Where to See the Northern Lights in the U.S.
The best time to view the lights is in the fall months.
All of these destinations are well worth traveling to, but there are a few less-expected spots where you can see the spectacular celestial show right here in the United States.
When the sun emits superheated plasma, otherwise known as a coronal mass ejection (CME), it can trigger a massive “geomagnetic storm,” which causes the Earth’s auroras to light up. When that storm is big enough, the Northern Lights can be visible as far south as places like Idaho, which is exactly what happened in September.
Like Idaho, the Northern Lights can indeed be seen in places like Ohio when the conditions are just right.
Not only will there need to be a massive solar storm, but you will also need to be in an area that is dark and free of light pollution. When a solar storm happens (which you can track with services like Night Sky Alerts), make your way out of a city or any well-lit areas. Park yourself beneath the stars and wait for the show to (hopefully) begin.
Pennsylvania has an advantage when it comes to Northern Lights viewing potential, as it is home to Cherry Springs State Park, a Dark Sky Reserve. There, visitors can stay overnight, take part in tours, and even take a photography class to improve their skills and possibly capture the aurora in action.
Michigan is also home to a Dark Sky Reserve, the Headlands International Dark Sky Park. Although the park has ideal conditions for viewing the Northern Lights, it can be unpredictable. Keep your expectations low and you'll be pleasantly surprised if you catch a glimpse of the lights over these woodlands.
Alaska is the only state in the U.S. where viewing the Northern Lights is a near guarantee. There are several companies in the state that will take visitors on a tour to help them find the best viewing locations.
Companies include Salmon Berry Tours, which offers overnight and multi-day excursion to Talkeetna and Fairbanks, and Iniakuk Wilderness Lodge, which is a remote wilderness lodge is 200 miles north of Fairbanks and 60 miles north of the Arctic Circle.