Come to Southeast Alaska expecting to get wet, so if it doesn’t rain, it will be a pleasant surprise. Ketchikan gets almost 160 inches, the Juneau area varies depending on one’s location – the town gets about 90 inches, the Valley a lot less (53 inches). Sitka gets 96 inches, Haines 47 inches, and Skagway 26 inches.
There is less precipitation in the summer than in the winter, the wettest month being October. Rain has its advantages. The glacial ice is bluer, and the low cloud tendrils very photogenic. After the rain the birds sing. The mountains, glaciers, tidal inlets glisten white and blue and are half hidden behind dissipating clouds. This is the time the mountains seem close and tall and greater than life size. So bring a raincoat and enjoy the rain.
The best summer months seem to be May and June; sunny days with temperatures in the 70s and 80s are possible. Otherwise expect temperatures in the 50s. The sunniest winter months are January and February although expect lower temperatures (to zero and below) and high winds in Juneau, Haines and Skagway. However, a warm current parallels the coastline resulting in a temperate climate overall for coastal Alaska. In winter, expect a 20- to 30-degree drop in temperature when going over the coast range into the Interior.
Coastal ice and the face of any glacier will also create colder conditions by as much as 20 degrees. Even on a warm day be sure to take warm clothing when visiting a glacier.
Never trust the weather. Expect it to change!
The Journey Basics material was adapted from Discover Southeast Alaska with Pack and Paddle by Margaret Piggott, published by The Mountaineers, 1990. Used with permission of the author Margaret H. Piggott.