Viewing the northern lights is a bucket-list experience that many people wait years-even a lifetime-to have since the conditions have to be just right. But here’s the good news: it’s the perfect time to see the aurora borealis. As a result of long hours of darkness and clear skies, December through March is usually the best time to observe this rare phenomenon (though it can sometimes be seen as early as August). Travel companies want to help you find the northern lights with new hotels, tours geared toward women, and other unique experiences.
Northern Lights: What are they?
In the nighttime and sunset hours, the Northern Lights, also known as the Polar Lights or Aurora Borealis, are visible in our sky. Every color of the rainbow can be found in them, including multiple colors at once, but green is the most common.
We see this light when the solar wind from the sun hits our planet and collides with our magnetic field. Our planet’s field is not round; it tapers like a long tail of the side opposite the sun. When the solar wind hits the area, its highly charged particles bump into oxygen and nitrogen atoms in our upper atmosphere, electrically charging them. As a result, atoms emit light as they cool.
Depending on the altitude where the solar wind meets the upper atmosphere and the type of particles they interact with, the colors will vary. For example, both green and red colors are a result of oxygen atoms. Pink and purple colors are caused by nitrogen. A massive explosion of solar gas from the sun causes the solar wind to be stronger, resulting in a more dynamic display of color. Lets discover places in minnesota where you can have a slight chance of witnessing the aurora borealis aka Northern lights.
1.Rainy Lake National Park, Voyageurs National Park
The site is so good that it made Forbes’ list of the 20 best places to see the northern lights in 2020. With views of the Canadian border and a distance from artificial, man-made light, the park offers some of the best ideas in the world. Miles of lakes reflect the vibrancy and range of colors found here. You can see them at Rainy Lake Visitor Center, Ash River Visitor Center, Voyageurs Forest Overlook Parking Lot, Woodenfrog Beach, and at campsites along the lake. Rent a houseboat to make the most of the experience!
2. Grand Marais, Cook County, Artist’s Point
Grand Marais offers beautiful views of the lights at night and Lake Superior during the day. Paintings of the jagged rock formations along the shore of the lake give the area its name. When the Northern Lights are visible at night, it is best to view them from the east so that the city lights of Grand Marais are behind you. You can see it from the Coast Guard Station in your car.
3. White Sky Rock in Cook County, Lutsen
At a high altitude of 1,400 feet, this view gives you a 360-degree view of Caribou Lake outside the town of Lutsen. You can get the best ideas by hiking 230 feet to the rock overlook. Park at Caribou Lake’s public boat launch on Caribou Trail. Cross the highway and begin walking.
4. Hawk Ridge, Duluth
This area off East Skyline Parkway in northeastern Duluth offers more than just the Northern Lights. On a clear day, you can see migratory birds as well as Lake Superior and Duluth. Hawk Ridge Viewing Platform offers unobstructed views of low hills with very few artificial lights to disturb the show.
5. Lake Superior at Beaver Bay
At Beaver Bay, you can see the Northern Lights at night and enjoy delicious food, hikes to rivers and waterfalls, as well as beautiful views of Lake Superior during the day. Over North Shore, the best time to see the lights is between September and May. You can even book vacation rentals to make the most of your vacation. Set your chairs north and bring some cocoa and a warm blanket.
6. Hallock in Kittson County
Located in the northwestern corner of the state, just 30 minutes from the Canadian border, this location has beautiful views of the sky, is away from city lights, and is also an ideal vacation spot.
Like Beavery Bay, the area’s vacation rentals help you make the most of the experience. Watch for the lights at night and go fishing or bird and moose watching during the day. You can even take a day trip to Canada.
7. Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
This scenic wilderness lets you take in the beauty of the lights while floating inside a canoe! Being on the water or the edge of the area’s many lakes are the best ways to experience the show. The lights are most prevalent here in the fall and winter.
8. Refuge national de faune de Sherburne
The city is near about an hour north of the Twin Cities, so there isn’t much pollution, allowing for a good view of the lights. You can also view protected wildlife such as sandhill cranes and Blanding’s turtles there.
Tips to view the Northern Lights in Minnesota
- Watch the Northern Lights at these times: Ideal times of day are from early sunset to late at night, between 5 pm and 4 am. In order to see the best show of colors, you should plan to see them when the sun is shining, the sky is clear, and the moon is less visible. It is best if there is no moonlight. If possible, you should also have open views of the north and northwest, without hills or trees.
- What is the duration of the Northern Lights? Keep an eye out because it won’t belong. They usually last just a few minutes. A good performance lasts between 15 and 30 minutes. It can go on for hours if you’re lucky!
- Though the pictures show the Northern Lights in vivid greens, reds, and purples, sometimes the colors are less subdued such as a greyish-white, which can look like clouds.
- The weather gets freezing! Minnesota’s northern region is one of the coldest on the mainland United States, with winter temperatures well below zero. Duluth and St. Cloud are among the top 10 coldest cities in the country. It can be very dangerous to stand outside while watching the lights during freezing weather, so enjoy the comfort of an RV with supplemental heating and plenty of water and antifreeze. A cabin or hotel can also be rented. Since the lights are most prevalent at the beginning of spring and fall, you will have a more comfortable experience during these other times of the year.
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