Home World Insider Tips for Experiencing Fairbanks Northern Lights

Insider Tips for Experiencing Fairbanks Northern Lights

Insider Tips for Experiencing Fairbanks Northern Lights

I was surprised that many people don’t plane have Alaska on their radar for Northern Lights trips! Go do a search and you’ll be inundated with Iceland and Norway, but Alaska is still a bit of an outlier. And you know what that means? It’s the perfect place to plan your Northern Lights trip considering it’s not as crowded or expensive!

A few key things make Fairbanks Alaska one of the weightier places for northern lights viewing. I’ve been there four times in the winter and have conglomerate a few of my weightier tips for experiencing Fairbanks Northern Lights so that you can make the most of your sunrise experience.

northern lights fairbanks alaska
Northern Lights in Fairbanks

Why Fairbanks Alaska is the weightier place for a Northern Lights Viewing

Located just unelevated the Tundra Circle, landlocked, and near Fairbanks International Airport, Fairbanks has the perfect recipe for viewing the sunrise borealis.

The Sunrise Oval and Kp Index

aurora oval Sunrise cam fairbanks

The Northern Lights form an oval shape whilom the Earth’s geomagnetic poles. Fairbanks happens to be perfectly positioned under the oval surrounding the North Pole. This ways that the sunrise in Fairbanks is typically seen directly overhead! This unique vantage point is unconfined for aurora photography and is only found under the auroral oval.

The Kp index, a measure of electromagnetic worriedness in the undercurrent moreover comes into play for sunrise viewing. A reading of two or higher is typically considered good for Northern Lights spotting; however, you can see Northern Lights in Fairbanks plane when there is low worriedness considering of its position under the sunrise circle.

“You haven’t seen the sunrise until you can squint straight up and see it overhead. When you see it overhead – you can see how much structure is in it. So it’s weightier to come north under the sunrise oval.”

Aurora Physicist Peter Delemere

Weather in Fairbanks

Aurora season is between August 21-April 21 in the Fairbanks region. And one thing that is required to see them is a well-spoken sky. You are in luck in Fairbanks considering it has many well-spoken nights since it’s located in the inland Tundra – an zone they undeniability Alaska’s interior. By the coasts, there’s increasingly humidity, precipitation, and clouds. But in Fairbanks, it is a dry climate meaning lots of well-spoken skies!

northern lights trip fairbanks
Beautiful well-spoken night skies teem in Fairbanks

“The northern lights are so prolific in the Fairbanks region and the Tundra that visitors who stay a minimum of three nights and are urgently out during the late evening hours increase their endangerment of seeing the sunrise to increasingly than 80 percent!”

Explore Fairbanks

Fairbanks Geophysical Institute

The Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks has earned an international reputation for studying Earth and its physical environments at upper latitudes. It consists of seven major research units and many research support facilities, and it specializes in sunrise research on Earth and other planets.

Anyone can go visit the Geophysical Institute and take a self-guided tour, however, I went to talk to a physicist specializing in sunrise research, Peter Delamere. Learning the science overdue the sunrise on Earth and Jupiter was fascinating! I learned what makes the variegated colors we see and how to spot a substorm. His overall translating was to check the northern lights forecasts and be persistent – very persistent.

Some of the smartest sunrise people in the world are in Fairbanks, flipside reason why it’s a unconfined place for a Northern Lights trip!

Visit the Geophysical Institute in Fairbanks: Public tours of the Geophysical Institute are self-ruling and offered on Wednesdays at 1 p.m. through the summer. A self-guided tour brochure is misogynist in the lobby of the Elvey building. You are welcome to visit the towers and take the self-guided tour Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Geophysical Institute Website

The Truth Well-nigh How We See the Northern Lights

Until I went to visit Fairbanks Alaska I thought the Northern Lights were all just hype. No – I haven’t joined a Flat Earth Society or decided Global Warming is a hoax, I just didn’t know if I fully believed in them. I had good reason to doubt them.

I had ‘seen’ the sunrise borealis twice surpassing – but to my disappointment, it was nothing like what I had seen in pictures and videos. There was no verisimilitude (except for what long exposure photography could capture), and there was no dancing. Instead what I saw was a gray, cloudy glowing blob. These sunrise sightings could’ve been mistaken for moon glow or fog, and I never would have plane noticed them except people told me it was the aurora.

After my disappointing experiences, I started to think the Northern Lights were some weird conspiracy by tourism departments and Northern Lights tour companies.

