Anchorage Aurora Quest – Anchorage Northern Lights Tour

The city’s longest-running northern lights photo tour! 

This Anchorage northern lights tour is designed to maximize fun and opportunity with the Aurora Borealis. We are proud to have been highlighted by Iceland Air’s Stopover magazine as one of Anchorage’s “Hidden Hot Spots” in its Spring 2019 issue (page 64), and listed as one of “the best northern lights tours in Alaska” by U.S. News & World Report.

Our goal is to help you enjoy the magic and mystery of the aurora borealis with this tour. Whether you want to learn how to photograph it, or simply enjoy viewing it, this tour is for you! This Anchorage northern lights tour only runs when the conditions allow potential for aurora viewing. We pick you up at your hotel accommodations and take you on a nocturnal adventure to witness the magical lights rippling over snowy peaks and dancing across dark waters. This Anchorage northern lights tour allows you to either select a single night or purchase a multi-day pass, increasing your chances of success. It’s the perfect compliment to winter day tours and a great option for business travelers to Alaska during August to early May. Led by a professional photographer guide, this Anchorage northern lights tour also provides information to help you understand the science behind the aurora borealis. Photographic coaching and aurora portraits are provided for those who desire. Cameras are available for rent, and tripods are complimentary.

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Tour Details


This is a small group Anchorage northern lights tour for photographers and sightseers alike, though due to demand and limited seating, no discounts are available for non-photographers.


  • Nightly, August 17 to April 24 when conditions are right, which means at least Kp1 and less than 50% cloud cover.
  • Departure is generally between 9-11 pm. Once the tour is confirmed to run, you will receive a specific pickup time at your Anchorage area location by text and/or email no later than 7 pm.
  • Duration is  approximately 6 hours.

Ssshhh, it’s a secret, but we have several favorite spots within a 100-mile radius of Anchorage that offer wonderful views of the night sky, and great land features such as reflective lakes, forests, coastal waterways, and mountain peaks. After pickup at your Anchorage area accommodations, the locations we visit for this Anchorage northern lights tour are based on conditions at the time. We may travel to 1-3 locations during the evening.

What's Included

  • Anchorage area hotel pickup and drop-off (Girdwood and Alyeska Resort bookings may be made for groups of 6 or more).
  • Narrative on the science and lore surrounding auroras provided by your guide.
  • Light snacks and water (we strive to reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in the environment, so fresh water from a jug along with refillable cups).
  • Hot beverage selection including hot cocoa, apple cider, tea or coffee.
  • Hand and toe warmers
  • Creative and technical photography instruction is offered by your professional photographer guide.
  • Professional portraits of you with the aurora borealis or night sky are complimentary.
  • Tripods are available for loan.
  • North Slope-rated heavy winter parkas/jackets are available for loan (indicate during booking if you need to borrow one).
  • A Sony mirrorless camera is available for rent ($30/tour).
What to Bring

If your aim is to take home aurora images of your own, you will need the following:

  • Camera with manual settings
  • Wide angle lens wide aperture (something in 24-70mm f/2.8 range will work well, but the wider the better)
  • Charged battery (preferably at least 2)
  • At least 16GB memory card
  • Sturdy Tripod (we have a tripods available to loan)
  • Smartphone users are recommended to upload an aurora app and bring a phone tripod
  • Headlamp

For gear recommendations, visit our Photo Accessories idea list on our Amazon storefront (commissions earned)! Headlamp recommendations are in our Winter Outdoor Gear idea list.

Photography equipment rental is available upon request.

How to Prepare

  • Rest up before your scheduled booking(s).
  • Dress in warm layers! We may be away from the vehicle for up to 1-hour. It’s important to gear up appropriately and plan to keep moving while out. It’s also better to wear one pair of warm socks than two. This is because the more socks you add, the more likely you are to constrict circulation. Try to leave a pocket of airspace around your foot in the boot. Also wear a warm, moisture-wicking under layer, mid layer [preferably fleece] and thick, snow proof outer layer, along with hat, scarf and gloves. Arctic gear including bibs, parka and boots is available to rent at 6th Avenue Outfitters. For purchasing your own winter gear in advance of your trip, visit our Winter Outdoor Gear idea list on our Amazon storefront!
  • Use the restroom in advance. There are very few restrooms open in state parks this time of year, and limited public options available in the wee hours of the early morning when the tour takes place… though there are complimentary trees and bushes available at all locations. 🙂
  • If capturing the northern lights on camera is your main objective, we recommend reading a How to Photograph Northern Lights before the tour. You’ll receive additional coaching in the field.

This is a moderate activity that involves short walks on snow and ice. Weather conditions may include wind, and temperatures range from -20ºF [-29ºC] to 50ºF [10ºC].


A specially outfitted high-top 12-passenger van. Driver is your photography guide.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How likely am I to see auroras?

A: Aurora viewing is dependent on both space and earth weather. While forecasts for the former are based on much scientific data coming from many tracking stations, space weather tracking and research is still in its infancy, and data is available only from a limited number of satellites. It’s best to expect the unexpected. Based on the previous year’s statistics, conditions were right to run 51% of the scheduled tours. Of the tours that ran, the aurora borealis was seen with the naked eye 80% of the time. So, you should be aware that although we only run our Anchorage northern lights tour when conditions are good for viewing the aurora, approximately 20% of the time the aurora is not visible with the naked eye. Your chances increase greatly the more nights you have available to tour. This is why our four-night pass is a great option!

Q: What are my reservation options?

A: You can either reserve for a single night or purchase a four-day pass, which allows you to see the aurora as many nights as the tour runs during that time.

Q: Are there refunds if auroras don’t show or are not very active?

