8 Best Outdoor Fall Activities in Alaska

By Trent Jonas

8 Best Outdoor Fall Activities in Alaska

In Alaska, “fall” is a very short season—especially in the Interior and northward. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not an awesome season. Because we’re talking about the Last Frontier and not frosty New England, autumn in Alaska is more about megafauna and mega scenery than pumpkins and apple picking. These are some of our favorite fall activities in Alaska.

Join in the Sitka WhaleFest

Every November, the folks in Sitka celebrate their seasonal population of whales, as well as the area’s other abundant sea life. The weekend-long festival includes wildlife cruises, lectures, live music, art, food, student sessions, a marine-themed arts and crafts market, and fun run (or walk, if you prefer). Looking for a place to stay during the festival? Dove Island Lodge is just the right combination of classic Alaska and getaway luxury.

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Hike the Matanuska Glacier

Matanuska Glacier is tucked into a valley in the State Recreation Site that bears in the same name. In the fall, the areas aspens, birches and poplars slip into their golden fall coats and surround the glacier with dazzling color. It’s an easy day trip along the Glenn Highway National Scenic Byway from Anchorage. Grayline Alaska offers excursions. Or make a long weekend of the trip at stay at the nearby Long Rifle Lodge

Take wing at the Alaska Bald Eagle Festival

The American Bald Eagle Foundation has brought folks together to celebrate Alaska’s eagles for more than 20 years. Every November, the single largest concentration of bald eagles in the United States—as many as 4,000 at a time—descend on the Chilkat Valley, near Haines, to gorge themselves on late-season runs of chum and coho salmon. Food, games and live music are also on hand.

Run the Frightening 4K

Every October, Skinny Raven Sports—Alaska’s top running store—hosts the Frightening 4K, a race in downtown Anchorage. So, lace up your fastest shoes and don your cleverest costume. That’s right: It’s not just a race, it’s also a costume contest. So, even if running is not your strongest suit, you still have a chance to take home some hardware.

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Join in the Alaska Day Festival

On October 18, 1867, Russia transferred the Alaska territory to the United States. The transfer ceremony took place in Sitka, and the day has been celebrated as Alaska Day ever since. The modern iteration of Alaska Day takes place every October in Sitka. The festival celebrates the state’s diversity and includes days of entertainment, road races, kayak races, Native Dances and reenactments.

Take a Pitch Black Ride

Grab your bike and charge your headlight—or if you need a headlight, you can pick one up at the Bicycle Shop—and head down to Westchester Lagoon for the Arctic Bike Club’s Pitch Black Ride. This night time ride takes place after the new moon in October. In spite of its urban setting, the lagoon is a beautiful natural area that helps to obscure a lot of the city’s lights so that you can enjoy the brightness of the stars (or the shadows of the trees, if it’s cloudy).

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Celebrate International Friendship Day

Every autumn, the city of Fairbanks celebrates International Friendship Day with a festival. The celebration highlights the Interior’s diverse cultures and traditions with activities and demonstrations like dance, art, crafts, music and handiwork. Celebrants will, of course, be able to sample a wide array of food from many different cultures.

Cruise Resurrection Bay

Head to Seward and hit the waters of Resurrection Bay for a fall foliage and wildlife cruise with Seward Ocean Excursions. You’ll see the whales, otters and birds that make their home in the bay and among the fjords. From the water, the already-stunning views up the Chugach Mountain valleys will be brilliant with fall colors.

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