Until a few years ago, I had no idea that some of the best places to see the Northern Lights was in the USA, but when I started traveling a lot more within the country, that fact began to unfold and in this post, I’d like to share 11 spots where you can see aurora borealis and specifically when to go.
The fact is if you live in the US like I do, you don’t need to visit some of the more popular places in the world to see the Northern Lights (specifically Scandinavian countries and Canada) and with that said:
- 1 Here’s the 11 best places to see the Northern Lights in the USA (aurora borealis):
- 2 1) North Shore Minnesota:
- 3 2) South Shore Michigan (and Wisconsin):
- 4 3) Isle Royale National Park (Lake Superior):
- 5 4) Acadia National Park (Maine):
- 6 5) White Mountains (New Hampshire):
- 7 6) Glacier National Park (North Montana):
- 8 7) Fairbanks (Alaska), aka the best place to see the Northern Lights in the US:
- 9 8) Heyburn State Park (Idaho):
- 10 9) North West Washington State:
- 11 10) North Vermont:
- 12 11) Fargo (North Dakota):
- 13 Common questions about the northern lights in the US:
Here’s the 11 best places to see the Northern Lights in the USA (aurora borealis):
- North Shore Minnesota.
- South Shore Michigan.
- Isle Royale National Park (Lake Superior).
- Acadia National Park (Maine).
- White Mountains (New Hampshire).
- Glacier National Park (north Montana).
- Fairbanks (Alaska state).
- Heyburn State Park (Idaho).
- North west Washington State.
- North Vermont.
- Fargo (North Dakota).
Now in addition to these places, I’ll give you the best times to go there to see the Northern Lights so you can plan your trips ahead.
1) North Shore Minnesota:
Most people have no clue that Minnesota State has a beautiful coast known as the North Shore. What’s even less known about it is that on that same North Shore, if you come at the right time, you can see the Northern Lights there.
This was one of the two main reasons I did a 3 day road trip to North Shore Minnesota in 2021. The other reason was to explore the coast itself which was stunning and while I did indeed find amazing nature spots there, unfortunately I was unable to see the northern lights because of bad/cloudy weather.
If you plan to go to see the Northern Lights on the North Shore of Minnesota, here are the best places to do it:
- Anything North Shore is great (the more north towards the Canadian border, the better).
- You can even see it as far south as Duluth City.
Best times to see the Northern Lights in North Shore Minnesota?
2) South Shore Michigan (and Wisconsin):
Before I traveled across to North Shore Minnesota, I had crossed past the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and Wisconsin which is actually known as the South Shore. At the time, I had no idea that this area too has northern lights show up and of course, until I finished my trip there, I had discovered that in hindsight.
Here are specific areas where you can see the northern lights in South Shore Michigan:
- Anything Upper Peninsula Michigan (away from major cities/towns).
- Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
- Apostle Islands in Wisconsin.
- Copper Harbor (Michigan).
- Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park.
- Presque Isle State Park.
Best times to see the Northern Lights in South Shore Michigan and Wisconsin?
Same as North Shore: September-December.
3) Isle Royale National Park (Lake Superior):
Isle Royale National Park is basically at the northern end of Lake Superior and lies between North and South Shores and it is actually much more likely that you can see the Northern Lights there than in either the North or South Shore.
Getting to this National Park however isn’t easy as you have to take a long ferry ride (from either Michigan or Minnesota) to reach it. However, if you do, not only will you get amazing nature scenery to explore (hikes, boat rides, camping and more), but yes you will be able to see the Northern Lights there too.
Specific areas to see the Northern lights in Isle Royale National Park?
It’s not a large park so you can see them anywhere (ideally anything but the southern side of the park as they are north of it).
Best times to see the Northern Lights in Isle Royale National Park?
Once more, September through December.
4) Acadia National Park (Maine):
Acadia National Park is one of the incredible national parks I have ever visited in my life and even though it was a brief visit, I am already planning my next trip there whenever possible. And another reason I want to see it is that just recently I learned that it too has northern lights pop up there from to time.
Funny story, the only reason I even discovered this park, let alone learning it has northern lights is that when I first crossed past it, I was heading with my friends towards Eastern Canada, where our goal was to explore Bay of Fundy and then New Foundland’s only major national park called Gros Morne National Park which too has northern lights. Knowing now what I do, I’d skip Gros Morne, and stick to Acadia!
Specific areas to see the Northern Lights in Maine? Aside from Acadia National Park:
- Baxter State Park.
- Most of the northern areas of Maine are good for northern light chasing.
Best times to see the Northern Lights in Maine and Acadia National Park?
August through December.
5) White Mountains (New Hampshire):
The eastern United States is truly an amazing spot to explore for hikes and adventures, but in this case the White Mountains which lie in the state of New Hampshire have areas where Northern Lights can be seen. I’ve been to this area twice and only recently learned they can be seen this far “south”.
