POSTED: Saturday, March 22, 2014 - 2:00pm
UPDATED: Saturday, March 22, 2014 - 2:04pm
(CNN) — In a few months, temperatures in the Alaskan interior near the town of Fairbanks will rise into the 70s and 80s Fahrenheit (mid- to high-20s Celsius).
Hundreds of thousands of visitors will arrive to take in the epic wildlife and scenic grandeur of Denali National Park and Preserve, six million acres of unspoiled wilderness bisected by a single road.
Though in winter the area remains encased in snow, ice and freezing temperatures, the land is no less glorious for it.
Alaska photographer Pat Costello has spent the waning days of the harsh Alaska winter exploring in and around Fairbanks, the heart of the 49th state.
The most remote highway in United States, the tallest mountain in North America (Mount McKinley at 20,237 feet/6,168 meters) and the dreamlike northern lights were all on his itinerary.
The George Parks Highway connects the state's two largest cities -- 323 miles between Anchorage and Fairbanks. A clear day offers spectacular views of Mt. McKinley, the tallest mountain in North America (20,237 feet).
When highly charged particles from the solar wind interact with atoms of oxygen and nitrogen at high altitudes the aurora (northern lights) is born. The spectacle transcends science, luring locals and visitors alike into the bone-chilling northern nights to marvel at the magical displays.
The Dalton Highway, aka the Haul Road, is the supply route for the Prudhoe Bay oil fields to the north. Open to passenger vehicles, but clearly the domain of the big rigs, this road is only for the intrepid, well-prepared traveler. The 414-mile "highway" crosses the Yukon River, Arctic Circle and Brooks Range and passes through only two towns: Coldfoot (pop. 13) and Wiseman (pop. 22).
The Trans-Alaska Pipeline System runs 800 miles from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez. Since completion in 1977, the pipeline has carried nearly 17 billion barrels of oil. A popular stop on the Steese Highway is this viewing point, just outside of Fairbanks.
This curious reindeer is part of a captive herd on the campus of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. The herd is maintained for research purposes to support the development of Alaska's reindeer industry.
The Alaska Siberia World War II Memorial honors U.S. and Soviet pilots who transported nearly 8,000 warplanes from the continental United States to Russia between 1942 and 1945. Due to weather or mechanical problems, 177 planes crashed en route. The memorial is located in Griffin Park in downtown Fairbanks. Click here to see more of photographer Pat Costello's Alaska pictures.
Sixty miles from Fairbanks, Chena Hot Springs Resort operates year-round. It's popular in winter for northern lights watchers from around the world. Reservations are available for overnight stays. It costs $15 to soak in the mineral-rich springs.