The moment I tell people that I live in Alaska, their eyes widen with surprise and their face comes alive with this awestruck expression. Then come the questions – most of them are the same ones time and time again. Others kinda throw me for a second, and some I can’t believe came out of people’s mouths. So here they are… the top 10 things you want to know about Alaska. Have more questions? Leave them in the comments and I will do my best to answer them.
Disclosure: This post not only answers your questions about Alaska, but also has Affiliate Links that I earn commissions from. This is how I make a living and keep this little blog running. Thank you for supporting me! I appreciate it. Much love, Kristi. This is not a sponsored post, just sharing my love of Alaska with you.
PS – I have officially lived here almost two years and flirted with the state for two years before deciding to call it home. I have seen a lot, but it is a big state, so there is a lot more adventuring still to be had!
1. When is the best time to see the Northern Lights?
It needs to be dark out to see the Northern Lights or in technical terms, the Aurora Borealis. You cannot see the lights in the summer as we have 24-hours of day light when most people plan their Alaska vacations. If seeing the Northern Lights is high on your Bucket List, plan your visit during the fall and winter months from October to April. March is the absolute best time to see the Northern Lights in Alaska. They are best viewed in Fairbanks, but you can see them from most places in Alaska if the conditions are right. I like to stay at Mount Aurora Lodge in Fox, which is 10 minutes north of Fairbanks, and away from the city lights. With a cup of coffee in hand, you simply walk outside the old mining house and see the most spectacular light show you could ever imagine.
Photo Credit: Colin Tyler. Colin is one of my favorite Alaska photographers. You can purchase his beautiful prints on canvas and metallic paper.
2. When is the best time to visit Alaska?
That entirely depends on what you want to see and do. If viewing glaciers and wildlife are on top on your list, then book your Alaska vacation between May 15th to September 15th, which is considered Alaska’s tourist season. Whale watching starts in March and April with the elusive blue and gray whales, with the best whale watching happening in June and July. You can see Gray Whales, Orcas, and Humpback Whales in Prince William Sound. Beluga Whales can be seen in Turnagain Arm near Anchorage in August and September. Halibut and salmon fishing is strongest May-July, with a couple late runs in August.
It is hard to see glaciers in the winter because of all the snow. Skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, and snow machining can only be done in winters where we have a good snowfall. You can only see the Northern Lights in the winter – so winter isn’t all that bad. I used to be really scared of winter here, but now I absolutely love it. There is something about the quiet and stillness of the snow that speaks to my soul. For the first time in my life I am enjoying living in a place with all four seasons as there is something to see and do every month in Alaska.
3. Is it dark for six months and daylight for six months like I’ve seen on TV?
Simple answer is yes and no… I live in Anchorage which is considered Southcentral Alaska. For about a month or two of winter the sunrise is between 9-10am and the sunset is 3-4pm, for roughly 6 hours of sunlight a day. It’s honestly not as bad as I thought it would be and I have learned to enjoy the dark nights. In the summertime, we have 24 hours of sunlight for most of June and July. It is twilight out between 1-3am, and it doesn’t really get dark until late July. It’s harder for me not to see the moon and stars for a few months.
Lonely Planet’s Alaska Guide Books have a lot of good info in them.
Now in the northernmost city of Barrow, Alaska, it is a different story. Barrow sits in the Arctic Circle and has 67 days of complete darkness followed by 80 days of pure sunshine. When TV shows and movies do a movie about the never ending darkness, it is almost always about Barrow. I have yet to make it to the Arctic Circle, but that is on my list for this summer!
4. Is it ever warm in Alaska or is it always cold?
Alaska has four seasons and the heat/cold changes for each one. I’m from Arizona where it felt like there were only two seasons – hot and very hot. Alaska rarely gets above 80 degrees, unless you are in the far north like Fairbanks where it can hit 100 degrees in the summer. Weird, right? Alaska is tilted more towards the sun in the summer months and you can really feel that heat. What’s really weird though is a 70-degree summer day in Alaska feels like a 100 degrees in Arizona.
