Anchorage is the largest city in Alaska and the state’s cultural hub. Here, you’ll find plenty of things to see and do. From learning about Native Alaskan traditions to trekking scenic hiking trails, spotting wildlife, and seeing the stunning Northern Lights, Anchorage has it all.
The Northern Lights are closely associated with places like Finland, Norway, Iceland, and closer to home, some cities in Canada. But there are several areas with dark skies in the U.S. where you can see aurora borealis, and Anchorage is arguably one of the best places. Indeed, when I visited in February, I was lucky enough to see the Northern Lights.
I will take you through the best places to see Northern Lights in Anchorage. However, before we get into that, I want to pass on my learnings about HOW to see the Northern Lights in Anchorage.
Things to Book in Anchorage Before You Leave Home
Few things are more frustrating on vacation than missing out on that amazing hotel or tour because it is sold out. Here are my top things to book in Anchorage before your vacation.
🏔️ Most Popular Tours in Anchorage:
1. Northern Lights Tour from Anchorage– if you’re determined to see the Northern Lights this is your best chance (I did)
2. Helicopter Tour with Glacier Landing – unforgettable bucket list experience
3. Glaciers and Wildlife – two Alaska highlights together
4. Ride the Alaska Railroad for jaw-dropping scenery
🛏️Where to Stay in Anchorage:
1. Marriott Downtown – surprisingly stylish and great location
2. The Lakefront – stunning location on Lake Spenard and great food
How to See the Northern Lights in Anchorage
Table of Contents
- How to See the Northern Lights in Anchorage
- 1. Ask Your Hotel for a Wake-Up Call
- 2. Hire a Car
- 3. Hire an Uber
- 4. Take a Northern Lights Tour
- How Northern Lights Tours in Anchorage Work
- 27 Best Places to See Northern Lights in Anchorage
- 1. Glen Alps Overlook
- 2. Point Woronzof Park
- 3. Eagle River Nature Center
- 4. Eklutna Lake
- 5. Knik River Lodge
- 6. Palmer Hay Flats
- 7. Kincaid Park
- 8. Turnagain Arm (Pass)
- 9. Taylor Creek
- 10. Flattop Mountain
- 11. South Anchorage (Hillside Park)
- 12. Bayshore Klatt Area
- 13. Arctic Valley Ski Area
- 14. The Seward Highway
- 15. Chugach State Park
- 16. Girdwood
- 17. Alyeska Resort
- 18. Beluga Point
- 19. Arctic Valley Road
- 20. Potter Marsh
- 21. Earthquake Park (Downtown Viewpoint)
- 22. Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge
- 23. Fairbanks
- 24. Hatcher Pass
- 25. Talkeetna
- 26. Independence Mine State Historical Park
- 27. Denali National Park
- Best Places to See the Northern Lights in Anchorage FAQs
- What Is the Best Time of Year To See the Northern Lights in Anchorage, Alaska?
- What Time Can You See the Northern Lights in Anchorage?
- What Are the Chances of Seeing the Northern Lights in Anchorage?
- How Long Does the Northern Lights Last in Alaska?
- What Do You Wear To See the Northern Lights in Alaska?
- Where to Stay in Anchorage
- Marriott Anchorage Downtown
- The Lakefront Anchorage
- Where to See the Northern Lights in Anchorage | Wrapped Up
There are four ways to see the Northern Lights in Anchorage. Let’s go through each of them and the probability of seeing the lights for each method.
1. Ask Your Hotel for a Wake-Up Call
Doesn’t this sound appealing? Curl up asleep and get a call when the lights appear and you can pop outside, take a pic and go back to bed. Alas, it doesn’t normally work this way. Firstly, if you are staying in downtown Anchorage the northern lights don’t appear often. Secondly, if they do appear they will most likely be faint. Third, the lights may have disappeared by the time you wake up and head outside.
I have tried this option at hotels in Iceland, Sweden and Alaska and it has never worked for me. Having said that, I always sign up for this option just in case!
2. Hire a Car
Just so you know, it is doubtful that you’ll be walking around downtown Anchorage at night and the northern lights will pop up. If you walk to any of the spots listed below and wait for the Northern Lights, you may be there for a long time.
