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Alaska Weather in May: The Ultimate Guide

May in Alaska is a time of awakening, where longer days and milder temperatures beckon adventurers to its vast landscapes.

This Alaska weather in May guide offers everything you need to know to navigate the transitional weather, pack smart, and choose the best activities for an unforgettable exploration of the Last Frontier.

General Weather Conditions in May

May in Alaska marks the transition from spring to early summer, bringing about significant changes in the weather, wildlife activity, and natural landscapes.

As the snow begins to melt and daylight hours extend, May offers a unique opportunity to experience the awakening of the Alaskan wilderness.

Here’s an overview of what to expect weather-wise during this pivotal month.

Average Temperatures

  • Statewide Overview: Temperatures in May can vary widely depending on the region but generally range from the low 40s to mid-50s (°F) during the day. Interior regions may see higher temperatures, while coastal areas remain cooler.
  • Nighttime Temperatures: Nights can still be quite cold, especially in early May and in northern regions, with temperatures often dipping below freezing.
Alaska Weather in May

Weather Patterns

  • Precipitation: May sees a decrease in snowfall and an increase in rain, especially in coastal regions. The interior parts of the state experience drier conditions, making it a great time for outdoor activities.
  • Sunlight: Daylight hours increase significantly throughout May, with northern regions experiencing very long days by the end of the month, setting the stage for the midnight sun phenomenon that characterizes the Alaskan summer.

Natural Events

  • Melting Snow: Snow begins to melt rapidly in many parts of the state, especially in lower elevations, though higher mountains and some northern areas will retain their snow cover.
  • Wildlife: May is an excellent time for wildlife viewing as animals become more active. Bears emerge from hibernation, migratory birds return, and marine life, such as whales, can often be spotted in coastal waters.

May in Alaska offers a blend of spring freshness and early summer warmth, making it an appealing month for those looking to experience the state’s natural beauty without the peak season crowds.

Understanding the general weather conditions for May can help visitors prepare adequately for their trip, ensuring a comfortable and enjoyable experience as they explore Alaska’s stunning landscapes and vibrant wildlife.

Alaska Weather in May

Regional Weather Breakdown in May

The weather in Alaska during May varies significantly across different regions, reflecting the state’s vast and diverse landscapes.

From the thawing interior to the still-chilly Arctic, here’s a closer look at what travelers can expect in various parts of Alaska during this transitional month.

Interior Alaska

  • Temperature Ranges and Anomalies: The interior, including areas like Fairbanks, experiences a rapid warming trend with daytime temperatures often reaching the mid-50s to low 60s (°F). Nighttime temperatures can still drop below freezing, especially early in the month.
  • Weather Patterns: May is relatively dry in the interior, with diminishing snow cover revealing green landscapes. The increased sunlight and warmer days are ideal for outdoor activities.

Coastal Alaska

  • Southeast (e.g., Juneau, Ketchikan): This region remains cooler and wetter, with temperatures ranging from the high 40s to mid-50s (°F). Rain is common, contributing to the lushness of the temperate rainforests.
  • Southcentral (e.g., Anchorage, Seward): Temperatures are similar to the Southeast but with slightly less precipitation. The melting snow and ice begin to open up access to many of the region’s natural attractions, including fjords and glaciers.
Alaska Weather in May

Northern Alaska

  • Arctic and Far North (e.g., Barrow, Prudhoe Bay): The Arctic regions are the last to thaw, with temperatures ranging from the low 20s to mid-30s (°F). Snow and ice persist, but the increasing daylight hours signal the coming of summer.
  • Weather Patterns: Precipitation is low, but snowmelt is slow. Travelers should be prepared for snow-covered landscapes and limited accessibility to more remote areas.

Western and Aleutian Islands

  • Temperature Ranges and Anomalies: Western Alaska and the Aleutian Islands experience temperatures in the 40s (°F), with frequent fog and rain. The maritime climate keeps conditions relatively stable but cool.
  • Weather Patterns: The weather is characterized by its unpredictability, with rapid changes from calm to stormy conditions. The Aleutian chain, in particular, can experience high winds and rough seas.

May in Alaska showcases the diversity of the state’s climates, from the dry, warming interior to the cool, damp coastal regions, and the still-frozen Arctic north.

Each region offers unique experiences during this month, from the last of winter’s grip in the far north to the blooming spring and early signs of summer in the interior and southern regions.

Travelers should plan accordingly, with flexibility and the right gear to navigate the varied conditions they’ll encounter.

May Alaska weather

What to Pack

Packing for a trip to Alaska in May requires preparedness for a range of conditions, from cool, rainy days to unexpectedly warm sunshine, especially as the state transitions from spring to early summer.

Whether you’re venturing into the interior, exploring coastal areas, or heading to the Arctic, here’s what to include in your luggage to stay comfortable and ready for anything.


