It’s very rare for my wanderlust to be completely satisfied. I usually leave a place yearning for more adventure and not ready to return to Philadelphia. But that is not the case at the moment. As #RoadTripAlaska comes to an end, I am fulfilled, I have no sense of FOMO, and I am actually looking forward to going home.
Leveraging the “Shoulder Season”
I almost don’t want to talk about how the first half of September is the best time to visit Alaska in fear that too many people will find out this secret. Shoulder seasons are technically right before and right after the main tourism months. I have been a huge fan of shoulder seasons for years now as it has all of the benefits of peak season without the costly price tags and tourist crowds. For Alaska, shoulder season means April through May and late August through the first half of September, with the heaviest of tourist traffic occurring during the months in between. But even locals have admitted that I stumbled upon travel gold when it came to booking this trip for the first half of September. However, don’t book past September 14th! Most businesses including hotels, tours and the Alaskan Railroad close down for the season in preparation for the harsh winter.
Depending on where you are, the weather can range from mild to a bit brisk. If you’re in the south by the water in Anchorage, Seward, Wittier, Homer or Juno, expect warm days and chilly nights. But if you’re in the tundra or around Denali state park, expect it to be a bit chillier. Overall, if you layer your clothing, as locals will instruct you to do, you won’t be phased by the temperature changes.
Summers also tend to be rainy, but the beginning of September seems to clear up, offering splendid views of mountains, rivers valleys and wildlife. This is also the time of year that you might be able to catch a glimpse of Mt. McKinley, North America’s tallest mountain. You’re probably thinking “what does she me by catch a glimpse? How could I miss North America’s tallest mountain?” Because Mt. McKinley is so massive, it can actually create it’s own weather, which is most of the time super cloudy and super rainy/snowy. So most of the time, Mt. McKinley is not visible due to the cloud coverage.
Alaskan mosquitoes are legendary and the swarms of gnats have been known to suffocate caribou during the summer months. But around September, the temperatures get so low at night that it cuts down the bug population significantly, so that you can hike through the woods without being eaten alive by bugs.
Semi-Local’s Share Alaskan Secrets
A lot of people who live in Alaska are actually seasonal workers working in the tourism industry. From tour guides to cruise ship workers, these young adults come to Alaska from all over the Lower 48 for adventurous jobs. But September marks the time when many of these workers are just finishing up their season and so they take advantage of the last few weeks of gorgeous weather to travel around the state. Talk to them or even travel with them as they tend to know about a lot of Alaska’s secrets including where to eat, where to stay, what to see and valuable information about “dead-end towns”; towns that are not on the map that are literally at the end of a road (most of the time unpaved).
Long Days with Spectacular Nights
Alaska is known for having long summer days, including a period of time in which the sun does not set in certain areas. But when September rolls around, the days are just long enough for action packed days, but you still get enough hours of night to sleep… or even catch the Northern Lights if you’re far enough north in places like Fairbanks, Denali or even Talkeetna.
Wildlife Put on Their Finest Coats
As the weather gets chillier and the nights get longer, it triggers animals to shed their scruffy summer coats, and grow their plushy, rich colored winter coats. On top of that, bull moose antlers are at their largest during this time. To conserve energy in the winter, bull moose antlers will fall off, and they grow a new rack in the spring.
Wildlife is Out and About
Now that they’re putting on their fine, winter coats, animals are out and about preparing for winter. Bears are eating shrubs and berries, getting ready to hibernate, and moose begin “rutting”, which is their mating season.
Alaska has a wide variety of plants and it’s interesting to see the juxtaposition of flowers in bloom with a hint of fall colors on the trees.