Planning a trip but wondering when is the best time to visit Anchorage, Alaska? We recommend which months and seasons are ideal depending on the activities you plan to do. Our recommendations are based on factors such as the best time for hiking, biking, fishing, sightseeing, festivals, wildlife and whale watching, and more. We also provide tips on which months have the best prices, pros, and cons for each season in Anchorage. Our recommendations are based on our experience.This article may contain affiliate / compensated links. For full information, please see our disclaimer here.
Best Time to Visit Anchorage Alaska
Overall the best time to visit Anchorage, Alaska, is May through September. The peak tourist season is from June to August, as Summer is the most popular time to visit Anchorage, with the most variety of activities and things to do.
However, determining the best time to visit Anchorage largely depends on your planned activities. Are you looking to hike, explore glaciers, view wildlife, halibut or salmon fishing, go sightseeing, or perhaps witness the breathtaking Northern Lights? Each season offers its own unique experiences. Therefore, from this article, you will learn which month and season to visit Anchorage, depending on the planned activities in Anchorage.
When to Visit Anchorage – Our Experiences
Alaska is a beloved state we often visit, with Anchorage being our go-to spot due to its exceptional international connections, reasonable accommodation, and car rental prices. Anchorage is an ideal starting point for road trips around the state, with its great interconnections and strategic location. From Anchorage, you can embark on plenty of day trips on your own or with a guided tour.
We visited Anchorage in different months and seasons. That’s why we share information and tips based on our experience and analysis. We advise you on the best months to visit Anchorage, depending on the activities you plan to do there. After numerous visits to this city, we also have our picks for the best months for a trip to Anchorage and some valuable tips.
And our most important tip is to be prepared for sudden weather changes whether you plan to visit Anchorage or any other place in Alaska. Always be ready for the four seasons because winter, severe storms, or fog can surprise you even in summer. Be prepared for wind, cold, rain, and mud, no matter the weather forecast. And check out our tips on what you absolutely must pack for Alaska. Also, always have contingency plans for your sightseeing program if the weather breaks.
Anchorage Alaska Climate
Anchorage has a subarctic climate. The weather on any given day is very unpredictable. But the weather in any part of Alaska is unpredictable and can change in a matter of minutes. That’s why it’s crucial to pack appropriately for your Alaska vacation, depending on what activities you plan to do. During the year, the temperature usually varies between 13°F and 68°F and is rarely below -8°F or above 75°F. Summer in Anchorage is usually short, cool, and cloudy. Winter in Anchorage is usually long, icy, snowy and partly cloudy.
Because of Anchorage’s high latitude, summer days are very long, and daylight hours are very short in winter. The longest day with sunshine is 18 hours and 21 minutes; the shortest is 5 hours and 28 minutes.
Summer in Anchorage (June-August)
Best For Wildlife Viewing, Hiking, Camping, Cycling, Kayaking, Fishing, Midnight Sun
Average Temperatures in Anchorage in Summer: Daily high temperatures in Anchorage are about 65°F in Summer and rarely fall below 56°F or exceed 75°F. Daily lows are around 51°F and rarely drop below 43°F or exceed 59°F. It’s almost always cloudy in Anchorage during the Summer. The chance of wet weather on any given day increases rapidly during the Summer, reaching 20% early in the season and 35% by the end.
Since June, the day in Anchorage has lasted almost 19 hours. Midnight Sun is a great time because you can spend a lot of time actively outdoors. The days are very long so you can plan longer routes in your Alaska itinerary. The ideal season for outdoor exploration in Anchorage is during Summer, with average high temperatures ranging from the mid to low 60s °F and lows reaching the upper 40s °F.
But it’s also peak season in Alaska, with the biggest crowds in Anchorage and beyond. The prices are the highest. To take advantage of the best price deals, book accommodation and tours (especially whale watching from Seward, kayaking tours, glaciers tours, and bear viewing tours) well in advance. Don’t leave it to the last minute if you want to avoid bankruptcy.
Summer in Anchorage is also the best time for hiking. Great hiking trails you have at nearby Hatcher Pass, or Chugach State Park.