  • Layered Clothing: Opt for versatile layers that can be easily added or removed. Include thermal base layers, insulating fleece or wool mid-layers, and a lightweight, waterproof outer layer.
  • Waterproof Gear: A waterproof jacket and pants are essential, particularly in coastal regions where rain is more frequent in May.
  • Warm Accessories: Bring a warm hat, gloves, and scarf for cooler mornings and evenings, and for any northern or high-altitude destinations where temperatures can still be quite cold.
  • Durable Footwear: Waterproof hiking boots are a must for trails and outdoor exploration. Consider packing waterproof shoes or boots with good traction for potentially wet and slippery conditions.
May Alaska weather


  • Daypack: A water-resistant daypack is ideal for carrying essentials like snacks, water, and extra clothing during day trips.
  • Sun Protection: Despite the cooler temperatures, the sun can be intense, especially in areas with snow or ice. Pack sunscreen, sunglasses, and a brimmed hat.
  • Insect Repellent: May marks the beginning of bug season in many parts of Alaska. Bring insect repellent to ward off mosquitoes, especially in wooded and wet areas.
  • Binoculars and Camera: With wildlife becoming more active and the landscapes in bloom, a good pair of binoculars and a camera are essential for capturing the sights.


  • Reusable Water Bottle: Stay hydrated during your adventures. A reusable water bottle is environmentally friendly and convenient.
  • Portable Charger: Keep your devices charged, particularly if you plan to use your phone for photos, navigation, or communication.
  • First-Aid Kit: Always carry a basic first-aid kit for minor emergencies, especially when hiking or in remote areas.

Packing for Alaska in May means being prepared for the last remnants of winter and the first hints of summer.

By focusing on layers, waterproof gear, and protection against the sun and insects, you’ll be well-equipped to enjoy everything from hiking and wildlife viewing to scenic drives and cultural experiences, no matter where your Alaskan journey takes you.

May Alaska weather

Activities Suitable for May Weather

May in Alaska offers a unique blend of springtime awakening and the lingering traces of winter, creating an exciting backdrop for a variety of outdoor adventures and cultural experiences.

With longer daylight hours and landscapes coming to life, here are some activities perfectly suited to the weather and conditions in May.

Outdoor Adventures

  • Hiking: Explore Alaska’s scenic trails as they emerge from winter’s grasp. From coastal paths to mountainous terrain, May offers excellent hiking opportunities, with trails gradually becoming more accessible as snow melts.
  • Wildlife Viewing: May marks the beginning of prime wildlife viewing season in Alaska. Spot bears, moose, eagles, and other native species as they emerge from hibernation or migrate back to their summer habitats.
  • Fishing: Cast your line in Alaska’s rivers and streams as fish return for spawning season. May offers excellent opportunities for salmon fishing, with runs beginning in some areas.

Cultural Experiences

  • Visit Cultural Centers: Learn about Alaska’s rich indigenous heritage at cultural centers and museums throughout the state. Gain insight into traditional customs, art, and history through exhibits, demonstrations, and performances.
  • Attend Festivals and Events: May sees the start of festivals and events celebrating Alaska’s culture, arts, and heritage. From music festivals to seafood fairs, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
May Alaska weather

Scenic Tours

  • Scenic Drives: Hit the road and embark on scenic drives through Alaska’s breathtaking landscapes. From coastal highways to mountain passes, May offers clear roads and stunning vistas.
  • Glacier Viewing: Experience the majesty of Alaska’s glaciers as they begin to thaw and calve. Take a boat tour or hike to viewpoints for up-close encounters with these natural wonders.

Outdoor Recreation

  • Kayaking and Canoeing: Paddle along Alaska’s waterways as they come alive with wildlife and spring blooms. May offers calm waters and fewer crowds, perfect for exploring by kayak or canoe.
  • Camping: Pitch a tent and camp under the midnight sun. May provides milder temperatures and fewer bugs compared to later in the summer, creating ideal conditions for camping adventures.

May in Alaska invites travelers to embrace the changing seasons and immerse themselves in a wide range of outdoor activities and cultural experiences.

Whether you’re seeking adventure on the trails, connecting with indigenous traditions, or marveling at the wonders of nature, Alaska in May promises unforgettable moments and lasting memories.

So, pack your bags, and get ready to explore the Last Frontier in all its springtime splendor.

May Alaska weather

Tips and Tricks for Traveling to Alaska in May

Traveling to Alaska in May offers a unique opportunity to witness the state’s transition from winter to early summer.

With milder weather, longer daylight hours, and a variety of outdoor activities, it’s an exciting time to explore the Last Frontier. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your May adventure in Alaska:

1. Dress in Layers

  • Alaska’s weather can be unpredictable in May, with temperature fluctuations throughout the day. Dress in layers, including moisture-wicking base layers, insulating mid-layers, and a waterproof outer layer, to stay comfortable in changing conditions.

