Article Overview: Summer in Alaska
To experience summer in Alaska is to experience a summer like nowhere else in the lower 48. Summer in Alaska is watching the sunset at 3am only to see it bounce off the horizon and rise again. It’s fighting off black clouds of mosquitos at dusk and fishing the plentiful salmon runs until midnight. Summer in Alaska is truly something special.
In my adult life, I’ve spent more summers in Alaska than anywhere else. So if you want to know what to wear, where to go, and how to maximize your epic summer trip to Alaska, you’re in the right place!
Why Trust Us on Summer in Alaska?
AlaskaExplored is THE DESTINATION for all things Alaska. Whether planning your next summer adventure in Alaska or just curious about the last frontier in general, we have you covered. Here you’ll find expert tips, detailed guides, stunning photographs, and more.
Together AlaskaExplored has more than twenty years of experience traveling, working, and exploring the beautifully rugged 49th state. Working in television has taken us all around the world, and no place more than Alaska. During our time here, we’ve documented countless stories from every corner and crevasse of the state. We’ve helped showcase the grandeur of this wild place for National Geographic, Discovery, Disney, and Animal Planet. Now we want to share our knowledge and real-life experiences with you!
AlaskaExplored combines years of firsthand experience with extensive research to deliver YOU with the best knowledge to help plan your next great Alaskan adventure.
My Summer Experience in Alaska
I’ve been lucky enough to carve out a niche in the television world as a camera person who can work in the sometimes harsh conditions of Alaska. I’ve been on the deck of crab boats in the Bering Sea during January storms and camped in minus 40 degree weather to film a dog sledding, and that doing that stuff, well it kinda sucked. But getting to work summers in Alaska makes up for it.
Besides the mosquitoes, which can be horrible, summer in Alaska is wondrous place to work and play. The air is cool and never too hot, the days are endless with sunsets that last for hours. Whales, moose, and bear are all active and out partying with the rest of us. Sure the crowds can be annoying and the prices high, but I’ve never had to worry about that because the Discovery channel is usually footing the bill!
Table of Contents: Summer in Alaska
Table of contents
- Why Trust Us on Summer in Alaska?
- My Summer Experience in Alaska
- Summer in Alaska
- Alaska Summer Weather
- Summer Solstice in Alaska
- Popular Summer Activities in Alaska
- Summer in Alaska: What to Wear
- Summer Festivals in Alaska
- Summer Fairs in Alaska
- More Summer Events in Alaska
- Summer Mosquito’s in Alaska
- Summer in Alaska: Facts
Summer in Alaska
Alaska Summer Weather
As you embark on your summer journey to Alaska, be prepared for cooler temperatures compared to other parts of the United States. It may be summertime, but its still Alaska!
May is generally the driest month of the year, while July can be super wet in places like the Southeast; and it’s not uncommon for it to snow during the summer in Alaska. What part of Alaska you’re in while also determine the weather, here’s a breakdown by region:
I love Southeast Alaska, it reminds me of my home in Oregon, with one big difference. Portland gets hardly any rain in the summer, while Southeast Alaska can get absolutely drenched. A lot of the area is a temperate rainforest, so be ready for mist or rain anyway.
Average temperatures range from 55°F to 65°F (12°C to 18°C) in coastal areas, with slightly cooler temperatures in more inland locations. While snowfall is less common during the summer, it can still occur at higher elevations or during early and late summer months.
South Central/Prince William Sound
Average temperatures range from 50°F to 60°F (10°C to 15°C) in Costal Regions, which also see significant rainfall. The weather in the sound can be highly unpredictable and change multiple times within a single day. I’ve been stranded in towns like Valdez and Cordova waiting for summer weather to improve enough for us to fly.
If you’re further inland in places like McCarthy, the rain is much milder. Average rainfall is around 2 to 3 inches per summer month while temps hover around 50°F to 70°F (10°C to 21°C).