A: We do our very best to run the tour when forecasts indicate conditions are optimal to see auroras. Nature sometimes surprises us in pleasant and unpleasant ways. Forecasts and the models they rely on are not 100% accurate, and sometimes we do not see the aurora borealis with the naked eye. Whatever happens, it is our aim to make the best of it. We will show you a variety of night photography techniques and prepare you for taking advantage of a better aurora viewing situation you will hopefully experience in the future. Once the tour commits to run and you have submitted payment, there are no refunds regardless of conditions. However, if we do not see the aurora at all during your tour, you can join us on a subsequent night for a free make-up tour if we have paid guests booked for that night.

Q: What happens if I book the four-day pass and successfully see auroras early on?

A: Your pass is good for all four days, and you are welcome to join us on remaining days during your pass.

Q: I made a reservation, what’s next?

A: Enjoy your day in Anchorage and if the weather is favorable, it might be wise to take an afternoon nap. We will notify you via email by approximately 3:00 p.m. the status of your tour and, if it is running, the pick-up schedule for the tour.

Q: How far from Anchorage does the tour travel?

A: Our destination each night will vary according to conditions, but we usually travel within a 100-mile radius and visit 1-3 locations.

Q: How long will I be outside?

A: Up to 1 hour. There are some locations where we may stay within close range of the vehicle, and others where we may walk up to a half of a mile. Much depends on conditions and capability of the group.

Q: Are there restrooms available?

A: Not many. Most State Park restrooms are closed this time of year and there are few other options available in the wee hours of the night, other than a bush or tree. Depending on the route, we may stop at a gas station for a bathroom break.

Q: Will I learn to photograph the northern lights?

A: Yes! This Anchorage northern lights tour is guided by a professional photographer who will help you set your camera in advance and explain what the settings do. We want you to enjoy seeing them and photographing them!

Q: Do I have to be a photographer to take this tour?

A: No! We have many sightseeing guests. Your guide will take a complimentary portrait of you with the aurora, and it as well as scenic photos taken by your guide are complimentary parts of the tour.

Q: I’ve heard Fairbanks is the best aurora viewing location in Alaska, can you really see auroras from Anchorage?

A: Anchorage is within the aurora oval (region on earth where auroras are most frequently seen), and has its fair share of viewable nights. In a given season, the aurora borealis is visible on 75% of the nights the skies are clear. There are also some distinct advantages for aurora chasing in Southcentral Alaska.


  • Cancel your reservation at least 24-hours in advance if your plans change and we will provide a full refund. If you are not available for the night you reserved and the tour runs, you will be charged for your seat if it was too late to fill with another guest.
  • For those who book a four-day pass, that does not guarantee that the tour will run each of the four nights. It allows you to participate in the tour as many times as the tour runs during those four days. The four days must be consecutive. The only time we will provide a full refund is if the tour does not proceed at all during your four-day pass  period. If the tour proceeds only one day, you are refunded your booking amount minus the rate for a single-day pass. If the tour proceeds only two days out of four, then no refund is provided (as the price for a four-day pass is slightly less than the cost of two single-day passes).
  • You will be notified if the tour is canceled due to cloudy, rainy, or snowy conditions. You will be fully refunded in such a case.
  • A 2-person minimum is required to run this tour. If the minimum is not met, you may be given the option to purchase a second seat, reschedule, or cancel.
  • Payment is confirmation of your acknowledgment of the risk inherent in this natural phenomenon; once it’s received and the tour departs, no refund will be issued if auroras do not appear as expected. However, if you do not see the northern lights during your tour, you can join us on another booked tour for free. Simply contact us to see if there is another booked tour during your visit, and we will reschedule you.



TUE JAN 31 – TOUR WILL NOT RUN [Cloudy skies, bright moon, quiet aurora]

WED FEB 1 – TOUR WILL NOT LIKELY RUN [Cloudy skies, bright moon, weak aurora]

THU FEB 2 – TOUR WILL NOT LIKELY RUN [Cloudy skies, bright moon, weak aurora]

Visit our Anchorage Northern Lights Forecast for more details on the aurora and weather forecast for this time period. Check this page and the forecast page daily if you are interested in a tour in the upcoming days.


WILL RUN – The tour runs if we have the minimum booking of two people for the night. We will run a tour when there is at least a Kp1 aurora with clear or mostly clear conditions, and if the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center forecast modeling indicates there may be enhancements in the solar wind or magnetic field.  In cloudier conditions, we will run the tour if it is at least a Kp3 aurora forecast and a chance for some breaks in the clouds. On a “Will Run” status, you will receive an email notifying you of tour status with a pick up schedule. Bottom line, we will not run the tour if there is not a chance of seeing the aurora borealis based on available forecast information.

WILL RUN AT GUEST’S DISCRETION –  There are  many nights where the chance for seeing the northern lights is there, but it is a less than 50/50 chance. There are three factors that will affect aurora viewing: phase of the moon, brightness/activity of the aurora, and cloud cover. On nights when we go at guest’s discretion, one or more of those factors are not favorable. We know that for many people a chance to see the northern lights is an important part of their Alaska visit, and they may want to give it a chance even when the odds are less. On these nights, we let the guests decide based on available information. If guest’s choose to not proceed, it is considered a weather cancellation and a full refund is provided.

WILL NOT RUN – We will not run a tour if there is a Kp0 forecast; or if there is a Kp1 forecast with no expected enhancements in solar wind or geomagnetic field; or if weather conditions are cloudy, raining, or snowing; or if the moon phase is too bright for the forecast aurora conditions. No further action is needed, your reservation will automatically cancel with a full refund.