2. Be Prepared for Bugs

  • Mosquitoes and other biting insects begin to emerge in May, especially in wet and wooded areas. Bring insect repellent and wear protective clothing to avoid bug bites while exploring the outdoors.

3. Plan Outdoor Activities

  • May offers excellent opportunities for outdoor activities such as hiking, wildlife viewing, fishing, and scenic drives. Research and plan your outdoor adventures in advance, and check trail and road conditions before heading out.

4. Embrace Wildlife Viewing

  • May is prime time for wildlife viewing in Alaska, as animals emerge from hibernation or migrate back for the summer. Bring binoculars and a camera to capture sightings of bears, moose, eagles, and other native species.
May Alaska weather

5. Check Road Conditions

  • Some roads in Alaska may still be closed or impassable in May due to lingering snow and ice. Check road conditions and closures before traveling, especially if you plan to explore more remote or mountainous areas.

6. Book Accommodations in Advance

  • While May is considered the shoulder season in Alaska, popular destinations and accommodations can still fill up quickly. Book your accommodations in advance to ensure availability, especially if you’re visiting national parks or tourist hotspots.

7. Stay Flexible

  • Alaska’s weather and conditions can change rapidly, so stay flexible with your plans. Be prepared to adjust your itinerary based on weather forecasts, road conditions, and unexpected opportunities that arise during your trip.

8. Explore Off-the-Beaten-Path

  • May is a great time to explore lesser-known areas of Alaska, away from the crowds. Consider visiting small towns, scenic byways, and local attractions to discover hidden gems and authentic Alaskan experiences.

9. Engage with Local Culture

  • Take time to learn about Alaska’s rich indigenous heritage and cultural traditions. Visit cultural centers, attend local events and festivals, and support small businesses to connect with the local community.

10. Respect Nature

  • Practice Leave No Trace principles and respect Alaska’s pristine wilderness. Pack out all trash, stay on designated trails, and minimize your impact on the environment to preserve Alaska’s natural beauty for future generations.

Traveling to Alaska in May offers a taste of both winter and summer, with a wide range of outdoor activities, wildlife viewing opportunities, and cultural experiences to enjoy.

By dressing appropriately, planning ahead, and staying flexible, you can make the most of your May adventure in Alaska and create unforgettable memories in the Last Frontier.

May Alaska weather

FAQs on Alaska Weather in May

Is May a good time to visit Alaska?

Yes, May is a great time to visit Alaska for those looking to experience the state’s transition from winter to early summer. The weather is milder, wildlife is becoming more active, and daylight hours are increasing, providing ample opportunities for outdoor exploration.

What should I wear in Alaska in May?

Dress in layers, including a waterproof outer layer, to stay comfortable in Alaska’s changing weather. Be prepared for cool mornings and evenings, and potentially warm afternoons. Waterproof hiking boots and warm accessories like hats and gloves are also recommended.

Can I see the Northern Lights in May?

While the Northern Lights (aurora borealis) are typically more visible in the winter months when nights are longer and darker, there is still a chance to see them in May, especially in the northern parts of the state. However, sightings are less common compared to the peak aurora season from late August to April.

What wildlife can I expect to see in May?

May is an excellent time for wildlife viewing in Alaska. Bears, moose, eagles, and migratory birds are commonly sighted as they emerge from hibernation or return for the summer. Whales may also be spotted in coastal waters as they migrate north.

Are mosquitoes a problem in Alaska in May?

Mosquitoes begin to emerge in May, particularly in wet and wooded areas. While they may not be as prevalent as later in the summer, it’s still advisable to bring insect repellent and protective clothing, especially if you plan to spend time outdoors.

What outdoor activities are available in May?

May offers a wide range of outdoor activities in Alaska, including hiking, wildlife viewing, fishing, kayaking, scenic drives, and glacier tours. Many trails and waterways begin to open up as snow melts, providing opportunities for exploration and adventure.

Is May a busy tourist season in Alaska?

May is considered part of the shoulder season in Alaska, meaning it’s less busy compared to the peak summer months of June, July, and August. However, tourist activity begins to increase as the weather improves, so it’s still advisable to book accommodations and tours in advance, especially in popular destinations.

Can I visit Denali National Park in May?

While some parts of Denali National Park may still be closed due to snow and seasonal road closures in May, visitors can still explore parts of the park accessible by road or on foot. Check with the park service for updated information on road and trail conditions.

What should I know about driving in Alaska in May?

Road conditions can vary in May, especially in more remote or mountainous areas where snow and ice may still be present. Be prepared for potential road closures and check weather and road conditions before traveling. Carry emergency supplies and drive cautiously, especially on gravel roads.

Alaska weather in May