Are you planning a trip to Alaska’s interior and don’t know which months to choose? When is the best time to visit Fairbanks, Alaska? What are the top activities in the area for each season? When is the best time to see Northern Lights in Fairbanks? And what are the best places to see them? What are the best months for wildlife viewing? What is the weather and how to prepare for travel? As we visited Fairbanks many times, we share detailed hints and data with you.This article may contain affiliate / compensated links. For full information, please see our disclaimer here.
Overall The Best Time to Visit Fairbanks Alaska
The overall best time to visit Fairbanks, Alaska, depends on your preferences and the experiences you want to have. Some recommendations you will find in our article about the 25 best things to do in Fairbanks. Here are the most important factors to consider when determining the best time to visit this city.
- Northern Lights. Fairbanks is famous for its spectacular Northern Lights displays. The peak season for viewing the Aurora Borealis is from late August to mid-April, with the chances being greatest in winter when the nights are long and dark (keep reading for more details).
- Midnight Sun. If you prefer long daylight hours and want to experience the phenomenon of the Midnight Sun, visit Fairbanks during the summer months from June to August. This time has more daylight, outdoor activities, and lively festivals.
- Weather and Temperatures. Fairbanks has a subarctic climate with cold winters and warm summers. If you prefer milder temperatures, plan your visit during the summer. Remember, however, that the weather in Alaska is unpredictable, and therefore check out what is worth packing for Alaska depending on activities.
- Outdoor Activities. The best time for certain outdoor activities in Fairbanks can vary. In the summer, you can hike, fish, watch wildlife, and explore national parks like Denali National Park or Gates of the Arctic. Winter is perfect for snow activities such as dog sledding, snowmobiling, ice fishing, and winter festivals.
- Seasonal Events. Fairbanks hosts various events and festivals throughout the year. The Midnight Sun Festival in June, the World Ice Art Championships in March, and the lively Tanana Valley State Fair in August are unique cultural experiences.
When to Visit Fairbanks – Our Experiences
From our experience and several visits to Fairbanks in different months, late August and September are best for a visit. We recommend the end of summer and the beginning of fall. You already have a good chance of seeing the Northern Lights. At the same time, it’s still an excellent time for wildlife viewing, and we love photographing animals in their natural habitat. It is also nice enough for hiking and spending many hours outdoors, as the days are long enough. In addition, there are much fewer tourists in September.
Also, June is great to visit, nature is fully active after winter, and you have almost 24 hours of daylight (Midnight Sun). July is also great for a visit, as there is less participation. So, you can spend your time actively and see a lot. In our opinion, this is a great time to visit Fairbanks.
Our Tip: Fairbanks is the largest city in the Interior region of Alaska and the second largest in the state. It differs in climate from other regions. So, if you plan your vacation in southern Alaska, check out the best time to visit Anchorage. Also, check out what are the best ways to get from Anchorage to Fairbanks and which city is better to visit from a tourist perspective and trip planning.
Fairbanks in Winter (December-March)
Winter in Fairbanks offers a picturesque wonderland of snow-covered landscapes and dancing northern lights. Although temperatures can be cold, the magical experiences are worth it.
Winter is also the time when prices are lowest, and there are the fewest tourists. There are also no tiring mosquitoes, flies, and other insects, which are very annoying in summer.
- Average Highest Temperatures: December: 1°F (-17.2°C), January: -3°F (-19.4°C), February: 1°F (-17.2°C), March: 16°F (-8.9°C)
- Average Lowest Temperatures: December: -12°F (-24.4°C) January: -19°F (-28.3°C), February: -15°F (-26.1°C), March: -3°F (-19.4°C)
- Snowfall: December: 10.5 inches (26.7 cm), January: 8.5 inches (21.6 cm), February: 6.9 inches (17.5 cm), March: 6.5 inches (16.5 cm)
- Cloudiness: December: 80%, January: 85%, February: 85%, March: 80%
- Day Length: During winter, Fairbanks experiences its darkest period, with limited daylight hours. By December, the shortest days of the year occur, with only 3-4 hours of daylight. In January, the days are shortest, ranging from approximately 3-5 hours of daylight. By March, daylight begins to lengthen, with around 10-12 hours of daylight.
