5 Reasons to Visit Alaska in the Summer
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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.)
In this post, I promote travel to destinations that are 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.
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; I also offer really handy and affordable Alaska itinerary planning packs to help you get your trip planned.
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 or join me in my Alaska Travel Tips Facebook Community!
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My husband and I are wanting to plan a trip to Alaska for our 45th wedding anniversary for this June 2021. I have several questions:
1. Do we still have the time needed to get a trip planned that includes at least 10-12 days total with a 7 day cruise in the inside passage and the remainder of the time on land.
2. How is covid-19 affecting travel for summer of 2021?
3. I would prefer to fly into Vancouver verses Seattle if possible and cruise from there.
4. I am not a fan of large cruise ships, however, the uncruise ship is out of our price range with all the other things we want to experience. I assume this is our only option to really see the inside passage and the port cities we want to spend time in. We love the water and harbor’s.
5. We want to get something booked s soon as possible for around June 24-approximately July 3rd.
6. Your suggestions on a cruise line? We love activity and will want to take advantage of excursions.
Thank you for your help.
Barbara, thanks for your comment. You definitely have enough time to plan your trip, but I’d aim to get everything booked by April 1st. At this point, you should assume that the current Covid requirements will still be in place, so be prepared to arrive with a negative Covid test and wear your mask. In terms of cruising from Vancouver, that will depend on Canada’s decision to open their border to Americans – you may not have a choice on Seattle vs Vancouver if you want to cruise this summer. I haven’t done any other cruise companies in Alaska other than Uncruise, so sorry, I can’t advise more specifically on any other company! If you’d like more help planning your other days beyond your cruise, feel free to reach out about a custom itinerary! https://www.valisemag.com/product/custom-alaska-itinerary/
We are planning on coming to Alaska this summer (2022) inour RV , would love some advice on places to stay near Denali, Fairbanks, Anchorage, and Steward. Our thought is to park in thees areas for 4 or 5 days and do day trips or even o er night trips from there in our car.. is this reasonable. Would love e any advice and suggestions from you.
Sorry, I’ve never RVed in Alaska and don’t have information about where to park. I have lots of Alaska articles if you haven’t seen them yet: https://www.valisemag.com/guides/alaska/
I’ve scrolled through your article searching and searching for your actual packing list for 10 days in Alaska and can’t find anything…. Too many ads and side info when all I wanted was a clothing list
Here you go, Kathy: https://www.valisemag.com/pack-alaska/ Ads help keep my site running so I can provide this content for free 😊
Hi, we are going to be in Alaska from June 16th through June 27th. I am interested in your itineraries, but I don’t understand how to set it up. We will begin and end our trip in anchorage,but would like to visit all the local areas with the chance to experience local culture and history, scenery, and wildlife including whales.
Hi, Allan, I don’t do itinerary planning – you can find info about the itinerary planning packs I sell in the V&V shop: https://www.valisemag.com/shop/