’t talk about Chena Lakes, without also discussing why it is an excellent location for viewing the auroras.

Reflective Surfaces

The Chena Lakes Recreation Area is so called due to the numerous bodies of water located within the park. During the summer months, they provide the residents of Fairbanks with water activities, and during the winter months, they act as a natural mirror, which reflects the northern lights beautifully, adding to the mesmerizing effect of viewing the natural phenomenon.


Of course, the Chena Lakes Recreation Area is also extremely accessible. Due to its proximity to the city of Fairbanks, it is a popular choice for locals and tourists to the region. It is also much easier to access than other viewing locations during the peak of the winter months.

Considerations for Visiting

When choosing to visit the Chena Lakes Recreation Area to view the auroras, make sure to dress warmly.

Dress Warmly

Due to the wide-open spaces, the temperatures in the recreation area during the winter months can be quite colder than in any other location. The lake effect, as it is commonly referred to, provides wind with the ability to pick up speed and reach much cooler temperatures. Make sure to wear layers and dress as warmly as possible.

best places where to see northern lights in fairbanks AK
Cleary Summit is a dark sky viewing area, meaning limits are imposed on light pollution, making for great night sky views.

Cleary Summit

While Murphy Dome is located to the northwest of Fairbanks, you will find Cleary Summit about 20 miles to the northeast. Cleary Summit is a designated Dark Sky Viewing Area that is known for providing some of the most awe-inspiring views of the elusive lights. As a dark sky area, Cleary Summit provides visitors to the region with a viewing experience that is absent of any major form of light pollution, that would otherwise interfere with the viewing of the natural phenomenon.

Why it’s an Excellent Location

There are several reasons why Cleary Summit is an excellent location for viewing the aurora borealis outside of Fairbanks.

Dark Sky Viewing Area

Cleary Summit, approximately 20 miles northeast of Fairbanks, is designated as a Dark Sky Viewing Area. This means minimal light pollution, providing optimal conditions for observing the Northern Lights.

Facilities Available

Since Cleary Summit is a specially designated area, created for the purpose of viewing the elusive lights, a lot of effort has been put into place to offer facilities that visitors to the area need. Not only are there plenty of parking areas located throughout the Summit, but there are a number of warming huts that visitors to the area can take advantage of, to warm up after spending time out in the bitter Alaskan cold.

Considerations for Visiting

If you are planning on visiting Cleary Summit while you are in Fairbanks, there are several factors you need to take into consideration before heading out into the field.

Check Viewing Conditions

Although a mere 20 miles outside of Fairbanks, Cleary Summit is a remote destination and the last thing you want to happen is to get stranded should a winter storm pop up. At the same time, Cleary Summit is also a specifically designated viewing area, and as a result, it can attract larger crowds than other locations around the city. Make sure to check the weather forecast and arrive early if possible.

Wickersham Dome Trail

For those looking to hike their way through the Alaskan wilderness, as they hunt for the northern lights, the Wickersham Dome Trail is the perfect option. Not only is it popular for those hunting for the auroras, but it also offers some of the best hiking in the region. The trail itself is renowned for its location, which provides visitors with an elevated view. With the tranquil Alaskan wilderness surrounding you, the Wickersham Dome Trail provides visitors with an amazing vantage point for viewing the elusive lights.

Why it’s an Excellent Location

Several reasons make the Wickersham Dome Trail an excellent location for viewing the auroras.

360-Degree Views

Thanks to its higher elevation, hikers on the Wickersham Dome Trail are provided with a 360° view of the surrounding Alaskan wilderness. This allows visitors to immerse themselves in the experience, as they view the ghostly lights in all directions.

Tranquil Setting

Since the location is a hiking trail, it generally has a lot fewer visitors than any other location in or around Fairbanks. As a result, those who visit the area are awarded with a more peaceful viewing experience than can be experienced at other destinations.

Considerations for Visiting

Keep in mind that the Wickersham Dome Trail is a hiking trail, so there are some factors you need to take into consideration when visiting the location.

Hiking Preparedness

Although not the longest trail, the Wickersham Dome Trail will nevertheless require you to hike. As a result, you need to make sure that you are wearing the appropriate gear which includes sturdy, warm boots, and plenty of layering. When visiting Fairbanks during the middle of winter, you will need to check the trail conditions, and whether Wickersham is open and accessible.

Conclusion on When & Where to See Northern Lights in Fairbanks

This draws our article on the best times and places to see northern lights in and around Fairbanks Alaska to a close. Fairbanks is a very popular area for northern lights viewing, and for good reason. With many excellent spots around the area for seeing the lights, so long as you choose the right time of year and are prepared to stay awhile (give it a week, if you can) then your chances of seeing the aurora from this hotspot are quite good.

Just make sure to keep your eye on the weather and moon cycles while you’re out there, which we discuss in our article on how to choose the best time to see the Alaska northern lights.

Best Time to See Northern Lights in Fairbanks AK

  • Cooler months, late September to early April.
  • Avoid summer, as the daylight hours are too long, and extreme darkness is required to enjoy the aurora.

Where to See Northern Lights in Fairbanks AK

  • Murphy Dome: High elevation means less chance of cloud cover and incredible vantage points.
  • Chena Lakes Recreation Area: Easy accessibility, and bodies of water result in beautiful aurora reflections (before they freeze over).
  • Cleary Summit: Designated dark sky viewing area, means very dark skies and no light pollution.
  • Wickersham Dome Trail: Hiking trail with secluded and elevated vantage points deep within the Alaskan wilderness.

For more travel tips for your Alaska trip, be sure to check out our guide on How to See Northern Lights in Alaska, and our full list of articles on our Northern Lights Alaska page.

Happy aurora hunting!

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