Coldfoot is the Best (and Most Underrated) Place to See the Northern Lights

Photo of the aurora borealis over the South Inn by Kenji Sato.

Photo of the aurora borealis over the South Inn by Kenji Sato.

Be honest with us for a moment: what comes to mind first when you think of ‘taking a trip to see the Northern Lights’?

For lots of folks, that’s “Oh, right, where is my passport?” or, if you’re in much of the U.S., “Would it really be worth taking that international flight?” The good news is, that totally doesn’t have to be the case. If you’re reading this, you’re probably already clued in-–but lots of Americans don’t even realize they have the option to see the aurora borealis right here in the United States.

In short: Coldfoot has stellar auroras. (Get it?) This isn’t just seeing the aurora, either, like it’s possible to do in the northern parts of some states in the Lower 48. It’s world-class aurora-viewing. Cool, right?

Here's why. 

For one, Coldfoot is located above the Arctic Circle. As you may already know, our Arctic location means that we have twenty-four hours of daylight in the summer and almost twenty-four hours of darkness in the winter (which, up here, is most of the year). Skies are dark all the way from the 21st of August to the 21st of April, meaning that aurora hunters can catch excellent Northern Lights displays for almost eight months.

Another perk of being in the Arctic is that Coldfoot is located directly underneath the Aurora Oval. The northern Aurora Oval is a band encircling the north pole where solar flares collide with atmospheric particles and emit photons (light energy). As the name implies, the northern Aurora Oval is also the zone where the aurora borealis is most visible to us on the ground. This means that any night where the weather is clear enough, you’ll be able to see the aurora from Coldfoot or Wiseman.

In addition to a perfect location, we also have near-perfect weather. By the time that the very brightest and most colorful auroras are out, eighty percent of nights are totally clear--cloudless, and without precipitation--making for incredible views almost every night.

Finally, we have little to no light pollution! Often, in the Lower 48, even if the aurora is visible, it appears dimmer due to the amount of light pollution from nearby neighborhoods or urban areas. At our cabin in the nearby village of Wiseman, Alaska, there is absolutely no light contamination; here in Coldfoot, there are some outdoor lighting fixtures, but they’re very easy to get away from. In both cases, the nearest towns are 240 miles away in either direction-–meaning darkness and great displays no matter where you choose to watch.

For all these reasons, we like to think Coldfoot is one of the best (and most underrated) destinations for aurora hunters and travelers alike. If seeing the Northern Lights is on your bucket list, forget about your passport, take that long weekend, and come on up to Coldfoot!

Colorful aurora borealis over Slate Mountain by Kenji Sato.

Colorful aurora borealis over Slate Mountain by Kenji Sato.