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5 Reasons to Visit Alaska in the Spring

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A lot of readers – and a lot of friends in real life – ask me for my tips about visiting Alaska. Since I grew up there, they assume I’m full of handy tips on how to do it for less money, with less stress, and for an even more unforgettable trip. After years of writing about Alaska, I do have loads of tips… and I write most of them here on my blog!

One of the biggest questions I get is about when to visit Alaska. Summer is peak season – but winter allows you to see the northern lights and try dog-sledding… And what about the shoulder seasons? It’s a tricky choice!

Alaska in Spring Hero

In this post, I’m addressing why one of the shoulder seasons – spring – is a great time to visit Alaska. Visiting Alaska in the spring helps you save money and still have a great experience. You’ll feel like you have (more) Alaska to yourself but can still book the flights, cruises, and tours on your Alaska bucket list.

Now that you’re inspired to plan your trip, let me try and convince you why to visit Alaska in spring!

This post was originally published in August 2017, and was updated in January 2020.

1. You’ll Experience Wintery Weather – without the Winter Cold!

If you want to experience a taste of what Alaska is like in the winter, spring is a great time to do so. It’s not uncommon for snow in late April and early May, particularly in Southcentral Alaska near Anchorage. Rain is common year-round in Southeast Alaska too, so don’t let that stop you!

You can certainly see glaciers in the summer in Alaska, but many of them diminish each year. If you want to get up close and personal with ice bergs and snow drifts, there’s no time like spring – right before “Breakup” turns it into a muddy, slushy mess. Here’s a quick breakdown of each Alaskan spring month and the weather.

Alaska in March

I personally count March as mostly-winter – spring officially begins on March 21st, after all! It’s still cold and you probably won’t find any tulips popping up from the (still) frozen ground – but you’ll experience more sunlight and warmer weather. It’s also one of two peaks in aurora activity each year.

In March, temperatures in Alaska range from an average low of 18°F (-8°C) to an average high of 34°F (1°C) – above freezing! There won’t be much snow in March, and you’ll get to enjoy the average 10 hours of daylight per day.

Reasons to Visit Alaska in Spring

Alaska in April

By April, spring arrives in earnest to Alaska. In Alaska, temperatures in Alaska range from an average low of 29°F (-2°C) to an average high of 44°F (7°C), which feels downright balmy after months of sub-freezing temperatures. This also signals the start of the unofficial season of spring, – “Breakup” – when all the snow and ice starts to melt and turns into a downright mess.

The good thing is that off-setting the slushy puddles and mud, April is moderately clear and it usually doesn’t rain or snow much this month.

Alaska in May

May signals the true change in seasons – if you visit Alaska in May, you can feel that summer is just around the corner. This is probably why many cruise companies and tour operators are increasingly offering services in May… there’s still a nip of winter in the air, but each day feels more and more like summer.

In May, temperatures in Alaska range from an average low of 40°F (4°C) to an average high of 55°F (13°C). Heat wave! It’s clear about 50% of days on average and while there might be a late season snow or rainy day, May is a good month to visit Alaska based on the weather.

In case the spring weather is still too cold for you, I’ve got a suggestion…

2. You can Warm Up with Hearty Food & Drink

Alaskan food, like the food of most northern (and far southern) climates, is great for weather with a little chill – like spring (and autumn).

After growing up in Alaska, I’ve greatly enjoyed my trips back as an adult that have allowed me to enjoy the craft beer scene that’s booming across the state – some of the breweries I’ve had the chance to enjoy include Alaskan Brewing Company (Juneau; always good!), 49th State Brewing (Anchorage), and Seward Brewing Company (Seward).

There’s also a good dining scene, which mostly focused on American and local foods. You can easily find great burgers on the same menu as fresh salmon, and increasingly you’ll see other fun Alaskan local ingredients cropping up on the menu, like reindeer sausage, halibut chowder, and local blueberries on a quinoa salad.

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    3. You’ll Encounter Fewer Crowds

    There’s no doubt that traveling in the shoulder season to any destination means you’ll encounter fewer crowds. That’s one of the perks of traveling to Alaska in the springtime too!

    These photos from Juneau (left) and Ketchikan (right) show how empty Alaska is during the “off” season – even just a week or two before the summer season begins. In particular, this photo of the main dock in Juneau will literally be swarming with tourists when a cruise ship pulls in – when I visited in May, it was empty!

    If you want to visit Alaska but don’t love the idea of rubbing elbows with white-sneaker clad tourists, spring is a great season to plan your trip.

    4. You’ll See Alaskan Scenery in Transition

    Personally, I find the ‘transitional’ seasons to be the most beautiful anywhere in the world. Just think about the leaves changing color every Autumn in Vermont or the Cherry blossom blooms in Japan each spring. Alaska is the same way!

