When is the Best Time to Visit the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge?

Contrary to popular belief, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge experiences all four seasons–winter, spring, summer and fall. It’s just that three of the seasons are really short. Winter is effectively nine months long and the other three seasons are each about 1 month. So what’s the best time to visit? Each season offers its own opportunities and challenges.

Winter–September through May

Advantages: certain activities are possible only during this time, such as the emergence of polar bear cubs

Disadvantages: 24 hours of darkness between November and February, dangerously cold, risk of long blizzards, weather may prevent transportation, many animals have migrated for the season, extremely limited commercial tours available

Spring–first three weeks of June

Advantages: 24 hours of sunlight, weather has warmed up enough to be tolerable, bugs generally are limited

Disadvantages: weather can still be cold and fickle, rivers may still be iced over in places, hills and tundra may be mostly brown (not yet green)

Summer–last week of June to first week of August

Advantages: 24 hours of sunlight, weather is warmest that it gets, river water levels reach their peak (around end of July), July has best display of wildflowers

Disadvantages: bugs can be oppressive

Fall–last three weeks of August

Advantages: tundra changes colors, possibility of seeing the aurora borealis, temperatures are still tolerable (although snow becomes increasingly likely in second half of August)

Disadvantages can be rainy, may still be buggy

Prior posts on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge:

* Review of Ah, Rose Marie Bed & Breakfast, Fairbanks, Alaska

* Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Reading List

* Arctic National Wildlife Refuge/Hulahula River Photos and Video

* Arctic National Wildlife Refuge/Hulahula River Trip Quick FAQs