Visit Alaska in Summer – the best reasons to come here now

As the most well-traveled cat I know, I can say with confidence that Alaska is an exceptionally beautiful place to visit in summer. In addition to endless days, the entire state is overrun with wildlife, including a plethora of birds (a fact deeply appreciated by most traveling cats). Despite its beauty, however, Alaska continues to fly under the radar of the mainstream travel industry, making it an excellent destination for introverted cats like me. These are just a few of the reasons that I personally love to visit Alaska in summer.

Why visit Alaska in summer:

Appreciate long days with great weather

Visiting Alaska in the summer months is a truly special experience! Given its high latitude, Alaska experiences large swings in the length of day and temperature.

  • Mild temperatures – In the daytime, the temperature ranges around 60-80 degrees. The further you move inwards from the coast, the warmer temperatures you can expect. Even though Fairbanks is farther north than Anchorage, it has much warmer temperatures (approaching 80 degrees!), whereas Anchorage typically tops out at 70. Either way, you’ll enjoy a reprieve from the scorching heat that affects lower latitudes in the summer months. 
  • Long summer days – To balance out the long hours of freezing cold temperatures in the winter, Alaska’s summer offers extended daylight. These long summer days can sometimes extend beyond midnight, depending on your location. In Anchorage, you can expect daylight to top off at 19.5 hours and in the Arctic Circle, you’ll have daylight for a full 24 hours for nearly half of the summer! Just remember that the closer to the summer solstice (typically around June 21st), the more daylight you will experience. 

Experience the rhythms of nature

Summer is the best time of year to experience a flurry of activity from both the local wildlife and the humans that live alongside them. 

Alaskan Black Bear
Black Bear near Girdwood, AK
  • Birding – Even for those who never knew the word “bird” could be used as a verb, witnessing the return of Alaska’s birds for the summer season is a truly amazing experience. Some fan favorites include bald eagles, swans, and puffins. For enthusiasts, you can hunt for rare finds like rock ptarmigans, gray-headed chickadees, bluethroats, or yellow-billed loons.
  • The annual salmon run – This is the time of year when salmon return to the rivers to lay their eggs. Watching hoards of fast-moving salmon dodge predators while jumping over rocks and climbing up small waterfalls is an unforgettable sight. While the timing is ultimately up to the salmon, the best month to try to catch this wondrous event is August.  
  • Bears coming out of hibernation – As much of Alaska’s wildlife follows the seasons, its bears come out of hibernation to experience the warmer months. All of the summer months are a good time to get your coveted bear photos, though they tend to be the most active alongside the salmon run. Bonus points if you are able to travel to Katmai National Park and Preserve for one of Alaska’s best-known bear-viewing tours.

See the national parks 

One of the greatest reasons to travel to the largest state is to see its national parks. With 8 national parks, Alaska has more square miles dedicated to national parks than any other state. The most notable ones include: 

Why visit Alaska in Summer - Mt. Denali, North America's highest peak
Mt Denali
  • Denali National Park – Easily the best-known park in the area, Denali features Mount Denali, the highest peak in North America. Accessible by car from Anchorage, this park has hiking, flightseeing tours, and amazing wildlife viewing. 
  • Kenai Fjords National Park – Located outside of Seward, the Kenai Fjords are best explored via boat. This is hands down one of the best places to see tidewater glaciers and marine life like sea otters, humpback whales, and puffins. Boat tours run out of Seward on a daily basis and can be easily reached by car from Anchorage
  • Wrangell-St. Elias National Park – Known for being the largest national park, Wrangell-St. Elias is slightly off the beaten path. However, a trip to this amazing park will reward you with unique glaciers, truly remote hiking, and an abandoned mining town that houses one state’s best-known wilderness lodges: the Kennicott Glacier Lodge.  
  • Glacier Bay National Park – Located in Southeast Alaska, Glacier Bay is difficult to get to, but well worth the journey! Best explored by a daily boat tour, Glacier Bay features stunning glaciers, tons of marine wildlife, a healthy population of coastal grizzly bears, and a temperate rainforest. Make sure to book a room at the Glacier Bay Lodge, a fantastic overnight lodge, with a stunning view.
  • Katmai National Park – Also located in Southeast Alaska and only accessible by plane or boat, Katmai is best known for viewing black and brown bears. For outdoor photography enthusiasts, this is a can’t-miss destination. 
  • Other parks located in Alaska are Gates of the Arctic, Kobuk Valley, and Lake Clark.