I told Peter Delamere at the Geophysical Institute well-nigh my conspiracy theory and he explained, “When it’s faint your eye doesn’t snift it as green, it appears as a grayish glow, and it can be a bit disappointing.”

northern lights with the naked eye - alaska sunrise adventures
What our vision see…
northern lights viewing
What our cameras can capture

I guess I just had bad luck with the sunrise intensity equal to Peter. To see any verisimilitude in the faint aurora, I had to do photography to know it was there considering it’s not unchangingly visible to the human eye.

Our vision use two variegated types of cells to see light: rods and cones. The cone cells perceive fine detail and verisimilitude but need unexceptionable light. Rod cells can only see woebegone and white and have poor resolution but remain sensitive plane in very low light. At night without any unexceptionable light source, we normally only see a monochromatic world. However, cameras can show us what our vision cannot see. This is why you see photos with unexceptionable untried lights.

How to See the Sunrise on your Northern Lights Trip

Check the Northern Lights Forecasts

There are a number of real-time sunrise tracker GPS phone apps and websites that will help predict the aurora. I used a combination of all of them!
Aurora Borealis Tracker
Live Webcam
Geophysical Institute Sunrise Forecast
See where the sunrise oval is at any time

northern lights phone app
Tracking the aurora, it’s coming our way!

Take a Northern Lights Tour

You may want to take a tour, or you may want the self-rule of a rental car and chasing the sunrise by yourself. Either way is unconfined and I tried out a few variegated Fairbanks northern lights tours during my trip (more on those in the next section!).

Aurora Photo Tours

If your goal is to get a unconfined photo of the aurora, then I highly recommend signing up for an sunrise photography workshop the first night you victorious in Fairbanks. Without all, this is a skillet list item for most people and you want to make sure that you know what you are doing as the sunrise is not an easy thing to photograph.

A 40-minute momentum from Fairbanks will put you firmly in the interior – a perfect place to view Northern Lights. Just off the Steese Highway, you’ll find Aurora Withstand Photography Workshops, a small intimate workshop in Frank and Miriam’s off-the-grid home.

Frank offers whence and wide photography classes and if you don’t have your own DSLR or mirrorless camera, he rents them withal with tripods. You will leave with some spectacular night sky and (hopefully) sunrise photos.

Aurora Viewing Tour

These tours normally have big numbers of people with a mix of photo addicts and just people who want to see the aurora. As you might guess – these aren’t my jam. I hate big tours and mentor buses, however, it works for some people and it’s nice to know that Fairbanks offers these types of tours to get you out of the municipality and increase your endangerment of seeing the northern lights.

Lodges Offer Northern Lights Viewing Packages

Some hotels offer sunrise viewing options where people can come and stay up all night in a warm setting like a yurt or lodge but hands run outside and enjoy the show when it arrives. We went to Taste of Alaska Lodge just outside of Fairbanks and they had a perfect setup for viewing. They had a warm-ish yurt where we could stay warm and wait, then run outside and take photos easily. The log motel lodge provided a trappy foreground in the photos.

I moreover went to and stayed at the remote Black Rapids Lodge. It’s south of Fairbanks but commonly gets trappy northern lights sightings. The trappy thing well-nigh Woebegone Rapids is that it’s surrounded by the Eastern Alaska Mountain Range, so you can see the Northern Lights over the mountains!

Fairbanks sunrise borealis vacation packages alaska

It’s moreover worth noting that all of the hotels virtually Fairbanks will moreover requite you an Sunrise wake-up undeniability if you sign up for it. This ways you don’t have to sit up all night waiting, they do all the nonflexible work and undeniability you when they are out. However – it is nonflexible to see the northern lights in Fairbanks due to the municipality lights, so the wake-up undeniability is weightier when you are at hotels in the countryside yonder from the light pollution.

Discover where to find storing colors in Alaska

Have an Venture While Viewing the Aurora

A lot of waiting is involved when chasing the northern lights, so you may want to opt for an worriedness while you wait. Luckily the people in Fairbanks know how to host a good outdoor adventure! Doing a quintessential Alaska winter venture while waiting for the lights to show up is a unconfined way to maximize your time…and stay warm!

Here are a few examples:

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Photo by Last Frontier Mushing Coop

Rent a Car and Go Sunrise Chasing Independently

You can moreover hands rent a car and throne out independently for as long as you’d like. Just ensure you have a full gas tank as the car will be your warm waiting spot in the middle of the night. The Explore Fairbanks website has detailed viewing locations perfect for the self-sustaining sunrise chaser well-constructed with maps and descriptions of where you can pull over and wait. Bring warm gown and supplies and water!

