The long and the short of it: sunset times in Alaska's largest city
Seated on Alaska's southernmost shores, Anchorage is a city of rugged terrain, natural beauty and a proliferation of wildlife. It is known for its long summer days. Because of Alaska's position in the northern hemisphere, it enjoys the phenomenon known as "midnight sun," in which the sun stays out for nearly 24 hours at a time for a period of nearly 60 days. The opposite is true in the winter, when Anchorage sees very little daylight, and the sun sets early in the afternoon.
On June 21, the summer solstice, the city of Anchorage sees nearly 22 hours of daylight. Events, festivals and other celebrations of the solstice are held later in the day, but the long daylight hours last well after the solstice. For the majority of June and July, the sun doesn't set before about 11:15 p.m., and the "midnight sun" is still in the sky long afterward, as the sun merely slips below the horizon, rather than fully setting. If you're planning to watch the sunset in the summertime, make sure you're ready for a long day.
After the summer solstice, the daylight hours in Anchorage gradually begin to decrease. By mid-September, the sun begins to set around 8:10 p.m. In late November, once daylight saving time has passed, the sun begins to set as early as 4:00 p.m. in the afternoon, as Anchorage experiences a period of significant darkness at the onset of the winter solstice.
In the days following the winter solstice on December 21, the sun begins to set around 3:45 p.m. This early sunset trend continues through December, but daylight hours slowly begin to increase, and by late February, the sunset begins around 6:20 p.m.
Weather and seasonal considerations
The change of seasons in Alaska drastically alters the time and the tenor of the sunset. During the summer when the sun stays out nearly all day long, watching the sunset is possible, but as it merely slides below the horizon for a short period of time before rising again, it doesn't quite pack the same punch as a winter sunset, which plunges the region into darkness for more than 18 hours. However, as mentioned, the summer solstice period in Anchorage is a time of celebration, parties, festival and outdoor activities that last well into the night. The city comes alive in the summertime, with flocks of tourists coming to experience the lengthened daylight hours and the extended opportunity for outdoor activities like fishing, hiking, golf and cycling. In the winter, the mood in the city is more somber. On days when the sun rises as late as 10:00 a.m. and sets as early as 4:00 p.m., the energy of the city is more subdued, and cold winter temperatures also limit the amount of time you can hope to spend outside.
The city of Anchorage has no shortage of beautiful outdoor locations, with both beach and mountain terrain ideal for sunset viewing. In the summertime, Flattop Mountain in Chugach State Park is a popular viewing point to watch the day ease into night. In the days following the solstice, there is often live entertainment on the mountain along with groups of other revelers, so be prepared for crowds. The location provides a striking view of the Anchorage skyline, and Cook Inlet, the narrow body of water that connects Anchorage to the Gulf of Alaska. The Delaney Park Strip near the waterfront is also a popular spot for sunset-viewing during the summertime. Check with the local tourism board to see which activities might be planned during your visit. In winter, the Seven Glaciers Restaurant has beautiful views of the city and the sky as the sun descends, which you can view from a cozy interior. The Crow's Nest in downtown Alaska has similarly arresting views of the city and the snowcapped mountains in the distance.