My first summer here though I was cold all the time. Coming from a warmer climate, my blood was thinner. I wore two sweatshirts all the time. Now that I’m acclimated, I can easily wear a t-shirt and be warm. Some people even go swimming in the lakes during the summer – that is still a tad too cold for me though.
5. Are there a lot of hot, single men there?
I WISH. Seriously, dating in Alaska should be an Olympic sport – it isn’t easy. Back in the day, there was definitely a shortage of women. The men put out ads, created the infamous Alaska Calendar of hot lumberjacks, and then TV shows were created showing that if you needed a man, you simply should go to Alaska as if there were a hot single guy on every corner. Well ladies, the times have changed. Caveat though – if you are young, say in your 20s and looking for a summer fling – get up here already as a ton of college kids come up to work for the summer.
You can order your very own copy of Mountain Men of Alaska or gift it to someone. It has pin-ups!
If you are in your late 30s and older it is a tad more difficult unless you want to date them young bucks. The women here are amazing – educated, beautiful, fiscally responsible, can hike for miles, and fish and hunt for days. It is hard to compete with that. What that means is that all of the eligible, age-appropriate men are taken. Period. The end. The secret is to find one who has recently moved up here and didn’t bring a plus one when they moved up for work. Or you could date tourists, but don’t think it will last past their Alaskan vacation.
One more caveat… there are single men out in the bush (wilderness). Make sure though to ask them how often they bathe as most don’t have running water in their cabins. I also somehow bring up how often they brush their teeth. If once a week is good for you on either of those answers – you are in luck! There are A TON of single men who fit that description. For me though, it is a deal breaker.
6. Do moose walk around everywhere and do you see bears every day?
I have seen a big bull moose walk past my condo once and I have seen moose poop in the snow next to this one tree outside the garage door. Every now and then there will be a moose downtown, but it isn’t a daily occurrence. In the winter is is much more common as they are searching for frozen berries in people’s yards or the bark off a delicious tree. In the summer they head up into the hills and trees to forage and have their babies.
Now I have come across quite a few moose when I’m out hiking. If I see a moose on the trail, I stop to see if I am far enough away to scoot past him safely. If not, I wait a safe distance away and snap pics of the big guy. I’ve been known to talk to them too! I don’t ever want a moose to feel I am threatening their personal space and am always conscious that this is their home and they are allowing me to walk through it.
Ever see a big Bull Moose up close? Do you see the female in the background? This one of my favorite sightings of these big beautiful moose. . . . #moose #moosemonday #bullmoose #alaska #thealaskalife #ilovealaska #anchorage #anchoragealaska #wildlife #alaskawildandfree #wild #wildandfree #nature #naturelover #goexplore #getoutdoors #travel #travelalaska #downtownanchorage #keepitwild #sobig #mammals #wildlifephotography
As for bears, I carry bear spray with me whenever I am out hiking in the summer. I have been 15 feet from a brown bear and talked to him like he was the cutest thing ever. He was slightly amused as he was eating dandelions on the side of the road and I was safely in my car. Other than that one bear sighting on my very first day in Alaska, seeing bears has been a tad difficult. This year I plan on going on a bear watching tour to Katmai National Park to see the brown bears fishing for salmon.
Counter Assault Bear Deterrent Pepper Spray with Holster $37
I’m always asked what do you do if you come across a bear? One thing you never want to do is run. If it is a black bear, I would get really big and tall and show him that I am not scared of him. Typically, black bears will run away.
If it is a brown bear, I would stand perfectly still and not make any sudden movements or make eye contact. They are known to bluff charge. I would slowly back away and use my bear spray too. If that didn’t work and I was attacked, I would get down into a ball and use my hands to protect my neck. Once the brown bear felt I was no longer a threat, he should leave. If it is a polar bear, I would just kiss my ass goodbye.