Moreover, Summer is also a great time to visit Anchorage if you like fishing. The best salmon fishing rivers near Anchorage are the Kenai, Ninilchik, Moose, and Kasilof. Also, those lakes are popular among locals: Beach Lake, Campbell Point Lake, Cheney Lake, and DeLong Lake. Remember about fishing licenses.
Pros and Cons of Visiting Anchorage in Summer
Summer in Anchorage Pros
Summer in Anchorage Cons
Fall in Anchorage (September-November)
Best For: Fall colors, Northern Lights, Hiking, Cycling
Average Temperatures in Anchorage in Fall: Daily maximum temperatures in Anchorage drop significantly by 37°F, from 62°F to 25°F. Daily low temperatures also drop 33°F, from 49°F to 16°F. It’s rare for temperatures to drop below -0°F or rise above 53°F. The probability of a wet day decreases rapidly over the season, from 36% to 24%.
We enjoyed the fall in Anchorage because the weather was perfect. Rain fell less often than in summer, and we had the opportunity to enjoy the fall foliage. Prices were also slightly better than during the peak season. Fall is the best time to visit Anchorage if you like mountain hiking or cycling. Theoretically, you can see the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) in the fall. Still, you must remember that the best chance of seeing it is out of the city, preferably north of Anchorage.
Our Tip: Explore Anchorage’s extensive bike path network spanning 135 miles across the city, with the breathtaking Tony Knowles Coastal Trail as its highlight. Rent a bike from downtown and embark on an unforgettable 11-mile ride along the picturesque shoreline to admire fall colors.
Pros and Cons of Visiting Anchorage in Fall
Fall in Anchorage Pros
Fall in Anchorage Cons
Winter in Anchorage (December-February)
Best For: Northern Lights, Skiing, Snowshoeing, Mushing, Snow Sculpture
Average Temperatures in Anchorage in Winter: Daily high temperatures in Anchorage rise 6°F in winter, from 25°F to 31°F, and rarely fall below 5°F or exceed 41°F. Daily lows are 15°F and rarely fall below -8°F or exceed 31°F.
Winter in Anchorage is harsh, the days are very short, and you have little sunlight. But this is the best time to see the Northern Lights. However, you have the best chance to admire this wonder of nature in the far north. You can consider day trips from Fairbanks or around Fairbanks, like the famous Chena Hot Springs. Of course, you can also see the Northern Lights in Anchorage, but this view may not be so spectacular because the city is large and very lit up at night. And the closer the Arctic Circle, the greater the chances. Winter is the best time to visit Anchorage if you dream of a dog sled trip in the snow or like skiing and snowshoeing.
Pros and Cons of Visiting Anchorage in Winter
Winter in Anchorage Pros
Winter in Anchorage Cons
Spring in Anchorage (March-May)
Best For: Whale-Watching Tours, The Iditarod, Sightseeing Anchorage, Wildflowers
Average Temperatures in Anchorage in Spring: Throughout the day, temperatures tend to rise from 31°F to 62°F, with occasional dips as low as 19°F or peaks as high as 70°F. During the night, temperatures typically range from 17°F to 47°F, with rare occurrences of drops below 1°F or climbs above 52°F. As Spring progresses, the probability of experiencing a rainy day is on the rise. It begins at 16% at the beginning of the season and reaches 20% by the end.
Although Anchorage experiences lower prices and fewer tourists during Spring, the weather remains wintry, especially in March. But it’s a great time to visit Anchorage if you want to see the Iditarod Sled Dog Race at the beginning of March. Whale watching season starts in April, as gray whales are the first to arrive typically in April, and run through September or October. You can spot gray whales in Seward during a perfect day trip from Anchorage. And prices for whale-watching cruises are lower in April and May. By May, more orcas come, then humpback whales come June. Usually, the first wildflowers appear at the end of April or the beginning of May.
The city will also be quite wet and muddy due to the melting snow and all the slush, so pack rubber boots. But such wet Spring days can be great for visiting the Anchorage Museum and Alaska Native Heritage Center, embarking on an Alaskan Brewery Tour, or learning about the Ulu knife’s history at The ULU Factory. The longer days start in March, so you can plan your stay better and see more.
