There's a lot of good reasons to include Alaska on your bucket list. The state's largest city, Anchorage, welcomes an annual influx of cruise ship passengers with golden summers prime for hiking, wildlife-watching, and joining locals in a slew of festivals filling the long daylight hours. In winter, Anchoragites embrace the snow and ice by making the most of short days with skiing, snowshoeing, mushing, and even snow sculpture. 

If you're wondering when the best time is to visit Anchorage, the question really comes down to how many layers you're willing to wear, how much you want to pay for a hotel room, and whether you're hoping to catch a glimpse of spawning salmon or the aurora borealis. We've got the scoop on what Anchorage is like month to month, and how you can plan your ideal Alaskan vacation.

Editor's note: During COVID-19, please check the latest travel restrictions before planning any trip and always follow government health advice. Events may be subject to change.

High Season: June to August

Best time for exploring the outdoors

Backpacker hike in Chugach State Park near Anchorage, Alaska.
Backpacker hike in Chugach State Park near Anchorage, Alaska. ©HagePhoto/Getty Images

There's good news and bad news about visiting Anchorage in peak season. The good: long summer days mean you have plenty of daylight for exploring Alaska's bountiful natural wonders. The bad: High season in Anchorage is synonymous with cruise lines disgorging thousands of passengers, spiking hotel occupancy and rates. High temperatures average in the mid to low '60s °F, while lows dip to the upper '40s °F. 

Shoulder Season: March to May, August to November

Best time to beat the crowds

A Young Bull Moose Foraging For Food In A Pond Near The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail In Kincaid Park, Anchorage, Southcentral Alaska, Spring
A young bull moose foraging for food in a pond near the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail in Kincaid Park during spring. ©Michael Jones/Design Pics/Getty Images

Spring and fall may feel balmy to Alaskans, but the temperatures are in the range considered wintery in the southern United States. That said, you can certainly still get outside, without the heavy crowds present during the summer months. Fall is rainier than spring, but spring can come with ample mud from the annual "breakup" of snow and ice. The fall also features steadily shortening days, while from March to June the amount of sunlight steadily increases. Temperatures in shoulder season can be wildly variable, anywhere from the teens to the 50's °F, so be sure to layer up and pack smart.

Low Season: November to February

Best time for snow sports

Aurora Borealis glowing green and pink over a large canvas luxury camping tent in Alaska. ©DCrane/Shutterstock

Those who brave winter in Anchorage will be rewarded with some of the most magical experiences you can find in the north – dog sled races, snowmobiling, ice carving, skiing and, of course, the northern lights. Occupancy rates are low, and late fall and early winter tend to be the cheapest times to visit Anchorage, too. That leaves a little extra in your pocket for a parka or lift tickets. Temperatures hover around the single digits or teens °F, rising only into the low to mid-'20s °F. 

A female musher's sled dog team runs the 2010 Iditarod out of the starting chute in Willow © Troutnut/Shutterstock


In late February, it's all about the Anchorage Fur Rendezvous, but there's a lot more to this fest than trapper culture. While the place to get fresh-trapped furs is still the ‘Rondy,’ most folks prefer to sculpt ice, ride the Ferris wheel in freezing temperatures, or watch the ‘Running of the Reindeer.’ When Rondy ends, the famed 1049-mile Iditarod Trail sled-dog race to Nome begins. Better stay another week – also in late February and early March is the Alaska State Snow Sculpture Championship, when artists treat 8ft x 8ft x 8ft blocks of compressed snow like Michelangelo treated hunks of marble.

Key events: Anchorage Fur Rendezvous, Alaska State Snow Sculpture Championship


After a long winter, Anchorage comes alive, first for the late February Fur Rendezvous festival and then for the famous Iditarod Sled Dog Race. The 1100-mile dogsled race to Nome technically begins in Anchorage – but only for the sake of appearances. At the end of a short run in Anchorage, the teams wave goodbye to the cameras, pack up their dogs and sleds, and drive to snowier country up north for the 'restart.' Still, waving the mushers and their huskies off from the ceremonial starting line is a purely Alaskan experience not to be missed.

Key events: Iditarod Sled Dog Race

Young bears playing in a lake near Anchorage. ©patfax/Budget Travel


The weather is nice, and the crowds and high prices are yet to arrive. Get outside to spots like the Far North Bicentennial Park, which is composed of 4000 acres of forest and muskeg in east-central Anchorage with 20 miles of trails – not to mention a 700-acre wildlife preserve where it’s possible to see moose and bears in the spring. There is an active grizzly population, and it’s wise to steer clear of salmon streams during the twilight hours.


As summer starts to warm up and cruise ship passengers start to trickle in, the mellow breeze carries the sound of syncopation and saxophones as the Spenard Jazz Fest kicks off. For three days cool, trendy and local jazz musicians stage concerts and workshops throughout Anchorage. One event includes a hike up to the top of Flattop, where a live band plays on the summit. Meanwhile, Anchorage's weeklong Pridefest in mid-June includes a Queer Film Festival, Drag Queen Bingo, a parade through downtown and a party at Delaney Park. The festivities spill over to local gay bars like Mad Myrna'sRavenBernie’s Bungalow Lounge and the Moose’s Tooth Brewpub.

Key events: Three Barons Renaissance Festival, Colony Days, Pridefest, Spenard Jazz Festival

Anchorage skyline w/ bike rider on coastal trail
A cyclist on a coastal trail in Anchorage with the city skyline beyond. Getty Images


This is the best month to see or catch a king salmon in Anchorage’s Ship Creek. From mid-to late summer, king, coho and pink salmon spawn up Ship Creek, the historical site of Tanaina Indian fish camps. At the overlook you can cheer on those love-starved fish humping their way toward destiny, and during high tide see the banks lined with anglers trying to hook them in what has to be one of the greatest urban fisheries anywhere in the USA. When you aren't making like a grizzly watching the fish jump, there's a crop of summer festivals in the Anchorage suburbs, from the 'Slippery Salmon Olympics' to mellow gatherings centered around forest foliage and beer.

Key events: Eagle River Bear Paw Festival, Gidwood Forest Fair


The Alaska State Fair is a rollicking 12-day event that ends on Labor Day, the first Monday in September. There's live music and prized livestock from the surrounding area, as well as horse shows, a rodeo, a carnival and the giant cabbage weigh-off to see who grew the biggest one in the valley (in 2012 a world record was set: 138lb!). If greased pigs and Spam-sponsored recipe contests aren’t enough to get you here, try this: berry-pie cook-offs.

Key events: The Alaska State Fair

You might also like:

How to spend two days in Anchorage, Alaska
Adventures in Anchorage: exploring Alaska's city in the wilderness
How to photograph the northern lights


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