Plants and Animals in Chugach State Park
The vegetation surrounding Chugach State Park varies with the elevation. A dense forest of spruce and birch dominates lower elevations. Ferns, mushrooms, and wildflowers such as dwarf dogwood, fireweed, and the parasitic broomrape cover the forest floor. At higher elevations the forests are replaced by fields of wildflowers such as mountain avens. Observe the change from wild beach pea, Sitka burnet and wild geranium on lower slopes to nootka lupine, Indian paintbrush, spotted saxifrage and cut-leaf anemone further up, leading to the blueberries and mosses of the tundra.
Berry picking is popular in late summer and early fall. Highbush and lowbush cranberries, currants, raspberries, and watermelon berries grow along the lower trails. Blueberries, bearberries and crowberries are found higher up. Be careful to correctly identify berries before eating them as some are poisonous.
Moose, muskrats and waterfowl may be spotted throughout the park. Brown and black bears, wolves, and mountain goats, inhabit the wilderness regions of the park and Dall sheep are often seen on the steep hillsides.
Smaller mammals living in the area include fox, lynx, porcupine, hare, ground squirrel, ermine, marmot, vole, and pika. Golden eagles, hawks, ptarmigan, grouse and several varieties of songbirds nest in the area. A telephoto lens or binoculars will help you enjoy wildlife in its natural habitat.
Special precautions must be taken to avoid problems with bears. Do not leave food or garbage in the open or in your tent. Cook and eat at least 100 feet down-wind from your campsite. To avoid a surprise encounter with a bear, make noise when you travel - tie a bell to your pack, whistle, talk, or sing. Bears, like other animals, may feel threatened if you get too close, and when threatened their reactions are unpredictable.