Have you ever been in temperatures so cold that your eyelashes have formed ice crystals? Or stepped outside and had your breath catch in your chest as the icy air hits your lungs? These might not sound like pleasant experiences, but they’re unique and memorable – and ones that are easy to experience if you decide to visit Alaska in February.
After January, February is the coldest month in Alaska – and also one of the darkest. This means you’ll have a very different experience if you visit the Last Frontier during this month compared to those during the summer months. In this post, I’ll share everything you need to know if you’ve already decided to plan an adventure and visit Alaska in February.
My last Alaska trip before the world stopped traveling in 2020 was to experience Alaskan winter by visiting in February – and lemme tell ya, it was definitely an adventure. From long nights chasing the aurora to unseasonably frigid temperatures while out ice fishing, meeting reindeer, and riding a dog sled, Alaska has a ton of unique winter experiences to offer. Just remember to bundle up!
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 February
It’s not easy talking about the weather in Alaska as the temperature and climate vary considerably depending on the geography. In this section, I’ll give you an overview of the weather you can expect in Anchorage (in Southcentral Alaska) and Fairbanks (in Interior Alaska), which are the bigger cities I recommend visiting in February in Alaska.
Anchorage is Alaska’s largest city and sits on the southern coast. February is the last month of winter in Anchorage, and as such, freezing temperatures are the norm. In February, the average high temperature is 24.8°F (-4°C), whereas the average low temperature is 15.3°F (-9.3°C). As for precipitations, Anchorage receives 0.5 to 1.0 inches (11 to 26 mm) of rainfall and between 5.5 and 18 inches (14 to 46 cm) of fresh snow in February.
Fairbanks sits about 260 miles north of Anchorage. Not that far, right? Well, a few hundred miles has a huge impact on the weather in Alaska – just like in the Lower 48. February is freezing cold in Fairbanks, with the average-high hovering around 12°F (-11°C) and the average lows at -3°F (-19°C). During this month, Fairbanks receives about 4″ of snow.
To recap, temperatures in Alaska in February range from an average low of 12°F (-11°C) to an average high of 26°F (-3°C). This increase in temperatures is partly because there’s a bit more cloud cover (about 50% of days) and about 8 hours a day of daylight.
Daylight Hours in Alaska in February
Knowing how much sunlight Alaska receives during February is a piece of info that will help you when planning your itinerary. While days have started to lengthen, Alaska is still pretty dark during February.
Same as the weather, daylight hours change depending on the region:
- In Anchorage, days have an average length of 9 hours and 4 minutes in February. The shortest day of the month is the 1st with 7 hours and 50 minutes of daylight. The good news is that days are only getting longer from here on. By the end of the month, the days will have lengthened to almost 10.5 hours from sunrise to sunset.
- In Fairbanks, February days have 8 hours and 31 minutes of sunlight on average. The first day of the month is only 7 hours and 3 minutes long, while the last and longest day of the month is 10 hours long.
Destinations to Visit in Alaska in February
If you’ve read any of my itineraries, you’ll know I recommend you plan your trip to Alaska around Southcentral and Interior Alaska. Keep reading below to find out which destinations are worth visiting in Alaska in February.
No matter the season, Anchorage is a great base for any Alaska trip. The largest Alaskan city is at its best during the summer months, but that doesn’t mean it’s nothing to offer in the colder months. Quite the opposite. Anchorage has some of the best snowy adventures for you to experience the winter wonderland that Alaska is, from seeing the northern lights to ice climbing.
I’ve got a complete list of winter activities to do in Anchorage, and I recommend giving yourself at least two nights here to enjoy them.
Denali National Park
Denali National Park is a destination most travelers want to include in their Alaskan trip. But, if your trip to Alaska is scheduled in the winter, there’s a high chance you’re wondering if the park will open in the winter. The short answer is… kind of. Officially, Denali National Park is open during the winter, and there is staff available to support the park and visitors who make their way.
Having said this, there are a few things to consider:
- The Park Road closes at Mile 3, meaning you’ll have limited access by car. For the intrepid traveler, there’s the option of getting a permit to ski, snowshoe, or hike back into the park at your own risk.
- If you’re driving, you can also book accommodation in Healy, a community 11 miles north of the park entrance active year-round (unlike the tourist-oriented Nenana Canyon area that closes in mid-September each year).
- If you don’t have a car (or don’t want to drive in the snow), the Alaska Railroad offers a flag-stop service to Denali Park as part of the Aurora Winter Train; this means you can book a ticket to/from Denali in advance or flag down the train. As a heads up, there is no accommodation in the Denali area during the winter, unless you plan on camping.
Fairbanks is another excellent destination to spend time in during your visit to Alaska in January. If I’m being honest, I think Fairbanks is Alaska’s top winter playground. There’s no shortage of things to do in Fairbanks in the winter, which, in my opinion, are a lot more fun than the activities you can enjoy during the summer.
