Pinnell Mountain National Recreation Trail

Plants of the Pinnell Mountain Trail

 Two hikers walking on the trail through tundra
 Staying on the trail helps protect fragile alpine tundra.
The Pinnell Mountain Trail is an ideal place to become acquainted with the treeless alpine tundra of northern Alaska.  The plant communities along the trail have been greatly influenced by the area's low precipitation, lengthy snow cover, strong winds, cold temperatures, high elevation, and northerly latitude.

Vegetation along the trail consists mainly of slow-growing, low plants interspersed with rocks. Shrubs you may see include blueberry, lowbush cranberry, alpine bearberry, and crowberry. Sedges, grasses, and lichen provide a dense carpet of groundcover. You will encounter dwarf birch and willow along the trail, but to see the spruces, aspens, and birches of the boreal forest you'll have to look down into the valleys below; the trail stays above timberline for its entire length.

Spectacular wildflowers are a highlight of hikes along the Pinnell Mountain Trail. Wildflowers usually begin to bloom by late May and reach their peak in late June. Depending on when you visit, many different species may be in bloom. Here are just a few of the wildflowers you will find along the trail.


 Alpine azalea in bloomAlpine azalea (Loiseleuria procumbens). Heath family. Forms mats of many light pink, five-petaled flowers.Frigid shooting starFrigid shooting star (Dodecatheon frigidum). Primrose family. Look for drooping, magenta flowers on short single-stalked plants with large basal leaves.
 Lapland cassiopeLapland cassiope  (Cassiope tetragona). Heath family. A dark green, dwarf shrub with scale-like leaves and white, bell-shaped flowers.Arctic sandwortArctic sandwort (Minuartia arctica). Pink family. Forms large mats of white, five-petaled flowers.
 BistortBistort (Polygonum bistorta). Buckwheat family. A spike of bright pink flowers on single stalks with long, pointed leaves.Mountain avens flowersMountain avens (Dryas octopetala). Rose family. Ground-hugging evergreen shrub with oblong, toothed, dark green leaves. Flowers have 8 to 10 creamy white petals around yellow centers.

Other wildflowers to watch for include moss campion, Arctic forget-me-not, roseroot, Parry's wallflower, lupine, purple mountain saxifrage, harebell, hairy lousewort, and purple oxytrope.