Best time to travel to Alberta

Northern Lights in Alberta

Prairies, mountains, and vast wilderness areas of Alberta suit perfectly for an aurora borealis chase

Best time: September–April

Northern Lights
Northern Lights
Northern Lights
Northern Lights
Northern Lights
Ghost town in Carbon, Alberta

Alberta features over 600 lakes, Rocky Mountains, and vast prairies. This diverse landscape could be a perfect backdrop for northern lights phenomenon that can be observed in the province quite frequently. Northern lights happen when the so-called solar winds reach the Earth and get affected by its magnetic field. The phenomen is best seen over North and South Poles. The further north you travel in Alberta, the higher are your chances to see the beautiful aurora borealis.

The best time to see Northern Lights

The darkest period of the year from September to April is considered to be the best for northern lights chasing. As geomagnetic activity is always on the rise during autumn and spring equinoxes. September, October and March are peak months to see northern lights.

Wood Buffalo National Park and Fort McMurray

Wood Buffalo National Park is the northernmost preserve of Alberta, located on the border with Northwest Territories. It is also the world’s largest dark-sky preserve where artificial light is almost non-existent. All this makes it an attraction for aurora chasers who long to see greens and red lights dancing in the skies. Aurora borealis can be observed here starting from late August and early September when the nights are still warm. Lake Athabasca, located near Wood Buffalo National Park in about 140 mi (223 km) north of Fort McMurray, is the perfect destination for a northern lights chase due to the beautiful scenery and reflections in the water. Fort McMurray, located in northeast Alberta, is also known as a reliable aurora watching spot. Nestled between boreal forests and the Athabasca oil sands, Fort McMurray has lots of lakes and rivers that may create interesting reflections for your aurora photo shoot.

County of Northern Lights

Yes, Alberta has the County of Northern Lights, located in north-western part of the province. And, sure thing, you can head there to see the beautiful natural phenomenon it's called after. Try Notikewin Provincial Park or Twin Lakes Provincial Park, both are about a 1-hour drive north of Manning.

Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve, Edmonton

Located in just a short drive from downtown Edmonton, Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve occupies 116 sq mi(300 sq km) of forests, lakes, and prairies. It features such scenic areas as Elk Island National Park and Cooking Lake Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area, both of which offer a good backdrop for aurora pictures. The preserve is holding the annual Star Party in September, attracting aurora chasers and astronomy enthusiasts.

Banff and Jasper National Parks

Jasper National Park Dark Sky Preserve is one of the best aurora borealis spots in Alberta thanks to its beautiful scenery and the absence of light pollution. With 4,247 sq. mi (11,000 sq. km) of wilderness around, stargazing at Jasper can be a great experience. Head to Old Fort Point, Lake Annette, Pyramid Lake, and Maligne Lake to enjoy the magical dancing lights display. The Jasper Dark Sky Festival is held every fall. Constellations are guaranteed, aurora borealis — possible, with some luck. Banff National Park, located south of Jasper, also offers a number of good spots for Northern Lights chasers. Lake Minnewanka, Castle Junction, and Peyto Lake have proven to be excellent locations to see aurora borealis in that area. Vermillion Lakes is another very scenic spot for a perfect aurora shot.

Horseshoe Canyon

Horseshoe Canyon, located in 10 mi(17 km) west of Drumheller, is often called the Canadian Badlands. The canyon offers stunning scenery during the day. And at night it gets even better with an open view of the northern sky. If you get lucky to catch the Northern Lights in such a place, it's going to leave lifetime memories for sure.

Practical info

When is the best time to visit Alberta for northern lights chasing?

The darkest months, September to April, are perfect to enjoy northern lights in Alberta. The peak months with increased geomagnetic activity are around the equinoxes, September, October, and March. Winter's long nights and clear skies present the highest opportunity to catch the northern lights as they light up the sky with a variety of colors and shapes. Show more

Where are the best spots to see northern lights in Alberta?

Alberta offers an abundance of picturesque spots to catch the aurora borealis. Wood Buffalo National Park, Lake Athabasca, and Fort McMurray are among the best places for an unforgettable experience. There's also the Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve, Jasper National Park, and Banff National Park, where night sky pollution is minimal, and one can witness the spectacular northern lights display with complete clarity. Show more

What is the County of Northern Lights and where is it located?

Located in the northwestern part of Alberta, the County of Northern Lights is a regional municipality in the Northern Peace River Country named after the vibrant aurora borealis that often occurs here. It's a popular destination for catching the northern lights, with many parks like Twin Lakes Park and Notikewin Provincial Park located only an hour's drive from Manning. Show more

What are some annual events held in Alberta that are great for aurora borealis enthusiasts?

Aurora borealis enthusiasts can enjoy a variety of annual events in Alberta, starting with the Jasper Dark Sky Festival held every fall. There are stargazing sessions with astro-experts and northern lights watching opportunities. September's Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve hosts an annual Star Party appreciated by many. Both events bring together northern lights enthusiasts and like-minded individuals for a fascinating aurora borealis experience. Show more

Ask a question
Last updated: by Olga Valchyshen