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Alaska in October: A Guide for Visiting in Late Autumn

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Ah, October. After the busy summer and autumn seasons in Alaska, October is the month when you can really start to feel the local’s experience of The Last Frontier.

Gone are the majority of visitors; gone are the majority (but not all) cruise ships. The days rapidly become shorter and the nights longer and the temperatures steadily drop. October is the month where your chances of snow and seeing the northern lights are both good – and as it’s almost crowd-free, it can be a great time to visit depending on your interests.

Alaska in October Hero

If you’re planning a trip to Alaska in October and want all the details specific to the month of your visit, you’re in the right place. Below you’ll find October-specific Alaska travel info: general weather and daylight hours info, special events that only happen in October in Alaska, and tips on what to pack specifically in this transition month/shoulder season. Ready to learn the last details you need to prepare for your October trip?

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 October

Alaska in October - Weather

It’s officially fall season in Alaska. Though, to be honest, by mid-October winter weather is setting in across the Last Frontier – and cold, snowy days and nights are not only possible but expected. As I always say, talking about the weather in Alaska is not easy, because the weather changes a lot depending on the region you visit.  

In October in Alaska temperatures range from an average low of 28°F (-2°C) to an average high of 40°F (4°C). The first half enjoys relatively warmer temperatures (50s) and longer days; temperatures drop and days get shorter as the month goes on. Below there’s an estimate of the temperatures you can find in different regions:

  • The Coastal regions like Southcentral and Southeast Alaska see average temperatures during this time of year that can range from 30°F to 45°F (-1°C to 7°C).
  • The Interior boasts an average temperature of approximately 20°F to 35°F (-7°C to 2°C).
  • To no one’s surprise, the Arctic region is the cooler one as expected. The average temperature during this time of year typically ranges from approximately 0°F to 20°F (-18°C to -7°C).

To be honest, most people don’t visit the Arctic even in the warm summertime so I don’t expect you’ll need to be bracing yourself for those temps!

Daylight Hours in Alaska in October

In Alaska, the average daylight hours in October vary significantly depending on the specific location within the state. As you move from the southern regions to the northern areas, there is a noticeable change in the amount of daylight due to the state’s vast size and location near the Arctic Circle.

In general, here are some approximate average daylight hours for different regions in Alaska in October:

  • Alaska’s biggest city of Anchorage starts out getting about 11.5 hours of daylight at the beginning of October and receives less than 9 hours by the end of the month.
  • In October, Fairbanks – which is further north – starts out getting about 11.25 hours of daylight but drops rapidly, receiving less than 9 hours by the end of October.
  • The capital city of Juneau is a little further south than both of these other cities and sees about 11.5 hours of daylight at the start of the month, dropping to just 9 hours by Halloween.

Top Events in Alaska in October

You may not enjoy the summer cruise if you’re planning to visit Alaska in October. But that doesn’t mean there are no other activities you can enjoy! Below are five great events for you to attend. 

Alaska Day Festival (October 11-18)

Alaska in October - Alaska Day Festival

The Alaska Day Festival celebrates the state’s heritage and history with a week-long extravaganza from October 11-18. This year’s theme is “Honoring Alaska Fishermen.” Commemorating the transfer of Alaska from Russia to the United States, this event features parades, traditional dance performances, historical reenactments, and cultural exhibits.

Locals and visitors alike can immerse themselves in Alaskan traditions, savor local cuisine, and engage in interactive workshops, all while basking in the stunning fall scenery of the Last Frontier.

The Big Band Bash (October 14)

Wanna show off those dance moves you got? Well, you’re in the right place. Alaska in October hosts a swinging affair – The Big Band Bash!

This event actually celebrates modern aviation, but to do so, it recreates the mid-twentieth century, the age of swing music and big bands, streamlined and chrome-laden automobiles, and glitzy propeller-driven airliners. Guests will be delighted with classic jazz and big band melodies. There will also be a delicious dinner, silent and live auctions, a best-dressed award, and a dance contest.

2023 Fall Festival (October 20-22)

Alaska in October - Fall Festival
Photo courtesy of Visit Skagway

I said it above: October in Alaska is synonymous with fall weather and activities. As the foliage reaches its peak, Alaska celebrates the Fall Festival, one of Skagway’s most cherished events. Held in a scenic location, this festival celebrates the wonders of autumn in Alaska.

There’s all kinds of fun. Guests can delight in pumpkin carving, hayrides, artisanal markets, and seasonal treats. This family-friendly is the perfect place to bring your kids as there are many kid-oriented activities, from pumpkin picking and bouncy houses to family storytime. 

Creepy Critters (October 21)

Creepy Critters is another great activity in October in Alaska for families. But you better bring your courage! This spine-chilling event takes you to discover Alaska’s fascinating yet eerie wildlife on October 21st.

Held at Creamer’s Field, this event offers a captivating experience for curious minds of all ages. Expert guides introduce attendees to nocturnal creatures, curious insects, and mysterious birds, shedding light on their hunting habits and adaptations. Best of all, it’s free!

Halloween Trick-or-Treat Events (October 31)

Alaska embraces the spirit of Halloween just like any other state with an array of Trick-or-Treat events across towns and neighborhoods; two places I know already will have events are Seward and Valdez.

Little ghouls and goblins, as well as adults in creative costumes, roam the streets collecting sweet treats from local businesses and residents. How do you know which businesses are participating? If the business has an orange pumpkin in their window, they are participating and awaiting trick-or-treaters inside.

Just be aware: it’s almost always snowy by Halloween in Alaska, so you’ll need to design a costume that fits over a snowsuit!

What to Pack for Alaska in October 

As you now know, a lot changes in October in Alaska: daylight hours drop off rapidly across the stay, temperatures drop quickly too, and if there isn’t snow by the beginning of the month (which can happen), there almost always will be snow by the end!

As such, you should pack to be prepared for snow – it’s wiser to follow my winter packing list than my summer one, because the chances are far likelier that you’ll be in winter weather than anything resembling what travelers in June, July, and August experience.

  • As always when visiting Alaska, you should pack layers – especially rain-proof (not rain-resistant) layers if the forecast is even slightly cloudy during your visit.
  • Choosing the right outer layers is an essential but tricky part of what to pack; I have a guide for the jackets and outer layers I recommend for Alaska travel; in October, you’ll want the heavier layers: wind-breaking and down options will work well together to keep you warm.
  • Don’t forget to pack waterproof footwear (ideally snowproof!) in addition to any shoes/boots you want to walk around on nicer days. (I have a whole guide to shoes and boots for Alaska including rain boots.) Wool socks will do you well too.
  • While you don’t really need them in the summer (though they’re small so you might as well pack them) a hat, gloves, and scarf will serve you very well in October (and the rest of the winter).

That pretty much covers it, right? Have any other questions about what to pack for Alaska in October, things to do in Alaska in October, or anything else for your Alaska trip? 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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