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The Chugach Mountains are a great legion of peaks rising dramatically from sea level, taking the brunt of winter storms and collecting staggering amounts of snow.
They collect a staggering amount of snow, which can complicate hiking during the spring and into the summer as it very slowly melts into slush and soggy soil.
On Bird Ridge, however, southern exposure and persistent winds make it melt out faster than most places.
According to Chugach State Park, this is typically the first snow-free hike in the spring (clear by mid or late May), and enjoys the earliest wildflower displays.
The trail remains popular through summer and fall––always a crowd-pleaser for the phenomenal views earned early in the hike.
It can be done all winter as well, by those prepared for icy conditions. The trail starts among lush foliage but snakes its way above treeline in just a few hundred feet.
Then it punches straight up the ridge crest with panoramas on either side.
There are some very steep and rocky sections, and maybe some mud, but for the most part the footing is secure. The environment higher on the ridge is alpine tundra, where grass and lichen grow thick despite the harsh winds.
By late spring the carpet of green is flecked with colors of wildflowers, and in autumn the whole mountain shifts to shades of orange and red.
This tundra is the grazing habitat of dall sheep, which you may see at any time of year if you're lucky. As the well-worn path continues to forge upward, you'll get ever-expanding views over peaks and valleys of the Chugach Range, plus the ocean in Turnagain Arm below.
The top of the trail is called Bird Ridge Point, which is about 3500 feet above sea level.
There's no reason you have to go all the way there to get a good experience, but the point makes the turnaround for those determined to reach the top. Sources: https://www.alaska.org/detail/bird-ridge-trail http://dnr.alaska.gov/parks/maps/birdridgetrailguide.pdf