Note: As of June 4, 2020, the State released new requirements that all travelers must comply with; read more here. Additionally, many hotels, tours, and other options are fully booked at this point for the remainder of Summer 2020. If you do not already have reservations, DO NOT BOOK NEW TRAVEL THIS SUMMER.
Over the past few months, I’ve been working on a series about the best time to visit Alaska… but see here’s the thing: there are great reasons to visit Alaska all year long! I’ve already written about those reasons for spring, fall, and winter – now I’m back to share the reasons you should visit Alaska in the summer.
It might seem obvious why people want to visit Alaska in the summer, but maybe you’ve never thought about it… what is it that makes people flock to Alaska in the warm months? Is it the weather? The wildlife? The freedom of The Last Frontier? Ok, let’s be honest: it’s all of the above and more!
Read on for a quick run-through of the reasons Alaska is so insanely epic in the summer months – if you weren’t already sold on braving the crowds of fellow travelers who are also going to be there, this will convince you to visit Alaska in the summer! (Though maybe next summer – not this one.)
1. The Weather is at its Best
The climate has been changing in Alaska, like everywhere else in the world, but summer is still broadly considered to include the months of June, July, and August. May is still quite spring-ish with cold weather and the possibility of snow, and even by late August, you could expect the same depending on how far north you travel.
Alaska in June
June is the best month of the year to visit if you want the best weather possible. In June, temperatures in Alaska range from an average low of 47°F (8°C) to an average high of 62°F (17°C). There’s also virtually no rain during June, which is great since so many parts of the state are known for getting rain all year long.
The other amazing reason to visit Alaska in June is to see the Midnight Sun. The summer solstice occurs each year on June 20th/21st and depending on where you visit in Alaska, you may be able to see the sun shining at midnight!
Alaska in July
There’s a joke from when I was growing up that the sun shines until July 4th, and then the rains begin again. I can’t tell you how many times we would celebrate the 4th of July on the night of the 3rd (because you have to wait until almost midnight for it to be dark enough to see fireworks!), and then wake up the next morning to rain.
In July, temperatures in Alaska range from an average low of 51°F (11°C) to an average high of 65°F (18°C). So the temperatures are nice, but I still recommend packing rain gear like the one I recommended in my Alaska summer packing list.
Alaska in August
August varies a lot in weather from the beginning of the month to the end. Unlike elsewhere in the USA, August gets cooler as the month goes on, and there are rarely dog days of summer in Alaska. In August, temperatures in Alaska range from an average low of 49°F (9°C) to an average high of 63°F (17°C). The best way to think of it is that temperatures start near the average highs and move toward the average lows as the month goes on; it’s also more likely to rain as summer turns to fall.
2. You Can See the Midnight Sun
As I mentioned, the chance to see the midnight sun is one of the coolest experiences I recommend trying to have when visiting Alaska in the summer. In addition to seeing the sun literally shining throughout the night, you can watch the sun move toward, but never beneath the horizon line.
If you really want to see the Midnight Sun, you’ll need to travel up to Fairbanks. This is the best spot to try and see the Midnight Sun on the days around the summer solstice on June 20th. All three of my suggested itineraries – for 5 days, 7 days (Itinerary B), and 10 days – include Fairbanks, t help inspire you.
3. Everything is Open!
During the summer months in Alaska, all of the hotels and tours are open, and you can have almost any bucket list experience you’re dreaming of in The Last Frontier.
Okay, if you’re reading this in 2020, this is not actually an accurate statement. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a number of hotels and some tour companies have limited or closed operations for the year.
But normally, summer is a great time to visit and have plenty of options for accommodations, experiences, and more.
4. Wildlife is Everywhere
For many people, seeing wildlife is one of the top reasons they want to visit Alaska. It’s the place where you can see grizzlies gnawing on salmon, the majestic but prehistoric-looking moose slurping pond scum, and more bald eagles than you can count. Never mind that there are plenty of other animals to see, including Dall sheep, caribou, wolves, and many species of sea life: orcas, belugas, humpback whales, sea otters, and tons of sea birds.
During the summer months, almost all of the animals in Alaska are active and moving around. It’s the season where you can potentially see Denali‘s Big 5 (Bears, Moose, Wolves, Caribou, and Dall Sheep) and spot five species of whales on a single whale watching cruise from Seward.
5. It’s the Easiest Season to DIY Alaska
If your idea of visiting Alaska is getting out to explore on your own, forging your path through the wilds of The Last Frontier… summer is the time to visit! Basically, this is because of the other reasons I’ve already mentioned: the weather won’t interfere with your plans and everything is open so you can put together your own itinerary based on what you want to experience.
To put together your itinerary, you obviously have some choices – you can do it yourself (DIY) using all of the resources I have in my Alaska travel guide. You can also reach out to me and I can help you put together a custom Alaska itinerary for your trip; I’m also building a DIY itinerary planning tool and will add the link here soon.
No matter which way you build your itinerary, you’ll have a great time – summer really is the best time to visit Alaska and that’s why it’s so popular. You may have to rub elbows with fellow travelers who also flock to the 49th State this summer – but it will be worth it, trust me!
Do you have questions about visiting Alaska this summer? Let me know in the comments.
Need More Alaska Travel Advice?
My Alaska ebook bundle will help you plan an unforgettable Alaska trip, with tips on what to do in Alaska (including on a cruise), where to go, and the best Alaska itineraries.
Get the bundle for just $19.99!