Is Alaska always dark? There are many rumors about Alaska being pitch dark for six months out of the year, during the winter season. This is simply not true! Alaska is a huge place, and many people do not realize the vast differences in the amount of darkness or light, depending on where you are in the state.
The differences are so significant that the sunrise across the state can vary from no official daylight hours to six hours and twenty-two minutes, depending on where you are during the shortest days of the winter!
Utqiaġvik, (pronounced UUT-kee-AH-vik), formally known as Barrow, Alaska, for example, does get extended darkness, but not for six months at a time as some would have you believe! For them, the sun sets on November 18th and rises again on January 23rd.
Even with “67 days of darkness”, Utqiaġvik still gets Polar Twilight hours where the sun sits just below the horizon.
Below the Arctic Circle
As for the rest of Alaska that sits near or below the Arctic Circle, our days are just short (how short depends on what area you are in). But we are not in “total darkness” 24/7.
With that being said, when it’s dark, it’s dark. Some moonless nights we have been out chasing the lights (the Aurora) have been so dark we couldn’t see our hands in front of our faces with the headlamps turned off.
This brings me to a few things you can do in the dark that we LOVE!
The Aurora has a few names:
The Northern Lights
For us locals, when someone says, “the lights are out,” the Northern Lights are what we are referring to.
The same thing is true with the stars. Although, the lights sometimes hog the attention of the cosmic show that presents a blanket of pure amazingness over the night sky.
When my grandma moved us to West Texas as a kid, I thought I had hit the motherload when it came to stargazing. I was soooooooo wrong! Now, and only now, have I hit the motherload.
I have never seen stars twinkle so bright, the Milky Way so bright and in such detail, or the beauty and vibrancy of shooting stars as I have since I came home to Alaska.
It. Is. AMAZING.
There are times that we can see shooting stars late in the afternoon when the sun is still up in the rest of the lower 48.
Still of the Night
There is nothing better than sitting outside and hearing absolutely nothing until mother nature herself breaks that silence. In my opinion, stillness is something so many people are missing from their lives. When you get used to the quiet, it is incredible what you can hear.
You can hear the sound of the snow falling — the sound of a wind gust before you can feel it — the screech of a Lynx from deep in the woods, breaking the silence.
Hearing the wing flaps of an Owl just a few feet over your head with no other noise is pretty cool too!
As for Jack, the stillness is so intense at times he can hear a Vole from several feet away scurrying through the snow. He’ll learn one day that they are faster than him, and no, they don’t want to play ha-ha!
You Sleep Better
Okay, at least I sleep better!
The lack of road noise and other noises that people make is great for us over here on the less than populated side of the state. If you live off the highway, the winter traffic noise is minimal during the day, and at night it’s almost nonexistent.
When summer rolls around, that traffic noise is 24/7. That’s a huge difference! For me, between the traffic noise, and the extended daylight in the summer, it’s hard to sleep. Very. Hard. To. Sleep. So, I will take the extended darker hours and enjoy my semi-hibernation!
So Is Alaska Always Dark?
To me, the answer to that would be no, even when it’s dark outside. This is one of those examples where the answer varies depending on the perspective of who you are asking. Are the days short below the arctic circle? Absolutely! But, we are not in “total darkness” six months out of the year.
All in all, the short days through the winter months do not bother me. I charge the flashlights, and go on about my business. Or I enjoy whatever light show mother nature gives me. Whether it be the pastel colors that stretch across the sky when the sun is up or the twinkling of the stars at night, I enjoy it all.
It takes me to a simpler life that not many get to enjoy, and for that, I’m grateful.
Comment below and tell us your favorite experience if you live here or have visited during the winter! Or let us know what you would like to experience!