Starting at the base of Ketchikan’s guardian mountain, Deer Mountain Trail is arguably the area’s most iconic hiking trail. It’s also easily accessible: While other trails require some driving, this one is relatively easy to reach without a vehicle (though you do have to trek up the steep Ketchikan Lakes Road on the way). The trail itself winds through old-growth rainforest up the mountainside, with two lookouts along the way to rest and enjoy the great view.
The trail, which ends at an elevation of 3,001 feet, is undeniably steep—but the payout is worth every step. Once you reach the top, you’ll be afforded breathtaking, bird’s-eye panoramic views of Ketchikan and the Tongass Narrows. If you hit the right season and a clear day, you might even see eagles soaring up and around above you at the mountaintop, catching the updraft under their wings.
Once you reach the top, you can follow the trail as it continues towards Blue Lake and, just a ways in, you can hook off to the Forest Service cabin tucked just below the ridge and spend a night or two. If you’re up for a real adventure, you can embark on the trail to Silvas; it’s a two-day trek for most that’s filled with even more epic views of the gorgeous Southeast Alaskan landscape.
In the summer, you might be lucky enough to catch the annual Deer Mountain Trail Run and join in with Ketchikan’s athletes as they race to the top. And if you happen to be in town on the first clear Saturday of the winter, you can see local Ketchikanites climb up to the ridgeline and set off a fireworks display that easily rivals any Fourth of July celebration. The bright white, red, and green lights illuminate the mountainside, reflecting off of the snow-covered ridge and creating a scene that’s become a favorite of local photographers.
Despite this trail’s level of difficulty, it’s a relatively safe hiking option. Most cell phones have service all the way to the top, and big predator wildlife sightings are few. Depending on the time of year, your scariest wildlife encounter is likely to be with the infamous no-see-ums or black flies. Bug spray is encouraged on warm, windless days.
Distance: 9.9 miles