Photo Credit: Moira Dunworth

It's hard to imagine a town more authentically Alaskan than Hoonah. Set west of Juneau in southeastern Alaska on gorgeous Chichagof Island - the fifth-largest island in America - Hoonah, population of 850, is home to the state's largest community of Tlingit people. Surrounding it all, you'll find steep coastal mountains and the vast wilderness of Tongass National Forest, along with fishing, kayaking, wilderness viewing, and wildlife.

Right in the middle of town, you'll find that authenticity on full display, thanks to local Tlingit carvers who create totem poles and happily share their culture. Then wander around town and check out the other totems and murals before dining on locally caught Dungeness crab, salmon, and halibut. In fact, almost everything is within walking distance - even a huge eagle's nest right across the street from the school (there were three eaglets in 2020!).

Then walk to Icy Strait Point, along a 1.5-mile-long walkway, taking in amazing views as you learn about the area's history and look for whales, sea lions, eagles, and seals. Drop by the renovated cannery museum to understand more about the area's history. And don't miss the world's largest continuous zip line down the mountain to the ocean's edge.

After, spend some time exploring the Tongass National Forest. Hike the Lower Suntaheen River Trail and Wukuklook Beach Trail, or go driving on more than 150 scenic miles of old logging roads (grab a map at the local U.S. Forest Service office). Look for wildlife like coastal brown bears - there are more here per square mile than anywhere else on earth! - as well as black-tail deer. You may want to take a guided tour to search for bears or charter a boat to go fishing or see massive humpback whales.

And, to really get back to nature, rent one of the rainforest cabins that the Forest Services manages. They don't have electricity or running water, but they're in ideal locations to enjoy an authentic wilderness experience.

Favorite Activities in Hoonah

  • Walk the docks and see commercial fishing boats and locals cleaning their catch.
  • Visit the Tlingit carvers and walk about to appreciate the totem poles in town.
  • Watch the eagles in the nest right across from the school.
  • Hire a local guide to take you whale watching, fishing, or kayaking.
  • Head out to Icy Strait Point, to explore the beach, shop, or hike the beautiful trails.

Getting Here

Traveling to Hoonah is part of the adventure. Visitors can fly from Juneau, just a 20-minute flight, for around $100. Alaska Seaplanes flies to Hoonah daily, weather-permitting. You may fly on a floatplane or land at the small airport. You can also arrange a charter flight to Hoonah. Another option is to come via the Alaska Marine Highway (3.5 hours on a direct route) with amazing views every minute of the journey. The one-way fare for a walk-on passenger is around $60; the ferry allows cars as well.