Not sure if a trip to Alaska in September is the right choice for you? Well, every month in Alaska has something incredible to offer, and September in Alaska is no exception!
September marks the start of fall in Alaska. The air is crisp and the crowds are gone. I love being in Alaska at this time of year to watch the foliage transition from green to vibrant shades of yellow, orange, and red.
Around mid-September, many tour operators close for the season, but there are still plenty of things to see and do on a vacation in Alaska in autumn. The night skies return, providing visitors a chances to see the Northern Lights.
If you’re considering a September 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 September.
5 Reasons to Visit Alaska in September
- Fall foliage. The vibrant colors are stunning!
- Aurora season has begun. The skies are finally dark enough to see the Northern Lights.
- It’s shoulder season. This means less crowds and cheaper prices.
- The air is crisp. It’s sweater weather, the fireplace is lit, and it feels very cozy.
- Enjoy the trails. Less people means you can hike in solitude.
Weather in Alaska in September
Daylight in September
Daylight hours in September will see a huge decrease from August with about 14.4 hours of daylight in Fairbanks. Anchorage sees about 14 hours and 24 minutes of daylight in September. In Juneau, you’ll experience about 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness, with sunrise at 6:59 a.m. and sunset at 7:10 p.m.
Aurora Viewing in Alaska in September
Shorter days and dark skies increase your chances to see the aurora borealis. Aurora Season began in late August and your best chance of seeing the northern lights in Alaska in September is in the Interior region.
Rain in Alaska
September is the rainiest month of the year in Alaska. Last year, Anchorage had one of the top 15 wettest years on record. You should expect to experience wet conditions throughout the month, but that could mean anything from a quick drizzle to pouring rain. Interior Alaska typically sees less rain than the rest of the state.
Temperature in September
September brings cooler temperatures in Alaska. Average daytime highs range from 50°F in the Arctic to mid 50s F in the Interior. Nighttime lows drop below freezing in the Arctic and between the 30s F to mid-40s F across most of the state. By the end of the month, it’s possible to see snow on the mountaintops!
Here’s what you can expect in different cities around the state:
- Average temperature in Anchorage, Alaska in September: 55°F (13°C)
- Average temperature in Fairbanks, Alaska in September: 55°F (13°C)
- Average temperature in Juneau, Alaska in September: 63°F (17°C)
Best Things to Do in Alaska in September
September brings the perfect balance of daylight and darkness. In the first half of the month, visitors can still enjoy summer tours and activities. By the end of the month, most tour operators close for the season and some small towns around the state go quiet.
As the season changes, here are some fun things to do in Alaska in September:
Scenic Fall Drives
Fall in Alaska is quick but beautiful! The trees turn yellow and orange and the tundra turns red, which is the perfect recipe for pretty photographs. The best part is that you can enjoy peak fall colors in Alaska from the comfort of your own car.
If you want to see vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows across a vast tundra landscape, drive to through Denali National Park. Usually, the Denali Road Lottery takes place during the second weekend after Labor Day. However, it’s suspended for the foreseeable future due to the Pretty Rocks Landslide. If you want to see yellow and orange trees, take a scenic fall drive to Hatcher Pass, drive along the Turnagain Arm, or head to Eklutna Lake.
Bear Viewing in Katmai
September is one of the best times of the year to see bears in Katmai National Park. The salmon run is in full swing in September, and the bears are out in force, gorging themselves on fish before they hibernate for the winter.
At Brooks Falls, you can watch bears of all sizes fishing for salmon. Being later in the season, the bears are much fatter now. This is a great time to see the chonky Katmai bears up close, just before they face off for the prize of fattest bear during Fat Bear Week.
I love chasing waterfalls! September is a great time to visit waterfalls around Alaska. During the rainy season, the waterfalls can appear fuller. Plus, to get to most of the waterfall hikes near you, it will require a walk through the woods, which means the trees will help to intercept the rain and keep you much drier.
If you’re traveling to Southcentral Alaska, I recommend these easy waterfall hikes near Anchorage.
September is the final month of the cruise season in Alaska as most cruise ships finish touring by the third week of the month. Taking a cruise during the shoulder season is a great way for budget travelers to save money on an Alaska vacation. During your September cruise in Alaska, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to see wildlife, and some incredible scenery. But, you may also just see rain and fog.
For those interested in day cruises, you’ll want to head to Whittier or Seward. In Whittier, you can book the 26 Glacier Cruise to see a ton of glaciers! If you are more interested in seeing wildlife, especially whales, go on a Kenai Fjords Tour out of Seward.
Seeing the Northern Lights is a bucket list item for many travelers. Alaska is a great place to see the lights as the aurora season runs from late August to April! This means is actually gets dark enough to see the northern lights in Alaska in September.
However, September is still early in the season and your chances to see the northern lights are much lower than later in the year. If you specifically want to see the northern lights, I would recommend visiting Alaska in February or March. But, if you already have a trip planned for September, don’t worry! You might get lucky and see the lights!
Hut to Hut Hiking
There’s nothing like sleeping in a cozy cabin while knowing you might wake up to frost right outside your doorstep! Alaska has a ton of public use cabins all around the state that you can rent. It’s a great way to experience the Alaska outdoors without having to rough it too much. Think of it as glamping!
One of my favorite hut to hut hiking trails is Resurrection Pass. There are eight public use cabins along the entire trail and you can stay in them as you hike (or bike) from Cooper Landing to Hope. Juneau Lake Cabin and Devil’s Pass Cabin are my favorites along the trail.
Okay.. Over the last few fall seasons in Alaska, I’ve become a fungi freak! I’m basically a mycologist now. With the weather starting to cool down, it’s a great time to head into the forest and look for mushrooms. Alaska has many species of mushrooms, and it’s a lot of fun to see what you can find and photograph.