The best winter activities in Fairbanks
- Experience the Northern Lights. Head outside the city to experience the Aurora Borealis, nature’s breathtaking light show (below, we provide more details and the best places to see this spectacle of nature in the Fairbanks area).
- Enjoy Dog Sledding. Embark on an exciting dog sledding adventure through snow-covered trails led by enthusiastic huskies.
- Feel the spirit of Christmas. Take a trip to the Santa Claus House in the nearby North Pole to enjoy the magic of holidays.
- Soak in Chena Hot Springs. Nothing is more pleasant than immersing yourself in Chena Hot Springs in winter. It’s a great experience, so take a trip to Chena Resort. Consider this tour from Fairbanks.
- Ice Fishing. Try your hand at ice fishing on frozen lakes where you can catch char or grayling.
- Visit the Ice Art Championships: Admire the fascinating ice sculptures at the World Ice Art Championships, held in March.
- Try Winter Sports. Go cross-country skiing, go ice skating, try snowmobiling.
- Spot Wildlife. In winter is possible to spot bald eagles, moose, owls, or ravens.
Our Tip: If you plan a winter trip to Fairbanks – choose March or February. They are the best months to visit the interior of Alaska. You still have a lot of snow and can enjoy winter activities and sports. And the days are long enough to experience the beauty of Alaska. And it’s still Northern Light season. Our personal pick is March.
Fairbanks in Spring (April-June)
Spring in Fairbanks is a time of transition. Spring offers longer daylight hours and milder temperatures.
- Average Highest Temperatures: April: 40°F (4.4°C), May: 59°F (15°C), June: 71°F (21.7°C)
- Average Lowest Temperatures: April: 23°F (-5°C), May: 34°F (1°C), June: 45°F (7.2°C)
- Rainfall: April: 0.4 inches (1 cm), May: 0.7 inches (1.8 cm), June: 1.1 inches (2.8 cm)
- Snowfall: April: 3.5 inches (8.9 cm), May: 1.3 inches (3.3 cm), June: 0.1 inches (0.3 cm)
- Cloudiness: April: 60%, May: 60%, June: 60%
- Day Length: In April, the days start to significantly lengthen, with an average of 14-16 hours of daylight. By June, Fairbanks experiences the Midnight Sun phenomenon, where the sun remains above the horizon for 24 hours, providing continuous daylight.
Top spring activities in Fairbanks
- Chena River Breakup. Witness the annual breakup of the frozen Chena River, a natural spectacle as the ice breaks and flows downstream. Also, visit nearby Nenana, famous for the Nenana Ice Classic game – people try to guess when the ice will break on the Nenana River. It has been an Alaskan tradition since 1917. Spring is also a perfect time to soak in Chena Hot Springs. Consider this tour from Fairbanks.
- Wildlife Watching. Spot moose and bears, and other wildlife awakening from hibernation.
- Bird Watching. Watch for migratory birds returning to the region.
- Hiking and Nature Walks. You can enjoy scenic routes and watch wildflowers bloom when the snow melts.
- Visit Denali National Park. The road through Denali is open from late May, so this is a great time to visit Denali, especially since the animals are very active at this time of year.
Our Tip: In our opinion, the best month is June. This is an excellent month for wildlife watching, hiking, and visiting Denali National Park. We’ve been this month and think it’s a great time to visit Fairbanks. The days are very long so that you can spend time actively. The temperatures are pleasant.
Fairbanks in Summer (July-September)
During summer in Fairbanks, you can experience the enchanting midnight sun, with nearly 24 hours of daylight. The temperatures are perfect for outdoor activities and adventures and camping in a tent.
- Average Highest Temperatures: July: 74°F (23.3°C), August: 70°F (21.1°C), September: 57°F (13.9°C)
- Average Lowest Temperatures: July: 54°F (12.2°C), August: 52°F (11.1°C), September: 39°F (3.9°C)
- Rainfall: July: 1.8 inches (4.6 cm), August: 1.7 inches (4.3 cm), September: 1.3 inches (3.3 cm)
- Cloudiness: July: 55%, August: 55%, September: 60%
- Day Length: Throughout the summer months, Fairbanks enjoys extended daylight hours. In July, the city experiences the peak of the Midnight Sun, with 24 hours of continuous daylight. By September, the days start to shorten, with around 14-16 hours of daylight.