To make the most of your trip to Fairbanks you’ll have to rent a car. Unlike Anchorage, where the best activities are connected on public transit, Fairbanks doesn’t offer shuttles, public transit, and tour pick-ups/drop-offs. Be sure to rent a car with studded tires to help you better drive on the snow and ice!
Top 5 Things to Do in Alaska in February
There are tons of fun things to do in February in Alaska, and each city has unique activities you can enjoy. Nonetheless, I’ve made a list of my top five activities to guide you when you’re planning your own itinerary.
People visit Alaska for uncountable reasons, but one reason always stands out is to see the northern lights. Alaska is one of the best places in the world to view the, and luckily, viewing the aurora or northern lights is one of the top things to do in Alaska in February.
During the winter months, the sky is darker and the nights are longer, providing optimal conditions for the aurora borealis to make an appearance. If viewing the northern lights is the main reason you’re visiting Alaska, don’t forget to check out my guide, planning an aurora trip to Alaska, to help you organize your trip.
Some amazing activities are confined to the winter season only, like dog sledding. There’s nothing like feeling the cold wind against your face while you’re slipping through the forests in a dogsled pulled by a team of Alaskan Huskies or Mushers. Both Anchorage and Fairbanks are home to numerous kennels offering winter excursions.
Attend Fur Rendezvous
Fur Rendezvous, or Fur Rondy, as the locals know it, is Anchorage’s winter festival. The festival started in 1935 when miners and trappers returned to the town to sell mid-winter goods and resupply. Today, the festival hosts tons of fun activities, including snow sculpture contests, fur auctions, native arts market, and the Running of the Reindeer, Alaska’s internationally acclaimed fundraiser event where participants see if they can outrun the reindeer.
Downhill or Cross-Country Skiing
A staple of the winter season, skiing is another great activity to keep you entertained during the day.
Despite the insane amount of snow and extensive terrain, skiing is not as popular as one might expect. Still, a few resorts groom the snowy grounds to provide some fine tracks for travelers. You can go Alpine skiing, commonly known as downhill skiing, at Alyeska Resort, or cross-country skiing at Kincaid Park.
Soaking in Hot Springs
Alaska is an outdoor travel destination. While you’re expected to spend a good portion of your trip hiking, camping, or awake to see the Northern lights, that doesn’t mean there’s no time for some relaxing. After all those long days, there’s nothing like taking a dip in a hot spring.
Alaska has two spots where you can take a dip and enjoy some “me time”:
- Chena Hot Springs – Located near Fairbanks, these are the most popular hot springs in Alaska. Both the community and resort have developed a lot since I was a kid. The property now has a large outdoor pool to soak in naturally-heated water.
- The Nordic Spa – This property is part of the Alyeska Resort and is a newer alternative in the hot spring scene. I visited the spa during my August 2022 visit, and I believe this place it’s going to be even better in the winter months than it is in summer. They have different dry and wet saunas, hot pools, and cold plunge pools, with more options planned soon.
Both venues have the hot springs open by day or night, so you can take a dip to kick off your day or at night to go to sleep warm and relaxed.
As a heads up, you will also need a car to reach both of these spots. Yes, in case you’re wondering, you’ll be driving a lot during your trip to Alaska.
What to Pack for Alaska in February
Alaska’s February weather calls for careful preparation when it comes to packing. That is why I have written an entire Alaska winter packing list so you can see the basics I recommend for any trip. But, if you want the ultimate advice for what to pack for Alaska, it is to bring layers.
Layers allow you to stay warm according to the temperature changes you experience while doing different activities – you want to avoid overheating and sweating as much as you can.
To give you more specific advice on how I layered to stay warm in the Alaskan winter, here’s what I’m wearing in both of the photos above:
- On top, I’m wearing a base layer (I love Unbound Merino), a long-sleeve cotton shirt, my favorite North Face green jacket, and a heavy, down jacket from Columbia. I have links for both of those jackets in my Alaska jacket guide.
- On the bottom, I have a base layer (usually also Unbound Merino) and a pair of UNIQLO jeggings for the day; at night, I added on my snowboarding pants from Burton (recommended in my winter packing list linked above).
- On my feet, I have Smartwool socks; during the day I was wearing my favorite Norwegian-style snow booties, and I switched to heavy-duty snow boots at night when it got colder. Both are linked in my Alaska shoe and boot guide.
- On my head, I’m wearing a simple synthetic beanie. I also have a synthetic scarf (not the best choice, I’d choose a merino wool today).
- On my hands, I have liner gloves as a base layer, and my snowboarding mittens to layer them up, especially at night.
I also had hand and foot warmers that I tucked into my boots and mittens to help keep my fingers and toes warm at night – I visited at an especially cold time in February 2020 when the lowest temp we experienced was -35°F in Fairbanks! BRRRRR!
Have any other questions about visiting Alaska in February? Let me know in the comments below!