Article Overview: Alaska in September
The last frontier is a land of breathtaking landscapes, diverse wildlife, and a four distinct (albeit unequal in length) seasons that each beckon grandiose adventure. While each season has its own unique charm, there’s something truly magical about visiting Alaska in September.
As the summers warmth begin to wane and the crispness of fall sets in, September offers a golden opportunity to experience the state’s beauty in a whole new light. In this travel blog post, we’ll explore why September is an ideal time to embark on an unforgettable Alaskan adventure.
With thinner crowds, less bugs, active wildlife, aurora potential, and so much more, we’ll guide you through everything you need to know about traveling to Alaska in September. Events, What to pack, and what to except! So keep scrolling for our Alaskan early autumn guide.
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Alaska in September
Alaska in September: Table of Contents
Is September a good time to visit Alaska? Heck yeah it is, the crowds are smaller, the wildlife is active, the prices are lower, the mosquitos are gone, the fall colors are popping off, and there’s a chance you could get a glimpse of lady Aurora. You should definitely check out Alaska in September!
Reasons to Visit Alaska in September
A Canvas of Colors
September brings an enchanting transformation to Alaska’s foliage. While it happens fast and only last a couple weeks, an autumn September in Alaska is truly beautiful. The interior’s carpets, aka the tundra, burns bright red while willows and aspens glow yellow and orange.
If you’re coming to Alaska in September to see the fall foliage, head to Fairbanks and Denali in the second or third week of the month. Just be mindful of closures within parks and hotels.
Mild Weather, Comfortable Exploration
A little ways down in this article we’ll go over Alaska’s September weather in more detail, but as a general rule of thumb, September is a very pleasant time to visit Alaska. Just make sure to pack the right clothing and you’ll never be in a situation that will ruin your adventure (we’ll go over what to pack as well).
With daytime temperatures ranging from the 40s to 60s, you can enjoy hiking, wildlife spotting, and other outdoor activities without the heat of summer or the bitter cold of winter. There is more rainfall in September, but as long as you remember a raincoat, Alaska in September can be a fantastic.
September is prime time for observing Alaska’s diverse wildlife. Many species, including bears and moose, are active during this period as they prepare for the upcoming winter months. Bears love to chow down on dying spawned out salmon, which happens in September.
Additionally, the fall migrations of birds, like sandhill cranes and swans, create remarkable opportunities for birdwatchers to witness some really impressive migrations. Whether you’re exploring on foot or on a wildlife cruise, you’re likely to encounter some of Alaska’s iconic inhabitants in September.
And perhaps the best Alaskan wildlife experience you can have in September, is the one you don’t have. I’m talking mosquitos! These blood sucking bastards are long gone by the time September rolls around and I can tell you with full confidence, no mosquitos is reason enough to visit Alaska in September.
Another perk of visiting Alaska in September are the thinner crowds. As the kiddos head back to school and the summer tourist season starts to wind down, you’ll find a more tranquility and space in the big touristy hot spots like Denali.
Closure do start to happen during September in Alaska. For example Denali National Park and Preserve typically closes the Denali Park Road the second week after Labor Day. For more info on Denali National Park, click here. We’ll go over more September closures in Alaska a little farther down in this article.
Glimpses of Aurora
While September in Alaska isn’t the peak season for the Northern Lights, glimpses of the ethereal phenomenon can still be captured on clear nights in the northern regions. Some of the best dances I’ve had with Aurora have been in late September in Kavik.
You need dark clear nights for a good display. So the farther north you go, and towards the end of September, the better chance you’ll have at catching a glimpse of Aurora in Alaska.
Alaska Weather in September
September weather in Alaska can vary depending on the region, but generally, it’s a pretty pleasant month in Alaskan terms anyways. Here’s what kind of weather you can expect in different parts of Alaska during September:
- Anchorage & The Kenai Peninsula (Seward, Homer): September in this part of Alaska offers pleasant daytime temperatures ranging from the 40s-60s. Evenings and nights are cooler, with temps dropping into the 30s and 40s. Rain is common during September in Alaska, especially in Seward.
- Interior Alaska (Fairbanks & Denali): September brings significant changes to Alaska’s Interior. Daytime temperatures can range from the 40s-50s while nights can get into the 20s-30s. September rain and even snowfall aren’t common in Alaska’s interior, but certainly possible. Northern lights start to come out and play more.
- Southeast Alaska (Juneau, Ketchikan): Most of Southeast Alaska is rainforest, and September is the wettest month for this region of Alaska. Daytime temps typically range from the 40s-50s. So don’t forget that rain jacket!
