5 Reasons to Visit Alaska in Fall

by  Will McGough | Updated on Jul 31, 2019
Alaska in autumn
Alaska in autumn / Cappan/iStock

Due to its weather patterns and reputation for cold, Alaska has always been considered a summer destination. But maybe it’s time to give fall another look. Sure, colors are changing all across North America, but nowhere else can compete with the seasonal transition occurring in Alaska, both in the environment and amongst its people.

During this window, the weather is cooling down but not freezing, the crowds are gone, the rates are cheaper, and many environmental changes, in addition to the fall colors, are on display. Here are five reasons to visit Alaska in the fall. 

1. The rates are much cheaper. As the calendar makes its way through August and turns to September, the bottom falls out of the demand, and the supply is suddenly in your favor. Whether in a major hub like Anchorage or a more remote location like McCarthy, room rates decrease drastically as the summer season comes to a close. For example, the same room at Hotel Captain Cook in Anchorage -- the base camp for adventures to the Talkeetna Mountains and Denali National Park -- can be over $100 cheaper (per night!) in September or October as compared to June or July. 

2. Locals travel in the fall, so there are fewer crowds. As crowds dissipate and prices drop, locals take the opportunity to hit the road themselves. Seasonal workers -- honorary locals -- scramble to fit in a few last adventures before heading back to the cold weather. In other words, as a traveler, you’re much more likely to encounter a group of locals in the National Parks, fjords, and glaciers than you are, say, tour buses.

3. You can the Northern Lights without shoving through tons of people. Fall in Alaska brings about a significant change that’s often overlooked, or perhaps looked upon negatively. During the summer, Alaska receives nearly 24 hours of daylight, and in the winter, the opposite is true -- darkness sets in. Once fall arrives, locals are beginning to see the stars for the first time in months. While hardcore Northern Lights enthusiasts of the Northern Lights may wait until later in the year (when there are more hours of darkness), casual crusaders might find compromise in a late September or October hunt. It’s not as cold and the days aren’t as dark, so your trip can be about much more than the hunt for the Lights.

4. There's amazing foliage. Sure, trees are turning everywhere but there’s another kind of fall in Alaska: a vivid display that takes place on the ground. The wilderness here is full of open tundra, many without trees. In these valleys and high alpine areas, the ecosystem exists entirely on the ground in the form of riverside mosses, berry patches, and rough foliage, which undergoes a colorful change beginning in September. Blueberries ripen, moss glows vivid green, and underbrush flashes autumn colors. It's truly a sight to be seen. 

5. The weather is beautifulThe sun’s low angle during the fall creates a soft light and an alpine glow on the mountains that's just jaw-dropping. Because of this, you’ll be able to see the mountains in a different light than any other time of year. It doesn’t typically snow at lower elevations this time of year, but it will snow overnight on the tops of the peaks, creating a best of both worlds: beautiful contrasts between the fall tundra and the white-capped mountains, your feet dry but the views -- and pictures -- greatly dramatized.  

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