My Favorite Fairbanks Sunrise Borealis Tours

If you decide to take a tour, here are six of my favorites I have washed-up virtually the Fairbanks area.

1. Sunrise Withstand – Photography

It was 10 PM and we were going to the Aurora Withstand Photography Workshop. As we pulled into the driveway lit by torches it gave the whole zone a romantic glow in the snow. My excitement level perked up and my sleepiness subsided. This was a small intimate photo workshop in Frank and Miriam’s off-the-grid home.

TIP: Do an sunrise photo workshop the first night in Fairbanks to ensure the rest of your time in Alaska chasing sunrise will be photographically productive!

Frank and Miriam immediately turned into fast friends as we talked in their little motel lit by candlelight. We all had a lifetime of travels under our belts and we bonded on travel stories over tapas as we got to know each other. This workshop was private in that only one party could typesetting it. Frank’s goal was to create something increasingly personal and memorable for people rather than doing a tour with a large group.

“Aurora watching is an emotional thing – it’s something from their lifelong skillet list. They dream of it for a long time. And it’s a lot of effort, money and time to get to where you can see it. When they do see it – it’s emotional and we often hear very personal stories from people. And that’s what makes it special for us too.” Frank explained.

Frank provided us with a scientific preliminaries and then we went into photography tips and settings as he primed us for the big show. I learned a ton well-nigh unprepossessed weather Northern Lights photography. Frank will moreover take pictures of you with the lights so you have a unconfined memory of the experience. They moreover offer other varieties of things to do on their property like snowshoeing while watching the northern lights, or you can just hang out and enjoy their dogs. The wits was everything I could’ve asked for and more.

I love this small intimate setting so much that I include it on my Ottsworld Alaska Winter Tour – and it’s unchangingly a highlight of the trip!

Aurora Withstand Photography: Read what other people thought of Aurora Withstand Photography on Trip Advisor. Trammels out all the Aurora Withstand Photo Workshops.

2. Last Frontier Mushing Co-op Sunrise Night – Adventure

Amanda and Ryne, the two women who led our Northern Lights tour, were both experienced mushing racers. They were young, badass, and fun to hang out with. They got us all suited up for a dog sled ride, something I had washed-up before, but I had never mushed in the dark. With the new fallen snow, the woebegone spruce trees were magical all covered with dollops of white. The dogs were eager to run and we were bundled up so much that we resembled Randy from The Christmas Story.

Scared of the unprepossessed weather in Fairbanks in the Winter? It just takes the right gear.
Check out my Alaska winter packing list and go prepared!

After the sledding, we warmed up in the comfy yurt and got our cameras ready. The forecast was really positive for the night and the skies were perfectly clear. As we ate succulent smoked salmon and reindeer sausage inside, Amanda was outside watching for the aurora. The sunrise forecast was positive for the night.

“It’s here!” she exclaimed and we jumped into action.

We spent the next 90 minutes outside watching as the lights grew in intensity and started to move and spritz like a wave in the sky. This was the substorms I had heard about; streaks of light dancing upwards right whilom our heads. At that point, I just watched in awe. I didn’t take many pictures that night, considering I was mesmerized just watching it with my eyes. The night was unprepossessed but perfect. We sat by the fire, had hot chocolate, and took pictures, but mostly we just enjoyed the show.

The Mushing Co-op will moreover take pictures of you with the aurora, as well as do fun light photography as you wait for the sunrise to appear.

Incredible dog sledding under the starry tundra sky AND dancing Northern Lights…it was two skillet list items in one night!

Aurora Watching and Dog Sledding: Read what other people had to say well-nigh the Last Frontier Mushing Co-op on Trip Advisor. Trammels out Aurora Watching and Dog Sledding.

3. Borealis Basecamp and Viewing Domes

If you are looking for an incredibly unique way to see the northern lights virtually Fairbanks and have a worthier budget, then trammels out Borealis Basecamp. It’s a hybrid glamping and sunrise wits well-nigh an hour’s momentum north of Fairbanks where there’s no sign of light pollution.

Borealis Basecamp is the newest and most glamorous way to see the northern lights in the region. I didn’t unquestionably get to have the full overnight experience, but I did go there during the day to trammels out the unique glamping structures.

These fiberglass domes are reminiscent of igloos and they are what trek and research teams use in the far polar regions. However, these igloos have been remodeled to include clear, curved windows that stretch 16 feet wideness each igloo roof. This allows guests to lie in bed and view the northern lights without leaving their cozy duvet.

