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A Complete Travel Guide to Alaska in May

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Alaska’s Weather in May awakens your senses in a whole new way. Feel the cool breeze on your skin, smell the wildflowers, and hear the sounds of wildlife returning after a long winter.  With longer days and fewer people, it’s the perfect time to soak in the sights and sounds of Alaska at its purest and most breathtaking.

Today in this blog, we’ll share all the details to make the most of your May adventure – what weather to prepare for, wildlife to spot, where to go, what to wear, and the unique benefits of visiting during this vibrant season.

Understanding the Weather in Alaska in May

Scenic view of lake in Alaska
Image Source: iStock

Alaska is really big. It’s the largest state in the United States, and because of its sheer size, the weather patterns vary across the same. However, here’s what you can expect from Alaska in May:

Temperature

The temperature in the coastal area sees average highs in the 40s and 50s Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, in the interior regions, it’s warmer. However, the weather in Alaska is highly unpredictable. It can be chilly and warm at the same time, so ensure to pack extra layers and rain gear.

Sunshine and Daylight

The sun shines all day long in May. The days are longer, and in some parts of Alaska, you can enjoy near-endless daylight. More sunlight means more time to enjoy various activities like hiking, sightseeing, and fishing.

Rainfall

Even though May is the driest month in Alaska, some regions experience lingering rain showers. To avoid disturbance and stay comfortable, pack a good, waterproof pair of hiking boots and jackets.

Wildlife in May

A whale jumping out of water
Image Source: iStock

In May, Alaska’s wildlife will be bustling with activity. It is the month of season transition from winter to spring. Here are some of the highlights of wildlife you will encounter 

Birds

May is a fantastic time for birdwatching in Alaska. Migratory birds return to breed and nest in the state’s vast wilderness. If you get lucky, you might see iconic species like puffins, bald eagles, waterfowl, and Arctic terns along inland lakes and coastal areas.

Marine Mammals

In Alaska, the marine mammal viewing season begins in May. Tourists get the chance to spot different species of whales, including grey whales, humpback whales, and orcas, as they start migrating through coastal waters. Steller sea lions, harbour seals, and sea otters are also commonly seen along the coastlines.

Bears

A family of bears in a lake
Image Source: iStock

In May, bears wake up from hibernation, especially in the southern region of Alaska. Black bears and brown bears begin hunting for food in coastal areas and along riverbanks. Tourists should visit places like the Kenai Peninsula and Katmai National Park.

Caribou and Moose

A moose standing in front of a lake and mountains in the background
Image Source: iStock

 

For caribou and moose, it is the calving season. Keep an eye out for these Alaskan mammals in meadows, forested areas, and tundra regions. Caribou calves and moose calves can often be seen following their mothers.

Fish

A shoal of fish jumping out of water
Image Source: iStock

For anglers looking for different species of Salmon, May is the ideal month. It marks the return of salmon of all types to streams and rivers for spawning. This also attracts predators like eagles, bears, and seals to feeding grounds/

Please note: Avoid going too close when viewing wildlife to avoid putting yourself in danger and disturbing them.

Interesting Things to Do in Alaska in May

In May, Alaska comes to life with exciting adventures and natural wonders waiting to be explored. As the snow melts and temperatures rise, the state bursts with new growth and activity, offering visitors a wealth of experiences to enjoy. Let’s take a closer look at some of the best things to do in Alaska during this beautiful time of year.

Hiking and Nature Walks

A woman crossing a puddle
Image Source: iStock

With the snow gone, you can hike through forests and mountains or take a gentle stroll along rivers and coasts. There are trails for everyone, whether you like a challenge or a relaxing walk. Don’t forget to pack your hiking boots if you want to go for hiking, as they are quite expensive in the local markets of Alaska.

Fishing

It’s a great season to enjoy fishing. You can head to lakes, rivers, or the ocean to catch trout, halibut, salmon, and different fish species. It’s best to buy the required fishing gear beforehand to avoid any inconvenience. 

Glacier Tours

Take an exciting boat or kayak tour to see Alaska’s huge glaciers up close. Watch as chunks of ice break off and fall into the water, creating big splashes. It’s a thrilling experience you won’t forget.