It is possible to rent a car, use the Aurora forecast websites, try to get around yourself, or ask locals where to go. You may luck out and see some lights or some very pale green in the sky. Or you may end up just driving around a lot in the dark.
When I visited, a local was kind enough to take us out in his car and we still didn’t see the northern lights.
The best website I found for predicting the Northern Lights in and around Anchorage was the University of Alaska Aurora Forecast.
3. Hire an Uber
It is possible to hire an Uber and have them drive you around to find the lights. However, although the same problems apply as hiring a car as you will need to tell the Uber driver where to go.
4. Take a Northern Lights Tour
I have chased the Northern Lights in three countries now and each time I have seen the Northern Lights it has been on a tour. It is now the only option I would take if you really want to see the Northern Lights. The tours are run by experts who have access to the best tools for predicting the Northern Lights and know the areas for watching the lights well.
How Northern Lights Tours in Anchorage Work
Most tour companies will ask for an upfront deposit of around USD$20. This saves your seat. The company will then call you on the day between 3pm and 5pm and let you know if the tour is running. They don’t take you out if there is a low chance of seeing the lights and they will then look at transferring your seat to the next day if possible.
To improve your chances of seeing the Northern Lights in Anchorage book your Northern Lights tour for your first night. If the tour doesn’t run, there is the option to rebook for the next day, etc.
My Northern Lights Tour in Anchorage kicked off at 8pm when the tour company picked me up at my hotel. The mini-bus was only half full, a general practice as it makes the bus much more comfortable for everyone.
When I got the call to confirm that the tour was going ahead, I was warned that it would most likely be a late night as we would need to drive outside of Anchorage to see the lights. I returned to my hotel at 3:30am. I brought a pillow from the hotel with me and had quite a good nap on returning to Anchorage. There were loads of snacks on board and when we made a bathroom stop, it was possible to buy alcohol.
My guide was very knowledgeable and I learned a huge amount about the Northern Lights. And best of all we saw them!!! Remember that your phone sees the lights better than you do so these photos are better than what my eye saw. Our guide also had a high-end camera with him that allowed him to take the photos that I am in. These photos can be purchased the next day.
Top Tip: If you are reading this article before you head to Alaska and you really want to see the Northern Lights, try to have at least one night in Fairbanks. Northern Lights sightings are much more common in and around Fairbanks vs Anchorage. On my tour, we drove two hours north of Alaska towards Fairbanks to see the lights.
27 Best Places to See Northern Lights in Anchorage
As I mentioned above, a tour is the most likely way to see the Northern Lights in Anchorage. However, during my time in Anchorage, it was possible to see the lights from downtown Anchorage I just missed it! It is possible, but remember, if you can see the Northern Lights in Anchorage, the viewings will be amazing outside of Anchorage.
If you want to do your own thing or are just looking for a sense of where the Northern Lights are most likely to appear in and around Anchorage, here’s a rundown of all the best places.
1. Glen Alps Overlook
Sitting at 2,200 feet in elevation, the Glen Alps Overlook is arguably the best place to see the Northern Lights in Anchorage. From the overlook, you’ll have panoramic views of several mountain ranges and the Anchorage cityscape — but the urban glow is far enough not to cause much interruption.
Glen Alps Overlook is about a 25-minute drive from downtown Anchorage, so you can rent a car or take a shuttle to the trailhead. You’ll find Glen Alps at the end of Toilsome Road.
Note: Toilsome Road is full of steep grades and intense switchbacks, so you’ll need an all-wheel-drive and winter tires, especially when road conditions are snowy or icy.
2. Point Woronzof Park
Known for its beach access and stunning views of the snow-capped Denali National Park, Point Woronzof Park is an excellent place to view the Northern Lights in Anchorage. The coastal park sits on the city’s northwestern edge, giving you great exposure to aurora borealis along the shores of Cook Inlet.
It’s important to note, though, that visibility may be compromised due to light pollution caused by planes landing at Ted Stevens International Airport, as they fly as they fly frequently overhead.
You might enjoy reading my article on Ice Caves near Anchorage.