There are also a couple of mushroom festivals in Alaska in September, where attendees can learn about mushroom identification and cultivation from experts! Find my list of September events in Alaska below.
Top Festivals and Events in Alaska in September
There are plenty of festivals and events to attend in September in Alaska. As a mushroom lover, the Fungus Fair in Girdwood is my favorite September event.
Here are some of the best events in Alaska in September:
Alaska State Fair (August 18-September 4, Palmer)
Labor Day marks the last day of the Alaska State Fair in Palmer. This is Alaska’s largest fair and it’s held annually. You can expect rides, games, vendors and lots of fair food. Some of my favorite things to do at the Alaska State Fair are to watch the Lumberjack Show and check out the giant vegetables. Can you believe the current state record for giant pumpkins is 2,147 pounds?!
Girdwood Fungus Fair (September 2-3, Girdwood)
The Girdwood Fungus Fair is put on by the Turnagain Arm Mycological Society. It’s an annual event that focuses on education and appreciation of Alaska’s fungi and forests. Over the weekend, you can attend talks, workshops, and guided mushrooms walks with mycologists. Last year, I attended a mushroom cultivation workshop to grow oyster mushrooms at home.
Cordova Fungus Fair (September 8-10, Cordova)
Cordova is another city in Alaska that hosts a fungus fair. The Cordova Fungus Festival is a long weekend full of activities to learn more about local mushrooms, participate in art & handcraft workshops, and celebrate mushrooms, salmon, and other wild-harvested foods. There will be live and virtual forays, presentations, activities for kids, and more!
Sacred Acre (September 8-10, Ninilchik)
Electronic music lovers will want to attend Sacred Acre. This EDM festival takes place at the Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds in Ninilchik. 2023 headliners include, Of The Trees, Boogie T and Daily Bread. On-site camping is available for festival attendees at the ARCHES campground.
Alyeska Climbathon (September 9, Girdwood)
The Alyeska Climbathon is a 10-hour multi-lap, all day event where climbers run and hike up the 2.2-mile North Face Trail (2,000 vertical feet) then descend on the Alyeska Resort Tram to complete a lap. The current vertical record of 26,325 feet and 28.6 miles of running in 13 laps!
Pyrah’s Pioneer Peak Farm Fall Harvest Festival (September 9,16,23,30, Palmer)
Celebrate the fall harvest at Pyrah’s Pioneer Peak Farm in Palmer. This fun, family-friendly event includes, a pick-your-own pumpkin patch, hayrides, barnyard animals, cowtrain rides, a maze, food trucks, and more! Tickets start at $10 per person.
Harvest Moon Local Food Festival (September 16, Soldotna)
Harvest Moon Local Food Festival is the Kenai Peninsula’s biggest one-day farmers market and local food celebration. Held at Soldotna Creek Park, this festival spotlights local Alaskans who grow, harvest and produce all sorts of Alaska Grown and Made in Alaska food and wellness products. It includes vendors, cooking demos, wild edibles walks, a fermentation station, live music and fun activities for kids and families.
Anchorage Pirate Pub Crawl (September 16, Anchorage)
The Anchorage Pirate Pub Crawl has always been a favorite night out with my friends! Everyone dresses up in their best pirate costumes and walks (or crawls) downtown from pub to pub. Make sure to pick up a map and get a stamp from each participating bar for a chance to win 80,000 Alaska Airline miles.
Áak’w Rock Indigenous Music Festival (September 21-23, Juneau)
Áak’w Rock is a three-day Indigenous music festival, held biennially on the ancestral homelands of the Lingít (People of the Tides) of the Áakʼw Ḵwáan (People of the Little Lake). It is the only Indigenous music festival in the United States, and it showcases Indigenous music of all different genres from around the world.
Ice Fest (September 22-24, Matanuska Glacier)
Ice Fest is an ice climbing event put on by the Mountaineering Club of Alaska. Climbers will learn about modern ice climbing techniques, rope management skills and socialize with other local climbers over the weekend.
Oktoberfest (September 23, Anchorage)
Oktoberfest in Anchorage is back! If you want to celebrate German culture with a full day of dancing, music, food and lots of beer, then this is the event for you! Live music this year will be performed by Alaska Blaskapelle and The Alaska Polka Chips. Prost!
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 September.
Capital Brewfest (September 30, Juneau)
I love a brewfest! The Rotary Club of Juneau is hosting its 11th Capital Brewfest this year. You’ll be able taste some of the best brews, ciders, and meads in the entire state. Some of my favorite Anchorage breweries will be there including, Alaskan Brewing Co., Double Shovel Cider Co., King Street Brewing Co., and, Midnight Sun Brewing Co.
What to Pack For Alaska in September
Some days you can still walk around in shorts and a t-shirt, but with cooler weather and temperatures in Alaska in September, your Alaska packing list will need to include some warm layers!
If you plan on taking a cruise in Alaska in September, you want to make sure to bring a warm hat, a warm jacket and warm gloves.
If you plan to spend time outdoors, whether you’re hiking or camping, make sure to pack good rain gear and warm base layers to wear on your September adventures.
No matter what your plans are, here is a quick list of what to wear in Alaska in September:
- Down jacket
- 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 September?
If you want to experience Autumn in Alaska then September is the great time to visit Alaska. The fall colors will be popping and it really is beautiful to see! By traveling in September, you will avoid the summer crowds and summer costs. However, if you visit in late September, you won’t be able to enjoy all of the tours that are available in the summer as the tour operators close for the season.
I hope this guide on visiting Alaska in September was helpful as you plan your trip to Alaska! Do you have any questions about visiting Alaska in September? Let me know in the comments.
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