Fall has always been my favorite season since I was little. I grew up in the Desert Southwest and it was the time when we came out of our homes after a long, hot summer. When I moved to Alaska, I had no idea how breathtakingly beautiful plants and trees could be as they changed from deep green to shades I only imagined – auburns, deep reds, rusty oranges, and vibrant yellows. Not only do the trees change colors but so does the ground underneath your feet! The Alpine Tundra comes alive in autumn as the mosses and lichen put on a show like no other. Fall in Alaska is like a fairytale to me; I can’t believe it’s real and I get to live here! These are my Top 10 Reasons to Visit Alaska in the Fall, promise you will love it here just as much as you do in the summer. It’s a different vibe, one that I wouldn’t trade for the world.
Disclosure: This post not only has some amazing reasons to visit Alaska in the Fall, but also 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.
View from Summit Lake on the America’s #1 Scenic Byway – the Seward Highway
Breathtaking Beautiful Fall Colors Everywhere!
My absolute favorite season is fall. Let me just go on record to say that fall in Alaska is like nothing I had ever seen before in my life! Not only do the trees change colors of vibrant gold and yellow, but the tundra ground cover looks like fire in deep shades of red and orange. Towards the end of August through October be prepared to for the most stunning showcase of colors to cover Alaska’s majestic mountains and valleys. Head north to Denali National Forest and to Fairbanks to see the deep-green bushes, trees, mosses change to vibrant yellows, purples, reds, and golds. Trust me, Fall in the Arctic Tundra is a photographer and nature lover’s dream! I love the endless summer nights, but Autumn is what inspires me throughout the winter.
Can you believe this is the heart of Anchorage? It is Baxter Bog where moose are seen on a regular basis.
Good Possibility to see the Northern Lights
While you are up north in Denali or Fairbanks, check out the aurora forecast. In September, the sun starts to set a bit later and dusk is between 8-10pm. Two years ago I was staying at Mount Aurora Lodge in Fox, just outside of Fairbanks, hanging out in their hot tub. Just as the sun was setting the lights came out to play. I had never seen them that early in the year and that was over Labor Day weekend! Let me just say, seeing the Northern Lights while it wasn’t freezing outside was magical in and of itself!
During Fall, the aurora borealis makes an appearance usually between 10pm to 2am. Being north in towns like Talkeetna and Fairbanks, away from the city lights will give you the best advantage to seeing them. If it is cloudy out or snowing you won’t see the lights. They are very hard to photograph or record with a cell phone. You can try the app My Aurora Forecast & Alerts, otherwise bring your DLSR camera, a remote, and a tripod. Better yet, just enjoy the moment and watch the lights dance overhead.
Enjoy the Long Days and Cool Temps
In Autumn the temps average in the 40s and 50s – cool enough for a hoodie, warm enough to get your adventure on. There’s also this phenomenon called Alpenglow that is like nothing you have ever seen before. The sun is at a low angle and creates a soft light called the Alpenglow. The sun creates vibrate shades of red or blush pink against the mountains, making for truly jaw-dropping scenery. Your eyes can’t believe what you’re seeing. During this time, Termination Dust, or the first light snowing to dust the mountain tops happens throughout the state. There is absolutely nothing better than to see the snow capped mountains bathed in Alpenglow. Well, maybe if a Bald Eagle was flying by, that would be the cherry on top.
Now imagine seeing this while you were enjoying the changing colors of the moss and lichen in Denali. Everywhere you turn is another burst of color. Your senses are on overdrive during these magnificent autumn nature shows. It’s magical!
Look at that huge rack! Moose drop their racks every fall and they regrow in the spring.
Enjoy the Trails in Peace
During summer, there are tourists everywhere. On the trails, on the trains, in the restaurants, everywhere you turn there are people. One million visitors come to Alaska during June, July, and August! The last cruise ship leaves Alaska on September 15th and the entire state breaths a sigh of relief. Grateful for each and everyone of those tourists, but also grateful to enjoy a bit more time with families and friends before winter sets in. Taking off on a hike or on a biking trail is no longer a combat sport, but one where you can find peace and solitude. Not to mention escaping up to the mountains to find blueberries, huckleberries, and high brush cranberries. The trails are the perfect place to see Alaska in all of her natural beauty.
