Pinnell Mountain National Recreation Trail

Wildlife along the Trail

With its panoramic views and low, alpine vegetation, the Pinnell Mountain Trail offers ample opportunities for observing wildlife. For information on how to improve your chances of observing wildlife, see our wildlife viewing tips.

Sketch of caribou head with antlersCaribou (Rangifer tarandus). Until the 1960s the ridges of the Pinnell Mountain Trail lay on the main migration route of the Fortymile Caribou Herd, whose calving grounds were then located in the White Mountains. Travelers and biologists reported seeing hundreds of thousands of caribou crossing the Steese Highway near Eagle Summit. The herd no longer moves to the White Mountains for calving, but portions of the herd may visit the area in fall or winter. Small groups of caribou seen here during the summer are more likely resident members of the smaller White Mountains Caribou Herd, which numbers about 700 animals.

Caribou are unique in the deer family in that both females and males have antlers. Males shed their antlers after rut (breeding) while some pregnant females carry their antlers all winter and shed them in late spring. Caribou eat mostly lichens in winter, but their more varied summer diet includes willows, scrub birch, grasses, and sedges such as cottongrass. During annual migrations they travel between calving grounds and winter feeding areas. 

Marmot perched on a rock
Hoary marmot
Marmots. Hoary marmots (Marmota caligata) live in rock outcrops and rubble fields, including those around the North Fork Shelter Cabin. Marmots are social animals that live in colonies. When startled, they usually sound a loud whistle. Some marmots near the shelter cabins have already become habituated to people. Please do not make the situation worse by feeding them.

Pika. The northern or collared pika (Ochotona collaris) is a short-eared relative of the rabbit. Listen for its shrill chirp around rock slides or talus slopes. Consider yourself lucky if you see these highly alert animals.

Wolves, grizzly bears, and moose are occasionally seen along the trail.