If you’ve never been to Alaska, it’s hard to imagine just how big and undeveloped The Last Frontier really is. Once you leave the “big” cities (Anchorage being the largest at about 300,000 people), there’s nothing but seemingly infinite wilderness – and darkness – stretching as far as the eye can see. As you probably can imagine, there are some fantastic opportunities for stargazing in Alaska.
It’s worth pointing out though: if you visit Alaska during the popular months of May through September, you won’t see many stars. The axial tilt of the earth means that days are long (endless, at times) in the summer, and there’s no stargazing to be done. Instead, you’ll need to visit between September and April, when the skies are dark enough to see the stars – and the aurora borealis!
Below you’ll find seven more “formal” places for stargazing in Alaska, though there are certainly plenty of other places you could pull over on the side of the road and stop to enjoy the night sky. No matter where you go stargazing in Alaska, you’ll be treated to incredible darkness, countless stars, and a good chance to watch the northern lights dancing in the sky too.
In this post, I promote travel to destinations that is the traditional lands of many Alaska Native groups, including the Aleut, Athabascan, Haida, Inupiat, Tlingit, and Yuit peoples. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
Map of Where to Go Stargazing in Alaska
Chena Hot Springs
Chena Hot Springs is a delightful place if you want to combine stargazing with a little bit of relax. This resort is nestled in the heart of Interior Alaska, surrounded by nothing but wilderness. It’s an hour’s drive from Fairbanks, and well away from even those smaller city lights.
During the dark/winter months, they offer northern lights tours that naturally include stargazing opportunities; the tours head up away from the main property and lights there. However, you can also see the night sky through the mists rising above the water from the outdoor hot springs themselves. Plan a night or two out here during your Alaska trip and you’ll be well rewarded if you love the night sky.
Denali National Park
For many stargazers, Denali National Park is the cream of the crop when it comes to stargazing in Alaska. In fact, it’s one of Alaska’s Dark Sky Parks. The park comprises 6 million acres of unspoiled nature. Needless to say, light pollution is practically nonexistent here. There’s no shortage of places to go stargazing in Denali.
Along the first 15 miles of the Denali Park Road, you can drive your private vehicle and take advantage of pullouts/trailheads where you can stop and enjoy the night sky. The Riley Creek Campground near the park entrance also offers great viewing conditions. But best of all, Denali is right under the aurora oval, which makes it a prime location for viewing the northern lights too.
If you’re visiting Anchorage, Eklutna Lake is a good option for pursuing your stargazing endeavor. Eklutna Lake is located inside Chugach State Park – it’s about a 10-mile drive to from the highway, and an hour’s drive from Anchorage’s city lights.
The lake offers one of the most stunning landscapes within the park. It covers 1,424 hectares and is nestled high in the mountains. There are tons of trails and it has many areas to camp as well. Stargazing here with the backdrop of crystal blue water and snow-topped mountains is priceless. Be bear aware though. As with pretty much everywhere in Alaska, they are around.
Hatcher Pass is an awesome backcountry spot with easy access out of Anchorage. While I have seen some stunning views in Alaska, nothing compared to the views of Hatcher Pass. This is a spectacular spot with plenty to see if you are willing to do a bit of or hiking. Some unmarked trails lead off the ridges to reveal hidden lakes and gorgeous vistas. Imagine how beautiful the nigh sky looks against that backdrop!
The Hatcher Pass Road is closed during the winter, but you can still drive at least partway up to Independence State Mine; once you enter the valleys, there’s basically no light pollution to interfere with your view.
Located about 20 miles outside Fairbanks, Murphy Dome used to be Murphy Dome Air Force Station. Today, it is a recreational site where ATV riders and hikers head for a little bit of adrenaline. Murphy Dome is considered one of the best spots for stargazing in Alaska because it’s perched in the highest point in the area, meaning you’ll enjoy supreme views of the night sky.
The road up toward the dome is as scenic as it gets, winding though lowland forests. Oh, and Murphy Dome also is considered a prime viewing spot to see the northern lights.
The drive along Seward Highway offers one of the best views of Alaska’s landscapes. Potters Marsh, bore tide, glaciers… Oh my! It’s widely considered of the most beautiful drives in Alaska. The highway follows the Turnagain Arm, a tidal inlet with highly variable water levels and fast flowing water. There’s no shortage of stargazing spots.
Once you get out of town, the highway hugs the coast and there are plenty of turn outs with open sky views where you can admire the stars; the further you’re willing to drive, the darker it will be.
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
Last but not least, we have Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, the largest national park in the country. This place is what you imagine Alaska being like. The pictures in every magazine growing up that created that desire to explore the frontier have to come from this place. There are glaciers to explore and the sunsets behind the mountains are breathtaking.
While stargazing in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is a magical experience, you have to get the timing right. The park is is only accessible by snowmobile, skis or snowshoes during the winter months. This said, the best stargazing area is near the Copper Center Visitor Center, which is just outside of the park’s boundaries; the Visitor Center is closed in the winter so there isn’t even light pollution to interfere.
Beyond these main locations, there are literally countless other places you can go stargazing in Alaska – most locals have a few favorite spots that you can ask about when you’re visiting. Have any questions about these spots for stargazing in Alaska? Let me know in the comments below!