For many Alaskans, the summertime approaching means it’s time to start preparing for one of the most relaxing and enjoyable outdoor activities: berry picking. During the months of July and August, the berry picking season brings out Alaskan families in droves to their favorite spots throughout the state.
Alaskans are very fortunate to live in a place with incredibly rich flora and fauna, where spending time indoors is almost unthinkable when such wonders await outside. With almost 50 kinds of berries, the Last Frontier is a dream state for any jam and sweet pie lover: blueberries, raspberries and salmonberries are everywhere and they are outrageously delicious!
To prepare you for the berry picking season, we’ve prepared some tips and tricks to help you find your favorite fruits and stay safe on your trip. Read on.
Stay safe during berry picking
If you’ve never been berry picking in Alaska, there are several things you should learn first to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. While nature in Alaska is stunning, it is also wild and untamed, so it’s paramount that you take the necessary precautions before your berry picking trip.
Keep the bears away
You’re not the only one who finds berries delicious! Bears love snacking on blueberries and crowberries too, so you should make it a point to keep an eye out and make enough noise to keep these avid berry pickers away. It’s a good idea to wear bells or sing while you go near the bushes to avoid surprising any hungry bears looking for an afternoon snack.
Bring a berry identification guidebook
In addition to the vast array of edible berries in Alaska, there are many poisonous plants that can look very similar. Buy a guidebook with pictures of berries and berry-like plants, including their leaves for clear identification. There’s one thing you can know even without a book: avoid white berries at all costs!
Mind your surroundings
Most people go berry picking to relax and forget about every-day stress. However, this activity can be quite dangerous, since berry bushes can grow quite tall and hide uneven ground beneath. If you want to ensure a carefree experience and avoid serious injuries, make sure to watch your step while looking for your favorite berries.
The berries of Alaska: take your pick
Alaska offers a wide variety of berries, especially around the month of August. Bring your berry gathering basket and open the season by visiting your chosen picking spot. Here are some of the most popular types of berries to look for:
- Blueberries: packed full of antioxidants and healthy nutrients, wild blueberries are the ultimate Alaskan treat. Look for light grey-blue or those near black in color for the best sweetness and taste.
- Salmonberries: in early August, this raspberry look-alike is abundant throughout the state. While they come in red, orange and yellow, orange ones are usually the tastiest.
- Raspberries: although it’s not actually a true berry, the raspberry is beloved among Alaskans. Look for ones that are deep in color since they pack the most intense flavor.
- Crowberries: similar in appearance to blueberries, crowberries grow in alpine meadows and bogs and are extremely high in vitamin C. Due to their bland taste, they are usually sweetened and used for pies.
- Lingonberries: small, red and sweet, lingonberries are usually found low to the ground in thickets, woods, and tundra. They have a fine flavor and are high in antioxidants.
Where to find berries in Alaska
Finding a berry picking spot in Alaska is not really difficult, but some people like to keep their best locations secret! If you don’t already have your own picking spot, your best shot is to look out for roadsides packed with cars and groups of locals or tourists lurking among the shrubs.
Many popular types of berries thrive on hillsides and mountain slopes. Blueberries grow on low lying bushes, lingonberries can be found on the thick tundra carpet, while salmonberries love moist, sunny slopes.
Some of the popular berry picking spots among locals and tourists alike are Hatcher Pass, Denali State Park, Mount Alyeska, and Eklutna Lakeside Trail, among others. Choose your favorite location, prepare your family for the trip and start picking!
The berry picking obsession is on your doorstep
There’s no better time to be in Alaska than the summertime. Luckily, we won’t have to wait much longer to make jams, pies, juices, and liquors from our favorite berries since July and August are drawing nearer every day.
We just can’t wait for the berry picking season!