3. Eagle River Nature Center
Eagle River Nature Center, located just outside Anchorage, Alaska, is an excellent spot for viewing the Northern Lights. Its remote location and lack of light pollution offer a clear view of the aurora borealis, making it a popular destination for tourists and locals alike.
In addition to the stunning views of the Northern Lights, the Eagle River Nature Center is a great place to immerse yourself in Alaska’s natural beauty. The center is in the heart of the Chugach Mountains and offers miles of hiking trails, making it a perfect destination for nature enthusiasts.
You can also take advantage of the center’s educational programs, including guided tours and nature walks, to learn more about the region’s flora and fauna.
4. Eklutna Lake
The Eklutna Lake area is known for its lack of light pollution, making it a prime location for viewing the Northern Lights. Located just 40 minutes northeast of Anchorage, Eklutna Lake is an ideal location to witness the Northern Lights.
The Chugach Mountains surrounding the lake provide a stunning backdrop for viewing the aurora borealis. The lake also reflects the colorful lights, adding to the overall experience. On top of being a great spot for stargazing, Eklutna Lake is a year-round destination for lovers of the outdoors.
You can enjoy hiking, fishing, kayaking, and camping during the summer. In the winter, the lake becomes a hub for cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. The area is also home to a variety of wildlife, including moose, bears, and bald eagles.
5. Knik River Lodge
Knik River Lodge, located an hour’s drive north of Anchorage, is a premier destination for viewing the Northern Lights. The lodge is situated on the edge of the Chugach Mountains, providing a stunning backdrop for viewing the Northern Lights.
Its remote location, coupled with its range of outdoor activities and cosy accommodations, make it an ideal destination for anyone looking to experience the Alaskan wilderness.
6. Palmer Hay Flats
Palmer Hay Flats, located about 40 miles northeast of Anchorage, is an excellent location to witness the Northern Lights due to its dark skies and wide-open spaces.
It is a popular spot for both locals and tourists, with designated viewing areas and ample parking. Palmer Hay Flats also offers unobstructed views of the horizon, allowing for a full display of the aurora borealis.
7. Kincaid Park
Kincaid Park, located on the west side of Anchorage, is a popular destination for viewing the Northern Lights. Its location within the city limits makes it easily accessible, and its lack of light pollution provides a clear view of the aurora borealis.
The park’s open spaces and unobstructed views make it ideal for stargazing and Northern Lights viewing. Kincaid Park is also a fantastic outdoor recreational spot. On any given day, you can find people hiking, biking, skiing, and snowshoeing on the park’s extensive network of trails.
8. Turnagain Arm (Pass)
Turnagain Arm offers a unique and breathtaking location to experience the magic of the Northern Lights. Located in the south of Anchorage, the pass has a high elevation, and the lack of light pollution provides an unobstructed view of the Aurora Borealis.
The drive along the Turnagain Arm in decent weather is absolutely stunning. I highly recommend you do the drive during the day whilst in the area.
9. Taylor Creek
Taylor Creek, located about 80 miles southeast of Anchorage, is a fantastic place to see the northern lights. Its remote location means minimal light pollution, and the creek’s reflection creates a beautiful visual effect. The area is also surrounded by mountains, adding to its stunning natural scenery.
Taylor Creek is accessible by car, making it an ideal location for those looking for a more remote but still accessible spot to view the aurora borealis. However, you should be aware of the potential for extremely cold temperatures and wildlife in the area.
10. Flattop Mountain
Flattop Mountain, located just outside Anchorage, is a popular destination for viewing the Northern Lights. Its high elevation and unobstructed views provide a prime vantage point to witness the aurora borealis in all its glory.
The summit of Flattop Mountain offers a 360-degree view of the surrounding area, providing a perfect vantage point to see the aurora borealis. The mountain also offers a panoramic view of Anchorage and the surrounding areas, making it a popular spot for photography enthusiasts.
11. South Anchorage (Hillside Park)
Another popular location to see the Northern Lights in Anchorage is Hillside Park. Hillside Park offers a panoramic view of Anchorage and the surrounding area in the Chugach Mountains, making it an excellent spot to watch the aurora borealis dance in the sky.