Top summer activities in Fairbanks
- Take a trip to Arctic Circle. We highly recommend this full-day tour from Fairbanks, as it’s a great adventure to cross the imaginary line, which marks the northernmost point at which the sun appears above the level of the horizon on the winter solstice.
- Explore Denali National Park. Spend a day in Denali National Park for wildlife sightings. Summer is also the best time for taking some scenic hikes in Denali and admiring breathtaking views of Denali, the tallest mountain in North America.
- Enjoy Riverboat Discovery Cruise. Take a beautiful river cruise on the Chena and Tanana Rivers to learn about Alaska’s history and Native culture. Below you can check availability.
- Enjoy festivals and events. Attend the June Midnight Sun Festival for music, food, and local art, or experience the lively Tanana Valley State Fair in August for fun. Also, visit the neighboring Ester Gold Camp, home to local artists and musicians, which organizes exciting summer events where you can feel Alaska’s authentic atmosphere and spirit. Be sure to visit Pioneer Park in the heart of Fairbanks, packed with summer cultural events.
- Drive Dalton Highway. Traveling through Dalton requires thorough preparation. Fairbanks is the last major city where you can adequately prepare and stock up for this trip. Check out our tips on preparing and where to sleep on this route. We spent ten days on Dalton, a lifetime adventure from Fairbanks.
- Visit the least-visited national parks in the US. The summer months are the perfect time to explore two of the US’s hardest-to-reach national parks, the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Kobuk Valley. Or consider a scenic flight over the Brooks Range.
Our Tip: We had the opportunity to spend a lot of time in Fairbanks in August and September. Both months are great for a visit because the temperatures allow for active holidays, backpacking, and camping in a tent. It is still a good time for wildlife watching and long hikes. At the end of August, there is an excellent chance to see the Northern Lights. So, our pick is late August and September.
Fairbanks in Fall (October-November)
Fall in Fairbanks is a time of vibrant colors as the foliage turns stunning red, orange, and gold shades.
- Average Highest Temperatures: October: 37°F (2.8°C), November: 17°F (-8.3°C), December: 1°F (-17.2°C)
- Average Lowest Temperatures: October: 20°F (-6.7°C), November: 2°F (-16.7°C), December: -12°F (-24.4°C)
- Rainfall: October: 1 inch (2.5 cm), November: 0.6 inches (1.5 cm), December: 0.6 inches (1.5 cm)
- Snowfall: October: 4.9 inches (12.4 cm), November: 9.3 inches (23.6 cm), December: 10.5 inches (26.7 cm)
- Cloudiness: October: 70%, November: 75%, December: 80%
- Day Length: As fall progresses, the daylight hours decrease gradually. Fairbanks experiences approximately 10-12 hours of daylight in October, while November sees further reductions to around 6-8 hours. By December, the shortest days of the year occur, with only 3-4 hours of daylight.
Top fall activities in Fairbanks
- Fall Foliage Tours. Explore the picturesque landscape and experience the breathtaking fall foliage on guided tours or on your own tours.
- Arctic Circle Tours. Embark on a unique journey to the Arctic Circle, cross the legendary line, and experience the vast wilderness.
- Harvest Festivals. Participate in local harvest festivals, such as pumpkin picking, hayrides, and sampling seasonal treats.
- Northern Lights. It is worth considering a trip to observe the Aurora Borealis because these are still months when there is a chance to admire this phenomenon.
Our Tip: October is a great month to visit Fairbanks as the days are still long enough to enjoy various activities, and fall colors are at their most intense and beautiful.
The Best Time to See the Northern Lights in Fairbanks, Alaska
Fairbanks, Alaska, is among the best places to see the amazing Northern Lights. The shimmering lights in the Arctic sky are breathtaking. Knowing the best time to visit Fairbanks to experience the Northern Lights is essential to increase your chances of witnessing this magical display.
