Welcome to a Brand New World
Many people think of Alaska in two seasons: The glorious abundance of summer and the snowy magnificence of winter. But spring in the Last Frontier is a special experience all its own. For Alaska Spring starts in April or May depending on where you are in the state. Wherever you are in our great state you can actually see the land coming alive in front of you as trees bud and leaf out, early wildflowers spring to life, waterfalls are at their most impressive, bears emerge from their dens, and migrating whales and songbirds arrive at their summer home.
Spring also packs a special experience for visitors. Not only are you one of the first to see that fresh new world as it emerges, you also get to spend more time with the locals, which means getting the most authentic Alaska experience possible. You might even see the northern lights dancing in the night sky—a magical treat that simply isn’t possible during the endless days of full summer.
It gets even better, because early season prices mean you usually pay less for lodgings and activities during the spring season. Keep reading for just a few of the ways you can enjoy a spring visit to Alaska:
Hit the Slopes
It’s not unusual for Alaska’s ski resorts to stay open through mid-April, and heli-skiing operations often continue through the month. Some years, you can even find backcountry slopes with skiable snow that lingers into May.
Catch a Giant Halibut
Who says you can’t fish in May? Hop a charter and go ocean fishing for halibut. You might even get lucky and catch a prize-winning fish in early-season contests like the Valdez Halibut Derby and the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby.
While some of Alaska’s mountains still sport ski-worthy snow come spring, others will already be dressed up in early season wildflowers. The key is to look for south-facing slopes: These are traditionally the first to have dry trails, and the southern exposure means lots of sunlight to bring those early flowers to life.
A springtime visit gives you the very unusual opportunity to see bears emerging from their dens and looking for mates—something that they just won’t have time for once the summer salmon runs move in.
Enjoy Migrating Whales and Birds
By the time spring rolls around, gray whales are midway through a 5,000-mile migration to their feeding grounds off Alaska’s northern coast. In April gray whales can frequently be spotted off of Seward. Local companies offer special whale-watching cruises in the spring, helping you spot these 40-ton animals as they hug the coastline on their way north. At the same time millions of migratory birds flood through Alaska, and spring is the perfect time to see—and hear—them as they stake out territory and look for mates.
Nothing beats a cruise ship for an all-in-one Alaska experience—unless it’s an early-season cruise, where special pricing and onboard credits mean your travel budget buys even more adventures, more time with the locals and a chance to travel Alaska’s rugged coastline during that special transition from quiet snow to vibrant spring life. Norwegian, Holland America and Princess Cruise Lines all send large ships north as early as April, while UnCruise Adventures and Lindblad Expeditions specialize in small-ship cruising experiences, also starting in April.
Enjoy Local Festivals
The influx of migratory birds prompts spring festivals all over Alaska, from the month-long Hummingbird Festival held in Ketchikan every April to the Stikine River Birding Festival—also in April—and the Copper River Shorebird Festival and the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival, both of which are held in early May. All of the above are a great way to rub elbows with the locals, along with other birding enthusiasts from all over the world.