I arrived in Nome in late august one year, and was blown away, Literally! While temps in Northern Alaska, tend to be fairly mild, around 40°F to 60°F (4°C to 15°C), it can get super windy. Which will make it feel a lot colder than it is.
The region experiences low precipitation during the summer months, with average rainfall of around 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm) per month. If you’re super far north in places like Utqiaġvik/Barrow its not common, but temps do drop below freezing and they do experience summer snow showers from time to time.
Don’t forget to pack your shades and bug repellent, because as you venture inland, the temperatures heat up and the mosquitos come out! Places like Fairbanks can have summer averages range from the 60s to the 80s F. (15-30 Celsius). A lot of the interior has smaller trees and shade can be harder to come by, and with 18-22 hours of daylight, you’re gonna want to be prepared for that.
In Kodiak, Kenai, and Southwest Alaska, the weather during the summer is generally mild and moist, with a maritime climate influenced by the Pacific Ocean. Average temperatures range from 50°F to 65°F (10°C to 18°C). These areas experience significant rainfall during the summer months, with average precipitation ranging from 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) per month. Rain showers are common
Summer Solstice in Alaska
The summer solstice in Alaska is a remarkable celestial event that occurs around June 20th or 21st each year. It marks the day when the sun reaches its highest point in the sky, providing the longest period of daylight and the shortest night of the year.
It’s a special time to be in Alaska. The sun seems to defy the laws of time, hanging in the sky for an extended period, casting its golden glow over the stunning landscapes, creating long dramatic shadows. The effect is particularly pronounced in the northern parts of the state, such as Barrow or Utqiaġvik, where the sun remains above the horizon for 24 hours, resulting in “The midnight sun”. So much time for activities and B-roll!
The first time I experienced this was in Kotzebue, Alaska. A couple of us crew members had finished shooting and decided to spend the evening drinking fireball whiskey and taking polar plunges into the arctic ocean. We got kinda drunk and around 2am we watched the sun come all the way down, kiss the ocean and start its assent back into the sky. Trippy!
The summer solstice in Alaska is a time of celebration. During this time, a lot of communities across the state organize festivals, concerts, and various cultural events to commemorate the solstice. People gather for outdoor activities, such as drinking, hiking, fishing, drinking, picnics, and lots of drinking and music! Gotta take advantage of the endless daylight hours!
Popular Summer Activities in Alaska
- Hunting: Hunting in Alaska during the summer offers unique opportunities to pursue various game species, including moose, caribou, and Dall sheep. With longer daylight hours and favorable weather conditions, hunters can really immerse themselves into some challenging hunts.
- Fishing: The salmon are running and the sun is out! Theres great fishing all over the state of Alaska in the summertime.
Check out our guide on Halibut fishing in Alaska for some help gearing up and chartering your next trip.
- Hiking: Hiking in Alaska during the summer offers an array of popular trails to explore, such as the stunningly scenic Harding Ice field Trail in Kenai Fjords National Park, where hikers can witness awe-inspiring glaciers and sweeping mountain vistas.
- Glacier Tours: Whether it’s exploring the icy blue crevasses of the Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau or cruising alongside massive tidewater glaciers in Glacier Bay National Park, these tours offer a captivating glimpse into the breathtaking beauty and power of Alaska’s glacial landscapes.
- White Water Rafting: From the Class III and IV rapids of the Nenana River in Denali National Park to the scenic and adrenaline-pumping trips along the Six Mile Creek near Hope. Alaska offers unforgettable white water rafting experiences.
For a guide on rafting Alaska, check out our article: Rafting Alaska’s Whitewater: Nenana, Lowe, Sixmile Creek, & More
Summer in Alaska: What to Wear
When it comes to dressing for your summer adventure in Alaska, it’s best to be prepared for a variety of weather conditions. Unfortunately, like many other places, a favorite Alaskans sayings is “If you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes“
- Layered Clothing: Layering is key in Alaska’s ever-changing weather. Pack a mix of lightweight, breathable clothing such as t-shirts, long-sleeved shirts, and sweaters.
