When You’re Feeling Cooped up This Winter…
Consider trekking out to catch the Northern Lights from some of the continent’s top spots in a Voyager van.
Easing into the throes of winter can often make it feel like opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors are few and far between. Seriously, the days end just as soon as they started, and it’s typically too bitter cold to do anything except brave those few feet of pavement on your way to a thawing car – at least here in Minneapolis (Voyager HQ).
Most are currently yearning for sandy shorelines and glistening sunsets, forgetting about the once-in-a-lifetime sight that can only be caught during the Northern Hemisphere’s wintertime. Fortunately for avid adventurers, those oft-forgotten “flyover” locations actually offer some of the most magnificent views of Aurora Borealis, AKA the Northern Lights. We dive into six of the best places to see this natural wonder from a campervan this winter below:
Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota
Already based in or near the Twin Cities? Taking a quick trip up to Minnesota’s North Shore and Voyageurs National Park is a no-brainer. With skies typically free from city light pollution, this is a fantastic Northern Lights viewing locale. Although Minnesota’s sole national park is only accessible by watercraft, what better time to break out the snowshoes or cross-country skis to cross the ice and see the sights? Safely stow your campervan in several gateway community camping sites before wandering onto the frozen lake and trails to view the Northern Lights. Just make sure you check park conditions online before your expedition to avoid any hazards.
- Distance from Minneapolis: 4.5 hours
- Best time to go: Early November to late March
Idaho Panhandle National Forest, Idaho
The Idaho panhandle also provides some of the most picturesque views of Aurora Borealis colorways. While it may be a lengthier trip, the incredible trek through Utah’s unique landscape on the way and the look you get at the Northern Lights from this unexpected location make this a must-do for cold-weather-friendly campervan travelers. Bring your fat bicycle tires and save some helpful bike trail maps before stopping off at Spirit or Priest Lakes to see dancing reflections across the serene waters. Or wind your way east up to Idaho Point to get beautiful, sweeping views of the Northern Lights across both Idaho and bordering Montana.
- Distance from Minneapolis: 21.5
- Best time to go: Late September to late March
Upper Peninsula, Michigan
The endless shoreline of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is another perfect spot to see the Northern Lights from your campervan this winter, thanks to its ideal longitudinal placement. Between the iconic Mackinac Island Bridge and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, you’re bound to experience a scenic view of vibrant green and purple hues in the UP. Even better, places like Headlands International Dark Sky Park provide resources like this stargazer’s guide dedicated to helping travelers plan the most memorable trip to watch the Northern Lights.
- Distance from Minneapolis: 6.5-8.5 hours
- Best time to go: Late August through April
Aurora Village, Yellowknife, Canada
As the name implies, Aurora Village in Yellowknife of Canada’s Northwest Territories is regarded globally as the greatest place to see the Northern Lights. While travel restrictions in the rest of Canada are easing, unfortunately, tourists (and their campervans) are not currently permitted to visit this astonishing, almost other-worldly place, as the Northwest Territories remain closed to travelers for now. Luckily, you can always start planning your trip to Yellowknife for next year to get a guaranteed glimpse of the Aurora Borealis!
- Distance from Minneapolis: 34 hours
- Best time to go: Mid-November to early April
Aroostook National Wildlife Refuge, Maine
Nestled just a hop, skip, and jump from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, it’s needless to say that Aroostook National Wildlife Refuge in Maine is yet another amazing place to chase the Aurora Borealis in your campervan this winter. With tens of thousands of preserved public acres spanning the area, it’s a breeze to find a place to park your campervan in “the county” and hike into lush forests before viewing the Northern Lights. From low-rolling hills flanked by bountiful farmland to freshwater lakes and streams, scenic spots are abundant in Aroostook.
- Distance from Nashville: 23.5 hours
- Distance from Minneapolis: 25 hours
- Best time to go: December through February
Lastly: One for the Long-Term, Ever-so Adventurous Traveler… Fairbanks, Alaska
Alaska is renowned for offering incredible views of the Aurora Borealis, but are you truly ready to cross this trek off your bucket list? Because it’s a big one. With a comfy and spacious Voyager campervan loaded up with all the essentials, anything’s possible – especially if your copilot is an adorable pooch (we’re pretty sure dogs love Alaska). Pack your long johns and prepare for perfect views of the Northern Lights from one of the many peaks and overlooks in Fairbanks, Alaska’s second-most populous city. Murphy Dome and Cleary Summit will give you sky-high views, while locations like Creamer’s Field Migratory Refuge and Chena Lake or River offer clear, unobstructed looks at the lights from a lower altitude.
- Distance from Minneapolis: 51 hours (we know, it’s a commitment)
- Best time to go: Late August through late April, Aurora Season
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