Aurora Borealis Viewing from Murphy Dome

Alaska Guide

self-portrait watching the aurora from a rock outcropping on Murphy Dome

Murphy Dome became a popular place to view the aurora a few years ago. However, I’m surprised at how few people leave the parking lot. One time I skied back from this location, there was a group of about 12 tourists lined up with tripods at the very beginning of the trail. They were taking photos through the willow trees. I think the parking lot would have been a better location. It’s only about a half-mile walk, snowshoe, or ski across open tundra. In winter, the snow is typically wind-packed and easy to walk. I always bring snowshoes or skis just in case.

A very brief walk on some obvious trails just left of the wind turbine on the north side of the parking area takes you out on to the tundra where you can wander to your heart’s content. Numerous stunted spruce stands dot the landscape with multiple rock outcroppings. An ATV trail is frequently traveled by snowmachines in the winter. They tend to pack the snow to where you can usually walk without snowshoes or skis. As long as it is clear, navigating back is easy as there are a radar dome and wind turbine with red flashing lights to lead you back to the parking area. The map below shows where the rock outcroppings are in relation to the parking area.

Cautions

Be aware of moose in the area and especially on the road. I see moose almost every time I make the drive. There are occasionally bears on Murphy Dome spring-fall, but they don’t really frequent the area. Don’t wander beyond your comfort zone, it’s still possible to get lost even though it’s open tundra. The road is typically plowed in winter, but is often icy and almost always snow-covered October-April. Don’t pull off the road in winter, the snow on the side is often much deeper than it looks!


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Directions

From Fairbanks head south on the Parks Highway (AK-3) and turn right on Sheep Creek Rd, just beyond Chena Pump Road. After 0.4 miles, turn left to stay on Sheep Creek Road. In 4.9 miles turn left on Murphy Dome Road. The first few miles are paved before turning to dirt (won’t matter in winter when snow-covered). Follow Murphy Dome Road for 15.5 miles until you come to a large parking area between the wind turbine and the radar dome. Be careful in the parking area, there can be some deep snow drifts in winter and deep mud in the summer.

Murphy Dome Slideshow

Murphy Dome Gallery


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Camera Settings For Aurora Photography

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