Fall is a special time of year in Alaska. It’s not a long season, and it starts early. Even now, mid-August, it seems we’ve begun to make the transition from summer to winter. Alaskans are blessed in summer with nearly endless daylight, and we aim to make the most of it while we can. Alaskans are not known for sitting still during the summer. Still, while we are often loathe to welcome the coming darkness of winter, we still welcome the chance to slow down and rest, and take some time to appreciate the abundance of the season past—of summer’s daylight and its bounty of salmon, of berries, and of adventures.
So while it feels bittersweet to say goodbye to summer, fall brings its own benefits, and as Alaskans, we know we have only a few weeks to take advantage of its range of experiences. And if we’re lucky, we may get to experience them all.
Fall colors mostly happen close to the ground. The tundra takes on a burnished orange hue, the fireweed turns a fiery red, and the birches mellow into gold and drop their leaves in a hurry. The mountains start to sport termination dust on their peaks, framing everything with a shoulder of white, and of impending winter. The colors happen quickly, but if you can keep your eyes and your camera shutter open long enough, the views are vibrant, and rival those of the northeast.
Maybe it’s a little colder when you go camping in the fall. Maybe it’s a little rainier. But you know what it’s not? Buggier. Yes, that’s a word, and yes, there are fewer bugs in the fall, especially if temps have dropped to freezing for a night or two. So go camp next to the lake. Go take that hike through the meadow. Lounge at your campsite without a headnet. There may perhaps be a mosquito or two left, but the swarms have come and gone, and you can leave the bug spray until next year.
Easier Hiking and Better Views
Falling leaves mean broader views and fewer obstructions. Hiking and biking become a little easier when you don’t have to bushwhack your way past an overgrown trail, and when you get to the top, there’s no fluttering leaves, beautiful as they are at the height of summer, to block the view of the valley or the surrounding peaks. As the undergrowth dies back, wildlife becomes easier to spot, as moose and bear tower over the landscape and winter plumage and coats start to take over on animals that normally blend into the tundra.
As we move later into fall and toward winter, nights get longer and chances of seeing the Northern Lights increase. It helps if you stay up late (or get up early), but it doesn’t take the searing cold of midwinter to see the aurora, it just takes clear skies and darkness. Check the Aurora Forecast from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and and if you’re in Anchorage, try heading to one of these spots away from the city lights.
Don’t forget about late-run silver salmon, or the rainbow trout and dolly varden that follow them up the rivers. Or the berries that are still abundant above treeline, even when the ones on the valley floor are already overripe or have all been picked. There are plenty of adventures yet to come, even though summer is nearing its end.
Last year, we published a post about all of the fun festivals that happen this time of year. While they’re on hold for this year, perhaps they’ll help with planning for next year! Check out 4 Ways to Get Outside this Fall for more planning advice.
What’s your favorite thing to do outdoors in fall?