Hiking the Resurrection Pass Trail

Wildlife
By Tom Reale
  |  Gorp.com
Scenery from the trail
Stunning scenery along the Ressurection Pass Trail

For my money, the prime attraction of the Resurrection Pass Trail is the wildlife. Here, in one relatively small part of south-central Alaska, you can find most of the "charismatic megafauna" that so many visitors come to the state to see, as well as numerous bird and small mammal species.

Moose abound in the spruce forests, and the mountainsides and high ridges are home to Dall sheep and mountain goats. Wolves, coyotes, lynx, and wolverine patrol the area, always on the lookout for their next meal. Eagles, hawks, falcons, and owls make their homes here — as do porcupines, marmots, ground and tree squirrels, waterfowl, and shorebirds. The open tundra areas and hillsides are home to one of the very few herds of caribou south of Denali National Park. And of course, there are bears.

Bear Encounters

The Kenai Peninsula is home to both black bears and grizzly bears, and while encounters are rare, it's best to be aware of bears whenever you're hiking in Alaska. The best way to deal with bear encounters is to not have them in the first place — so practice bear avoidance techniques.

If you're staying in the Forest Service cabins, keep your food inside, keep the door closed, and don't scatter leftovers around. If you're tent camping, your cooking site, tent, and food storage sites should be located at least 100 yards from one another. If camping near trees, put all your food and fragrant items such as toothpaste, insect repellent, and soap in plastic bags and hang them from a branch. Your cache should be well out of a bear's reach — 10 feet or more above the ground and far enough from the trunk that a bear climbing the tree can't reach it.

Given the chance, the vast majority of bears will avoid all contact with humans. They've got very good hearing and an almost supernatural sense of smell; if you warn them of your presence by making noise or by hiking with the wind at your back and allowing your scent to precede you, they'll be happy to clear out before you even know they're there. Talk, sing, ring bells, or clap your hands — whatever it takes to give plenty of advance warning of your presence.

If you spot a bear and he's far away and traveling in a direction that won't bring him near you, stay quiet, watch till he's out of sight, then go on.

If the bear is heading toward you, you'll either have to show yourself or vacate the area quietly. Never run from a bear! Grizzlies have been clocked at speeds near 35 miles an hour over short distances; there's no way you'll ever approach that speed, and running from a bear is liable to trigger a chase response.

Don't let the bear stuff deter you from trying this outstanding trail system — in the hundreds upon hundreds of hours I've spent on the trails, I can count bear sightings on one hand, and close encounters stand at zero. Be careful and aware — and enjoy this accessible yet wild chunk of Alaska.

Additional Resources

For a detailed look at bears and how to deal with them, get a copy of Bear Attacks: Their Causes & Avoidance by Stephen Herrero. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game also publishes a small pamphlet called "Bear Facts."

For a complete guide to the Resurrection Trail system, order a copy of The Resurrection Trail: A User's Guide by, ahem, me, from the Maps Place, 601 W. 36th Ave., Anchorage, AK 99503. Phone: (907) 563-6277; Fax: (907) 562-7334; E-mail: maps@alaska.net. Price is $15.95 + $6 S&H.;


Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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