- Arctic Alaska (Barrow, Nome, Prudhoe Bay): In far north Alaska, September marks the beginning of colder weather. Daytime temps can range from the mid-20s to the mid-30s. Nights are even colder, often dropping below freezing. September snowfall in Arctic Alaska is a likely possibility, but so are the northern lights.
Alaska in September Daylight Hours
September in Alaska still offers plenty of daylight for whatever might be on your agenda. However, as summer transitions to fall, daylight hours do begin to wane, around 6-7 minutes a day. In anchorage, Alaska for instance, early September daylight hours are around 13 to 14, gradually reducing to about 11 to 12 hours by month’s end.
This unique blend of extended daylight and the onset of fall colors creates an enchanting backdrop for outdoor exploration. So, pack your bags and come chase those dwindling sunlit moments that you can only find during a September in Alaska.
What to Pack for Alaska in September
Packing for a trip to Alaska in September requires adding a few more things to your suitcase than taking a summer trip might, but it’s worth it! Here’s a list of stuff that you are going to what to wear while visiting Alaska in September:
- Warm Clothing: Duh, right! But to be more specific, warm clothing like sweaters, a good jacket, long-sleeve shirts, and maybe a pair of thermal leggings. With temps hovering in between the 40’s and 50’s you won’t need anything crazy like a parka. Unless you’re traveling to the Arctic at the end of the month.
- Layering is Key: September weather in Alaska can vary greatly, so layering is essential. Start with a moisture-wicking base layer to keep sweat away from your skin. Add a warm middle layer, like a fleece or down jacket, for insulation, and top it off with a waterproof and windproof outer layer to protect against rain and chilly winds.
- Waterproof Jacket: I know we just mentioned this, but it may be the most important piece of gear you can pack when visiting Alaska in September. Rain is common in most parts of the state during this month, so a waterproof jacket with a hood is a must.
- Footwear: Bring some good hiking boots, the same you would for any normal hiking you might be doing. Just bring a couple solid pair of wool socks. They’ll keep you warm and won’t get soggy while you’re hiking in Alaska in September.
- Sweet Cowboy Hat: Some may disagree here, but check out the sweet cowboy hat I’m rocking in the picture below, and I’ll leave it up to you. Com’on
For some great hikes around Homer, check out: EPIC Places to Go Hiking in Homer, Alaska (FULL GUIDE)
Alaska Events in September
Summer festivals and events in Alaska start to die down in September, but there are still some great happenings that take place. Check out these Alaska events in September.
Alaska state fair: palmer – Aug – sept. 4th
If you’re visiting Alaska in September, you can catch the last week of the Alaska State Fair. Its an annual event that showcases the different cultural, agricultural, and artistic aspects of the 49th state. They have all the classic fair attractions you’d expect.
Carnival rides, greasy food vendors, arts and crafts, and some nationally recognized musical acts. In 2023 The String Cheese Incident was a headliner! Oh and did I mention the giant cabbage weigh off? So if you like large produce, make sure to come to Alaska in September!
Fungus Fair: Girdwood – sept. 2-3
The Fungus Fair in Girdwood, Alaska is an annual event that takes place in the first week of September and celebrates the fascinating world of fungi. It’s a unique and educational festival that focuses on the diverse species of mushrooms found in the region and their ecological significance.
Visitors can expect a range of activities, including guided mushroom forays, educational talks, workshops on mushroom identification and cooking, and opportunities to interact with experts in the field of mycology (the study of fungi).
Alaska world arts festival: homer – sept. 7-21
I’ve spent a lot of time in Homer and I can say without hesitation that it’s the most artistic hippie loving town in the state, so it makes sense that this arts festival takes place there. There are events that take place all over town all month long.
Improv, sing a longs, poetry readings, dance parties, writing & painting workshops, and even a documentary film festival are some of the fun things you can attend at this Alaska festival in September.
Sacred Acre: Ninilchik – Sept 8-10
Party for cause at Alaska’s biggest EDM festival. This 3 day multi-dimensional festival boasts a wild laser show on a massive digital art stage. World renowned EDM artists drop beats in Ninilchik, Alaska for three days in September to help bring awareness and regulation to the harmful fishing practice, trawling.
They run shuttles from Anchorage, you can camp on site, and there’s even a “sanctuary” tent for folks that need to take a breather from the party. Tickets to this Alaska festival in September run around $200 for a 3 day pass. Check out their website for a full lineup.
