When is the Best Time to Visit the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge?
Contrary to popular belief, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge experiences all four seasons–winter, spring, summer and fall. It’s just that three of the seasons are really short. Winter is effectively nine months long and the other three seasons are each about 1 month. So what’s the best time to visit? Each season offers its own opportunities and challenges.
Winter–September through May
Advantages: certain activities are possible only during this time, such as the emergence of polar bear cubs
Disadvantages: 24 hours of darkness between November and February, dangerously cold, risk of long blizzards, weather may prevent transportation, many animals have migrated for the season, extremely limited commercial tours available
Spring–first three weeks of June
Advantages: 24 hours of sunlight, weather has warmed up enough to be tolerable, bugs generally are limited
Disadvantages: weather can still be cold and fickle, rivers may still be iced over in places, hills and tundra may be mostly brown (not yet green)
Summer–last week of June to first week of August
Advantages: 24 hours of sunlight, weather is warmest that it gets, river water levels reach their peak (around end of July), July has best display of wildflowers
Disadvantages: bugs can be oppressive
Fall–last three weeks of August
Advantages: tundra changes colors, possibility of seeing the aurora borealis, temperatures are still tolerable (although snow becomes increasingly likely in second half of August)
Disadvantages can be rainy, may still be buggy
Prior posts on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: