When thinking of fall colors, the brilliant leaves of the Northeastern United States are typically the first things that come to mind. The bright reds, oranges, and yellows set against the deep green of the scattered evergreens are tough to compete with in beauty. However, believe me when I say that Alaska in the fall is a worthy competitor! My first visit to the Frontier State landed perfectly during the peak season for Alaska’s fall colors and it was unforgettable! To catch peak fall colors in Alaska, plan to visit between late August and early September. It is the perfect time to get a health dose of wanderlust going and explore the colors of Denali National Park.
For those who have been keeping up with the evolution of my art business, Under Open Skies, you may recognize the photo on the left. it is one of my favorites and I use it in my logo designs a lot. I snapped this shot at Denali National Park, Alaska during my fall trip. It was unusually rainy for that time of year which made photographs and back-country camping a challenge. This was one of the few times the clouds parted and allowed the sun to reveal the glorious array of fall colors!
What makes this so exotically beautiful (besides the unbelievable majesty of the Northern Rockies) is that these colors are not on the deciduous trees that we might be used to seeing them on, but rather on tundra brush. At this altitude the permafrost soil layer makes it difficult for trees to root, and instead the low brush thrives enabling vast panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.
Among the native brush are millions of edible berry plants, creating a bear paradise. The bears are anxiously hunting for berries this time of year in preparation for winter hibernation which was perfect for wildlife viewing. I have never seen as many bears (or ate as many blueberries) as I did on this trip which was both incredible and humbling since I knew I was no match for a bear in the wild. So I kept a safe distance while I promised myself that I would get a larger telephoto zoom and return to Alaska another fall.
These two bear shots were captured at a lower altitude where some mini evergreen trees still manage to grow. The most amazing bear encounter was with a mother and her two cubs pictured on the left. Unfortunately, the second cub didn’t become visible until they had wandered pretty far away. I say that with a heavy heart. There are few things more frustrating than having amazing wildlife photo opportunities fall in your lap and realize your “great camera lens” is out of it’s league. Still, I can’t complain because this trip was incredible, and I now have my new telephoto lens ready for my next Alaska trip!
The bears were amazing, but the animal that truly captures the spirit of Alaska is the moose. Luckily this time of year is also rut season, which is when male moose are gathering their female mates. This makes the moose more dangerous than normal but also extremely active. There were moose traffic jams everywhere!
Often viewed as awkward looking animals, I have had my love for the moose teased a bit over the years. To me there is something majestic about them that captures my full attention and awe. These large animals roam freely across the colorful tundra, towering over the rest of the wilderness. Both gentle and dangerous, they tend to mind their own but can easily hold their own in a confrontation. And who couldn’t love that face!
Yes, Alaska in the fall is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Between the colors of the tundra and the vast display of wildlife, it is hard to imagine anything better. I truly cannot wait to return (especially with my new camera lens), to once again enjoy and capture the rugged landscape.
I hope this got your travel bug going, if you have any questions about my trip to Alaska or you have a great story of your own, please share it in the comments below! I’d love to get some great ideas for my second Alaska trip sometime in the future.