The Albert Loop Trail at the Eagle River Nature Center closed for the season Friday.
"The salmon are back and there are bears in the area," said Tom Harrison, Chugach State Park superintendent.
The closure does not affect other trails accessed from the center, including the Iditarod/Crow Pass Trail, the Rodak Loop and viewing platforms, or the Dew Mound Trail, he said.
The park closes the Albert Loop Trail every year in late summer. Black and brown bears and their cubs are drawn to the area by the arrival of spawning salmon and the convenience provided by human infrastructure. The State Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation said the bears use bridges on the trail as fishing platforms. They use nearby beaver dams for the same purpose. Adjacent brush and trees supply cover for the bears lurking in the area.
There have been no bear-human incidents reported in the Albert Loop vicinity. "There's been a lot of sign," Harrison said. "But so far no abnormal behavior that we know of, either on the part of people or bears."
Signs indicating closure are posted and gates across the trail will be closed. The Albert Loop Trail is expected to remain closed until the arrival of winter sends bears into hibernation.
For those looking for a comparably easy trail out of the Eagle River Nature Center, Harrison suggested the Dew Mound trail as "a nice alternative."
Harrison also said that a portion of the Hillside trail system between the Upper Huffman and Glen Alps trail heads had reopened after being closed earlier this year.
"There was a bear sitting on a moose kill for a while," he said, but the bear and its food are no longer a threat.
Park officials caution that, even on apparently bear-free trails in Alaska, people should take precautions. "Be prepared to encounter a bear and be knowledgeable in recognizing bear behavior and responding to an encounter," the Parks and Recreation Division said.
Reach Mike Dunham at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By MIKE DUNHAM
Anchorage Daily News