Denali Highway Fall Colors and Northern Lights Alaska Photo Tour 2023
Alaska is a fall landscape lover’s dream with potential to capture the essence of the north-the aurora borealis dancing across a pristine dark sky and reflecting on lakes and ponds. Wild, unspoiled and uncrowded, join a small group as we explore and photograph the vast and sweeping landscapes of Denali country and the Eastern Alaska Range at the height of tundra fall colors.
Jump start your fall color photography season on this unique and intimate Alaskan photo tour created and led by one of Alaska’s most experienced travel and adventure photography teams, our tour begins and ends in Fairbanks, one of the best places in Alaska to capture the aurora borealis in relative comfort. This is a magical time with potential to capture aurora reflections and color on the numerous small lakes along our route before they freeze for the winter.
Alaska – an undiscovered and fantastic fall color landscape photo destination without the crowds seen elsewhere.
WHEN: Aug 27 – Sep 2, 2023 (7 Days/6 Nights)
WHERE: Starts & Ends in Fairbanks, AK
FEE: Single: $3,495; Double*: $2,995 each
GROUP LIMIT: 6
WHO: Advanced beginner and above
FITNESS LEVEL: Easy ⓘ
REGISTER BY: June 26, 2023
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* Double occupancy available for two participants traveling together and may require sharing a bed.
✓ Small group (up to 6 participants) for maximum personal attention and group mobility.
✓ Luxury van travel and quaint Alaska lodging.
✓ Pristine wilderness landscapes: glaciers, rivers, lakes, tundra colors, and big peaks.
✓ Potential to capture aurora and reflections.
✓ Potential to photograph Denali, North America’s mountain.
The auroras can be just as active in the fall as they are in winter but without the frozen landscape and bitter cold. To add a little spice, our tour will include chances to view and photograph North America’s highest peak, Denali at 20,320’, from the east and south.
When the auroras are not dancing across the night sky or covered by clouds, we will focus our cameras on a pure visual delight of reds, oranges and golds that make up the endless fall tundra with big open skies and sweeping views of glacier clad peaks of the Eastern Alaska Range. The blazing fall tundra also affords limitless macro and intimate landscape opportunities. If we are fortunate, dustings of snow will add visual interest to the already stunning landscapes of Denali country.
There are many places in the northern latitudes that afford decent and frequent aurora viewing. Fairbanks and Denali country are among them. All locations in northern latitudes regardless of what others may tell you are subject to long periods of cloudy weather even during the dry spring season and nights where the auroras don’t develop due to lack of solar activity. When looking at any aurora tour, go for the destination as much as the aurora potential.
This is why we’ve chosen this route and this time of year to capture the best of two worlds. There is a narrow window beginning in late August and lasting into early September when we see the convergence of two great photo subjects: the height of fall color on the tundra and upper taiga forest below big glacier clad peaks and aurora displays on relatively warm nights (compared to winter) with possible reflections on bodies of open water.
Winter comes early to these parts and usually by early October snow covers the landscape and the lakes are frozen. Snow can fall in late August and anytime afterward on the Denali Highway. Aurora displays increase toward the autumnal equinox but by then, the tundra colors are long gone and the landscape can be blanketed in snow while fall colors are peaking in the lower elevation boreal forests.
South of the Alaska Range, where the Denali Highway is, has a cloudier climate than the north side but potentially better aurora foregrounds based on orientation of the Alaska Range relative to where you will most likely see displays. If the aurora isn’t out we still have a visually stunning landscape to see and photograph. Spectacular displays do occur along the Denali Highway in late August and we’ve been seeing them for years. Every night of this tour, including the arrival and departure days in Fairbanks have potential for aurora viewing and photography. There are nearby lakes to capture aurora and reflections while in Fairbanks.
NOTE: This tour is along the Denali Highway, a 130-mile stretch of improved dirt road that connects the Parks Highway (Cantwell) on the west and the Richardson Highway (Paxson) on the east. It is not the road into Denali National Park. While we would love to run a commercial trip in Denali National Park, the Park Service does not issue commercial use permits for us to take you into the park itself. We could arrange for participants to ride the official park shuttle buses but you do not have much flexibility on the bus, photographically, so we opt not to pursue that option. We’d be happy to help you arrange that trip.