12. Bayshore Klatt Area
Bayshore Klatt Area, located in south Anchorage, is an excellent location to witness the Northern Lights. It is a popular spot for locals and tourists, with designated viewing areas and parking lots.
The area’s proximity to Anchorage means it is easily accessible, and its location near the coast provides a stunning backdrop for the aurora borealis. You can also enjoy amenities such as restrooms and nearby restaurants.
Note: As the Bayshore Klatt Area is still located near the city, there may be some light pollution to contend with.
13. Arctic Valley Ski Area
The Arctic Valley Ski Area is a popular skiing destination in the Chugach Mountains, Anchorage. Although lesser-known, the Arctic Valley Ski Area is an ideal spot for stargazing and Northern Lights viewing.
It boasts minimal light pollution and high elevation, giving you unobstructed views. You can enjoy the unique experience of watching the Northern Lights from a ski slope, making for a memorable and adventurous night.
14. The Seward Highway
The Seward Highway, a scenic byway that stretches over 100 miles from Anchorage to Seward, offers a unique opportunity to witness the northern lights. As it is a coastal route, the highway provides an unobstructed view of the horizon, making it an ideal location for viewing the aurora borealis.
The highway passes through several mountain ranges, adding to the area’s natural beauty. You can also enjoy amenities such as pullouts, rest stops, and nearby restaurants, making it a convenient and picturesque location for viewing the Northern Lights.
15. Chugach State Park
Chugach State Park, located just east of Anchorage, is a vast wilderness area that offers an ideal location for viewing the Northern Lights. It’s the third-largest state park in the United States and offers numerous hiking trails, camping sites, and unobstructed views of the sky.
Its expansive size and remote location provide a perfect setting to witness the aurora borealis away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The park’s natural beauty and diverse terrain, which includes glaciers, lakes, and mountains, make for a stunning backdrop to the Northern Lights.
Girdwood, a small town located about 40 miles southeast of Anchorage, is popular for viewing the northern lights. It offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and glaciers and has minimal light pollution, making it an excellent spot for aurora viewing.
You can also enjoy amenities such as restaurants, hotels, and access to nearby hiking trails. Girdwood is accessible by car or train, making it a convenient location for tourists.
17. Alyeska Resort
Alyeska Resort, located south of Anchorage, is a great destination for viewing the Northern Lights. Its location in the heart of the Chugach Mountains offers an unobstructed view of the Aurora Borealis, and its elevation provides a unique perspective of the lights.
You can enjoy the Northern Lights from the comfort of the resort’s cosy accommodations or venture outside to witness the spectacle up close. There are opportunities to enjoy skiing, snowboarding, and other winter sports during the winter months and hiking, mountain biking, and other outdoor activities during the summer.
I stayed at the Alyeska Resort and it was wonderful. This is a great area for seeing the Northern Lights but the same guidelines apply for the dangers of relying on the hotel wakeup call! Many of the Anchorage-based Northern Lights tour companies drive to Girdwood where Alyeska is located to see the lights eg you don’t need to stay at Alyeska to improve your chances of seeing the Northern Lights (although it is lovely).
18. Beluga Point
Beluga Point, located about 25 miles south of Anchorage, is popular for viewing the Northern Lights. It offers unobstructed views of the horizon and has minimal light pollution, making it an excellent spot for aurora viewing.
You can also enjoy amenities such as a designated viewing area, a nearby parking lot, and nearby restaurants. The area’s proximity to Anchorage also makes it an accessible location for those looking for a quick and easy aurora viewing experience.
Note: You should be aware of the potential for cold temperatures and high winds in the area particularly at night!
19. Arctic Valley Road
Arctic Valley Road, located north of Anchorage, is a fantastic spot for viewing the Northern Lights. The road’s high elevation and secluded location make it an ideal location for stargazing, away from the bright lights of the city.
You can enjoy a panoramic view of the aurora borealis as they drive along the road or pull over to set up a tripod for a photo.
20. Potter Marsh
Located south of Anchorage, Potter Marsh is a beautiful wildlife habitat that offers a unique location for viewing the Northern Lights. Its location on the edge of the Chugach Mountains provides unobstructed views of the aurora borealis. While the wetlands offer a serene and peaceful setting to witness the spectacle.
