This is a popular weekend hike if you want to spend two-to-four hours in the Tongass National Forest and is only about 15-20 minutes north of town. Though you gain elevation on the hike up to the lake, it is not unforgivingly steep. Perseverance Lake is one of Ketchikan’s picturesque mountain-lake scenes.
Located in the Tongass National Forest, Ward Creek is wide enough to drive a truck down, though no vehicles are permitted, and is popular with the locals for walking dogs. Across the road from the Ward Lake Recreation Area parking lot, trailhead 1 takes you north and follows Ward Creek, which flows out of Connell Lake, by the Last Chance campground, and through Ward Lake to eventually meet the ocean in Ward Cove.
Running just above and parallel to Ketchikan’s Third Avenue Bypass, Rainbird Trail is perfect if you only have a couple hours but still want to experience a small piece of Southeast Alaska’s rainforest. The trailhead is only 20 minutes from downtown (a short drive relative to most other trails), and the trail’s southern end—just beyond the top of the metal stairs—offers great views of downtown Ketchikan, the Tongass Narrows, and the neighboring islands beyond.
Settlers Cove State Recreation Site offers two of the best sandy beaches to be found in the Ketchikan area and provides pit toilets and sheltered and unsheltered picnic tables with fire grates. A campground with eight campsites is available as well and one public-use cabin on the water that can be rented.
Leaving from the end of Tongass Highway, enter the Lunch Creek Trail and very soon take the trail to the left as this steps you quickly down to a waterfall viewing platform and then the rest of the way down to where, to the right, you can also cross the Lunch Creek bridge, which provides waterfall views as well as the ocean where the creek flows into.
The one-mile gravel trail to Coast Guard Beach winds through Ketchikan Gateway Borough land and then crosses into Alaska Mental Health Trust Land. Mostly the trail descends to the beach; however, a few hills do rise along the way. This beach is a good place for walking, sunbathing, beachcombing, photography, writing, reading, meditation, tai-chi, just sitting, marine-life viewing, and dog swimming.
Connell Lake is a good choice if you want a trail that is less popular but just as close to town as the Perseverance trail. The rocky, dirt path gently climbs through the rainforest canopy and hugs the shoreline of the lake. On the other side is a nice flat area that the creek bows around, creating a small peninsula. A fire-pit indicates that this is a preferred spot to spend some time or camp.
If you want to get away and don’t have a boat or a plane, this is as far away north one can easily get from Ketchikan. The trail ends at the headwaters of Lunch Creek—the shores of Lake Emery Tobin, which is surrounded by a rim of steep mountainsides often capped with snow ridges and peaks.
The mostly-flat Ward Lake trail follows the circumference of the lake’s shore in a swath of gravel that is wide enough for two people to walk abreast. Ward Lake is tucked into the edge of the Tongass National Forest boundary. Its proximity to town makes the recreation area popular with the locals.
Refuge Cove State Recreation Site is a sliver of land lining part of an edge of a neighborhood and is a popular beach picnicking destination with the locals. The site comes complete with pit toilets, sheltered and unsheltered picnic tables with fire grates, and a quarter-mile trail accompanied by interpretive signs that address the local natural history.
Hear shrieks and squeals of excitement as kids wade around in tidepools with their buckets finding all manner of critters – eels, bullheads, snails, hermit crabs, sea urchins, sea anemones, starfish, blimmies (eeltype fish), small octopus, eelgrass, clams, mollusks, and kelps.