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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!

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.

💥Bonus! I just set up this new quiz to help suggest an Alaska itinerary to you. If you’re planning a trip, check it out to get a ✨customized itinerary✨ based exactly on your own travel details and preferences.

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 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.

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.

A Few Quick Tips to Wrap It All Up
Want to know more about Alaska? Snag a Lonely Planet Alaska Guidebook.
Take great photos of Alaska! I shoot on a Sony A6000 & my iPhone 11 Pro.
Or get pro photos of your Alaska trip: Book a Flytographer shoot.
∙ You can never go wrong with travel insurance: I recommend World Nomads.

Have other questions about how to visit Alaska in spring? Let me know in the comments.

33 comments

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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.

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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!).

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I would have never thought to visit Alaska in Spring! You made a lot of great points!

Belle | One Awesome Momma

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Yeah, it’s a surprisingly fun place even when the weather isn’t perfect! I hope you can make it someday!

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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

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Oh, I’ve heard very few people say Winter, actually! Usually, it’s Summer – but no matter what, when you visit in Spring, there are definitely perks!

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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!

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Yeah, it’s a fun destination for sure! I hope you can visit one day!

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Alaska is definitely on my list! Had no idea about all the pros to visiting in the spring! Thanks for sharing, I might have to do some planning for spring 2018 (;

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UnCruise is having a sale on Spring cruises right now, if it helps nudge ya along 😉

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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.

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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!

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i have always wanted to visit alaska! the scenery alone looks just breathtaking!

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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.

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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…

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Fathima, thanks for reading! I have tons of Alaska resources here: https://www.valisemag.com/tag/alaska/ I hope you have a great trip!

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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.

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Jocelyn, I’m so glad this was helpful for you! I’m here if you have any questions – and I have loads of other Alaska articles that may help you plan your trip: https://www.valisemag.com/tag/alaska/

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I have booked my tickets for the last week of May . What would it be like ?/?

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What parts of Alaska will you be traveling to?

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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

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Thanks for your comment, Tarun! I have a post about visiting Alaska here: https://www.valisemag.com/10-days-alaska-itinerary-guide/ and it links to lots of other posts I’ve written about Alaska. Or you can see them here: https://www.valisemag.com/tag/alaska/

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Thanks Valerie. I checked your itinerary. But searching on NPS websites, I see that Denali National Park and Kenzai Fjords will be closed in the dates I mentioned above (April 29 – May 4). Can you please guide me to something which suits me more. That will be helpful. Thanks.

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Thanks, Tarun. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of alternatives to those National Parks at that time if you’re planning to travel independently. Where in Alaska are you planning to visit?

As such no preference so far. But I just know that I have to visit Alaska. Any geography would do at the moment. If not this time, then, I am sure when is Alaska going to happen for me.

I will be a solo traveler.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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I think you’ll have a great time, Sam! Thanks for your comment 🙂

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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.

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Thanks for your comment, Carol. Sounds like you’ll have a great trip!

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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.

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Thanks for your comment, Andrea! I have a post here for a 10-day Alaska itinerary – but you need to check each of the places to make sure everything is open whenever you know your exact dates: https://www.valisemag.com/10-days-alaska-itinerary-guide/ Have a wonderful trip!

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