The Finest Issues to do in Fairbanks, Alaska

Fairbanks, Alaska is Alaska’s largest inside metropolis, it’s positioned proper within the Aurora oval, and is just under the Arctic Circle.

It’s additionally a navy city, is straightforward to get to, and is well-situated for anybody hoping to see the northern lights in addition to street tripping to a few of Alaska’s most magical winter locations.

I visited on the finish of February, early March in 2021 and these are all the fantastic issues I discovered to do in and round Fairbanks:

Chase the Northern Lights

alaska in winter aurora borealis
Aurora over Denali Nationwide Park and me huddled within the who-ville bushes

My predominant cause for heading to Fairbanks within the winter was to see the northern lights, additionally generally known as the aurora borealis. Fairbanks is located within the aurora oval (as is Iceland, Finnish Lapland, and components of Canada), and has a greater place than Anchorage, or particularly Juneau, for lights viewing. Even when exercise is a bit decrease, you may have a greater likelihood of seeing the lights throughout the Aurora oval than outdoors of it. You may see what I imply by trying out the aurora forecast.

So how do you see the northern lights? You want clear skies, darkish skies, and excessive exercise. The KP index measures how sturdy the aurora are on a scale of 1 to 9. Even when it’s solely a two or three, you continue to have an opportunity of seeing a faint glow supplied you’re throughout the aurora oval. Nevertheless if you happen to get fortunate and see a KP 4 or 5, you’ll actually see the sky dance!

aurora
the lights over our lodge in Denali (test it out within the Denali part under!)

Though we flew into and based mostly ourselves round Fairbanks, town itself just isn’t an amazing place to see the lights as a result of mild air pollution of town. I’d keep on Moose Mountain, a ski space outdoors of city, or head right down to Denali Nationwide Park like we did (extra on that later). You may as well drive or take an aurora to the Chena sizzling springs, which you’ll see extra on under.

Though you possibly can take Aurora excursions, which can drive you out to one of the best viewing places and can show you how to get images of the northern lights, the best way I’ve all the time carried out it’s by having a rental automotive and driving myself. The good factor about touring in Alaska within the winter is there aren’t many vacationers, and lodging hardly ever runs out forward of time, so leaving room and your itinerary for serendipity might work in your favor in case your predominant goal is to see the northern lights.

Nevertheless I perceive not everybody is aware of methods to {photograph} the lights, and never everybody feels comfy driving at night time within the snow, so listed below are some nice choices for lights viewing round Fairbanks:

  • The Aurora Lodge: Completely located yurts which you can keep in whereas watching the skies for aurora. This expertise contains transport and studying about canine mushing as nicely.
  • Arctic Circle and Aurora Tour: Drive alongside the well-known Dalton Freeway to the Arctic Circle with possibilities for wildlife and northern lights viewing (observe that almost all automotive rental corporations won’t permit their autos on this treacherous street, so a tour like that is your finest wager!)
  • Moonlight dogsled, dinner, and northern lights: Get a magical expertise mushing at night time whereas trying on the aurora.

The Castner Glacier Ice Cave

alaska in winter
This ice cave positive was cool! However we needed to snow shoe by means of deep snow to get to it

The Castner glacier ice cave is a couple of 2 1/2 hour drive south of Fairbanks. Hill additionally handed by the north pole, which has Santa themed actions. I’ll discuss extra about that under, however if you happen to don’t have children and would reasonably have an outside journey, the ice cave is tremendous cool (pun supposed).

Although I’m used to ice caves showing and disappearing in a single day in most glaciers, this ice cave is all the time there. Even if you happen to go to in the summertime, you’ll nonetheless discover an ice cave! Watch extra within the video:

That mentioned, within the winter you possibly can stroll alongside the frozen river to entry it. I used to be capable of comply with a fairly clear set of snowshoe tracks to achieve it, making it simple to search out. Nevertheless that doesn’t imply it was simple to hike to! Though the path is flat, the snow was very deep once I went, requiring snow sneakers. Most individuals who didn’t have snow sneakers saved sinking into the waist-deep snow and didn’t make all of it the best way. I perceive it’s not all the time like that, nevertheless it’s laborious to know the circumstances earlier than you go, so if you happen to do have snow sneakers, carry them together with you. It could be a bummer to drive all that method and never attain the cave.

You’ll find the cave’s roadside parking space right here.

Denali Nationwide Park

alaska in the winter
May you stand right here in the summertime in Denali? No method!

Denali Nationwide Park is swarming with individuals within the summertime. It’s not laborious to grasp why, because the park is attractive and Denali is the tallest peak in North America. Nevertheless though I’ve been to Alaska twice in the summertime, the crowds have saved me away from Denali.

However what about within the winter time? Many of the nationwide park is inaccessible within the winter, with solely the street as much as mile 3 cleared. However ever since 2018, in February they start to plow the park’s predominant street all the best way as much as mile 12.5 (sure, even in 2021 COVID instances when this put up was written). This lets you get superb views of the mountains throughout.

Only a few individuals whom I spoke with really useful going to Denali within the winter, however I’m glad I didn’t pay attention. There are nonetheless loads of snowshoe trails, and we solely handed a handful of different individuals within the park all day. Are you able to think about having Denali Nationwide Park nearly completely to your self?

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