You can enjoy the Northern Lights from the boardwalk that runs through the marsh or set up a tripod for a photo. Potter Marsh is a year-round destination for wildlife viewing and birdwatching, so you can observe a variety of bird species and other wildlife, including moose and beavers.
21. Earthquake Park (Downtown Viewpoint)
Earthquake Park, located in Anchorage, is popular for viewing the Northern Lights due to its easy accessibility and proximity to the city. The downtown viewpoint in Earthquake Park offers a panoramic view of Anchorage, including views of the northern lights.
You can also enjoy amenities such as a nearby parking lot and restrooms. However, as it is located near the city, there may be some light pollution to contend with.
Nonetheless, it is an excellent location for those who want to experience the aurora borealis without traveling too far from the city center.
I visited Earthquake Park during the day and evening. I highly recommend a daytime visit if the weather is good as I thought this was the best view of the city of Anchorage with the mountains behind it. The evening I went out with a local, we did stop here but there was no lights action. The lights do move around during the night so make sure you are regularly checking the aurora forecast.
22. Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge
The Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge is a unique location for viewing the Northern Lights on Anchorage’s coast.
The refuge’s location along the ocean offers a stunning backdrop for viewing the aurora borealis, with the possibility of seeing the lights reflect off the water’s surface. You can also enjoy the silence and solitude of the refuge, away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
As I mentioned earlier, Fairbanks is widely considered the best place to witness the northern lights due to its location under the auroral oval and minimal light pollution. Its geographical location also benefits from clear skies, and the city’s elevation aids in creating a perfect vantage point.
24. Hatcher Pass
Located approximately one hour north of Anchorage, Alaska, Hatcher Pass is a popular destination for those seeking to witness the elusive Northern Lights. It is an ideal location for viewing the aurora borealis due to its high elevation, clear views of the sky, and its distance from city lights, which minimises light pollution.
The pass is surrounded by majestic mountains and pristine wilderness, creating a stunning backdrop for the aurora. Hatcher Pass is easily accessible by car or hiking, and there are several designated viewing areas for you to safely observe the northern lights.
Read more about Anchorage and Alaska:
2 Day Anchorage Itinerary
Anchorage Itinerary 4 Days
Best Time of Year to Visit Anchorage Alaska
Facts about Alaska
Anchorage 3 Day Itinerary
Things to do in Downtown Anchorage
Ice Caves near Anchorage
Talkeetna, located approximately two hours north of Anchorage, Alaska, is a charming small town that offers an ideal location for viewing the Northern Lights. The town is situated in the middle of a vast wilderness with clear skies, making it an excellent location for observing the aurora.
Talkeetna is far enough from Anchorage to minimise light pollution but still accessible enough for a day trip. The town is known for its quirky and rustic atmosphere, and tourists can take a guided tour or explore on their own to designated viewing areas.
When I saw the Northern Lights it was quite near Talkeetna. Do remember that it will often be the areas around a town like Talkeetna that offer a better chance of seeing the lights vs the town itself due to light pollution.
26. Independence Mine State Historical Park
Independence Mine State Historical Park is a former gold mine located about an hour northeast of Anchorage. The area offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and unobstructed views of the sky, making it an excellent location to see the Northern Lights.
27. Denali National Park
Denali National Park, located approximately 4 hours north of Anchorage, Alaska, is another popular destination for viewing the Northern Lights. The park’s vast wilderness, including the towering Denali mountain, offers a stunning backdrop for the aurora.
Denali’s remote location and limited light pollution provide optimal conditions for viewing the northern lights. You can take a guided tour to designated viewing areas or explore the park on your own.
Viewing the aurora in Denali can be more challenging due to the weather conditions and limited accessibility. But it is also a more secluded and peaceful experience than some of the more popular viewing locations.
Best Places to See the Northern Lights in Anchorage FAQs
What Is the Best Time of Year To See the Northern Lights in Anchorage, Alaska?
The best time to see the Northern Lights in Anchorage is between late August and April. This is when summer is nearing its end, and fewer daylight hours lead to darker skies.
