When to Go? What's the Weather Like?

One of the most often asked questions is, “When is the best time to travel?”

One of the most often asked questions is, “When is the best time to travel?” Many Alaskans recommend May and June as the most favorable months for travel to the North, as well as probably the most promising period for views of Denali. The high season for travel in the North is June through August, usually the warmest months. But summer can also be the wettest months. The weather is as variable and unpredictable in the North as anywhere else.

An often asked question about travel to the North is “What’s the best time to avoid mosquitoes?” The answer is probably mid-winter. Summer is bug season and you will run into mosquitoes, black flies (also called white-sox, simulids and buffalo gnats) and no-see-ums (also known as punkies).

Mosquitoes emerge from hibernation before the snow has entirely disappeared. They peak in about June but continue to harass humans and wildlife through the fall. Mosquitoes are especially active in the early morning and at dusk. They hatch their eggs in water, so the North—with its marshy tundra and many lakes—is a good breeding ground.

Check the National Weather Service website for Alaska weather. Or phone the Alaska Weather Information Line: in Anchorage or from Outside, phone 907-266-5105 and press option 1 for recorded forecast. To view weather conditions at various airports in Alaska, go to the FAA web site. For seasonal weather data, go to the Alaska Climate Research Center.

Current weather and 5-day forecasts for Alberta, British Columbia and Yukon communities are available from Environment Canada. 24-hour recorded weather reports and forecasts are available by phone for: Whitehorse, YT, 867-456-7623 (includes road report); Fort Nelson, BC, 250-774-6461; and for Dawson Creek, Chetwynd, Fort St. John and Fort Nelson, BC, Peace River and Grande Prairie, AB, by phoning 250-785-7669.

One advantage of summer travel to the North is the long hours of daylight: 19 hours and 22 minutes in Anchorage at summer solstice (June 21) and nearly 21 hours and 48 minutes of daylight in Fairbanks. If you are traveling in winter, the reverse is true: 3 hours and 42 minutes of daylight in Fairbanks at winter solstice (December 21) and about 5 hours and 27 minutes in Anchorage. The farther north you go, the longer (or shorter) the days get.

Because most people travel in the summer and fill up hotels, motels, campgrounds and ferries,you might consider an early spring (April or May) or fall (late August into October) trip, when there’s usually more room at lodges, campgrounds and on the ferries. Keep in mind, however, that some tours, attractions, lodges, campgrounds and other businesses may not be open beyond the summer season. Also, snowstorms are not uncommon in spring and fall in the North.


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