Kayaking and Canoeing

A woman kayaking in the lake in Alaska
Image Source: iStock

Explore Alaska’s rivers, lakes, and coastlines by kayak or canoe. Paddle through calm waters and keep an eye out for wildlife along the way. It’s a peaceful way to enjoy the beauty of nature.

Learning About Culture

Visit museums and cultural centers to learn about Alaska’s rich history and traditions. You can see art, artefacts, and performances that showcase the state’s diverse culture.

Attending Festivals

Join in the fun at spring festivals and events happening across Alaska. From music festivals to wildlife celebrations, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Meet new people, try delicious food, and have a great time!

Scenic Drives

Scenic view of greenery in Alaska
Image Source: iStock

Take a scenic drive and admire Alaska’s breathtaking views. Wind through mountains and along coastlines, stopping at lookout points to take photos and enjoy the scenery. It’s a relaxing way to see the beauty of the state.

What to Pack for Alaska in May

Of course, on a trip to anywhere in the world, you’ll need a lot of things. But when travelling to Alaska, here are a few things you should include in your Alaskan packing list

Additional Layers

A woman sitting and watching the lake
Image Source: iStock

Layers are the key. Even though the temperature in May is slightly warm, it’s still best to pack jackets, long underwear, gloves, and knee-length socks. The temperature in Alaska fluctuates, so packing extra layers can be beneficial. 

Comfortable Footwear

Hiking Shoes
Image Source: iStock

Having comfortable footwear is necessary to avoid blisters and soars. It’s best to pack used shoes instead of new ones as you might not know if they are comfortable for a long journey.

Essential Gear

Do pack items like a license, identification card, and insurance card when you’re travelling. You might need them during your trip.

Pros and Cons of Visiting Alaska in May

Choosing when to visit Alaska involves weighing the trade-offs:

Pros of Visiting Alaska in May

Beautiful lake in Alaska with blooming flowers
Image Source: iStock

Less Crowded Conditions: May falls before the peak summer tourist season, meaning smaller crowds at popular attractions, hiking trails, and cruises. This allows for a more relaxed experience and less wait time for bookings.

Potential for Shoulder-Season Deals: Because May is considered a “shoulder season,” tour companies, hotels, and even airlines may offer reduced rates and greater availability compared to the busy summer months.

Blooming Wildflowers: Alaska bursts with vibrant colour in May as wildflowers carpet meadows and mountainsides. This adds a stunning dimension to any scenic drive or hike.

Longer Daylight Hours: Enjoy the extended daylight hours that May offers, providing more time for exploring and sightseeing and fitting more activities into each day. In some parts of Alaska, you can experience the start of the midnight sun phenomenon.

Cons of Visiting Alaska in May

Rain droplets on car's window glass
Image Source: iStock

Unpredictable Weather with Lingering Rain: Alaskan weather is notoriously changeable, even in May. Be prepared for a mix of sunshine, rain, and potentially even some lingering snow, especially in higher elevations.

Some Activities or Attractions May Not Be Fully Operational:  While May marks the start of the tourism season, some smaller businesses, tours in remote areas, or specific activities may have limited hours or delayed opening dates—research in advance to avoid disappointment.

Wildlife Sightings Less Guaranteed:  While animal activity increases compared to winter, wildlife sightings in May are less reliable than in the peak summer months. Bears may still be emerging from hibernation, and migratory birds might not yet be present in full force.

Important Note: The balance between these pros and cons depends on your travel preferences. Suppose you value a quieter experience, the potential for deals, and are flexible with the weather. In that case, the pros may significantly outweigh the drawbacks, making May a fantastic time to visit Alaska.

End Note

Alaska in May offers a special kind of magic. It’s a time for those who crave a quieter rhythm, the thrill of witnessing nature come alive, and don’t mind a pinch of unpredictability.  The wildflowers, the long, luminous days, and the sense of space will fill your heart. If you’re ready to trade bustling crowds for blooming beauty and a true connection with the wild, May might be your ideal time to answer the call of Alaska.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is May a good month to visit Alaska?

The ideal time to visit Alaska is between May and September. The temperature during the summer season is between the 60s and the low 70s.

2. Is it too cold in Alaska in May?

May is peak season for many of Alaska’s most treasured wildlife, thanks to mild daytime temperatures and cool evenings. Temperatures normally vary from the 30 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit. May itineraries encourage travelers to bring jackets and sweaters for layering.

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