Thinking about a trip to Alaska in October? October is considered shoulder season, and while summer tour operators have shut down for the winter, there are still plenty of things to see and do during the month.
Alaska is dressed in fall colors at the start of October, making it a great time to enjoy the fall season. But by the end of the month, the leaves have fallen and winter is on its way.
October has always been one of my favorite months in Alaska since it’s my birth month. I love getting to see the seasons transition from fall to winter and one of my favorite things to see is fresh snow on the mountaintop when the rest is still covered in fall foliage.
If you’re considering an October trip to Alaska, this guide will tell you everything you need to know to decide if this is a good time to visit. I’ve included information about the weather, daylight hours, events, what to pack and wear, and some of my favorite things to do in October.
5 Reasons to Visit Alaska in October
- Fall festivities. Enjoy the vibrant fall foliage and celebrate the changing of seasons.
- Aurora season. October is a great month to see the Northern Lights before it’s too cold.
- It’s shoulder season. Expect less crowds and cheaper prices.
- The weather is cooler. It’s perfect for hiking, biking, and running!
- It’s spooky. There are a lot of indoor Halloween-related events going on.
Weather in Alaska in October
Daylight in October
Daylight hours in October continue to decrease from September with less than 10 hours of daylight in Fairbanks and 11 hours and 34 minutes of daylight in Anchorage in October. In Juneau, you’ll experience about 9 hours of daylight and 15 hours of darkness by the end of October, with sunrise at 8:11 a.m. and sunset at 5:11 p.m.
Aurora Viewing in Alaska in October
Shorter days and dark skies increase your chance to see the aurora borealis. Aurora Season began in August and your best chance of seeing the northern lights in Alaska in October is in the Interior region. Fairbanks is a great choice for aurora viewing in Alaska due to its consistently clear nights and concentrated aurora activity.
Snow in Alaska
October is usually when it starts to snow in Alaska. Fairbanks receives an average of 10.8″ of snow in October. The average snowfall in Juneau in October is only 1 inch, but there is an average of 21 days of rain this month. Seward is still wet in October with an average of 9″ of rain and less than half an inch of snow. Valdez gets an average of 11 inches of snow, making it one of the snowiest areas in Alaska.
Temperature in October
October brings winter temperatures in Alaska. Average daytime highs range from 30 to 40°F across the state and nighttime lows drop well below freezing in the Arctic and range from 20 F to 30°F across the rest of the state.
Here’s what you can expect in different cities around the state:
- Average temperature in Anchorage, Alaska in October: 40°F (5°C)
- Average temperature in Fairbanks, Alaska in October: 32°F (0°C)
- Average temperature in Juneau, Alaska in October: 49°F (9°C)
- Average temperature in Seward, Alaska in October: 46°F (8°C)
- Average temperature in Valdez, Alaska in October: 44°F (7°C)
Best Things to Do in Alaska in October
October brings both fall and winter conditions. The days are getting darker and there is less daylight for activities.
With only a few tour operators remaining open at the beginning of the month, it’s a great time to plan a self-guided trip around the state and avoid the typical summer crowds.
As the season changes, here are some fun things to do in Alaska in October:
Drive Denali Park Road
By October, fall colors have already peaked in Denali National Park and the public bus service has stopped running. After the bus service ends, visitors are allowed to drive their own vehicle on Denali Park Road to Teklanika River at Mile 30.
Once snow starts to fall, the road is only plowed for the first 3 miles, from the park entrance to the park headquarters. Check the Denali webcams for the latest weather and conditions before heading to the park.
When the road isn’t closed due to snow, you may drive it at any time of the day or night. This makes it a great place to see the Northern Lights in October! If you need a place to camp, Riley Creek Campground is the only campground open year-round.
Hike in Hatcher Pass
In October, Hatcher Pass is blanketed with fall colors and you’ll most likely see fresh snow on the mountaintops. The air is crisp and refreshing, which makes it perfect weather for a fall or early winter hike.
