Super Camping British Columbia
Super Camping British Columbia

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Northern Lights Prince George, NBC/Kristopher Foot

Best Places to See the Northern Lights in British Columbia, Canada

By Patricia Cashin

One of the most breathtaking sights on a dark night is the appearance of the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis. Under clear dark skies you can look up and see millions of stars and perhaps try to identify constellations and the Milky Way, but have you had the good fortune to see the northern lights?  If you are a city dweller, you are likely not used to seeing the stunning night sky, but the beautiful and ghostly apparition of the Northern Lights is something to behold.

Northern Lights / Aurora Borealis on the Sikanni River near Fort Nelson | Northern BC Tourism/Ryan Dickie

Auroras are beautiful and sometimes dramatic displays of light in the night sky. Auroras occur when charged particles collide with gases in the Earth’s upper atmosphere. This fills the sky with colourful light, which can appear to pulse, transform and dance across the sky. Greens, purples and reds provide stunning light shows with green being the most common. This is because the green photons are discharged in less than a second, much faster than either reds or purples. National Geographic has more information on the science of the Aurora Borealis.

Northern Lights on Summit Peak Trail, Stone Mountain Prov Park, DBC/Andrew Strain
Northern Lights on Summit Peak Trail, Stone Mountain Provincial Park | Destination BC/Andrew Strain

The best time of year to see the Northern Lights is between October and March although they can be seen year-round under the right conditions. The farther north you go, the better your chances of seeing it, but if a trip to the Yukon Territory, the Northwest Territories, or Nunavut is not in your plans, don’t despair. Even during low solar activity periods, the northern lights are visible in many parts of BC.

Northern Lights, Prince George | Northern BC Tourism/Kristopher Foot

A clear sky will help your viewing chances. Avoid locations near cities or other sources of light pollution. In your search for dark skies, you also want to avoid a full moon, and overcast skies, both of which can impact the visibility of the aurora. Your chances are greater in clear, inland spots away from cloudy coastal weather. Flat terrain, as opposed to high mountain valleys, will also help.

Northern Lights, Fort Nelson, NBC/Ryan Dickie
Northern Lights, Fort Nelson | Northern BC Tourism/Ryan Dickie

In British Columbia areas around Dawson Creek, Muncho Lake Provincial Park, Fort Nelson and Prince George all offer great viewing opportunities. You might also look at Burns Lake, or one of a number of options in the Peace River region. Elsewhere, spots in the Canadian Rockies such as Chetwynd.

Sometimes strong Aurora Borealis surge south and can be seen in lower latitudes and when this is forecast places such as the Sunshine Coast around Sechelt or if you’re heading up the Sea to Sky Highway you might see them near Squamish or Whistler. The key is to be away from the light pollution that comes from cities such as Metro Vancouver.

The Canadian Space Agency’s Aurora Viewing Tips page has many additional tips for watching the night skies, as well as excellent photography advice for the camera enthusiast. For real-time announcements and news of aurora sightings, you can also follow the twitter feed @AuroraMAX from Yellowknife.

Enjoy!

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For accommodations in British Columbia go to travel-british-columbia.com

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Published: February 24, 2022
Last Updated: February 24, 2022

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