Why Alaskans Look Forward to the Fall Season

Published: June 9, 2021

In Alaska, summer’s end brings bittersweet emotions for most Alaskans, as the warmth and brightness of the Midnight Sun wane and the cooler, darker days and nights of fall take hold.

We All Need a Break

Most Alaskans – from winter “haters and hibernators” to “wild winter” lovers – truly live for their summers. The season’s ever-present sunlight provides a seemingly magical energy that fuels residents’ round-the-clock chores (gardening, fishing to fill the freezer, deck building), adventures (hiking, fishing for fun, grilling on the barbeque) and chaperoning of visiting family and friends to the point of literal giddiness. Even though the daylight hours of summer are longer, it still feels like there still aren’t nearly enough hours in the day to do it all. Sleep becomes a rare escape, and even when Alaskans do hit the sack they have to deal with the unusual heat and brightness that creep into even the most blackout-curtained bedrooms. Alaska literally bustles with activity all summer long as excited visitors power-pack their vacation itineraries, trying to experience every highlight and the businesses that cater to travelers’ buzz and hum with nonstop action by boat, plane, train and automobile.

Guests relaxing at Redoubt Bay Lodge.

By the time the fall season arrives, many Alaskans are somewhat exhausted and frankly actively welcome a break. Life slows down as the stress of completing those big summer goals and plans dissipate, vacationers head home, and vehicle and visitor traffic eases up on the road, at popular restaurants and at local haunts. Only then can Alaskans bask in the short but sweet special treats that come with the transition into fall.

Colorful Panoramas – Everywhere

As the rays of the Midnight Sun begin to lose their grip over the state, they provide some spectacular sunsets and sunrises, creating an alpenglow phenomenon that paints the horizons and hills with yellow, reds, orange and pink beams.

Sunset from Kenai Backcountry Lodge on Skilak Lake.

In fact, fall is a surprisingly colorful season in Alaska. Leaves, brush, tundra and grass all turn from their usual greens to blues, reds, oranges, yellows and browns. It’s not unusual to walk a trail in the fall that is blanketed in blindingly bright fallen yellow leaves or surrounded by brilliant brush.

Fall’s cool air and darkening sky also welcome back another colorful feature: the northern lights! In fall, these dancing lights sometimes appear just moments after the sun sets. It can be strange sensation, basking under the dazzling northern lights while wearing only a T-shirt, windbreaker or hoodie, a much-preferred alternative to the Arctic gear required outside only a few months later.

Alaska offers amazing Northern Lights viewing opportunities (c) Jeff Schultz/Schultzphoto.com/ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Wildlife Without the Crowds

Fall is one of the best times for wildlife viewing in Alaska. If you visit Denali, you are likely to see all of Alaska’s “Big Five”: moose, caribou, Dall sheep, wolves and grizzly bears. And marine life cruises through Prince William Sound, Resurrection Bay and Kenai Fjords National Park showcase glaciers, migrating sea fowl, Stellar sea lions, frolicking whales and playful sea otters. If you bring your camera, you’ll be sure to capture a meandering black bear or even a caribou grazing and if you’re lucky, they’ll even pose for you!

Another final farewell to summer: Alaska’s gaggle of geese and other migratory birds flying south for the winter. It’s quite the sight, watching flocks flying in formation, members flapping and honking along the way. And, there is one winged resident whose disappearance each fall actually brings joy and relief to Alaskans and animals alike: mosquitos!

Bang For Your Buck: Travel Promotions

Like Alaska’s visitors, Alaskans also love great Alaska travel and adventure deals. These are far easier to find during the short summer-to-fall shoulder season (September thru October), as a few popular tourist destinations and outfitters are wrapping up their seasons by offering special discounts and “Alaskan rates” before boarding up. Travel discounts and deals range from promotions on lodge and cabin accommodations, fishing trips, glacier tours, to those for guided adventures like kayaking to hiking. Fall airfares out of state and around Alaska are more affordable, too, as demand decreases, opening up opportunities to see diverse towns and regions, from old favorites to new explorations. Of course, Alaskans also know that these fall specials, like summer itself, are fleeting – hesitate and they are gone!

If you are booked up for the summer, consider coming to Alaska this fall and discover why this season is one of Alaskan’s favorite times of the year!

Floatplane in flight with Mt. Denali in background. (C) Jeff Schultz/SchultzPhoto.com