There are a lots of hiking trails in Hatcher Pass, ranging from easy to challenging. Some popular trails include Reed Lakes Trail, Gold Mint Trail, and Gold Cord Lake.
If you don’t like hiking, it’s still a great place for a scenic fall drive near Anchorage. You can also stay overnight in one of the iconic red cabins at Hatcher Pass Lodge.
Fat Bear Week
Okay, you don’t really need to actually be in Alaska for this one. Fat Bear Week is an annual tournament created by park rangers to celebrate the fattest brown bears in Katmai National Park on their success in preparation for winter hibernation!
To get fat in Katmai National Park, bears gather around Brooks Falls to feast on salmon from late June until mid-October.
Fat Bear Week 2023 begins in early October. During the tournament, individual bears go up against each other to win the votes of the public. The bear with the most votes advances to the next round until one is crowned Fat Bear Week champion.
Monitor Beluga Whales
It’s still possible to see whales in Alaska in October, especially beluga whales. Cook Inlet Beluga Whales are an important part of Alaska’s ecosystem and they are critically endangered.
During October, you can volunteer with the Alaska Beluga Monitoring Partnership (ABMP) to learn about beluga whales in Alaska and their conservation needs, participate in field monitoring, and contribute to collecting scientific data on beluga habitat use.
The ABMP fall monitoring season runs from August through late November. Monitoring sites include Ship Creek, Seward Highway Mile Marker 95.3, Twentymile River, The Point at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, Kenai River, and Kasilof River.
On October 2, you can join the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center during high tide to look for belugas out in the Turnagain Arm. Don’t forget your binoculars!
See the Northern Lights
If seeing the Northern Lights isn’t at the top of your Alaska list then you need to add it right now! Alaska is a great place to see the lights and the aurora season runs from late August to April.
With more than 12 hours of darkness in Fairbanks, you have a great chance of seeing the northern lights in Alaska in October. Fairbanks is actually located in the auroral oval, which is a region where the northern lights are most frequently seen.
Denali National Park is another top location in Alaska for northern lights viewing. The park is located in a remote area with dark skies and low levels of light pollution.
I love bikepacking because you can get really far really fast! One of my favorite places to bike in the fall is the Eklutna Lakeside Trail. The colors along the trail really pop out against the glacier-blue lake.
Toward the end of the trail, you’ll find Serenity Falls Hut, which is one of Alaska’s many public-use cabins that you can rent. With the colder temps, it’s nice to stay in a cozy cabin during the night.
Another great place for bikepacking in October is Resurrection Pass. There are eight public use cabins along the entire trail and you can stay in them as you bike from Cooper Landing to Hope.
Enjoy Art & Nightlife in Anchorage
October is a great time to find indoor activities to keep yourself entertained in Anchorage. I love visiting the Anchorage Museum, especially on First Friday when admission is free. The Alaska Native Heritage Center is a great place to learn about Alaska’s Indigenous people.
There are a ton of bars and restaurants in Anchorage and beer lovers can check out some of the Anchorage breweries.
Top Festivals and Events in Alaska in October
There are plenty of festivals and events to attend in October in Alaska. A lot of events this month celebrate the fall season and Halloween.
Here are some of the best events in Alaska in October:
Alaska BOOtanical Garden (September 15-October 22, Anchorage)
Dress up in costumes and explore the spooky side of the Alaska Botanical Garden in Anchorage. The Alaska BOOtanical Garden will feature scarecrows, werewolves, monstrous plants, a haunted ghost trail, and more. This event will take place on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Make it Alaskan Market (September 29-October 1, Anchorage)
The Make It Alaskan Market is held in downtown Anchorage at the Egan Center. Event-goers can shop a huge selection of locally made products, arts & crafts, clothing, housewares and so much more. If you are looking for an Alaska souvenir to take home then this is a great place to visit in October.