    In the spring, Alaska slowly transitions from a land of black, white, and gray to one of greens and blues. Waterfalls cascade down mountains that were once covered in snow and the few leafy trees slowly erupt into vibrant green tones. (In the autumn, the trees and leaves take on red, yellow, purple, and brown tones to rival the colors you’ll see anywhere else in the world.)

    I love these transitional seasons in Alaska because they remind me that the beauty in the world is both fleeting and cyclical: the seasons always change and the colors always change, and they’ll come back next year too.

    5. Lower Prices will Stretch Your Budget Further

    Alaska Airlines

    Yet another reason – aside from all of the others listed above – to visit Alaska in the spring, is that prices are going to be lower. Since Alaska is a bucket list destination, most people save up for years to make the trip. By visiting in the spring, you’ll stretch those savings further, maybe getting to stay a day or two longer, or visit an additional destination or book an extra tour.

    For example, flights for a week-long trip from Seattle to Anchorage in April and May start at just $297; as of June 1st, flights jump up to $350 right away.

    If you don’t care about your budget, this might not matter to you. If like me you try and stick to a budget and save when you can, traveling to Alaska in spring is a great way to keep your costs down.

    Is Spring a Good Time to Take an Alaska Cruise?

    UnCruise Alaska Spring

    Sure! Most travelers to Alaska take a cruise when they visit, and there are several reasons to do this in spring.

    As mentioned, prices will be lower across the board. Most cruise companies actually offer a lower price in the spring (May) compared with Summer (June/July).

    Another reason people avoid cruising in spring is that they want great weather when they visit Alaska. Southeast Alaska (the route most cruise ships take) is one of the rainiest parts of the U.S. Juneau, a common cruise port, averages 223 days of rain per year! Hashtag pack-your-raincoat.

    If you’re looking for a great company to cruise to Alaska in the spring, try UnCruise Adventures. I wrote a super-long post about my 7-night cruise in May 2017 which will convince you why I think UnCruise is the best way to see Alaska.

    Have other questions about how to visit Alaska in spring? Let me know in the comments or join me in my Alaska Travel Tips Facebook Community!

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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.

    45 Comments

    • Jody Robbins

      I would never have thought to visit Alaska in spring, but being a Canadian based near Banff National Park, it makes total sense. I love the tip about cruises and discounts at that time of year. A few friends who’ve done that cruise in summer said it was quite cold anyway.

      • Valerie

        Thanks for commenting, Jody! Spring is a great time to visit, same for Banff! I hope you can enjoy visiting Alaska someday (Spring or another time of year!).

    • Christie Brown

      Alaska has been on my bucket list for such a long time! Everybody assumes that Winter is the best time to go but you’re right! Cheaper prices, less people – It sounds like Spring is actually the perfect time to go, great point. 🙂

      Christie’s Take on Life. xx

    • Jae

      I have a blogger friend who lives in Anchorage, and I look forward to visiting her there someday! I’ve heard nothing but great things about Alaska (though it gets really harsh in the wintertime). A coworker went to Juneau, and I got jealous of all the pictures she showed us!

    • Lynn White

      These pics are amazing! I have always wanted to go to Alaska. Glad you added the part about the cruise because that’s probably how we’ll go.

    • Whitney S.

      Alaska looks so beautiful! I’ve always wanted to visit. My husband went on a cruise to Alaska growing up, and he always talks about what a great place it was to visit!

    • Amanda Schreiber

      I’ve visited Alaska a couple times on a cruise ship and I never LOVED it until I went last spring on a long weekend trip from Seattle (less than $200 a ticket!). It was beautiful and quiet, even in the touristy areas.

    • FATHIMA NASAR

      hey….!!!! I am planning to send my parents on a vacation and found this article…. it is very helpful as this is my first time planning an abroad trip. Could you give me little more information about accommodation and transportation…

    • Jocelyn McDonald

      My husband and I want to go on vacation soon, and we’ve always thought Alaska would be a good place to visit. Your article had some great points about the benefits of visiting Alaska in the spring, and I liked how you said that this is the time when the landscape transitions from a land of black, white, and gray to one of greens and blues. This sounds beautiful, and we’ll keep this in mind when deciding where to go on our vacation.

    • Tarun Mathur

      Thanks for the blog. This is amazing. I was planning to visit from April 29 to May 4. Can you please share an itinerary with me or a suggested outline of what all to see! Thanks

    • Tom

      Hi. Great article; one of the best that I have read for Alaska. Very valuable in my plans to travel to the Anchorage area.
      In Mid-March, where do you recommend for a 2 ~ 4 hour Dog Mushing experience (considering the snowfall/ weather)? Thanks!

      • Valerie

        Thanks for your comment, Tom! I’m not sure what the best option will be in the Anchorage area around that time of year, but try checking for dog sledding near Willow, Beach Lake/Chugiak, and out in Wasilla or Palmer. You’ll need to drive, but that’s the only way you’ll find the kennels that might still be offering tours. Have a great trip!