Get active: best reasons to visit Alaska in summer

Alaska is a top destination for adventure travelers for a good reason! With endless physical challenges and amazing rewards, make sure to get active when you visit Alaska in summer. 

Why visit Alaska in summer - kayaking in Spencer Lake
Kayaking at Spencer Lake
  • Challenging (yet rewarding) hiking – The number of trails in Alaska seems endless. If you are in Anchorage, check out Flattop Peak, a local favorite.
  • Kitesurfing – Ever wanted to try this exhilarating activity? Alaska is the perfect place to glide along the glacier-carved coastline in summer.
  • Kayaking – If paddling the day away is your idea of fun, you will find Alaska in summer not only fun but beautiful too. Make sure to check out the tour on Spencer Lake, where you can paddle amongst crystal blue icebergs.
  • The Mt. Marathon race – This extremely steep, 3-mile race takes place over the 4th of July weekend in Seward. As a runner, it’s truly a challenging race! As an observer, you can cheer for these brave souls while also enjoying the festivities around town.
  • Bountiful fishing – If you love to fish, this just may be your paradise. From learning the art of catching salmon swimming upstream to fly fishing in the shadows of the country’s highest peaks, fishing in Alaska is not only picturesque, but it’s delicious too. Don’t forget to check out the deep-sea fishing charters as well. Here you’ll find some of the most sought-after halibut in the country. 
  • Camping – If you love to camp, Alaska in summer should be at the top of your bucket list. There are tons of campsites featuring hiking, fishing, and more! Try Bird Creek Campground and Quartz Creek Campground for a true outdoor experience.
Why visit Alaska in summer - harbor in Homer, AK
Harbor in Homer, AK

Appreciate the diverse beauty of mother nature

From walking on blue ice to gazing up at the curious green streaks created by the northern lights, Alaska’s natural beauty is on full display during the summer months. 

Why visit Alaska in summer - Glacier Bay boat tour
Lone goat spotted on the Glacier Bay Boat Tour
  • All the glaciers – The state of Alaska is full of different types of glaciers. One of the best ones to explore is the Matanuska Glacier, located only a two-hour drive from Anchorage. You can also enjoy tidewater glaciers on the Kenai Fjords boat tour.
  • Natural hot springs – There are a lot of hot springs to check out, over 20 to be exact. One of the best-known is Chena Hot Springs, which is accessible by car and features a hotel for overnight stays. If you are looking for something a little more rugged, check out White Sulfur Springs or the Baranof Warm Springs
  • The inside passage – Referring to a complex series of inlets and islands along the Alaskan coastline, the inside passage was formed by glaciers and is home to abundant wildlife in the summer. While many cruise ships pass through the inside passage, to get the best views (and lowest prices!) opt for a ferry ride via the Marine Highway System. You can even take a ferry all the way from Seattle!
  • The Northern lights – Also known as the aurora Borealis, the northern lights are a phenomenon that occurs close to the North pole. While the aurora is technically active year-round, it’s best viewed at nighttime. For summer travelers, this means scheduling your trip for either early May or late August.

Learn about the land

You don’t have to be a geologist to appreciate all that Alaska has to offer. Take some time to explore the land for fossils and an array of rocks and gems. You may be surprised at what you find!

  • Beachcombing at Fossil Beach – One of the most remote beaches in the state, those who travel here will be rewarded with a serene landscape and dramatic views. Make sure to explore the constantly changing fossils, which are visible on the sides of the cliffs. As a bonus, the remote nature of this location means that you are also likely to run into roaming wildlife. In particular, it is not uncommon to see bison walking along the beach.
  • Rockhounding – Looking for rocks and gems, like jade, gold, and agate, around the hills of Alaska is a fun pastime amongst the locals. This is one of a few areas where you can pan for gold and legally keep it! Restrictions may apply, so check the National Parks Services website for specifics.

Participate in a truly unique culture

The state of Alaska is a rich combination of military history, Russian influence, and indigenous culture.

