If you live in Alaska or plan to come here to photograph the Northern lights (a.k.a. the aurora borealis) there are a number of good places that I like to go to and here they are. I wasn’t quite sure what order to put these in because it’s harder to get to others and so these are not in any particular order.
Wiseman is an extremely small town, with perhaps 20 people living there year-round. The closest services are few miles down the Dalton Highway in Coldfoot. I think this is a great location because of the big mountains of the Brooks Range and you can drive your car to different locations. Also, it’s directly under the Aurora band which means it’s more likely you’ll see the Aurora at some point during the night as long as the skies are clear. You don’t need a real high KP index in order to see them as you do in Southcentral Alaska. Here are links to a number of places to stay in the area and other info.
Warning: If you do go here be sure to read up on the area. It’s VERY remote and primitive. Be sure you’re prepared in case your car breaks down because there’s not a lot of traffic on the Dalton Highway. And you’ll need to bring your own groceries as well.
The Fairbanks area is great for a number of reasons. But big mountains is NOT one of them. I would say it’s one of the best places to go for Aurora mainly for ease of accessibility, quality accommodations, and more likely to be clear. I would suggest two different places in the Fairbanks area. One of them is Chena Hot Springs which is a 50-mile drive from Fairbanks proper. Chena is great because there are taller hills there for background and the Chena Hot Springs resort makes it easy to view the aurora from nearby accommodations & hot meals… and enjoy a warm soak to boot. Read about it here: https://chenahotsprings.com/
The second place in the Fairbanks area I would recommend is not far from Fairbanks and is called Cleary Summit. It’s high on a summit and you have a good view 360°. There are a number bed and breakfasts to stay in the area OR it’s also a short 30-minute drive from Cleary back to Fairbanks itself if you wanted to stay there to save money on accommodations. Read about Cleary summit here:
- http://www.clearysummit.com/ — I highly recommend this location.
When the aurora is at a KP of 4 or higher, I really like the area in the Matanuska Valley mostly because there’s a plethora of tall mountains, rivers, lakes, and streams that you can use in your foreground. There are lots of opportunities here. There isn’t really one particular location to go to per se… other than perhaps where the Old Glenn Highway meets Old Knik River Road. There’s an old bridge there and a number of pullouts not far from there that point to the north and have a clear shot overlooking the Knik River. For other locations, it’s a matter of driving around and scouting locations before-hand. Lots of opportunities.
It’s always nice to have a world-renown subject along with your Northern lights. So photographing either at Talkeetna or north of Talkeetna such as along the Petersville Road (16 miles north of Talkeetna spur road) or at the South Denali Overlook (36 miles north of Talkeetna Spur road) is another great Aurora opportunity. Again, it’s a matter of driving down the roads here, finding turnouts, and such that provide a good view.
The 135-mile gravel Denali Highway, in the fall, is a great place. Very little light pollution, spectacular mountains, and lots of lakes and rivers to use as a foreground. It can’t be beaten. There are several lodges along the highway if you’re not into camping. Winter is good there too, but the road is mostly closed, so snowmobile access is it. Check things out at: