The Best Spots to See the Northern Lights

Published on January 18th, 2022

The middle of winter might not seem like the best time to plan a getaway, and in many cases this is true. Most locations are cold and dark, and many attractions such as theme parks and beaches are closed for the season. 

That said, there are some exceptions to this rule. For instance, many people choose to travel south to Florida or SoCal during the winter months in order to escape the cold. Another option? Heading further north with a mission to see the Northern Lights!

If you’re tired of feeling cooped up at home and ready to escape and go on an adventure, a Northern Lights viewing trip might be exactly the right thing. Here’s where you might go on such an adventure. 

Northern Lights

Where are the Northern Lights?

Also known as the Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights are an incredible natural phenomenon caused by interactions between charged particles from the sun and the Earth’s magnetic field. The result is an absolutely breathtaking display of colorful, dancing lights in the night sky. 

This happens both in the far north and the far south. Because of where the US is located, if you’re looking to stay in the country and view the Northern Lights, you will need to travel as far north as possible in order to see this dazzling spectacle. 

It’s also worth noting that the Northern Lights are best seen in total darkness. Since darkness is scarce in the far north during the summer months, you will want to plan your viewing for the winter, when the sky becomes completely black and the show is at its most visible. 

Now, you could of course simply hop in your RV and drive as far north as possible and try your luck at seeing the Aurora Borealis. That said, you’ll likely have a much better view if you carefully choose your viewing destination. 

Below, we’ve listed our favorite Northern Lights viewing locations in the United States so you can plan your wintertime viewing getaway.

Aurora Borealis in Alaska

Northern Lights Alaska

We all know that Alaska is the northernmost state in the country. Therefore, it only makes sense that this is where one would go to view the Northern Lights. 

Honestly, you have a chance of seeing the show in several places in the state. That said, one the best places to see the Northern Lights in Alaska is definitely Denali National Park and Preserve. This is an absolutely gorgeous park to explore, and an excellent place to get some gorgeous mountain views and spot some local wildlife. As far as the Aurora Borealis goes, this is an ideal viewing location because of the park’s many wide-open spaces and dark night skies in winter. 

Prefer to stay closer to town? The city of Fairbanks, Alaska is only about two hours from the national park and is also a good viewing location. This is because of its location in the auroral oval, which puts it smack dab in the middle of the Northern Lights action. 

Northern Lights Idaho

A bit further south, Idaho is not as perfect for viewing the Northern Lights as Alaska, but you can often see them from certain parts of the state. Therefore, this is a good option if you want to see the spectacle but don’t want to drive all the way to Alaska. 

Our recommendation? Head to Idaho Panhandle National Forest. The forest spans an enormous 2.5 million acres and is a great place for enjoying all kinds of amazing outdoor activities, including wildlife watching, hiking, skiing, fishing, and more. Of course, the Aurora Borealis is the star of the show when it decides to make itself visible, which is relatively often during the colder, darker months, 

Another fantastic viewing location is Priest Lake in northern Idaho. This is a gorgeous lake on its own, but when it is lit by the Northern Lights, it becomes almost otherworldly. For this reason, photographers flock to the spot each year to try to capture this beauty in an image. 

Northern Lights Maine

What about Maine? Being as far north it is, Maine is indeed a wonderful place to check out the Northern Lights. Fortunately, there are also plenty of sparsely populated areas of the state, meaning dark skies are not hard to find. 

Our top pick is the Aroostook National Wildlife Refuge in Aroostook County, located on the border between the US and Canada. Very few people live in the remote Aroostook County, meaning there’s almost no light pollution. On top of this, the wildlife refuge is chock-full of wide open spaces, meaning finding a viewing spot won’t be difficult. 

For this trip, we highly recommend booking one of the campgrounds within the Aroostook Wildlife Refuge. This will allow you to take the time to explore the wetlands, forests, and grasslands of the park and see some of the many animals that call the place home. 

Northern Lights in Michigan

Northern Lights Michigan

Going to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is like crossing over into a whole new world. The place is absolutely gorgeous, the culture is unique, and the night skies are astounding. This is especially true during the winter when the Aurora Borealis makes a showing. 

Because of its prime location and low light pollution, pretty much anywhere on this peninsula will give you incredible views of the Northern Lights. That said, we do have a few favorite spots to watch the show. These include Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Isle Royale National Park, and Tahquamenon Falls State Park. All are amazingly picturesque places to explore during the day and perfect viewing spots for nature’s greatest light show at night. 

If you plan to watch the Northern Lights during a visit to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, you will want to plan your visit for the right time of year. Generally, the lights can be seen between August and April, but the best viewing months are April, October, and November. 

Northern Lights Minnesota

Finally, there is Minnesota. This northern state is also an awesome place for Northern Lights viewing. In fact, the state has a number of wonderful spots to watch the show happen. 

Our top pick for Minnesota Northern Lights viewing is Cook County, which is located in the northern tip of the state on the shores of Lake Superior. If you’re able to watch near the lake, you might be lucky enough to get the same reflection effect mentioned above. 

Another great spot to watch is in Grand Portage. Here, the Aurora Borealis is often seen shining above High Falls. Seeing these two natural works of art side by side is definitely an amazing experience.

Lastly, you might try checking out the Northern Lights from Oberg Mountain in the Superior National Forest. This area is known for its gorgeous night skies, and the addition of the Aurora Borealis to the already spectacular scene is absolutely breathtaking. 

Where to Stay when Viewing the Northern Lights

Yes, the Northern Lights are a truly spectacular thing to see and should be on everybody’s bucket list. And since they can only be seen during the darker months, they make an excellent excuse to take a wintertime trip. 

Of course, you will need someplace to stay during your winter adventure, and many of the locations where the Aurora Borealis can be seen best don’t have any hotels. This is where camping comes into play. 

Tent camping is difficult during the winter, and it’s definitely far from comfortable. However, winter RV camping is totally doable if you’re set up for it. Not only that, it’s also a comfortable and fun option that allows you to really reconnect with nature while fully enjoying the beautiful nighttime show she offers each winter. 

Don’t have an RV of your own? Not to worry, we have tons of amazing rental RVs available. Many of these are in the states listed above and are ready and waiting for you to take them on your Northern Lights adventure. Book one today and get ready to see a truly spectacular show you won’t soon forget!

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