    • Sam Li

      I love what you said about the good dining scene that is found in Alaskan cities. Taking a cruise to Alaska sounds like a simple and fun way to see a new state and area of the world. My friends and I want to take such a trip, so we’ll consider contacting a travel company that can help us find affordable tickets.

    • Carol Salamanca

      Hello, I’m Carol and my Son & Daughter want to visit Alaska with me (their Mom). They wanted me to let them know where I would like to go…I said Alaska!…I want to see it all…I want to visit the small towns of Eskimo Families….where they work…how they live…and of course all the beauty of Alaska.

    • Andrea

      Hey Valerie!

      I am from Costa Rica and my boyfriend and I are planning a trip to Alaska, we definitely want to avoid crowds and high prices so we want to go in Spring or Winter. Since it seems winter can be too harsh we are going for spring. Do you have a good road trip itinerary for Spring? We definitely want to see the best of the best and only have 10 days ( probably 8 if we count the ones we are going to be traveling ). Any suggestions can definitely help us! Thanks.

    • Chris mumford

      Hi valerie.
      I will be on a cruiseship to alaska on may 20th 2020,It is the inside passage,Juneue,Skagway and many more,will the bears be about and other animals.
      I will also be doing the train trip up to McKinley lodge and Denali, How cold will it be.I am so looking forward to my adventure.Any help would be great full.

      • Valerie

        Thanks for your comment, Chris. I mention the temperatures you can expect in the article above, so give it another look to see what my research suggests for May 🙂 I can’t guarantee any animal sightings, unfortunately!

    • Paige B

      Hii,

      What are your thoughts on visiting in mid-May? I’ve personally been to Alaska in the month of August a few years ago and it was fantastic but I have a client who would love to go to Alaska and May is the time-slot she has to go. She doesn’t wanna go if she won’t be able to experience the full-monti or if she will be hindered by closures, too much snow, and lack of wildlife. Would love some insight on visiting in May 🙂

      They want to do the trip independently. They would like to rent a car and explore on their own (with the itinerary I plan for them). They’re in their mid-60’s. Love nature, easy-moderate hikes (2-3 miles max), would love to do dog sledding, a light light kayak excursion, they wanna do a flight seeing tour where they land on a glacier, see wildlife, deffs wanna do Denali but I’m seeing a lot of issues with a major road closure starting from I think mile 42 on the Denali highway. Before we even start planning anything I told her I would do research on whether May is even worth it to go as she doesn’t wanna do Alaska twice in life.

      Any advice and insight would be greatly appreciated 🙂

      • Valerie

        Thanks for reading; I’m a little concerned about some of your comment though, if you’re planning trips for clients…. are you a travel agent?

        • Paige

          yes… not sure why you’re “concerned” I came accross your blog, seems like a good source of information, and I figured I’d post a question to get some insight?

          • Valerie

            Paige, I’m concerned because you’re planning a trip when you don’t know important information about the destination you’re planning.

            For example, the Denali Highway is a very different road than the Denali Park Road – if you send your clients on the Denali Highway, they won’t be in Denali National Park.

            As for when Denali (or any other activity) is open/available, the best resource should never be any travel blogger/website – it should be the source site itself. The National Park Service has shared all of the relevant info on when bus tours will be open on their site, and they’ll be the most accurate and updated available.

            I appreciate that you think I’m a good source of information, but it’s unfair to pick my brain for additional advice/expertise beyond what I already provide for free in nearly 100 Alaska articles I have written on my site. I’m happy to do that for travelers themselves, but as a travel advisor, you’re getting paid for this work and I’m not.

      • Valerie

        I’m sorry, Paige, I just don’t have time to do your job for you. You’re positioning yourself as a travel expert with your website and getting paid to create itineraries for people – but you don’t even know basic information about Alaska, or how to get it for yourself.

    • wes barnett

      Hi! I am planning on traveling to Alaska on May 3rd ish and I was wondering if there was anything to do in terms of Hiking in Seward (maybe Exit Glacier?) I went last year to Anchorage and Seward and was hoping to do the same trip again. Is everything closed or snowed in? Would it be worth it for a 3-4 day trip to go to Anchorage/Seward/Homer? Thank you!

    • Shantanu

      Hi Valerie! You have really good articles for Alaska- thank you very much for all the information. I am planning to do like a short staycation (since don’t have a lot of holidays for the year) in Alaska (around 15 days) towards end of May. What kind of itinerary/locations would you suggest considering i will be working remotely for a few days plus taking off a few days- so might not be able cover many different places but would like to focus on a few places that would have a lot different things to offer?
      Also- i am currently working in the EST time zone so would expect my work to be finished earlier in the day in Alaska (also the reason planning to do a trip to Alaska) and not planning to rent a car so just wanted to know what my options/itenerary should be like and if its possible to do Alaska trip without a car.
      -Thanks

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