Our Tip: Book this Kenai Fjords National Park 6-Hour Cruise from Seward, as it’s one of the best wildlife experiences in Kenai National Park.
Pros and Cons of Visiting Anchorage in Spring
Spring in Anchorage Pros
Spring in Anchorage Cons
Best Time to Visit Anchorage for Wildlife Viewing
By far, the best time to visit Anchorage for wildlife viewing is during the summer months. You have the best chance of seeing wildlife in its natural habitat in June, July, and August. In summer, you can encounter almost all species, including animals awakened from hibernation. You can observe bears (mostly brown bears, grizzly, and black bears), moose, elk, bald eagles, and marine wildlife, such as gray whales, humpback, beluga, and more. The whale watching season in Alaska starts as early as April, but the summer months are the best if you also want to see other wildlife, especially bears. Plus, during these months, you have the biggest selection of wildlife viewing tours from Anchorage and other cities.
Although Anchorage is a large city, it is easy to spot moose and bears on the roads and in city parks. But most of all, you can go from Anchorage for wildlife viewing trips. You can quickly get from Anchorage to Seward or Whittier for a whale-watching cruise.
Best Time to Visit Anchorage for National Parks Exploring
Did you know that Alaska has eight national parks? That’s the second-highest number after California, which has 9. However, access to Alaska’s national parks can be difficult due to challenging conditions and a lack of trails. To make the most of your trip, plan to visit during the summer months, which are June through September. The weather is ideal for hiking and camping, and many services and tours are available from Anchorage during this time. Also, most campgrounds are only open during the summer months, and Denali Road is only passable during this time. If you’re traveling from Anchorage to Denali, most connections to national parks are from June through September.
Cheapest Time to Visit Anchorage
Unfortunately, Alaska is not a cheap destination. Especially since many attractions and trips cost a lot. But it is possible to travel to Alaska on a budget.
As Alaska’s largest city, Anchorage has the most competitive prices for accommodation, food, and attractions. If you want to save money, the winter and shoulder months (when seasons change) are the cheapest time to visit Anchorage. The lowest prices before the start of the high tourist season are in May. Most of the tourist attractions are already open. The end of the season will also be a great choice – in September and October, prices start to drop a bit. But in general, the lowest prices are in winter. February, March, and November are the cheapest months in Anchorage, where there are no tourists, and no competition for services, so prices are significantly lower.
Best Time to See the Northern Lights in Anchorage Alaska
The best time to see the Northern Lights in Anchorage, Alaska is from September to mid-April. Although, it’s highly recommended to venture outside the city for a better chance of spotting them. The best displays are usually observed during winter when the skies are darker and clear of clouds and moonlight if the Aurora forecast is favorable.
The best Northern Lights viewing spots near Anchorage are Downtown Viewpoint, Glen Alps Overlook, Point Woronzof, Skyline Drive, Hiland Road, Eklutna Lake Road, Reflections Lake, and Beluga Point.
Our Tip: You’ll most likely see the Northern Lights in the far north. Fairbanks is better for admiring Northern Lights than Anchorage. So, check out how to get from Anchorage to Fairbanks. So check out the best spots for Northern Lights near Fairbanks.
Best Time to Visit Anchorage for Winter Activities
The first snow usually comes to Anchorage in October. But the best months for winter activities in Anchorage begin in November. The peak of the winter season in Anchorage is from January to mid-March. You can ski, dog sled, hike on glaciers, or in the mountains. However, conditions in the winter months are extreme, and temperatures are very low, so you need to be very well prepared for such activities.
The best time to visit Anchorage in winter is especially February and March because then you already have longer days and more light, and there are great events, like Fur Rondy and Iditarod.
Best Time to Visit Anchorage for Festivals and Events
Anchorage is a lively city with many exciting events and festivals. However, book accommodation well in advance if you plan a visit during one of the famous events. Because even in winter, during the celebrations, prices can increase. By booking in advance, you take care of your budget.