What Time Can You See the Northern Lights in Anchorage?
The ideal time you can see the Northern Lights in Anchorage depends on the KP Index indicated in the Anchorage Northern Lights Forecast. But typically, 9 pm to 4 am, is a good time to see the Aurora Borealis.
What Are the Chances of Seeing the Northern Lights in Anchorage?
Your best chances of seeing the Northern Lights in Anchorage are during winter. While the aurora borealis occurs all year round, the sky must be clear and dark to see it. So, there is a chance to see the Northern Lights in summer, but the likelihood is slim.
How Long Does the Northern Lights Last in Alaska?
In Alaska, the Northern Lights season is between late August and late April, peaking in March.
What Do You Wear To See the Northern Lights in Alaska?
The best clothes to wear when going to view the Northern Lights in Alaska are thermal base layer synthetics and wool or wool mixture garments.
Where to Stay in Anchorage
🌟Rating: 7.6/10 I 📍Location: Downtown Anchorage I 🏩View on Booking.com
I really enjoyed my stay at the Marriott Anchorage Downtown. Normally I am all about boutique hotels but there weren’t many boutique hotel options in Anchorage and I was getting a special media rate at the Marriott so I decided to give it a go – and I loved it!
The Marriott Anchorage Downtown has a fantastic location in the middle of downtown. All the main things to see and do in downtown Anchorage can be accessed on foot even in the snow (as you might imagine Anchorage is very good at shoveling sidewalks etc).
My room was on the eighth floor and I had beautiful views of Anchorage and the surrounding mountains – most of the rooms at the Marriott have great views but make sure you request this so you don’t end up on one of the lower floors.
The rooms are a great size and decorated in a modern style with calming stone blues and greys. My room had two huge queen size beds with mattress toppers and many many pillows. It was extremely comfortable.
The room also had a lovely chaise lounge by the window with a light where I got some work done. The room also had a desk but it was under the television and faced the wall.
I was delighted to find that there were power sockets and USB charge points in multiple places across the room. And even better the coffee in the room was actually quite good quality which was a welcome surprise.
There is a large room service menu for in room dining and a QR code makes ordering easier. I only had room service on one evening and it was delicious. It is also possible to just order wine and have it brought up to the room.
The ground floor has a stylish and very comfortable bar with lots of different seating options. The bar has high ceilings and lots of windows which gives it nice lighting.
🌟Rating: 7.2/10 I 📍Location: Anchorage I 🏩View on Booking.com
I also stayed at The Lakefront Hotel which is near Anchorage Airport and of course on a lake. The weather was pretty awful the one night I stayed so I wasn’t able to get a clear view of Lake Spenard – I am sure it is beautiful. Apparently, Lake Spenard is the busiest lake in the world for seaplanes.
This is a large hotel and my room was a good size. The hotel has a strong taxidermy theme so if you don’t like wall-mounted animals this might not be the best choice of accommodation for you. My room was absolutely fine but fairly plain and the decor was a bit dated.
The Lakefront has a couple of restaurant options. There is an outdoor restaurant which was closed when I visited in February but I imagine it is wonderful in the summer. I had a fantastic meal of halibut at the Fancy Moose Lounge.
Where to See the Northern Lights in Anchorage | Wrapped Up
Anchorage is a great place to see the Northern Lights in Alaska — one of the most beautiful states in the U.S. In addition to its stunning natural landscape, Anchorage and its surrounding areas provide clear and dark skies, perfect for stargazing.
If you really want to see the Northern Lights in Anchorage, I highly recommend investing in a tour. If you are keen to drive yourself or have someone drive you, combine your knowledge of everywhere listed above with the University of Alaska Aurora Forecast, and I wish you the best of luck!!!
Seeing the Northern Lights in Alaska is an amazing experience I highly recommend.
My stay in Anchorage was supported by the Go West Summit – thanks guys! I covered my flights and I received a media rate for my hotel. I paid for my Northern Lights tour. This post contains affiliate links. That means if you click through on some of the links in this article and end up making a purchase I may receive a small commission.
So which of these spots are you most excited to experience an awe-inspiring showcase of the Northern Lights in Anchorage?