New Hampshire is the neighboring state to Maine and in this case, the White Mountains are about 4 hours south west of Acadia National Park.
Specific areas to see the Northern Lights in the White Mountains New Hampshire:
- Your best bet is Mount Washington as it is the highest mountain in the region.
- Other than this, any of the high peaks in the White Mountains can also showcase the Northern Lights (Cannon Mountain, Mount Jefferson and the other 40+ peaks).
Best times to see the Northern Lights in Maine and the White Mountains New Hampshire?
September through early January.
6) Glacier National Park (North Montana):
Glacier National Park has been a bucket list item for me to explore and very soon I just might get the chance to do this.
And one more reason I’m very excited about going there is (again) that the Northern Lights can be viewed there.
One of the major reasons why Glacier National park is excellent for this is because:
- The skies are very clear there.
- The nature is astoundingly beautiful.
- It’s also close to the Canadian Rockies where the Northern Lights are even more commonly see.
Best times to see the northern lights in Glacier National Park?
September through March.
7) Fairbanks (Alaska), aka the best place to see the Northern Lights in the US:
Alaska might be the only “duh” state on this list where you’d assume it’s the best place to see the northern lights and you’d be right, but not only because of the location of this state.
It is also much more likely that you’ll get to see them here, and in places than any other on this list.
Specific areas to see the Northern Lights in Alaska:
- Fairbanks (most popular based on research).
- Any of the 3 major national parks there.
- Anything honestly across Alaska is popular to find the northern lights at.
Best times to see the northern lights in Alaska?
According to research, you can actually see them year round, but the best times in the most popular places would be August through March (basically end of summer through end of winter).
8) Heyburn State Park (Idaho):
Since Idaho state is very north west of the country and even close to Montana where Glacier National Park is located, it stands to reason that it too has opportunities to see the northern lights there.
In this case, I have to suggest Heyburn State Park which is a bit south west of Glacier National Park, and yet it too has a lot of opportunities for seeing the aurora borealis, but of course it’s not the only place in the state.
Specific areas where you can see the Northern Lights in Idaho:
- Panhandle State Forest.
- Schweitzer Mountain.
- Priest Lake.
Best times to see the northern lights in Idaho?
September through late February and early March.
9) North West Washington State:
Although I’ve visited this state at least 3 times, I didn’t know until I went over to Vancouver Island (slightly north of it) that you can see the northern lights here too.
The reason I am recommending the north west part of the state vs the east is that there are many more remote/clear sky areas in this region where you can potentially see the northern lights.
Specific areas to see the Northern Lights in West Washington:
Best times to see the northern lights in north west Washington?
September and usually through to early February.
10) North Vermont:
I absolutely love visiting Vermont for it’s incredible hikes, scenic views and towns to explore, but one (no longer) surprising reason I can add this state to my list of places is because the northern lights are also here.
Now I do say North Vermont, as this state does stretch pretty far south and borders with New York. But overall, yes you can see the lights here too.
Specific areas you can see the northern lights in Vermont:
- Smugglers Notch.
- Malletts Bay.
- Mount Mansfield.
- Burlington (Very rare and barely visible though even if it’s there).
- The more north you can go, the better (closer to the Canadian border).
Best times to see the Northern Lights in Vermont?
September through December. It’s also a good time to see fall foliage in New England (including Vermont).
11) Fargo (North Dakota):
Another very popular state/spot to see the Northern Lights in the US is North Dakota and while the best areas are further north, if you visit Fargo, you can see them there.
North Dakota is one of the upper states of the US, and its between Minnesota and Montana, which by this point you already know have one or more places to see them at too. It’s only natural this in between state would have spots for it as well.
However, the thing about North Dakota is that it doesn’t have as many high mountains as those other 2 states do, so you would need to rely on a clear sky night to have a chance to see the northern lights.
With the other 2 states surrounding it, you can just get to the top of a big mountain and have more odds of seeing them there.
Specific areas you can see the Northern Lights in North Dakota:
- Again, Fargo.
- Any northern areas (higher elevation = better) of the state.
Best times to see the Northern lights in North Dakota?
Late September through February.
Common questions about the northern lights in the US:
Can you see the northern lights in the USA?
Yes, aside from the 11 places on this list, there are dozens of areas across multiple states where you can see the northern lights.
Where are the best places to see the northern lights in USA 2022?
Glacier National Park, North Shore Minnesota and Isle Royale National Park.
Can you see the Northern Lights in New York?
It is extremely rare, but your best bet to see the northern lights in New York would be to go as north as possible and do it during peak season which is past October.
How far south do the Northern lights go?
In the United States, you can see the northern lights as far south as Colorado.