- Waterproof Outerwear: Alaska is known for its rain, so a waterproof jacket or raincoat is a must. Look for a jacket with a hood to keep you dry during sudden showers.
- Insulating Layers: Even in the summer, Alaska can get chilly, especially during the evenings and at higher elevations. Bring a warm fleece jacket or a down vest that you can easily put on when the temperatures drop.
- Comfortable Pants: A durable pair of pants will keep you comfortable during outdoor activities and protect your legs from insects, vegetation, and unpredictable weather.
- Sturdy Footwear: Invest in a good pair of waterproof and sturdy hiking boots. They will provide support and protect your feet during hikes and other outdoor adventures. I highly suggest a good pair of XtraTuf boots, it’s the standard alaskan boot.
- Headgear and Accessories: Don’t forget to bring a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. I know it sounds weird, but yeah you can get sunburnt in Alaska!
- Insect Repellent: Maybe the most important piece of equipment you a pack if you’re planning on getting out into the wilds. Alaska’s wilderness is teeming with mosquitoes during the summer. Be sure to pack a reliable insect repellent to keep those pesky bugs at bay.
It really depends on what you are doing and where you are going, but the above list is a good base for everyone. Check out Paul’s stunning style on display below. Sometimes just a good pair of comfortable jeans, a T-shirt, ball cap, and some Xtratufs, will do the trick!
Summer Festivals in Alaska
With warmer weather and loads of daylight hours, summer in Alaska means getting outside and gathering together to enjoy the brief respite from the colder months. Here’s a list of some great summer festivals and events that happen throughout the 49th state.
Sitka Summer Music Festival – May/June
The Sitka Summer Music Festival is a renowned annual event that takes place in Sitka, Alaska, bringing together world-class musicians and music enthusiasts in a celebration of classical music. This festival showcases a rich repertoire of chamber music performances, masterclasses, and collaborative events, all set against the backdrop of Sitka’s breathtaking natural beauty
Tipsy Clown Boogie Grounds – June
This one gets pretty weird, in the best possible way. I attended back in 2014 when it was known as the Trapper Creek Bluegrass Festival. Here’s a quote their website uses to promote the event, it sums up the weekend pretty well. Learn more about it on their website.
“My dog ran off to join a roaming pack the moment we opened our car doors. Didn’t see her again until Sunday before we left. She was covered in glitter and was wearing a denim battle vest with her name embroidered on the back.“
Spenard Jazz Fest – June
The Spenard Jazz Fest is an annual jazz music festival held in Anchorage, Alaska. It brings together talented jazz musicians from local and national scenes.
Salmonfest – Early August
With its emphasis on promoting sustainable fishing practices and raising awareness about the significance of wild salmon conservation, Salmonfest is a unique celebration of music, nature, and community. It is held in Ninilchik, Alaska, on the Kenai peninsula, about an hour outside of Homer. The three day festival offers a diverse lineup of artists, both local and national, as well as a smoked salmon competition! Yum.
Kodiak Crab Festival – May
The Kodiak Crab Festival is a lively celebration held in Kodiak, Alaska, where locals and visitors gather to indulge in fresh crab, and compete in contests like the survival suit race and even a toddler crawl race! Theres also a parade.
Blueberry Arts Festival – August
The Blueberry Arts Festival in Ketchikan, Alaska, is a celebration of arts, culture, and of course, Blueberries. The annual festival showcases live music performances, pie eating contests, and even slug races!
More Alaskan Summer Festivals:
Midnight Sun Festival – June
The Midnight Sun Festival in Fairbanks, Alaska, is a free summer event that captures the essence of the city’s unique relationship with extended daylight hours. The celebration features live music, cultural performances, local artisans, and food vendors.
Nalukataq Whaling Festival – June
The Nalukataq Whaling Festival is a traditional Inupiaq Eskimo celebration held in Alaska that honors the successful subsistence whale hunt and expresses gratitude for the whale’s sustenance. It involves sharing whale meat and other delicacies, as well as engaging in various cultural activities such as dances, games, and storytelling. The festival is a significant cultural event that fosters community unity and preserves the rich heritage of the Inupiaq people.
