Official State of Alaska Vacation and Travel Information
Leaf it to Us. There’s something about crisp air and fall foliage that just begs you to head out into nature for long walks outside. In Alaska, autumn’s colorful pallet starts touching the northern tundra as early as mid-August, creating a carpet of scarlet red bearberry leaves mixed with white reindeer lichen. As the season progresses, the boreal forests of Interior and Southcentral Alaska start to peak in late August and early September, turning leaves on blueberry bushes bright red. Birch trees slide into a majestic yellow that stands out in stark contrast to the dark green of the spruce trees. By late September and into October, fall reaches along the Inside Passage. While the temperate rainforest is primarily green year-round, the Devils Club’s distinctive berries (called drupes) glow crimson in the undergrowth and deer cabbage provides stunning pops of yellow beneath the old growth Sitka spruce, hemlock, and red cedar.
Berry Good. If you look on hillsides in the fall, just above treeline, you may see little dots making their way uphill. On closer look…it could be bears, or – people! This is the time of year Alaskans head out to pick blueberries, serviceberries, crowberries, currents, low-bush cranberries, and high-bush cranberries. Berry picking is an Alaska fall tradition, with friends and families across the state gathering the fruits of summer sunshine for freezing and preserving for winter nights. If you’re visiting in fall, be sure to know your berries before you pick…some – such as the baneberry – can be poisonous! Best to stay on the safe side: keep an eye out for fresh treats or frozen delights made from wild Alaska berries served in restaurants and bakeries across the state.
Contrasting light and dark. Sunday, September 22, 2019 is the autumnal equinox, the day where the sun crosses south of the equator and heralds the change of seasons. On the first official day of fall, while much of the state still revels in 12 hours of daylength, the midnight sun is starting to give rise to the polar night. By November 19th, the sun won’t rise above the horizon in Utqiagvik (Barrow) until January 23, 2020. Never fear, however! We haven’t turned the lights off completely! Even during the longest nights above the Arctic Circle, beautiful pink, peach, and aqua twilight bathes the horizon in beautiful pastel hues for a few hours each day.
Color outside the lines. Starting in mid-August, look up into the clear night sky. You may see a faint green glow above the horizon. Shorter days and fall’s lengthening nights provide glimpses of the Aurora borealis. These waves of green and sometimes red northern lights dance across the sky. Bring your camera, tripod, and warmer clothes to see the greatest natural light show on earth. While potentially visible as far south as Ketchikan, the northern lights are typically most visible in Interior and Arctic Alaska.
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