Alaska in April: A Complete Guide to Visiting in Spring
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Watching the seasons change in Alaska is an incredible experience. The snowclad mountains slowly change from their white vestiges to become clad in green. Wildlife begins to appear more frequently: moose move from the cities up into the mountains, bears emerge from their hibernation, and whales begin to reappear, seeking a season of feeding in Alaskan waters.
That said, I’ll be honest: April (along with October) is one of the months I don’t really advise people visiting Alaska. Spring in Alaska is a transition period between the popular summer activities and the tours and other things to do in the winter, and some things are either no longer available as the winter winds down or not yet open for the summer. That doesn’t mean you can’t visit in April – and if you’ve already booked your tickets, then I’ll help you make it an incredible trip anyway!
In this post, I’m covering everything you need to know if you’re committed to planning a trip to Alaska in April. Below you’ll find an overview of the weather, temperatures, and daylight hours so you can understand what the average day will be like; I also cover places I recommend you visit and what to do whale – I mean while – there. Lastly, I have tips on what to pack – one of the toughest questions you might be stuck on in planning your trip. Ready? Let’s jump right in!
In this post, I promote travel to destinations that is the traditional lands of many Alaska Native groups, including the Aleut, Athabascan, Haida, Inupiat, Tlingit, and Yuit peoples. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
Weather in Alaska in April
It’s never easy talking about the weather in Alaska. The truth is the weather varies significantly depending on the region. In this section, I’ll focus on the weather you can expect in Anchorage, Girdwood, and Seward, which are the cities I recommend visiting in April in Alaska.
Anchorage is Alaska’s largest city and sits in the heart of Southcentral Alaska, not far from the ocean. Therefore, it experiences a more temperate climate and receives more precipitation. Spring weather makes a big entrance in April, and those cold, dark days quickly fade away. During April, Anchorage’s average high temperatures are around 45°F (7°C), while average lows are around 30 °F (-1°C). The sky is overcast about 60% of days, but gets clearer as the month goes on.
Seward is 120 miles south of Anchorage. This laid-back town has an average temperature ranging between 25°F (-4°C) and 35°F (2°C) in April. Since Seward is a coastal town, there’s a bit more chance of cloudy weather and the sky is overcast about 70% of the month.
For contrast, Fairbanks is 250 miles north of Anchorage; while it’s not one of my top recommendations for visiting Alaska in April, it’s a good point of comparison in terms of the weather. In April, temperatures in Fairbanks range from 21°F (-6°C) to 47°F (8°C) – this demonstrates Fairbanks extremes’ in one month! Additionally, it’s actually clearer in Fairbanks than further south; about 50% of days see the sun during the month.
For a general overview, temperatures in Alaska in April range from an average low of 29°F (-2°C) to an average high of 44°F (7°C), but it of course depends on where you plan to visit.
Daylight Hours in Alaska in April
Knowing when the sun will rise and set in April in Alaska will come in handy when you’re planning your itinerary. By the end of April, daylight is rapidly increasing in Alaska; you can expect 14 hours of daylight. However, just like the weather, sunlight varies a lot depending on the geography:
- In Anchorage, days lengthen from about 13.5 hours a day at the beginning of the month to over 16 hours by the 30th. Seward is almost the same since the two cities are so close.
- In Fairbanks, daylight lengthens from 13.5 hours on the 1st to 17 hours by the end of the month – days get nice and long quickly in Fairbanks!
As a general rule, the further north you go during the spring months, the longer the days and the shorter the nights. In the Far North, they call it the Midnight Sun for a reason!
Destinations to Visit in Alaska in April
Same as with the weather and daylight, I’ve narrowed down this list to the destinations I believe will give you a taste of the best Alaska has to offer during the spring season. Here are three destinations to visit in Alaska in April.
You might notice Fairbanks isn’t on my list – that isn’t to say you shouldn’t visit Fairbanks, but that I think Girdwood is a better choice if you’re visiting in April.
Anchorage makes a great base for exploring Alaska no matter when you visit. While this big city peaks during the summer months, April offers a nice bridge between winter activities and things to do during the summer.