Fungus Festival: Cordova – Sept. 8-10
If techno beats, led lights, and raging into the night isn’t your thing, maybe some non hallucinogenic mushrooms are more your speed. Cordova’s Fungus Festival, not to be confused with Girdwood’s Fungus Fair, is another great event that makes Alaska in September even more special.
The weekend of festivities dives into the worlds northernmost coastal temperate rainforest’s and its relationship with Salmon and Fuji. If you’re at this Alaskan event in September, you can engage in mushroom education, art workshops, and culinary celebrations, with live and virtual activities for all ages.
Harvest Moon Local Food Festival: Soldotna – Sept. 16
The Harvest Moon Local Food Festival is the pride and joy out of all the Kenai Peninsula farmers markets. This September event shines a spotlight on dedicated local Alaskans who cultivate, gather, and craft everything grown and made in the 49th state.
This family friendly free festival boasts an array of live music, cooking demonstrations, food trucks, the beloved Fermentation Station, guided explorations of wild edibles, and even a spirited pie baking competition. It’s a wonderful reason to come to Alaska in September. For a full schedule and more information check out their website.
Áak’w Rock Indigenous Music Festival: Juneau – sept. 21-23
Self described as soundscape of indigenous dreams, connection, and visions for the future, Áak’w Rock is the music of indigenous people from around the world, and the only indigenous music festival in the United States. It isn’t gene specific and acts include funk, soul, country, and classical. Pretty freaking cool!
The biennial 3-day festival takes place in Juneau and tickets are $150. For tickets visit their website.
OCtoberfest: Anchorage – Sept. 23
Why Octoberfests are held in September, I’ll never understand. But Anchorage, Alaska is no different, it holds its September Octoberfest at the Egan Center. It’s only one night, but they pack a lot in. They have German-inspired music, food, and of course, beer.
Tickets are 20 bucks and kids under 11 get in for free. I would argue anyone under 21 should get in for free, but hey, the music alone is probably worth it…. Get your tickets here.
Seward Music & Arts Festival
Most years the Seward Music & Arts Festival is a dynamic event that celebrates the creative spirit of Seward, Alaska, through a fusion of live music, visual arts, and community engagement. Unfortunately they’ve hit pause on the festival for 2022 and 2023 with hopes of returning in 2024.
check their website for updates.
Normally, this wonderful Alaska festival is held on the last weekend in September and offers a good showing of the local music scene. There’s also a slew of National acts, art vendors, dance performances, kids activities, and a beer garden.
Just like May, September in Alaska can provide some relief when it comes to the wallet. Certain hotels and lodges might offer discounts to entice more visitors, same goes for the railroad, and some excursion outfitters.
In addition to lodges and hotels, car rental rates go down significantly. While you don’t HAVE to rent a car when you’re traveling around Alaska, if you’re here for any significant amount of time and traveling to multiple locations, it sure makes it easier.
Alaska in September: Termination Dust
Termination dust is a term used in Alaska to describe the first snowfall on the mountains that signals the impending arrival of winter, or termination of summer! It refers to the snow or frost that covers the upper slopes and peaks of the mountains.
Termination dust typically starts to appear in the late summer or early fall, usually in September. It marks the end of the warm season and the beginning of the colder months. It’s a visual reminder that winter is approaching and we can’t just stay outside and play all day anymore! pouty face emoji
Legend has it that the term “termination dust” originated in the mining days of Alaska when gold miners would use the first snow on the mountains as an indication that it was time to pack up and “terminate” their mining operations for the season.
September Closures in Alaska
September marks the shift in seasons in Alaska, and along with that, certain closures occur as businesses and attractions prepare for the upcoming winter. Here’s a list of notable closure that take place in September.
- Denali National Park: While the park’s main entrance remains open, the Denali Park Road typically begins to close incrementally starting from around mid-September.
- Alaska Railroad: The Alaska Railroad often reduces its passenger train services in September as demand lessens with the transition from summer to fall.
- Cruise Ships: While Alaska cruise season generally extends into September, the frequency of cruises diminishes as the month progresses, leading to the eventual closure of the season.
- Tourist Activities: As the summer dies, so do the salmon and salmon fishing charters. You should be able to find glacier tours, and wildlife tours well into the month.
- Restaurants: A lot of restaurants in the more Tourist towns like McCarthy, Homer, and Valdez shut down operations in mid to late September.
For a list of our favorite restaurants in Valdez: 6 SPECTACULAR Valdez Restaurants + 4 Fun Food Trucks