Chugach State Park
Often referred to as "Anchorage's playground," Chugach State Park offers premier outdoor activities and excellent wildlife viewing just minutes from downtown. The park encompasses a half-million acres of wilderness, making it the third largest state park in the country.
Moose may be seen along many of the park's trails, but a more predictable and convenient spot is the viewing platform at Glen Alps in fall and early winter. Dozens of moose are often seen below the platform and across the Campbell Creek Valley to the east. Both brown and black bears are also present in the park. Scan the subalpine mountain slopes in the spring and fall for them. They can be spotted digging up plants and ground squirrels on the hillsides. Look in muddy areas along the creeks for their tracks too! Wolves also live in the park but are seen less frequently. Use binoculars or spotting scopes to scan alpine areas for them.
While hiking, listen for the scurrying of arctic ground squirrels, picas, and the occasional hoary marmot found in alpine areas, particularly near rock piles. All three are adept at warning each other of your presence. Listen for the variety of squeaks and whistles that emerge from the rocks. If you sit and rest for a while, these small mammals often become active around you.
The park is also a good place to observe birds that frequent alpine tundra and subalpine shrub thickets. Willow ptarmigan, Alaska's state bird, as well as rock and white-tailed ptarmigan can be seen. Their classic croaking call "get back get back get back!" will tell you they're near. In winter, watch for the flight of hundreds of ravens that sleep in the mountain valleys and commute to the city each morning at sunrise, returning to their roosts an hour or so before nightfall.
Viewing and Safety Tips
Bears often eat new growth on south-facing slopes in May and June and berries on alpine tundra or subalpine berry patches during late summer or fall. If hiking in bear country, be watchful, make noise and hike in groups so as not to startle an unaware bear.
Voles, or "field mice," live underground in alpine and tundra habitat. Hikers may hear the chirps of singing voles. During fall, these rodents construct piles of grasses and plants near their burrows. Look for their grassy "tunnels" as one sign of activity.
Chugach State Park trailheads are a 20-minute drive from downtown Anchorage, Begin by choosing one of the main trailheads that make up the established system of routes: Prospect Heights, O'Malley, Upper Huffman, or Glen Alps Access, Take O'Malley Road leading east all the way up the hillside, Trailheads can be accessed from Hillside Drive at either Upper Huffman or Upper O'Malley roads. Follow the State Park signs. An excellent topographic map of the park and its trails is available at bookstores and sporting goods stores in Anchorage.