With a bit of luck, you don't have to go all the way to Alaska to see the beautiful natural phenomenon of northern lights in the US. It’s actually possible to see the elusive dancing lights at several places in Oregon. Top spots include Oregon Coast, The Crater Lake National Park, and various other places around Portland. However, you have to keep your expectations low since a lot of patience and sleepless nights are required to catch a glimpse of the elusive lights.
The best time to see northern lights in North America is from late August to mid-April. However, there is a number of conditions that have to be met. Most importantly, geomagnetic or solar activity that causes the beautiful phenomenon has to reach its highest levels. It's measured in Kp-Index on a scale from 0 to 9. You'll need a Kp-Index of at least 7 to be able to see the aurora borealis in Oregon. Also, you'll need a new moon and no light pollution in the area to be able to see at least a faint glow. Chasing aurora is not easy, however, there are many websites that help. In particular, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is publishing a Northern Lights forecast every 30 minutes.
Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake National Park in southwest Oregon is one of the best places to see northern lights in the Northwest. Its main attraction is a crater lake with stunning blue water nestled in the Cascade Mountain Range. Due to the absence of light pollution, it is an ideal place for stargazing and aurora watching. The park has two developed campgrounds, where aurora chasers can spend the night: Mazama Campground and Lost Creek Campground. However, they are only open from June through September. Crater Lake Lodge is open from mid-May to mid-October.
Coastal towns and beaches can witness the northern lights when the skies are clear and geomagnetic conditions are right. In the northern part of Oregon Coast, aurora chasers often head to the towns of Cannon Beach, Manzanita, Pacific City, and Newport. Southern Oregon coast features locations like Bandon and Gold Beach.
What are the top spots in Oregon to witness the northern lights?
Witnessing the northern lights in Oregon is best done at Crater Lake National Park and along Oregon's picturesque coast. Cannon Beach, Manzanita, Pacific City, Newport, Bandon, and Gold Beach are recommended. Crater Lake National Park is the most popular and offers stunning views of the crater lake, especially since it has minimal light pollution. Visiting these picturesque towns is favorable since they have clearer skies and less precipitation. Show more
When is the best time to view the aurora borealis in Oregon?
Aurora borealis viewing in Oregon is best experienced from late August to mid-April. However, optimal viewing conditions require additional favorable elements, such as a Kp-Index of seven, a new moon, and minimal light pollution in the viewing area. Witnessing the northern lights is not guaranteed, so being patient and persevering is essential to increase the likelihood of sighting them. Show more
Where are the best locations to camp while waiting to see the northern lights in Crater Lake National Park?
For optimal experience, two developed campgrounds are available at Crater Lake National Park; Mazama and Lost Creek campgrounds. Mazama Campground tends to fill up, with more campsites available than the latter. Meanwhile, Lost Creek is smaller but provides more secluded options, with a stream running through it. Since both campgrounds operate from June to September only, making early reservations and planning for that specific period is crucial. Show more
Are there specific places on the Oregon Coast that are better for aurora watching than others?
The northern part of Oregon coast provides better aurora viewing locations. Cannon Beach, Manzanita, Pacific City, and Newport are some ideal spots known for their better visibility. These areas are subject to less precipitation and may provide clearer skies for better aurora borealis viewing. Keeping track of the Kp-Index and aurora forecasts seconds the planning as minimal light pollution exposure increases the chances of seeing the northern lights in Oregon's coast. Show more