Of particular interest, Anchorage hosts the Alaska Native Youth Olympics in April. The competition gathers hundreds of youth who show their dexterity in events based on the games past generations of Alaska Native people played as a way to test their hunting and survival skills. But let’s not rush! I’ll tell you more about the ANYO later…
Girdwood is every outdoorsy’s traveler’s dream. The picturesque town boasts an impressive offering, with gorgeous mountains, hundreds of hiking trails, scenic rainforests, biking, rafting, you name it. But, the main reason to visit Girdwood is that it’s home to Alaska’s only major ski resort, Alyeska Resort. April is your last chance to ski in Alaska; the resort is also home to a great (new) nordic spa that’s well worth a whole day during your visit.
Seward is your gateway to glaciers and whale watching. A visit to the seaside town means you’ll get to enjoy some of the finest wildlife and access to one of Alaska’s national parks that’s easiest to visit (Kenai Fjords National Park).
In the early season, whale watching is a popular activity alongside birdwatching and flight-seeing; the grey whales tend to arrive in Alaska waters as early as March and can be spotted along with Orcas. Additionally, glacial activity (calving) tends to increase in the spring as temperatures increase.
Top 5 Things to Do in Alaska in April
Okay, now that you have an idea of where you might want to visit in Alaska in April, here are some of the top things to do while you’re there.
Alaska Native Youth Olympics
Were you intrigued by the idea of attending the Alaska Native Youth Olympics? Here’s what you need to know to decide if you want to plan your trip around it.
The ANYO started in 1972 in an attempt to preserve and pass on to young Alaska Natives their heritage. The competition includes 10 events inspired by the games that past generations of Alaska Native people played to develop the physical condition needed to endure Alaska’s harsh lifestyle. Attending these events is an excellent way to get a closer look at Alaska’s cultural heritage and better understand it.
Yes, it may be spring, but you can still get a good dose of snow fun in Alaska. Alyeska Resort in Girdwood is Alaska’s best ski resort, and a must-visit if this is on your Alaska bucket list. (I’ve only been snowboarding here once but it’s on par with some of the top resorts in the Lower 48.)
Temperatures aren’t the only thing that increases in April in Alaska; glacier tours do, too. There are numerous ways to appreciate the beauty of glaciers, and which one you choose depends on your budget.
By water, you can book a glacier tour or sea kayak trip. By air, you can book a flightseeing tour, one of the best ways to gain an appreciation for how massive these icefields are. By land, you can go on the roadside, ATV, hikes, and ice climb tours; Salmon Berry Tours offers a great day trip from Anchorage to go hiking on Matanuska Glacier a few hours north.
While whale season is considered to be May through September, whales start appearing in Alaskan waters in late March. Seward offers plenty of boat tours to see these beautiful marine mammals.
Two of the biggest operators in Kenai Fjords start the season off early: Major Marine Tours offers a Spring Wildlife Cruise from early March through early May, and Kenai Fjords Tours has a Spring Resurrection Bay tour from mid-March to mid-May. These tours also allow you to see other animals coming out to say hello too, like sea lions, seals, puffins, and sea otters.
April is one of the top months to see them, as many animals change their habits as the state warms up, brightens, and comes back to life. You’ll see moose changing their habitat as snows melt and the snow lines retreat; grizzlies will also become active again as they come out of hibernation.
While Denali National Park isn’t yet open for their summer bus tours, there are many wildlife excursions that take you to discover these animals in their natural habitat and learn about their importance in Alaska’s ecosystems.
What to Pack for Alaska in April
Okay, now you know what it will be like, where to go, and what to do once you get there… Here’s one final section to cover your last important question: what to pack.
Since Alaska is a month of transition, it’s actually harder to pack than in the winter (when you can safely assume it’s cold) and in the winter (when it’s warmer and your biggest concern is rain). In April, you can have all of the above!
Here are some tips for what to pack for Alaska in April:
- Layers, layers, layers. In both my winter packing list and my summer one, this is my top advice – and it’s true in between, too. I always start with Unbound Merino base layers and add on from there depending on the day’s forecast.
- Prepare for rain, even if the forecast doesn’t call for it. Alaskan weather changes rapidly in the good season, so you should be ready for it in the shoulder season too. I love a long rain coat to stay dry even if the wind kicks up too.
- Waterproof boots will do you well. Again, it just helps to keep your feet dry and warm if you want to have a goo trip. Alaskans sport their Xtratufs all year, so take their lead and invest in a pair too.
- Don’t forget a hat, gloves, and sunglasses to be prepared for everything.
Have any other questions about visiting Alaska in April? Let me know in the comments below!
Great information about what to do in April. Thank you very much!
Glad to help, TJ. Have a great trip if you’re going!