ADDITIONAL NOTES ABOUT THIS TOUR: We are big supporters of sustainable tourism and practitioners of Leave No Trace. As much as possible we support local businesses with a commitment to quality and service. The lodges, B&Bs, restaurants, and even the van rental are all from locally owned businesses. On location, we practice and insist on Leave No Trace principles. Our small groups traveling in one vehicle allow us to minimize our impact and presence. We strive to make our small group maintain a light footprint on the tundra.
We encourage participants to stay an extra day or two at the end of the tour to increase chances for capturing aurora with newfound skills and knowledge of the local area.
✓ All transportation provided to and from lodging in Fairbanks.
✓ 6 nights of lodging – each room with a private bathroom.
✓ Constructive image critique sessions with post processing instruction and guidance.
✓ Michael and Lauri as your guides and instructors.
WHAT'S NOT INCLUDED
✓ Transportation to and from your home to Fairbanks, AK
✓ Personal expenses
PLEASE NOTE: This itinerary is a guideline as weather conditions and northern light forecasts will affect the itinerary.
DAY 1 (AUG 27): ARRIVAL IN FAIRBANKS
Plan to arrive in Fairbanks no later than 3PM. (A free shuttle service from the airport is available by the hotel.) Our group meets at 5PM for introductions and group dinner to go over the details of our adventure.
Alaska is 4 hours earlier than the East Coast. To help you adjust to the difference in time zones, you may wish to arrive a day or two earlier to acclimate. We will be happy to assist you with booking additional lodging in Fairbanks.
DAY 2 (AUG 28): TRAVEL TO REMOTE LODGE – DENALI HIGHWAY
We depart Fairbanks after breakfast and photograph mountain scenics along the way to the Denali Highway, where we will spend the next several days. After checking into our rustic cabins, we will hop in the van and travel to one of several lakes to capture the fall colored tundra vegetation and nearby mountains reflecting in the lakes at last light. After dinner, if the forecast is favorable and participants are willing, we will head out to photograph the Northern Lights.
DAY 3 & 4 (AUG 29 & 30): REMOTE LODGE- DENALI HIGHWAY
We start the morning with a sunrise landscape shoot and return to the lodge for breakfast. We can spend time photographing around the lodge or meet up for an informal image critique session and/or answer any technical or creative technique questions individuals may have. In the afternoon, we head back onto the Denali Highway for more fall color landscapes and sunset photographic opportunities.After dinner, if the forecast is favorable and participants are willing, we will head out to photograph the Northern Lights.
DAY 5 (AUG 31): TRANSFER TO REMOTE CABINS OFF PARKS HIGHWAY –
If we are not out too late the previous night shooting Northern Lights, we’ll start the morning with a sunrise landscape shoot and return to the lodge for breakfast. We’ll check out of our cabins, gather our gear, and travel to our next quaint Alaskan accommodations off the road from the Parks Highway allowing for more photographic opportunities on the western edge of the Denali Highway.
DAY 6 (SEP 1): DENALI VIEWS & PARKS HIGHWAY FALL LANDSCAPES
We start the morning off with an early morning sunrise shoot with views of Denali and other tundra fall landscapes. The rest of the day will be spent shooting other fall landscapes , hopefully ending the day with a sunset shoot of Denali.
DAY 7 (SEP 2): FAIRBANKS – END OF TRIP
We head out early, weather permitting, for some more sunrise views of Denali along the Parks Highway before heading back to Fairbanks around 11:30AM to say our goodbyes and treasure the experience we all just shared.
The official group meeting location will be at 6:00PM at the Clarion Hotel & Suites (95 10th Ave, Fairbanks, AK 99701). Alaska is 4 hours earlier than Eastern Standard Time and 1 hour earlier than Pacific Standard Time so you may want to consider arriving a day or two before to allow yourself time to adjust. If you need help in making additional lodging arrangements, we’d be happy to assist.
The Fairbanks International Airport (FAI) is a large, visitor-friendly airport with several flights a day. Some of the major airlines that service to Fairbanks include:
- Alaska Airlines
- American Airlines
Sun Country Airlines and JetBlue has service to only Ted Steven’s International Airport in Anchorage – not to Fairbanks. However, check the above airlines for a connecting flight from Anchorage to Fairbanks.
