time of year for Alaska

Old Aug 23rd, 2019, 05:53 AM
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time of year for Alaska

We would like to visit Alaska next summer. I have read that May is often sunnier than June. Other sites that I have read have liked later summer. We will visit Sitka area and Denali for sure and do not know where else yet.Unfortunately May will probably not work for us next year but could go June 2 or after. What are your thoughts for the rest of summer. I know it is always a crap shoot.
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Old Aug 23rd, 2019, 06:28 AM
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I liked late June into early July. We had a wonderful Major Marine boat trip out of Seward. Enjoyed Kenai's 4th of July Parade and the Forest Fair at Alyeska. The salmon run started in the Russian River in either late June or early July when we were there. It was obvious from the amount of traffic on the Seward Highway. It was hot in Anchorage this year so check weather ahead of time and pack accordingly. It depends on what you want to do. Our trip that year was planned around a local event we wanted to attend.
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Old Aug 23rd, 2019, 06:48 AM
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Old Aug 23rd, 2019, 06:56 AM
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Going by this year, with record heat and massive wildfires, any predictions about summer weather in Alaska are pretty much out the window. The more the seas rise and the arctic ice cap melts, "typical" weather is going to be a moving target. And of course you can't generalize "Alaska weather" when you're talking about, basically, a subcontinent, with umpteen climate zones, from arctic to alpine to coniferous rainforest... Without the "where in Alaska" part, it's pretty meaningless. May might be sunnier than June (on average) in some places, and the reverse in others. And even then, there's no telling - there can be summers when it seems like it rains in Anchorage and the northern Kenai every day, and others when the weather is ideal.

But based on past performance, here's the deal. Denali is not fully accessible until well into June. The buses start running to the Eielson visitor center (which is the minimum distance I'd suggest) around June 1, and to Wonder Lake a week later. THIS IS NOT SET IN STONE; the park personnel have the authority to adjust things based on road conditions. Here's this year's shuttle schedule - transit-schedule.pdf Remember that fewer than half the visitors to Denali actually see the mountain; it's so big that it makes its own weather. So building an itinerary about the presumption that you're going to get those amazing shots of the mountain looming over the tundra - well, good luck.

Within the park, and pretty much everywhere near fresh water in southcentral and interior Alaska, May and June (really until mid-July) is also mosquito season. At Wonder Lake they'll pretty much carry you off. This is less an issue near salt water or in the towns, but worth remembering when it comes to your packing list.

So my recommendation is to start by deciding, maybe in some detail, what you want to see, then do some research on specific destinations (Denali, Sitka and SE Alaska, etc.) to see when on average they're at their best. Much will depend on how long you have; distances are great. I'd also highly recommend thinking about getting off the road system at some point, and at least one airborne experience - you can't grasp the scale of the place from the ground or the deck of a boat.

If it was me - and it's not - I'd personally plan for the end of the summer rather than the beginning if Denali is a priority. Sure, you run the risk of not seeing the mountain, but the odds are not appreciably worse than earlier, and the upside is that autumn comes to the tundra quite early, giving amazing colors and views. The animals, especially the bears, are very active storing up the calories for the winter (as opposed to the spring, when they're just as likely going to be far from the roads.) In other places, like, for example, Seward, the silver salmon are running - best fishing of the year IMO. Also the bugs are generally gone, or at least better, than in earlier in the season. Just as a thought experiment, look at conditions in late August in the various places on your list.

Happy planning!
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Old Aug 23rd, 2019, 10:11 AM
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We went the past June - first full week in June - and the weather was terrific -- a bit on the cool side but uncomfortable and only one light shower one afternoon. But next year is next year.
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Old Aug 23rd, 2019, 12:26 PM
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We also did July... weather in 70's and 80's... light until 2am.... perfect trip...
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Old Aug 24th, 2019, 05:42 AM
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We were there a few years ago the first week of August. The weather was fantastic. We had a few days in the 80's.
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Old Aug 24th, 2019, 12:14 PM
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A few years ago we went in June over Summer Solstice and road into Denali had just opened the week before. If Denali is on your list, I would not go before mid-June.
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Old Aug 24th, 2019, 12:28 PM
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If Denali is important and you are mosquito magnets -- I'd go late July or August, or even very early Sept, though weather can get iffy by then.
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Old Aug 25th, 2019, 12:48 PM
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this is all terrific information.
Gardyloo, you nailed it, we want to do Sitka, SE Alaska and Denali. So, it sounding as though we should wait till at lease mid June and even later. We would like to do a small cruise ship for the inside passage and then Denali or vice versa. Any recommendations for small ships would be appreciated. Also, place to stay near to Denali are also appreciated.
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Old Nov 3rd, 2019, 08:16 AM
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It totally depends on the year. I have only been to the interior (Fairbanks and then the deep bush, about 280 miles north of there) in June, July, August and September. For our times up in the bush, these are our experiences. June was hot the year I was there (90's at 9 pm on the solstice, north of the Arctic Circle) and I was in shorts and t shirts the entire time, but August was cold and very wet the year my husband and son went. August was very wet another year that we all went, and September was nice but chilly this year, but another year it was very cold. Snowy both times though.
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