Anchorage Winter Expo (September 30-October 1, Anchorage)
Bring your friends and family to a wonderful, winter expo filled with local vendors, snow machines, ATVs, power sports, hunting, fishing, food, and more! If you plan on spending winter in Anchorage, I definitely recommend stopping by the Dena’ina Center for the Anchorage Winter Expo.
Aktober Fest (October 1-October 7, Juneau)
Celebrate all things beer with Alaskan Brewing Co.
Juneau Jazz & Classics Fall Music Festival (October 2-7, Juneau)
Calling all jazz lovers, the Juneau Jazz and Classics is bringing the worlds of jazz, classical, and blues to the Juneau community with live performances and interaction with world-class artists. The Fall Music Festival has daily performances with a free family concert by Mike Block Trio on October 7.
Annual Hopetober Fest (October 7, Hope)
If you love live music, Creekbend Cafe in Hope is putting on another Hopetober Fest. This year, you can expect live music from Blackwater Railroad, Bavarian food, axe throwing, face painting, hay rides, pumpkin painting, outdoor games, a fall photo booth, and more!
Sleepy Holloween Festival (October 7, Wasilla)
Stop by the Sleepy Hollow Golf Course in Wasilla for the Sleepy Holloween Festival. Attendees can enjoy food, vendors, a Trick-or-Treat Trail, petting zoo, and more.
Fall Family Fun at the Reindeer Farm (October 7, 14, 21, Palmer)
Gather your family and head to the Reindeer Farm in Palmer for Fall Family Fun. This family-friendly event in October includes pony rides, a haunted house, a hay bale maze, reindeer train ride, live music, pumpkin picking, and more!
2023 Fall Festival (October 7, Fairbanks)
The 2023 Fall Festival is a family event taking place at the Tanana Valley State Fair Fairgrounds. The Fall Festival makes for a fun day out as you pick pumpkins, enjoy food vendors, and fall activities.
Girdwood Marathon 2023 (October 7, Girdwood)
Runners can choose between a full marathon or a half marathon through the town of Girdwood. The Girdwood Marathon will take you through Winner Creek Trail and Extension, Iditarod Trails, Nordic 5K Loop, Tiny Trail, Athabascan Trail, California Creek Trail, Abe’s Trail, Beaver Pond Trail, Bird to Gird Trail, Alyeska Bike Path, and various Alyeska Resort mountain trails.
Mad Myrna’s Presents: The Rocky Horror Show (October 13-November 18, Anchorage)
One of my favorite shows to watch in Anchorage during the fall is The Rocky Horror Show at Mad Myrnas, the best gay nightclub in town. This presentation of “The Rocky Horror Show” is so much fun to watch and it makes for an incredible night out! Tickets will sell out!
Run the Rock (October 14, Kodiak)
KMXT is putting on a family-friendly marathon, half marathon, 10k, and 5k on Kodiak Island. Run the Rock marathon starts on Near Island, goes across the bridge, through town, and out to Bear Valley Golf Course, which is the starting location for the half marathon and 10k runners.
Zombie Half Marathon (October 14, Anchorage)
Wear your best zombie costume for this late season running event in Anchorage. Zombie Half Marathon runners will follow a route along the West Chester Creek Lagoon and Coastal Trail, ending at the Kincaid Chalet.
Fairbanks Fiber Festival (October 14-15, Fairbanks)
The Fairbanks Fiber Festival is an annual public event that includes workshops, demos, and a vendor marketplace with local fiber artists and farmers, with an emphasis on goods made or produced in Alaska.
Alaska Day Festival (October 18, Sitka)
Alaska Day Festival is held annually in Sitka. The festival celebrates the day Alaska was purchased by the United States from Russia. You can expect a reenactment ceremony, a costume ball, dances, dinners, contests, a parade, and more.
