Seeing the northern lights, or aurora borealis, is on many RVers’ bucket lists, and it’s easier to check off than you think! Here’s how to see the northern lights in North America…
Is seeing the northern lights on your bucket list? If so, you’re not alone. If not, why not?! They’re incredible!
They may seem so exotic, only visible in the far reaches of the north. But, they’re actually visible in North America, including some parts of the United States. And I’m not just talking about Alaska.
With some planning and a bit of luck, you can see the northern lights from your RV. And planning has never been easier with forecast apps that are available today.
I’m going to tell you how to see the northern lights in North America and hopefully, inspire your next camping trip!
Where Can You See the Northern Lights in North America?
If you want to see the northern lights, you need to drive north. The closer you get to the Arctic Circle, the more likely you will see aurora borealis.
Thus, places like Fairbanks, Alaska, Churchill, Manitoba, and Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, are top destinations for aurora chasers. (Aurora chasers, by the way, is the actual term used for people who plan their travels around the northern lights.)
However, you don’t have to go as far north as you might think! Traveling to those cold, remote locations is difficult for RVers and can get quite expensive. Instead, you can plan and time it better to see the northern lights farther south (though still in the “north”).
How to See the Northern Lights in North America in Your RV in the U.S.A.
According to the Space Tourism Guide, the top 10 best places to see the northern lights this winter in the United States are:
- Fairbanks, Alaska
- Panhandle National Forest, Idaho
- Acadia National Park, Maine
- Headlands International Dark Sky Park, Michigan
- Cook County, Minnesota
- Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota
- Glacier National Park, Montana
- Mount Washington Valley, New Hampshire
- Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
- Olympic National Park, Washington
You can click on the link above to see why they recommend these places in particular. But as you can see, there are some very accessible places in the United States, including the Lower 48, where you can see the northern lights!
How to See the Northern Lights in North America in Your RV in Canada
According to the Space Tourism Guide, the top 10 best places to see the northern lights in Canada this winter are:
- Elk Island National Park, Alberta
- Fort McMurray, Alberta
- Jasper National Park, Alberta
- Wood Buffalo National Park, Alberta
- McDonald Park Dark Sky Preserve, British Columbia
- Muncho Lake Provincial Park, British Columbia
- Churchill, Manitoba
- Kouchibouguac National Park, New Brunswick
- Mount Carleton Provincial Park, New Brunswick
- Battle Harbor, Newfoundland & Labrador
Again, you can click on the above link to see why. Plus, they list out a total of 29 Canadian destinations in all. If you're planning to see the lights in Canada, you should read Crossing the Canadian Border in an RV (Post-Pandemic).
When is the Best Time to See the Northern Lights?
It strongly depends on the location! You can start to see the northern lights in Canada as early as September and into November. However, the best time to see the northern lights in Canada is December to February.
In the United States, it is possible to see aurora borealis in Autumn, especially in parts of Alaska. But, again, you’re much more likely to see them from December to February.
Of course, unless you’re in Alaska, your odds of seeing the lights in the Lower 48 are less than in most parts of Canada. So, you need to do more planning (and praying) to see them, even in the winter.
Speaking of planning…
The Best Aurora Borealis Forecast Apps
God bless our tiny little handheld computers! Yes, I mean our cell phones… or tablets. Because now anyone can be an aurora chaser.
Before, you’d have to consult maps and the NOAA forecasts, starting with the 27-day forecast and working your way down to the 30- to 90-minute forecast. And you’d need a good understanding of the planetary K-index.
Now, all you need is an app on your phone.
I have to tell you that I haven’t used any of these apps yet. I haven’t had the chance since I just recently discovered them. But I really look forward to trying them this winter!
The two most promising aurora borealis forecast apps I’ve found are My Aurora Forecast & Alerts and Aurora Forecast.
#1 My Aurora Forecast & Alerts
Based on ratings and numbers of views alone, it exceeds the competition (including the runner-up). I think they deserve to call themselves the “best app for seeing the Northern Lights,” which they do.
The most appealing feature to me is the map that shows the best locations right now. While some other features go into more scientific details, it does seem user-friendly to both newbie tourists and aurora chasers.
#2 Aurora Forecast
Aurora Forecast is the runner-up to My Aurora Forecast because it has a lot fewer reviews and mixed ratings.
Interestingly, it is more highly rated on Apple than it is on Google Play. Apparently, it works much better on Apple devices. So, if you have an Android, you should probably stick with My Aurora Forecast.
Apple users give it a 4.6-star rating, however. That is with only about 3,000 reviews compared to My Aurora’s 18,000 reviews.
Have You Used These Apps?
Since I haven’t had a chance to use these apps yet, I’d really like to hear from my fellow RVers.
If you have used either of these northern lights forecast apps, please share your feedback in the comments below. Or, let us know if you recommend another app or resource on how to see the northern lights.
On a related note, I also wanted to remind you about our Stargazing for Campers Kit. It’s a list of must-have items that really come in handy when stargazing. So, even if the northern lights don’t show, you can still enjoy the night sky.
How to See the Northern Lights in North America in Your RV
How do YOU plan your travel in order to see the northern lights? Let us know in the comments!
Mike and Jennifer's Great Lakes Shoreline Tour (U.S. Side)
The Great Lakes region is filled with beautiful vistas, welcoming towns and villages, and fabulous places to camp, hike, and explore.
We were so taken with the adventure of this trip that we just knew we had to write one of our Adventure Guides about it!
But instead of the usual 7 Days that some of our other guides can be done in, with this one, we’re suggesting that you budget more time. This is why we are calling it a “Tour” instead of a 7-Day Guide! There are 86 pages in this new ebook.
In this new Great Lakes Shoreline Tour we cover in detail:
- Notable U.S. Cities/Towns along each Great Lake (US side) like; Watertown, Grand Island, Geneva-on-the-Lake, Vermillion, Mackinaw City and so many more!
- What to See/Do Around EACH Lake like; Ocqueoc Falls Scenic Site, Les Cheneaux Islands, Antique Boat Museum, and many, many more places including BONUS side trips!
- And good Campgrounds for each Lake (US side) – at least 4 or 5 for EACH Lake! With all the info you need to set up reservations.