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Alaska in March: A Complete Guide to Visiting in Late Winter

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While March might signal the end of winter in some parts of the country, that’s not the case for Alaska: March is still very much a winter month, tapering toward the “break-up” season as it comes to an end. (Break-up refers to the time when all the snow and ice melts, creating a muddy mess – it’s the start of Alaska’s short spring season.)

That said, March is an incredible month to visit Alaska. The sun is slowly coming back as days get dramatically longer, aurora season is at one of its semi-annual peaks, and there are a variety of fascinating events and things to do in bigger cities like Anchorage and Fairbanks. If you’re planning to visit Alaska in March, you’re in for a treat.

Alaska in March Hero

During my last winter visit in 2020, I was in Alaska for part of March. While there, I had the chance to ride the train across snowy landscapes, hold on to a dog sled tearing across the frozen countryside, and warm back up in hot springs after long nights under the northern lights.

That all sounds pretty good, right? Whether you’ve booked your trip already or are considering dates in March, here’s how to plan your Alaska trip in the third month of the year.

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.

This post was originally published in December 2022, and was updated most recently in December 2023.

Weather in Alaska in March

As mentioned above, March is not the end of winter in Alaska – it’s still part of the winter season. This means you should pack and plan for winter weather if you want to visit Alaska in March.

Additionally, Alaska’s huge geography plays a role in what you can expect regarding temperatures. 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 March in Alaska. 

Anchorage is Alaska’s largest city and the one with the most amenities. It sits on the southern coast and has a subarctic climate. March is the first month of spring in Anchorage. However, don’t expect the temperature to vary a lot. March is still freezing, with an average temperature ranging between a high of around 29 °F (-2°C) and a low near 18°F (-8°C). It snows (or possibly rains if it’s unseasonably warm) most of the month.

Fairbanks is about 260 miles north of Anchorage; while it may not seem a considerable distance, in Alaska, the weather dramatically changes in a small radius. Fairbanks is (still) frigid cold in March, with an average temperature fluctuating from as high as 21°F (-6°C) to a low of 2°F (-17°C). Surprisingly, Fairbanks is drier in March, only snowing about half of the month.

Daylight Hours in Alaska in March

Anchorage in the Winter - Sunset

You may not consider it when you’re first planning your Alaska trip, but knowing how much sunlight Alaska receives during March will help you organize your itinerary better. While days have started to lengthen, Alaska doesn’t get a ton of sunlight during March.

Daylight hours in Alaska change depending on the region: 

  • In Anchorage, March days range in length from about 10.5 hours in length at the beginning of the month to almost 13.5 hours in length at the end of the month.
  • In Fairbanks, days increase from 10 hours long on the 1st to 13.5 hours by the 31st.

This huge increase is in part due to daylight savings time, which occurs in early March, as well as the time surrounding the March equinox when Alaska gains the greatest number of minutes per day as the days increase in length.

Top 8 Things to Do in Alaska in March

You’ll never run out of things to do in March in Alaska, with each area offering activities that are unique to them. Since I can’t include them all, I’ve narrowed this list down to my top five activities to help you plan your own itinerary for this trip.

Iditarod Ceremonial Start & Official Start (March 2-3)

If you’re visiting in March, you’re lucky as you get to witness the magic of the Last Great Race on Earth

For a bit of context, The Iditarod Trail was a vital lifeline in Alaska’s winter trade as it connected a series of mining camps, trading posts, and settlements established between 1880 and 1920 during Alaska’s Gold Rush Era. Today, the race is emblematic of frontier travel and recovers the crucial role the sled dogs played. 

There are many activities surrounding the Iditarod. One of them is that you visit kennels or see mushers and their teams parade through the streets. But nothing compares to experiencing the thrill of the mushers guiding their teams through the stunning snowy landscapes, showcasing the partnership between humans and sled dogs.

Arctic Winter Games (March 10-16)

For those who enjoy watching sports, March in Alaska also hosts the Arctic Winter Games, a celebration of northern sports and culture. For this occasion, athletes from the circumpolar regions gather to compete in a variety of sports, from traditional games to modern competitions. The best about this event though is that it offers travelers the opportunity to witness indigenous sports and traditions.

Buckwheat International Ski Classic (March 9)

Are you a skiing enthusiast? Then the Buckwheat International Ski Classic promises an unforgettable experience. At a glance, it may seem like a classic ski race – but it isn’t.

Sure it’s held in the pristine wilderness of Alaska and offers participants a challenging course through breathtaking landscapes. There’s one thing difference, though. There’s a theme and participants don their best costumes! This year’s theme is “A Buckwheat Odyssey: Monsters, Myths & Mischief”. 

Gold Medal Basketball Tournament (March 17-23)

Sticking to the sports, basketball also takes center stage in Alaska in March during the Gold Medal Basketball Tournament. From March 17 to 23, teams from across the state converge in Juneau to compete. The tournament is not just about the sport; it’s a celebration of community and friendly competition. Get your tickets, join the cheering crowds, and experience the fun atmosphere as teams battle it out on the court.

Mayor’s Cup Snowmachine Cup (TBA near March 18)

Who doesn’t enjoy a little bit of adrenaline? The Mayor’s Cup Snowmachine Cup is a 150-mile cross-country snowmachine race in Valdez. Racers from around the region gather to rev their engines and navigate the challenging snow-covered terrain. Everyone can participate, but bear in mind event coordinators bill the race as: “it ain’t for babies”. If you aren’t the adventurous type, just watch and feel the adrenaline rush of the skill and speed of the participants. 

Note: Registration for the races is usually available in person the day before the race or online a week before the race. Pre-registration is available online on the Valdez Snowmachine Club Facebook page, and in-person registration is available on Friday, March 17, from 5 to 8 PM at Valdez Brewing

Winter King Salmon Tournament (March 23)

Fishing enthusiasts will find their haven in the Winter King Salmon Tournament. Held in Homer, this tournament has become the largest fishing tournament on the West Coast. It attracts anglers eager to catch the largest king salmon. It’s a great occasion to experience the thrill of winter fishing while enjoying the backdrop of snow-covered landscapes. Oh, if you’re considering participating, over $200,000 in prize money is awarded annually to the largest Kings caught!

Valdez Fat Bike Bash (TBA near March 31)

There’s more than just skiing to enjoy the snowy landscape. The Valdez Fat Bike Bash is one of them.

The exact date is yet to be announced, but the event typically occurs around March 31. Fat biking enthusiasts gather to explore snowy trails – you can race over icebergs and a glacial lake! Whether you’re a seasoned fat biker or a curious novice, this festival provides an opportunity to enjoy the winter scenery while engaging in a fun and challenging sport.

World Ice Art Playground (through March 31)

Throughout March, Fairbanks transforms into a magical “World Ice Art Playground”. This event features beautiful ice sculptures created by talented artists from around the globe. You can wander through the trail and see numerous ice displays – you won’t believe the intricate designs. There’s also an interactive ice playground where travelers and little ones can have some fun. If you can, try to visit the ice park at night. The sculptures illuminated by colorful lights are just stunning.

What to Pack for Alaska in March

Alaska’s March 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 March? Let me know in the comments below!

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I was born on the East Coast and currently live in the Midwest – but my heart will always be out West. I lived for 15 years in Alaska, as well as four years each in California and Washington. I share travel resources and stories based on my personal experience and knowledge.

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