2023 AFN Convention (October 19-21, 2023, Anchorage)
The Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) is an annual convention held in downtown Anchorage. The convention serves as the principal forum and voice for the Alaska Native community in addressing critical issues of public policy and government. This year’s theme is “Our Ways of Life,” and attendees can listen to memorable keynote speeches, hear reports from political leaders and presentations from expert panels, and visit artists and exhibitors.
The Big Band Bash (October 21, Anchorage)
The Big Band Bash is a gala put on by the Alaska Aviation Museum and attendees are transported back 80 years with a night of live music from the Anchorage Jazz Ensemble, photo opportunities with vintage vehicles, a dinner, and period correct costumes.
Creepy Critters (October 21, Fairbanks)
It’s that spooky time of year when daylight becomes scarce and creepy critters prowl. Join Friends of Creamer’s Field in Fairbanks on a free guided nature walk to look for Creepy Critters!
Go Winter! Expo (October 21, Fairbanks)
If you plan on spending the winter in Alaska, the Go Winter! Expo focuses on how to get through winter healthy, safely, and sanely while having some fun along the way. Think outside activities, snow machines, camping gear, car care, home heating, travel ideas, shopping, and more.
Jams for Fams 2023 (October 22, Anchorage)
The Bear Tooth Theatrepub & Grill is throwing its annual halloween party for families. At Jams for Fams, families can dress up in costumes and jam out to DJ Spencer Lee.
Skinny Raven Frightening 4K (October 28, Anchorage)
Grab your friends and family for a Frightening 4K walk or run through downtown Anchorage. Along the way, you can fill up your candy bag and enjoy spooky decor at the trick-or-treat stations at each kilometer.
Halloween Trick or Treat Street (October 28, Anchorage)
After you finish the Skinny Raven Frightening 4K, stay downtown and enjoy the Anchorage Downtown Partnerships Trick-or-Treat Street! There are 21 candy stops that you can visit as well as costume contests to participate in.
Halloween Trick or Treat Town (October 28, Fairbanks)
This year is Halloween Trick or Treat Town’s 11th anniversary! This year there will be trick or treating throughout Gold Rush Town, rides on the Spooky Train, food trucks, performances, contests, balloon animals, face painting, and more!
BooZaar (October 28-29, Fairbanks)
If you’re in Fairbanks, stop by the Bentley Mall for this year’s BooZaar. Over the weekend, you will find over 50 local artisans and vendors with lots of great items for sale! Kids can also trick-or-treat for candy at select times on both days.
Chugach Gem and Mineral Show (October 28-29, Anchorage)
If you have an interest in gems and minerals, visit the Chugach Gem and Mineral Show in Anchorage at the end of October.
What to Pack For Alaska in October
As the month goes on, the weather in Alaska in October transitions from fall to winter. You will definitely want to be prepared for a variety of weather conditions, including rain and snow.
You’ll no longer be able to get away with wearing shorts and a t-shirt, so it’s important to pack warm layers. I always recommend dressing in layers so you can adjust your clothing throughout the day as needed.
Start by checking off your winter packing list by packing warm, base layers made of wool or synthetic materials. Make sure to bring a warm hat, a warm jacket and warm gloves. Fleece jackets are a perfect mid-layer, and waterproof gear will keep you dry, whether it rains or snows.
Here is a quick list of what to wear in Alaska in October:
- Down jacket
- Insulated rain jacket
- Rain pants
- Rain boots
- Waterproof hiking boots
- Warm hat
- Warm gloves
- Wool socks
- Fleece sweater
- Warm base layers
Is it a good time to visit Alaska in October?
If you want to experience fall in Alaska then early October is a great time to visit. The fall colors will be popping and it’s beautiful to see! By traveling in October, it’s possible to visit Alaska on a budget and avoid the summer crowds.
When you visit in late October, it’s basically winter, and you will most likely see snow in the mountains or on the ground.
I hope this guide on visiting Alaska in October was helpful as you plan your trip to Alaska! Do you have any questions about visiting Alaska in October? Let me know in the comments.
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