The Peak Season to See Aurora Borealis in Fairbanks
The peak season to see the Northern Lights in Fairbanks is from late August to mid-April. This is when the nights are long and dark, perfect for the aurora to show up.
September to October
In September and October, the weather starts getting cooler. The skies begin to darken once more. The chances of seeing the Northern Lights increase and make a nice prelude to the main season.
November to February
The months of November through February are the heart of winter when the nights are the longest. The extended darkness combined with clear skies and favorable solar activity increases the chances of seeing vivid Northern Lights.
March to mid-April
As winter transitions into spring, the Northern Lights continue to color the Arctic sky through mid-April. The clear nights and milder temperatures provide an ideal opportunity to experience the Aurora Borealis before the arrival of the midnight sun.
Factors affecting Northern Lights’ visibility
While the peak season offers the best chances to see the Northern Lights in Fairbanks, there are some factors that can enhance the visibility of this stunning phenomenon
Observing solar activity is important for predicting the Northern Lights. Keep an eye on the Space Weather Prediction Center’s aurora forecast or download reliable aurora tracker apps to stay up-to-date on solar activity and the likelihood of visible auroras.
Clear, cloudless nights provide the best conditions for viewing the Northern Lights. Follow weather forecasts and plan your visit during periods of low cloud cover.
Darkness and moon phase
The Northern Lights shine even brighter in the night sky when there is no moonlight. Consider visiting during the new moon phase or when the moon is waning for optimal viewing conditions.
The best places to see the Northern Lights in Fairbanks Alaska
The best places to see the Northern Lights in the Fairbanks area can vary depending on solar activity, weather conditions, and light pollution. It’s advisable to check the local aurora forecasts, monitor weather conditions, and be prepared to venture to different locations for optimal viewing opportunities. The best spots are:
Approximately 20 miles northeast of Fairbanks, Cleary Summit offers a high vantage point and clear skies, making it an ideal spot for Northern Lights viewing. The summit provides unobstructed views of the horizon, enhancing your chances of witnessing vibrant displays.
Chena Hot Springs
About an hour’s drive from Fairbanks, Chena Hot Springs is renowned for its natural hot springs and Northern Lights viewing opportunities. The resort offers tours and accommodations tailored to Aurora enthusiasts, including dedicated viewing areas and knowledgeable guides.
Located approximately 25 miles northwest of Fairbanks, Murphy Dome is a popular destination for Northern Lights enthusiasts. The elevated vantage point provides expansive night sky views, increasing the chances of witnessing the dancing lights.
Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge
While primarily known for its bird-watching opportunities, Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge also offers excellent Northern Lights views. This serene location provides a picturesque setting with open fields and minimal light pollution.
University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) Campus
The UAF campus, situated just outside downtown Fairbanks, offers a convenient location for Northern Lights viewing. The campus has open spaces and is easily accessible, making it a popular choice for locals and visitors.
Chena Lakes Recreation Area
Located a short drive southeast of Fairbanks, Chena Lakes Recreation Area provides ample opportunities for outdoor recreation and Northern Lights viewing. The open spaces around Chena Lake offer expansive night sky views away from city lights.
Ester Dome, situated approximately 8 miles west of Fairbanks, offers a panoramic view of the surrounding area. Its elevated location and relatively dark skies make it a suitable spot for Northern Lights enthusiasts.
A great idea to see the aurora is a trip to the Arctic Circle. The further north you go, the greater the chance of this happening. We recommend an organized trip as it requires driving the challenging Dalton Highway.
Coldfoot Camp, located in the far north at mile 175 of the Dalton Highway, is great for the Northern Lights. If you want to go there on your own, check out our Dalton safety and car preparation tips. Also, the small village next door Coldfoot, Wiseman, is a great place to go and where you can rent a room for the night to observe the phenomenon.
The Best Time for Wildlife Viewing in Fairbanks, Alaska
Fairbanks, is a nature lover’s paradise, offering numerous opportunities to observe and photograph fascinating wildlife in their natural habitat. Read on to learn when to plan your trip to Fairbanks for unforgettable encounters with the region’s diverse and impressive wildlife.
