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When & Where to See the Midnight Sun in Alaska

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On our first night of the first trip when I took my now-husband Mr. V to Alaska, he was annoyed. Our plane had touched down around 10:30pm in late May, and it took us a bit more than an hour to get to our Airbnb in Eagle River – the town where I grew up. As we hopped out of the car to enter our accommodations, he was said, “why isn’t it getting dark yet?!” Welcome to the land of the midnight sun.

The midnight sun is an astronomical phenomenon that occurs in northern latitudes: strictly speaking, it means that the sun isn’t below the horizon at midnight, though a less rigid definition often equates it to saying “the sun doesn’t set.” After growing up in Alaska, the midnight sun was no big deal to me, but I can appreciate how prospective Alaska travelers might find it fascinating – and want to experience it.

Midnight Sun in Alaska Hero

In this post, I’m covering the important details of seeing the midnight sun, in general and in Alaska. I’ll explain where you can see the midnight sun in Alaska, and when – you need to know both your latitude on the globe and the dates the sun is above the horizon as the calendar ticks over.

In addition to the myriad of other bucket list experiences you can have in Alaska, I hope this post helps you tick off a truly unique one. If you have any questions about when you’re visiting Alaska, where you’ll be traveling within the state, and if the midnight sun will be visible, let me know in the comments at the end of this post!

In this post, I promote travel to a destination 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.

Where to See the Midnight Sun

Without getting too technical, seeing the midnight sun is a matter of being far enough north (or south) on the Earth. (Let’s not get into flat versus spherical debates here!) If you are above a certain latitude in the northern hemisphere during a window of time near the June Solstice (or below a certain latitude in the southern hemisphere around the December Solstice), you’ll see the sun above the horizon at midnight… That’s the midnight sun!

Roughly speaking: the midnight sun is only visible for the months around the June Solstice at 60-65° North and for the months around the December Solstice at 60-65° South. However, this also depends on the geography of the globe and atmospheric conditions. (Still trying not to get too technical!)

Where to See the Midnight Sun… in Alaska

Summer Solstice in Alaska - Hero

So which communities in Alaska are far enough north that you can see the sun above the horizon at midnight?

On the Parks Highway:

  • Nenana
  • Healy (north of Denali National Park)
  • Cantwell (south of Denali National Park)
  • Denali National Park (obviously!)

On the Richardson Highway:

  • Delta Junction
  • Tok

You can also see the midnight sun in any community north of these; Fairbanks is the best place in Alaska for most visitors to see the midnight sun, as it’s on the main highway system and has lots of other fun activities for travelers to enjoy!

Areas north of Fairbanks, and north of ~62-63°N on the globe in Alaska, also experience the midnight sun. So if you’re visiting Coldfoot or Utqiaġvik or Nome, those places will also give you the chance to see the midnight sun, in the summer. Speaking of summer and the specific dates the midnight sun is visible…

When to See the Midnight Sun in Alaska

It’s important to note that the midnight sun is only visible on certain days (or rather nights) in different parts of Alaska, and it’s visible for more days the further north you go.

For example, in Fairbanks, the sun is above the horizon at midnight between May 29th and July 13th. In the Denali area, it’s only visible from June 7th to July 6th; the same goes for Delta Junction. Further south – such as in Talkeetna, the midnight sun is not visible (the sun sets at 11:59pm on June 21st!). At the northernmost part of Alaska in Utqiaġvik, the sun doesn’t even dip below the horizon at all between May 11th and July 31st – that’s a lot of opportunities to see the midnight sun!

That said, you can still get the essence of the midnight sun by visiting Alaska in the weeks surrounding the solstice on June 21st. Even once the sun sets (before midnight in more southerly parts of the state), the sky will still be light – almost bright – and you might think the sun actually hasn’t set. It has, but Alaska also experiences looooong phases of twilight in the summer months, so it stays light for much longer, pretty much the whole night in certain parts of the state.

Hopefully, this helps answer your questions about whether you’ll see the midnight sun in Alaska – and when/where to do so. Have any other questions? 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.

2 Comments

  • Denny Eppard

    Hey Valerie,

    Thanks for all the great info and posts!
    I have a question about the midnight sun. You said Talkeetna misses it by 1 minute. We will be at McKinley lodge in Denali STATE park on June 11th and 12th. So since we will be a little farther north will we have the midnight sun? Thanks for your time.

    Denny

    • Valerie

      Denny, hi, nope, the sun won’t be above the horizon at Midnight on those dates. It’s only visible *at* midnight on the 20th-24th.

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