Hopefully, I won’t ever encounter a bear that doesn’t just want a big ‘ol hug. 🙂
7. What’s the most unusual food you’ve eaten in Alaska?
I do love to try new cuisines and local food when I’m traveling. My problem though is that I have severe food allergies that prohibit me from eating a lot of things on menus. One thing I had never even heard of before that was absolutely delicious was halibut cheeks. You will rarely see them served at restaurants outside of Alaska because they are so dang delicious that they are rarely sold commercially. I also don’t eat commercial meat anymore. Instead, I eat moose, sheep, and caribou that have lived off the land and do not have any harmful chemicals or grains added to their diet. I’ve also tried Fireweed (even made a Fireweed Coconut Colada), which is the prettiest pink flower that grows all summer long.
8. Do you have regular grocery stores and are there foods that are difficult to get?
9. What are the best National Parks in Alaska? Is it safe to camp in Alaska with all of the wildlife?
There are eight National Parks in Alaska: Denali, Gates of the Arctic, Glacier Bay, Katmai, Kenai Fjords, Kobuk Valley, Lake Clark, and Wrangell-St. Elias. I’ve been to only three of them – Denali, Kenai Fjords, and Wrangell-St. Elias. Getting to some of these National Parks isn’t easy and can be expensive. Glacier Bay, Kobuk Valley, and Gates of the Arctic are not accessible by road and you must get there by plane or boat.
I was afraid to camp solo in Alaska for a long time. I’m really glad I faced down that fear… look at how beautiful this spot was!
Denali National Park
This is where The Great One or Denali is located, which is the tallest mountain in North America at 20,320 feet! It is so tall that it has its own weather system! Because of that you can only see the Denali peak 30% of the time. Every time I see it I stop what I’m doing and just stare – it is mightily impressive. On clear days I can see it from Anchorage, which is a few hundred miles away. It is beautiful from Talkeetna.
You can take a plane excursion to fly up to the Denali and land on a glacier from Talkeetna. It is EPIC.
Look at all of those glaciers on Denali!
I have camped in Denali National Park solo at the Savage River Campground. While I was making the fire, the largest bull moose I had ever seen walked right through my campsite. You have to reserve a spot here, but they do have last minute cancellations if you get there and don’t have a campsite reservation – which is what I always do. This year I would love to do my first backcountry hike and camping in Denali.
I love making a fire and solo camping in my little two-person REI tent in the middle of Denali National Park.
Kenai Fjords National Park
By far, my absolute favorite U.S. National Park is Kenai Fjords. Kenai Fjords is the most beautiful place I have ever been in my entire life. You can only access the park via a plane or a boat out of Seward. I have gone out with both Kenai Fjords Tours and Major Marines Tours out of Seward. Nearly 40 glaciers flow from the Harding Icefield, which is one of the major draws of Kenai Fjords. This national park is about two hours south of Anchorage. I go any chance I can and take every person who comes to visit to this little slice of Heaven in Alaska.
Seward’s Boat Harbor often times has otters floating by and ships of all sizes coming in day and night.
Chugach National Forest
Chugach National Forest is the second largest forest in the United States. It surrounds most of the Kenai Peninsula and Prince William Sound. When you see my posts from Beluga Point, that is in the Chugach National Forest. It is not a National Park, but you can’t talk about the beauty of Alaska without mentioning this forest.
Passport To Your National Parks – $10
I get a stamp whenever I can and have most of the different stamps for each of Alaska’s National Parks. Every National Park (there are 400!) has a stamp and sticker for this Passport.
10. What should I pack for my Alaska adventure?
I’m often asked what to pack for an Alaska vacation – so I created a whole post about it!
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Did I answer Top 10 Things You Want to Know About Alaska. Have other questions about Alaska? Leave them down below and I am happy to answer them.
This is a great list! I live in the Denali area and just adore Alaska. There’s nothing better. I agree about misconceptions from those wild tv shows. I’m glad you’re posting the truth!
Agness of Fit Travelling says
Alaska is so charming and an exceptional place to explore. I wasn’t aware of most of these things and I am so grateful to your enlightening post. When would it be the best time of the year to explore Alaska?
Rowan Sims Travel Photography says
I almost made it to Alaska when I was living in Canada last year. I’m so bummed I didn’t. It looks amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who lives there! I guess I’ll have to go back now 🙂