Official State of Alaska Vacation and Travel Information
"Sunset on Otto Lake in Healy " - submitted by Shari Jardina
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No matter where you turn, Autumn in Alaska is about color.
Seasons move with the latitudes, so fall in Alaska comes a little earlier than in the Lower 48 (or Outside, as we call it up here). Depending on where you are, the fall colors start turning as early as mid-August. Cool nights and perhaps a hint of frost in Interior Alaska turn blueberry bushes a bright red, while birch trees slide into a majestic yellow that stands out in stark contrast to the dark green of the spruce. In Southcentral Alaska—near Anchorage, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, and the Kenai Peninsula—colors start to peak in mid-September. Fall along the Inside Passage starts a little later, in late September and October; the Tongass National Forest is green year-round, but the turning leaves and berries of Devils Club and deer cabbage provide stunning pops of yellow and red underneath the old growth Sitka spruce, hemlock, and red cedar.
It’s not dark yet—but it’s getting there. The shorter days and lengthening nights of fall also provide glimpses of the Aurora borealis. On clear nights starting in mid-August, visitors to Interior and Arctic Alaska have a chance to see waves of green and sometimes red northern lights dancing across the sky. Bring your camera, tripod, and warmer clothes.
Speaking of lights, fall is State Fair time. The Tanana Valley State Fair is held in Fairbanks in early August, or, if you’re in Southcentral Alaska around Labor Day, you won’t want to miss the Alaska State Fair in Palmer! From the bright lights of carnival rides to spotlights on the fair’s concert stage, visitors to the Alaska State Fair can check out some of the country’s best musical and comedic performers as well as see gigantic produce grown under the long days of the midnight sun—there’s a lot of slaw to be made from an 80-pound cabbage or an 18-pound carrot!
From fall fishing derbies to bird festivals and scenic drives, fall is still a good time to be outdoors in Alaska. While the temperature may be a bit cooler, travelers across the state can find warm welcomes and travel discounts in the shoulder season between summer and winter. What are you waiting for!
In the know: What’s that white stuff on the mountain? Alaskans have a term for the first snow of the season: Termination dust. Depending on where you are, you might wake up to see a light dusting of snow on mid-range mountain peaks starting in mid-August. Some Alaskans claim the first snow of the season got its name from gold miners, who saw the snow as a sign that the mining season was almost at an end; others say Termination Dust marks the end of summer. We like to think it’s the start of winter fun!
Keep Reading to learn more about autumn in Alaska.
This five-day driving itinerary uses the Matanuska-Susitna Valley as base camp for the type of adventures you can only experience in Alaska. Walk on a glacier, fly circles around North America’s tallest peak and reel in a Pacific salmon, all without leaving Alaska’s paved highway system.Read More
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