Winter Festivals in Anchorage
Anchorage Folk Festival
Despite the harsh winter and freezing temperatures, Alaskans still know how to have a good time. If you’re a music fan, January – particularly the latter half of the month – is the perfect time to visit Anchorage. This is when the Annual Anchorage Folk Festival is held, filling the city with delightful sounds and festive cheer. This event aims to promote Folk music and dance using performances and educational activities. This festival is open to the public and offers opportunities to attend workshops, jam sessions, and concerts or enjoy music.
Our Tip: Check out our detailed packing list for Alaska before your trip!
Fur Rondy Festival
Fur Rondy is a renowned winter festival that has been held in Anchorage since 1935, showcasing the adventurous spirit of Alaskans and providing entertaining activities for people of all ages. This festival, also known as Fur Rendezvous or “Rondy” among locals, holds a significant place in the history and culture of Anchorage. During the 1930s, Anchorage was a small town with a population of approximately 3,000, and there were no modern-day luxuries such as televisions, malls, video games, or computers. The original Fur Rondy event featured skiing, hockey, basketball, boxing, and a children’s sled dog race down Fourth Avenue.
The next Fur Rondy in Anchorage will take place from February 22 to March 3, 2024, and if you want to participate in numerous sporting, artistic, and cultural events, visit Anchorage during this time.
Iditarod Sled Dog Race
One of the most significant and breathtaking winter festivals in Anchorage is the Iditarod Sled Dog Race. It’s commonly known as the “Iditarod” and occurs every year in early March in the rugged and snowy Alaskan landscape. Experienced mushers and their teams participate in the race, covering a distance of 938 miles. The Iditarod was started in 1973 as an endurance test for sled dog mushers and teams but has since evolved into a competitive race. It runs from Anchorage to Nome.
If you want to see one of the world’s most famous dog sled races, you should come to Anchorage in early March. The next Ceremonial Start of the Iditarod will take place on March 2, 2024, in Downtown Anchorage, so it is the best time to visit Anchorage if you want to experience this event.
Summer Festivals in Anchorage
Anchorage Market & Festival
The Anchorage Market and Festival runs every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from mid-May through mid-September. It is located at the Dimond Center Mall on 88th Ave, and it’s a great place to shop for everything from clothes to artwork. Moreover, you can enjoy local food or purchase high-quality Alaskan Made items, gifts, and other souvenirs.
Even though jazz originated in New Orleans, this musical genre has admirers in Alaska. Visitors to Anchorage can enjoy jazz performances on the streets and in clubs. The Spenard JazzFest is an arts festival showcasing various music genres, but jazz takes center stage. The festival takes place from late May to early June, making it the best time to visit Anchorage, Alaska, especially if you want to participate in outdoor activities. In addition to the main stage events, jazz music can be heard in various locations throughout Anchorage, such as on buses, during house concerts, and even on jazz hikes.
Anchorage Weather By Month
To make it even easier for you to decide which month is the best to visit Anchorage, we have prepared a simple infographic with the weather in Anchorage each month. We have shown the average high and low temperatures for each month, the number of sunny days in a given month, the number of rainy days in a given month, and the average snowfall in inches.
Summary of the Best Time to Visit Anchorage Alaska
- Shoulder Season: March to May and August to November is the best time to visit Anchorage to beat the crowds and save some money.
- May is the best month to visit Alaska as the weather is mild; it’s still chilly but not snowing. Most activities, services, and tours are already open, but the prices are lower. There are no crowds. Nature and wild animals have awakened from their winter sleep, so it’s an excellent time for wildlife viewing, especially whale watching.
- Peak season from June to August is the best time to visit Anchorage, where most activities and tours are available. However, as it’s the high tourist season is worth booking lodging and activities, especially wildlife viewing tours advanced.
- Also, September is the best month to visit Anchorage, as there are lower tourists, the weather is mild, the days are still long, and it’s a perfect month for outdoor activities and a great time for wildlife viewing.
- The low Season from November to February is the best time to visit Anchorage if you like snow sports and winter activities. However, prepare a wall for a winter adventure in Anchorage due to freezing temperatures and short days. Prices are much lower. The chances of seeing the Northern Lights in Anchorage are the highest.