The Northern Lights Will Glow Across The U.S. This Week – Here’s Where To See Them

Symphony of Northern lights

Aurora Borealis at Atigun Pass, Dalton Highway Alaska.


This coming week, skywatchers across the northern United States may well be treated to an excellent aurora display. The Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks is predicting a night of strong solar activity on the night of March 4th; on that night the Kp-index is expected to be higher than 4. On a scale of 0 to 9, the Kp-index is a measure of predicted aurora activity. Most nights in great aurora destinations fall between 1 and 3, so a night of activity that’s higher than 4 is a good chance to try and see the northern lights.

A level 4 or higher means that the aurora may be visible across the northern part of the contiguous U.S. that night (or surrounding nights – always check the weather and aurora forecasts before heading out!). If you live along the U.S.-Canadian border, or are willing to take a last minute trip, here are some of the top places that you can enjoy the northern lights this week or all winter long.

Fairbanks, Alaska

Purple and green northern Lights

Aurora borealis over tree line in Fairbanks, Alaska


Fairbanks is widely known as one of the best aurora destinations in the world thanks to low humidity and precipitation, placement under the auroral oval, and fewer cloudy days during the aurora season than other places in the globe. If you’re ready to hop on a plane, it’s only a 3.5-hour flight from Seattle to Fairbanks, a common flight route for aurora chasers.

You don’t need to head all the way to Fairbanks to see the aurora. Alaskan locals and visitors should be treated to aurora displays as far south as Anchorage and Juneau too.

North Cascades National Park, Washington

Aurora Borealis and tent on Artist Point

Aurora Borealis and tent on Artist Point, Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.


Western Washington’s northernmost national park, North Cascades, is a better aurora chasing destination than other parks – like Olympic National Park where clouds may interfere or Mount Rainier National Park where light pollution from the Seattle-Tacoma area may obliterate your aurora views. North Cascades is home to some of the state’s tallest mountains and has great northern views toward less developed British Columbia across the border.

It’s a two-hour drive from Seattle to the national park, or under three hours from Vancouver – flying into either of these cities will give you easy access for an overnight trip.

Glacier National Park, Montana

Northern Lights and Milky Way over Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park, Montana

Northern Lights and Milky Way over Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park, Montana


Unsurprisingly, Glacier National Park is a fantastic destination for night sky experiences. Far from the development that causes light pollution in some other national parks, Glacier is remote and a wonderland for those who love cold, snowy weather and starry winter skies.

The nearest major cities are Missoula and Helena, Montana, and Calgary, Alberta – all are between a 2-3 hour drive to reach Glacier National Park. While the most famous drive in the park, Going-to-the-Sun Road, is closed for the winter, you can still set up along St. Mary Lake in the east and Lake MacDonald in the west for good aurora viewing.

Headlands International Dark Sky Park, Michigan

Photograph of the Northern Lights over the frozen Lake Superior, Michigan, Marquette

Photograph of the Northern Lights over the frozen Lake Superior, Michigan, Marquette. Photographed … [+] by Mark Stacey. Dated 2006. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Located at the northern tip of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, Headlands International Dark Sky Park was certified in 2011 as the ninth dark sky park in the world. Today it draws crowds year round for astronomy programs and northern lights viewing; straddling Lake Michigan and Lake Huron gives the park a great vista of the northern horizon and any aurora.

It’s a four-hour drive from Detroit to Headlands International Dark Sky Park, which necessitates making this an overnight or two-night trip. You could also fly into Grand Rapids (3.5 hours by car) or Traverse City (2 hours) if you’re willing to make a connection.

Acadia National Park, Maine

Northern lights (Aurora Borealis) over pond

Jordan pond, Acadia National park, Maine, USA


There are only a few great pockets of dark skies in the Eastern Seaboard; Acadia National Park is one of them, and during the busy summer months the park is host to a variety of astronomy programming. In the winter, it’s a good spot to try and see the northern lights too. Hike or snowshoe up Cadillac Mountain for the best view overlooking the entire surrounding region with plenty of views toward the northern horizon; an alternative spot is Jordan Pond, which can be accessed via Maine Highway 3 during the winter months.

The easiest way to reach Acadia is by flying to Portland, Maine. It’s a three-hour drive from there to the town of Bar Harbor, where you can base yourself for exploring the park.

Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Cadillac Mountain is open to vehicles in winter. Vehicles are not permitted on Cadillac Mountain between December 1st and April 14th.

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