Best Places to See the Northern Lights
The best places to see the Northern Lights are typically in the auroral zone, which covers Alaska, northern Canada, Greenland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, and Russia. However, those aren’t the only places to glimpse these celestial ribbons of light.
Where in America Can You See the Northern Lights?
You don’t have to travel overseas to experience the Northern Lights in person. Check out the top three locations in the US where you can see the aurora borealis!
Fairbanks, Alaska, is only two degrees south of the Arctic Circle, making it an optimal spot to watch for the Northern Lights all winter. The remote location also gives another advantage to those seeking these lights.
You can easily find a spot far enough away from the main town where light pollution won’t interfere with your ability to see the lights! It’s the perfect spot to bundle up, lay under the starry night sky, and capture once-in-a-lifetime pictures of the aurora borealis.
Pelican Lake Orr, Minnesota
There are plenty of opportunities to see the northern lights in Minnesota.
Located right on the shores of Pelican Lake, the remote location and inky black nights at Birch Forest Lodge provide an idyllic opportunity to see the aurora borealis.
Read Birch Forest Lodge’s owner, Adam’s full experience of the awe-inspiring beauty of the aurora borealis. Or, watch a time-lapse video by Adam’s good friend, Matt Bjur.
Come stay for a week during the spring or fall to watch for the ethereal lights in the evening sky, or visit during the summer for the chance to witness a meteor shower in this comfortable and remote location.
Emmet County, Michigan
Located on the top of Michigan’s lower peninsula is a park well-known for offering visitors a high likelihood of witnessing the northern lights. Headlands International Dark Sky Park has become a popular spot for those eager to watch the aurora borealis.
Due to its relatively southern location, predicting when the northern lights will be visible is challenging, but your best bet is to take a week during the spring or fall to go and observe the night sky.
How Far South in the US Can the Northern Lights Be Seen?
Typically, the Northern Lights aren’t visible in the southern US.
According to the University of Alaska at Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute, you can expect to see the Northern Lights in:
- North Dakota
- South Dakota
- New York
- New Hampshire
That isn’t always the case, though!
Occasionally, solar flares of the sun and other major solar events can cause the Northern Lights to be seen even further south.
In March of 2023, an intense solar storm caused the lights to be visible as far south as Arizona and New Mexico!
However, this type of weather event is relatively rare. Your best chance at viewing the aurora borealis is to seek out a more northern location. Try to arrive during optimal times of the year, like spring or fall.
Tips for Viewing the Northern Lights
There are several factors to take into account that will increase your chances of seeing the Northern Lights. Keep these tips in mind while you’re planning your trip:
- Seek out a remote location. Going to a remote location with minimal light pollution will increase your chances of seeing a stunning and powerful Northern Lights display.
- Give yourself time. Unfortunately, these lights don’t appear on a schedule. Plan to stay for at least a week to give yourself plenty of time to glimpse the aurora borealis.
- Go during the darkest nights. The darker the night is, the better your chance of seeing a vibrant display of lights! Go during the new moon phase of the month when the skies are a dark, deep black.
- Know the right time of year to go. The right time of year can vary slightly depending on where you go, but spring, fall, or winter are typically the best times of year. At Birch Forest Lodge, we encourage people to come during April, August, September, and October for the best opportunities.
- Check the weather. Rainy and cloudy evenings aren’t good times to watch for the lights. You can also look into other weather factors, like solar flares of the sun. Solar events increase the chance of seeing the lights and increase the vibrance of their display. Use an online tool to monitor the solar wind system to know when more powerful winds will occur. Stronger winds equal stronger lights!
The Latest Northern Lights News
Whether you’re hoping to see a gorgeous meteor shower during the summer or witness the celestial Northern Lights during the fall, keep up on all the latest Northern Lights news.