This was listed as an easy hike… well, it kicked my ass, that’s for sure. This beautiful glacier lake was waiting on top of the mountain to greet me after hiking through alpine meadows and fallen boulders. I caught my breath from the hike as I took in this gorgeous setting in Hatcher Pass, Alaska. I can’t believe I hadn’t been here before! — #hatcherpass #alaska #hiking #mountains #firsttimecaller #goexplore #optoutside #hikingadventures #easytrailmyass #trail #glacierlake #mountainlakes #iwanttocamphere #travelalaska #alaskalife #907 #hatcherspass
One word of caution: Hunting season opens up in fall as well. If you see a bunch of trucks and trailers pulled over on the side of the highway, realize that there are hunters out in that area. Wear bright colors or reflective clothing. More often than not though, they are further back than where you will be hiking.
The Locals Come Out to Enjoy Their Great State
From late August through October you will find locals trying to squeeze every last ounce out of late summer and fall. In their minds all they can think of is Winter is Coming. You will find locals enjoying the train ride down to Seward and going out to see the whales with Major Marine Tours before they migrate back to Hawaii and Mexico for the winter.
My first time seeing an Orca Whale was with Major Marine Tours – I wanted to hug the big guy 😉
There is usually a late run of silver salmon hitting the rivers and the last fishing boats are taking mostly locals out in Seward and Homer to catch Halibut, Salmon, and Lingcod to fill their freezers. If you want to hang with locals and see how Alaskans live, then visiting in the fall is perfect. There is definitely a festive vibe happening as people take one last camping trip, enjoy smores and great Alaska craft beer around the campfire, and share stories of that great big salmon that got away.
That’s me with the first and largest fish of the day – is a Lingcod!
Everything is So Much Cheaper!
Alaska is an expensive state to visit, try living here! During the summer hotels range anywhere from $200-400 a night. During the fall going into the winter months, those prices come tumbling down to anywhere from $75-200 a night. Gas prices also come down from their summer highs of $3.45 to $2.95 and lower. Food prices stay consistent with some restaurants coming out with their winter menus that have less expensive items on them. The only thing that goes up in price is airfare. It is cheap to fly to Alaska in the summer, and uber expensive to fly in the winter.
See, the brown beer that greeted me as I crossed into Alaska is now a 4″ vinyl sticker. Order yours here. Thank you as the sales from my shop help to support me and my puppy as we live a life less ordinary in Alaska.
The Wildlife Viewing is Exceptional!
With winter coming, animals are eating all that they can. The larger mammals such as brown and black bears, moose, caribou, and Dall Sheep are seen more often in the lower elevations eating all that they can find. This means it is the perfect time to see them in their native habitat. It is rutting season (mating season) for moose. They go to the same rutting grounds year after year. The absolute best place to see this is in Denali National Park in late August through September. The big bull moose can be seen from the roadway. I’ve also seen porcupine, Golden Eagles, hawks, the caribou herd, and a black bear on that road before you hit Savage River. So much to see in just 21 miles!
These two big Bull Moose knocks racks a few times while I viewed them in Denali National Park during rutting season.
Fewer Sightings of Alaska’s State Bird: The Mosquito!
Did you know that Alaska is proud to call 35 different species of mosquitos home? 35!?!?! Say what? Who knew? Some are the size of quarters and others people say the size of cars. Their bites hurt too! If you have O Positive blood these blood suckers love you the best. Thankfully though, there are very few skeeters hanging out in September. Enjoy that hike just a little bit more knowing you won’t be eaten alive out there by these pesky little guys.
The Roads are Still Open
Many people drive up the Cassiar Highway through Canada to the AlCan into Alaska during the summer. Snow starts to set into the mountain passes in late September. If you are wanting to road trip through Alaska in the fall, you want to start your drive in late August or Early September. Plan on existing by the end of September. They plow the road year round, but there are so few people on it and that snow blows sideways, it isn’t advised from October to May.
State Fair Time
The Alaska State Fair is held in Palmer in late August to early September every year. Come out and see the largest pumpkin and cabbage grown in the whole world. Seriously huge! Have a reindeer dog, smoked meats, plus there are foods that match most dietary restrictions. The State Fair puts out a flyer every year with a map to all the food places, plus what they make are allergy-free. The Fair also brings up great musical and comedy acts every year. The best part are the local Alaska vendors like Crab Terror Island and Alaska Love that have booths out their selling Alaska-created and made art and clothing. The State Fair isn’t cheap, but it is worth it. Don’t enjoy the crowds? Go during the week or on Senior Day as there are considerable less people during those times. Enjoy it and remember to shop local!
Side Note: Have Allergies, read: The Best Places in Anchorage to Eat if You Have Food Allergies.
Well, here it is folks – the World’s Largest Pumpkin at 1,469lbs shown at the Alaska State Fair!!!
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