As the snow melts and nature wakes up in spring, wildlife becomes very active in Fairbanks. Migratory birds come back to the area. You can spot water-loving birds like ducks, geese, and swans as they head to the wetlands and lakes. You might also see moose with their baby calves eating grass in meadows or near water.
Summer in Fairbanks brings out colorful wildlife with long days and abundant sunshine. Midsummer offers a variety of opportunities to observe animals in their natural habitat.
During summer in Fairbanks, you’ll find a wide variety of birds. Keep an eye out for majestic birds like bald eagles and owls and songbirds like warblers and thrushes. Look for them in the forests, wetlands, and along the riverbanks.
During the summer, you’ll often see moose with their big antlers. You might also spot other animals like black bears, grizzly bears, beavers, and porcupines. Look for them near water, in forests, or on hiking trails.
Witness the impressive salmon migrations in rivers and streams as the fish make their annual journey upstream to spawn. This natural spectacle attracts bears, eagles, and other predators and provides exciting wildlife viewing opportunities.
Fall in Fairbanks turns the landscape into stunning shades of red, orange, and gold as the foliage transforms. During this time of year, you’ll have a chance to observe wildlife as they get ready for winter.
- Migratory birds. Fall is when migrating birds start flying south. Look for large flocks of sandhill cranes, swans, and various species of waterfowl gathering in the wetlands before they begin their long journey.
- Elk rut. Experience the exciting spectacle of male elk fighting for dominance during the rut. Observe their impressive antlers and listen to their echoing calls in the crisp fall air.
- Bear activity. Fall is important for bears to prepare for hibernation. Be on the lookout for black bears and occasionally grizzly bears, which forage primarily near berry fields and salmon-rich rivers. Denali is a great place to spot bears.
The best places for wildlife viewing in the Fairbanks area
Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge
Creamer’s Field is famous for watching birds. It is a great place to see birds that migrate. You can see sandhill cranes, Canadian geese, swans, ducks, and different kinds of songbirds there.
Chena River State Recreation Area
The Chena River State Recreation Area provides habitat for a variety of wildlife. As you explore the park’s trails and riverbanks, look for elk, beaver, muskrat, bald eagles, and other bird species.
Denali National Park and Preserve
Although Denali National Park is only a few hours’ drive from Fairbanks, it’s a must-see for wildlife lovers. The park is home to grizzly bears, black bears, moose, Dall sheep, caribou, wolves, and various bird species. Take a wildlife tour or hike the park’s trails to increase your chances of Denali wildlife sightings.
Chena Hot Springs Resort
In addition to the famous hot springs, Chena Hot Springs Resort also offers wildlife viewing opportunities. As you explore the resort’s surroundings, look for moose, foxes, porcupines, and various bird species.
University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) Large Animal Research Station (LARS)
Located on the UAF campus, LARS offers the opportunity to see muskoxen up close. These magnificent Arctic mammals can be observed from a safe distance as they graze and interact in their enclosures. You can also admire them in Palmer.
Birch Hill Recreation Area
Birch Hill Recreation Area is a popular outdoor activity site known for its diverse birdlife. Look for migratory birds such as warblers, thrushes, sparrows, and native species such as spruce grouse and titmice.
Alaska Public Lands
Public lands around Fairbanks, including the White Mountains National Recreation Area and Steese National Conservation Area, provide vast wilderness areas for wildlife. Moose, black bears, wolves, and various bird species can be spotted in these areas.
Weather in Fairbanks by months
The infographic below shows the average weather in Fairbanks by month – temperatures, sunny hours, and precipitation with the number of rainy days.
The Best Time to Visit Fairbanks, Alaska – Conclusion
As we love wildlife and fall foliage, we believe the best months to visit Fairbanks are late August and September. The days are still long, but there is already a good chance of seeing the Northern Lights, especially if you go to the Arctic Circle. Prices are better from the end of August as well. We also enjoyed June in Fairbanks, when nature is active after the long winter, and everything is blooming. If you prefer winter activities, choose late February or March. May is also a good choice as there are no tourists and prices are lower. But there are no bad months to visit Fairbanks. It all depends on how you organize your time and your chosen activities.