There is a shuttle service from the airport to the first night’s accommodations (at the Clarion Hotel) that you can arrange for pickup through the telephone information board in the baggage claim areas.
Clarion Hotel & Suites s is approximately 6 miles away (as the roads go) to Fairbanks International Airport.
PHYSICAL REQUIREMENTS: A reasonably fit photographer capable of hiking on uneven tundra, muddy, or rocky trails, and who can get in and out of canoe (one day only). Participants may have to carry a camera body, tripod, 1-2 lenses, filters, and other gear in a backpack for up to a 1 mile round trip hike.
WEATHER: Alaska has a harsh climate. While many of us want warm sunny conditions with direct light for our photography day, Mother Nature does not always provide us those conditions. Please do not get discouraged. It is unrealistic to go anywhere, especially Alaska, for only a day or two and expect magical light conditions that produce the kind of images we all seek.
Our tour is timed to take place during peak fall with maximum red and gold colors. With careful and creative techniques, it is still possible to get colorful and beautiful landscape images in cloudy weather and even light rain. Remember, often times, bad weather can equate to great photos.
FACILITIES: While this trip is about wilderness landscapes without leaving modern amenities, participants may be in remote locations with no restroom facilities for up to several hours. Please be prepared to answer nature’s call in actual nature if necessary and we always practice Leave No Trace. We will always have bathroom necessities with us and available should the need arise.
NOTE: This tour operates during hunting season. Nearly all hunting activities occur on the south side of the dirt highway. Our focus will be on the north side of the highway where the views of the Alaska Range and potential northern lights exist. Alaska Department of Natural Resources do not allow drones in areas under their control. While this tour may not always fall under Alaska DNR purview, it is highly recommended that you do NOT bring a drone hunters may not appreciate their presence.
PAYMENT & CANCELLATION POLICIES
PAYMENT TERMS: A minimum deposit is due at registration to reserve your space. Required deposit amount is $500. Final payments, which can be made in installments, are due 90 days prior to tour start date.
When a participant cancels a reserved spot in a regularly scheduled (i.e., non-custom) photo tour, it takes time and effort to fill the vacancy. Please be sure to check your personal schedule well ahead of the dates of the trip to make sure there are no conflicts. If you discover that you will not be able to attend we would very much appreciate knowing this as soon as possible.
The following fee schedule applies:
If your cancellation is received more than 90 days prior to the beginning of a tour or workshop, we will refund your registration fee less a 5% of your initial deposit. Any fees paid up to this point, less 5% of your initial deposit, can be applied to another scheduled tour or converted to a private photo tour or private photography instruction session.
As other vendors we book with have limited refund policies, if your cancellation is received less than 90 days prior to the beginning of a tour or workshop, we will retain the entire balance paid to date unless you are able to locate someone who will fill your position.
If the photo workshop or tour is full and someone from the waiting list can take your spot, we will refund your entire balance paid to date less 5% of your initial deposit.
No refund of any fees will be made for cancellations after the tour begins.
In the event that a tour must be cancelled due to inadequate enrollment, all registration fees received by us will be refunded in full or, if you prefer, your registration fees paid up to this point can be applied to another scheduled tour or converted to a private photo tour.
We are not responsible for reimbursement of non-refundable airline tickets or lodging arrangements you made in the event of a tour cancellation. Please do not make any travel arrangements until you have received notification that the tour has met its minimal participant requirement which will be known at least 90 days prior to the start date OR consider the purchase of trip insurance.
We highly suggest TravelGuard® or similar travel insurance policies to assist you in case of last minute plan changes and emergencies.
“Michael and Lauri ran a great Alaska photo tour experience. We saw the aurora, animals and some amazing sunsets and sunrises. Their knowledge of Alaska and the great places to shoot was exceptional. I truly enjoyed the experience.”
– George R. (Santa Fe, NM)
Have a Question About This Tour? Send us an email.
Guided by one of Alaska’s most experienced commercial photographers and photo tour leaders.
DeYoung Photo Workshops, LLC