  • The Alaska Native Heritage Center – Located in Anchorage, this museum tells the story of the land’s original inhabitants. Take some time to appreciate the rich culture of the people who learned to live in harmony with Alaska’s dramatic environment. 
  • World Eski­mo-Indi­an Olympics (WEIO) – Usually running in the middle of June, this unique event celebrates the feats of strength and skill used by natives for thousands of years. 
  • Gorgeous old churches – There are many churches throughout Alaska that have been around for centuries. The Russian Orthodox ones are especially lovely, some dating back to the 18th century.
  • Military history – You can easily explore many military sites around the state. We recommend starting with Caines Head, Attu Battlefield, and the Aleutian Islands. For those who are World War 2 history buffs, these are must-see locations.
  • Great people who love the land – Alaska is one of few places where locals can still live off of the land. Take some time to interact with your tour guides and bartenders to learn about day-to-day life in their great state.

Partake in “city” life

Any Alaska vacation should include stops in the state’s best-known towns to recharge in between your outdoor adventures. Alaska’s most populated areas are full of great food and unique experiences. 

Alaska in Summer - Juneau
Juneau, AK
  • Anchorage – As the biggest city in Alaska, the downtown area is a melting pot of locals, adventure travelers, and part-time residents. The summer is when Alaska really comes to life. You’ll find the enthusiasm for the season is well reflected in the breweries, shops, and restaurants in downtown Anchorage.
  • Juneau – Located in southeast Alaska, Juneau is the state capital. It’s fun, artsy, and modern with a bustling restaurant scene that’s a lot of fun to explore. Just keep in mind that summer is the peak season, so you will likely need reservations for the best restaurants. 
  • Fairbanks – Here you’ll find a fun town with a great public art scene. You can take self-guided walking tours to see all the gorgeous works of art on buildings, bridges, and streets. Start at Griffin Park and go from there! While you are in the area, make sure to take a dip in Chena Hot Springs
  • Seward – Best known as the jumping-off point for Kenai Fjords National Park, Seward is also a charming seaside town with great seafood, hiking, and waterfront activities. 
  • Homer Another great seaside town is Homer. Located in the heart of the Kenai Peninsula and home to Halibut Cove, this town is best known for its deep-sea fishing. Not a fishing enthusiast? You can spend your day exploring the Homer spit and people-watching at the historic Salty Dog Saloon.

Get off the beaten path: most unique reasons to visit Alaska in summer

A great itinerary is a mix of tried and true tourist stops with a dash of off-the-beaten-path adventures. Make sure to check out these quirky stops during your Alaskan adventure. 

50 foot tall Santa statue in North Pole, Alaska
North Pole, AK
  • Polar Bear Gifts Outlet Store – Located in downtown Anchorage, this is the perfect place to find unique souvenirs that celebrate the state of Alaska. Baseball caps, t-shirts, magnets, and shot glasses, all branded with that Alaskan flair. Just beware of the stuffed, fur-covered “tundra snake” (it’s not a real animal, no matter what the locals say!).
  • Crow Creek Mine – A currently functioning gold mine, Crow Creek is full of historical buildings, old mining equipment, hiking trails, and, of course, the opportunity to pan for gold. Keep an eye out for summer evening concerts, which are a great way to enjoy the long days of summer. 
  • North Pole, AK – Just 12 miles outside of Fairbanks, the town of North Pole celebrates Christmas every day. Check out their massive Christmas shop that smells like cookies and see the post office that processes mail sent to the North Pole.
  • Kilcher Homestead – Near Homer, AK, the Kilcher Homestead is the operational homestead featured on the reality TV show, Alaska: The Last Frontier. If you call ahead, you can secure a tour of the property. What a unique opportunity to learn about the homesteading history of Alaska as well as get a behind-the-scenes look at reality TV!
Why visit Alaska in summer - view of Turnagain Arm in late May
Turnagain Arm

Conclusion on why visit Alaska in summer

So why visit Alaska in summer? The question is why not! The long summer days are an amazing way to get the most out of your vacation. From exploring the rugged coastline to touring all 8 national parks, there is no shortage of things to do in Alaska in summer. 

Make sure to take some time to interact with the locals and learn about the Indigenous culture. Leave some time in your itinerary to enjoy a long meal or chase a recommendation you receive from your local bartender. 

Aside from all of the amazing things to do, immersing yourself in Alaska is the best reason to visit. Remember to enjoy the journey!

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