Borealis Basecamp sunrise viewing fairbanks

The igloos are not at all primitive plane though they are off the grid. They have kitchenettes, a full bathroom, a real bed and mattress, and they are heated.

4. Sunrise Point Tour Experience

Aurora Point is a relatively new wits just outside of Fairbanks that caters to numerous people at once. It’s definitely not intimate, but it is fun and informative. This is basically a well-appointed viewing point rather than a tour. You victorious (you have to get yourself there) and enter the large towers where you’ll be worldly-wise to comfortably wait indoors.

Comfort is key in this experience. There are couches and nice tables set up. There are games to play, hot drinks, and all-you-can-eat cookies. While you wait they do a lecture on the sunrise explaining the what and how of the phenomenon.

They have someone who goes outside and does the waiting in the unprepossessed for you and then will inform you when the lights are out. They plane have a live webcam of the sky televised in the towers so you can moreover alimony an eye on the worriedness and know exactly when to go outdoors.

In addition, they have a couple of lovely firepits outside where you can moreover hang out and alimony watch on the sky. Or you can hike withal one of the many paths in the fields to alimony moving and alimony an eye on the sky.

They will take pictures of you and the sunrise and help you with your own photography too. This wits is a unconfined undear – but you certainly won’t be alone.

Reservations are necessary and you will have to provide your own transportation there.

5. Chena Hot Springs Sunrise Tour

I’m not a big fan of Chena Hot Springs – the quality has really wizened every time I return, it’s not well run in my opinion, and it’s outdated. However – they do have a unconfined and unique sunrise tour they offer that is worth one overnight stay. Plus – you do get to enjoy the hot springs too of course.

The tour is like nothing I’ve experienced before. They undeniability it a snow mentor tour, but it’s not a bus, it’s an old military-style track vehicle unfluctuating like a train to other ‘cars’. It slowly and loudly makes its way up the mountain to the top of Charlie Dome where there are two Monolgian-style yurts. That is your wiring for the night – far from any civilization and far from the resort too!

They provide hot beverages and snacks during the evening. When I went it was a full moon, but don’t let that deter you. You can still get good photography during a full moon. In fact, I got this tomfool shot of a moondog and the lights at the same time!

6. Tundra Whirligig Northern Light Tour

This is a long 16-hour tour, but it’s a way to wits the weightier of the region and navigate the Tundra Circle!
Embark on a journey upper whilom the Tundra Whirligig to Coldfoot by air. Enjoy lunch at the truck stop (a unique wits itself), and then transition to a van for the captivating return momentum withal Dalton Highway to Fairbanks.

Along the way, we made stops to marvel at the pipeline, engage in some exhilarating sledding, and savor the unique landscapes of the Tundra Whirligig and the Yukon. Approximately 90 minutes north of Fairbanks we stopped at a small motel to see the aurora. It gradually emerged during our van ride, reaching its full, mesmerizing exhibit by the time we reached the cabin.

This was one of my most memorable nights for sunrise activity, with the lights gracefully dancing wideness the sky for hours. Moreover, the motel offered a delightful oasis for warming up and indulging in snacks during breaks between sunrise spectacles. This was a long day – but it was worth it.

Book this tour through the Northern Alaska Tour Company. They offer drive-up/fly-back variations in winter.

Why an Alaska Train Trip Should Be On Your Winter Itinerary

What Time Do the Northern Lights Towards in Fairbanks

The typical time the northern lights towards virtually Fairbanks is 10 PM to 3 AM. Oof – thanks Sunrise Oval for keeping me up all night. I decided an sunrise borealis trip in Alaska is like a trip to Vegas. You end up in a weird sleep pattern where you are awake from 10 PM to 4 AM when the lights are hopefully visible and then sleep until 11 AM the next morning.

There are tons of great things to do in Fairbanks besides chasing the Northern Lights, but just don’t plan too many early-morning activities. Late nights and early mornings don’t mix!

TIP: Take a nap in the afternoon to prepare for your late-night sunrise chasing.

what to do while waiting for northern lights
Stay warm and awake with hot chocolate!

“Everything good happens without midnight here.”

Peter Delemere Sunrise Physicist

I’ve visited Fairbanks numerous times and enjoyed viewing the Sunrise Borealis there increasingly than I could count. You have everything you need in Fairbanks Alaska for a unconfined Northern Lights trip. And the weightier part is that you finger like you have the place to yourself considering you’ll be blazing your own trail while others throne to expensive Scandinavian countries. Come to Fairbanks Alaska to see for yourself!

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