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Within Reach: Catching The Northern Lights

Family, Within Reach

If you’re visiting Prince George between mid-September and mid-March, turn your eyes to the skies on clear nights to see our northern skies come alive with a show from the northern lights. This elusive experience is incredible and certainly worth staying up all night for.

Clear nights make for prime viewing conditions, as well as reduced light pollution and minimal or no moonlight. Those early hours of the morning, typically between midnight and 5 am are your best opportunities to see them.

There are online tools, like the My Aurora Forecast app and Aurora Alerts that help notify you and predict how visible and strong the Northern Lights will be on a given night. Of course, you can always try to view the Northern Lights without optimal conditions – they just may not be as vibrant.

To help get you started, we’ve handpicked four locations that we think will give you the best chance.

Salmon Valley

Just a 20 minute drive north of Prince George, the Salmon River offers a spectacular viewing platform on the rocky shores and calm riverbed. With a designated parking lot, located right on the highway – it’s easy for people to navigate to in the dark. The site also has picnic tables and washroom facilities as well.

For an extra treat, consider staying at the Salmon Valley Campground which is located on the river bank just down the road from the public parking lot. You’ll be able to cozy up by the fire as you wait for darkness to fall.

Teapot Mountain

This area is a prime place to watch the night sky because you’re on one of the highest peaks around but be warned – climbing up Teapot Mountain is a challenge in the daylight and even more of a challenge in the dark. To be safe, make sure you’re familiar with the trail, you have good lighting (and extra batteries) and travel in a group. If you have the patience, we recommend going up during the daylight and packing sleeping bags and plenty of warm beverages to make your time more enjoyable.

Prince George Astronomical Society’s Observatory

Study the night skies with a 0.61 m Cassegrain Telescope or 8” Celestron Telescope at the Observatory. Located approximately 20 minutes west of downtown Prince George, this facility has a ton of information about astronomy and knowledgeable people to talk with.  They are open Friday nights from mid-August to the end of November, and the beginning of February to the end of April. Admission is by donation ($2 per person is suggested).

Ness Lake Regional Park

This regional park is on the southwest side of Ness Lake and is a 30-minute drive from downtown Prince George. From Ness Lake, you’ll be able to get a great view of the northern horizon and much of the show will be mimicked in the water below. It’s a very short walk to the lake, making it more accessible than Teapot Mountain. Just don’t forget your flashlights and warm clothes!

The drive to Ness Lake goes past several large and flat fields, so you have the opportunity to safely pull off the road – or down a side road you could try watching the sky from the comfort of your vehicle.

Tune into our podcast The Take on Prince George’s episode, Star Studded Skies, to learn everything you need to know about Prince George’s night sky and dark tourism in Prince George.