Summer Fairs in Alaska
Southeast Alaska State Fair – July
The Southeast Alaska State Fair is an annual event held in Haines, Alaska. The multi-day fair features fiddle and axe throwing contests, wood working and photography exhibits, and a full lineup of live music.
Girdwood Forest Fair – July
The Girdwood Forest Fair is a much-loved annual celebration in the resort town of Girdwood, Alaska. It’s free (T-shirt purchase is encouraged) and it features a parade, music, and exotic food, all in a really stunning forested setting.
Alaska State Fair – August
This ones the big one, the main event when it comes to Alaskan Fairs. The annual event is held in Palmer, Alaska, at the end of the summer. It showcases the diverse agricultural, artistic, and cultural aspects of the state. Attractions include livestock exhibits, agricultural competitions, arts and crafts displays, live entertainment, rides, and an tons of food. Check out their website.
More Summer Events in Alaska
Gold Rush Days – July
Gold Rush Days is a lively festival held in Valdez, Alaska, that commemorates the town’s history and connection to the Klondike Gold Rush era. This annual event features a range of activities and entertainment, including gold panning competitions, historical reenactments, arts and crafts vendors, live music performances, and delicious food options.
Mt. Marathon Race – July
The Seward Mount Marathon Race is an annual event held in Seward, Alaska, on the Fourth of July. The race entails ascending and descending the steep and rugged Mount Marathon, covering a distance of approximately 3. Runners navigate through a mix of rocky terrain, dense forests, and challenging slopes, pushing themselves to the limit in pursuit of victory.
The race dates back to 1915 and now draws both elite athletes and enthusiastic participants from around the world. I will be watching from the finish line with a cold beverage in my hand…
Summer Mosquito’s in Alaska
Ah, the legendary Alaskan mosquitoes, the unofficial contenders for the title of the state bird! These tiny buzzing creatures are can do their best to ruin an otherwise epic summer adventure in Alaska. But with a little help from someone that has been eaten alive many a time, you’ll be aright.
If you want to avoid these prehistoric pest altogher, then stay away from the Alaskan Tundra, areas like the interior or the far north. These buzzing critters love to call those regions home, they thaw out and proliferate when those areas become wetlands in the summer. So, if you find yourself exploring the marshy areas or near still waters, be ready to face relentless clouds of mosquitoes.
But fear not! There are ways to defend yourself and mitigate the mosquito invasion. Arm yourself with an arsenal of bug repellents. Cover your exposed skin like a medieval knight donning armor. You can also equip yourself with lightweight, long-sleeved clothing to create a protective shield against their tiny jaws. The tiny bastards CAN BITE THROUGH JEANS! I suggest something like nylon for the best protection. And make sure to don a bug net to cover your face.
I have a camera operator friend that swears by the lotion Victoria Secret Amber Romance. He’s spent just as much time as I have in Alaska, but he’s also one of the biggest jokesters I know, so take that with a grain of salt. I’ve personally never tried it, but let us know if you do!
Summer in Alaska FAQ’s
The Northern Lights, or aurora borealis, are not typically visible during the summer due to the extended daylight hours. The best time to see the Northern Lights is during the darker winter months.
Summer is a prime time for wildlife viewing. Visitors might encounter bears, moose, eagles, whales, and various bird species.
Yes, summer is the most popular time for Alaskan cruises.
Summer in Alaska: Facts
Here are some fun facts about Summer in Alaska.
- Parts of Alaska experience 24 hours of daylight during the summer solstice.
- Anchorage has incredibly long summer days, with the sun setting as late as 11:30 PM.
- Fort Yukon holds the record for the highest temperature in the state, reaching 100°F (38°C) in 1915.
- Snow can still occur in some mountainous regions of Alaska during the summer months.
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