The Top Things To Do In Ketchikan
Whether you're cruising Alaska's Inside Passage and Ketchikan is your port of call, or you're flying in and visiting independently, these are the top experiences in Ketchikan.
Cruisers often have time for one or two excursions while in port. Independent travelers can easily find enough activities to spend several days!
1. View Totem Poles
Admire beautiful works of art and Alaskan Native culture like this at Totem Bight State Park. Check out the world’s largest collection of 19th-century totem poles—and learn their rich history and meaning—at the Totem Heritage Center. Want to see more of these unique carvings? Head to Totem Bight State Park, located on the ocean north of town, or go just south of town to Saxman Totem Park.
2. Creek Street & Explore Town
Get insights into the town’s natural and cultural treasures at the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center, full of interactive exhibits and displays, along with a movie theater. Lighthouse lovers will want to check out the 100-year-old Guard Island Lighthouse, which you can see from the North Tongass Highway or a charter boat. Then duck into fun shops as you stroll Creek Street Boardwalk, home to the town’s red-light district until the 1950s.
3. Go Flightseeing to See Ketchikan From Above
With fjords, forests, waterfalls, lakes, and much more, flightseeing in Ketchikan makes for an unforgettable outing, whether you choose to do it in an airplane or helicopter.
4. Get on (or in) the Water - Fish, Kayak Cruise, or Snorkel!
Anglers will love Ketchikan, known as the “Salmon Capital of the World.” Go out on one of the many fishing charters to cast for these famous Alaskan fish.
On a sea kayaking tour, you can explore the waters on a 3- or 5-hour excursion. Or, head off in a zodiac (they way the locals get around!), or a small sightseeing boat and explore the gorgeous, dynamic scenery and wildlife around Ketchikan.
Or, don a wetsuit, mask, fins and snorkel and get an up-close look at the sea creatures of the 49th state: urchins, sea stars, crabs, sea cucumbers. It will be the most unique experience you have in Alaska.
5. Hiking & ATV Tours
Ketchikan sits on the fabled Inside Passage and is surrounded by old-growth forest; in other words, it’s the perfect place to find scenic views and lush woods. See it all on a Jeep or ATV tour, where you’ll be driving around old logging roads. Another option: a guided hiking trip, which you can combine with biking or kayaking, making for the ultimate Ketchikan adventure. If you’re more of a DIY traveler, pick a hiking trail and set off! You’ll find a wealth of views and wildlife around the area.
6. See Bears, Eagles & More
One of the best places in Southeast Alaska to see black bears fishing for salmon is right here in Ketchikan. Take a floatplane or a van to experience this iconic natural sighting and come away with Instagram gold.
Those delicious salmon also attract a large, year-round population of bald eagles (the area is sometimes called the “eagle capital of America”); here’s where to see them. You’ll find other wildlife as well—some of those creatures live in Ketchikan’s cool Rainforest Sanctuary.
Ketchikan Day Tours & Attractions View All
Ketchikan is known as the “salmon capital of the world,” and this uniquely personal tour is your chance to angle for these iconic Alaskan fish — as well as huge halibut. You’ll board an intimate fishing boat — complete with top-quality fishing and rain gear, as well as heaters, snacks, and beverages — close to the Ketchikan cruise terminal. And, since this is a private charter, it will be only your group on board!
Spend a few hours or a whole day of unforgettable angling on a scenic tour with this family-run charter fishing company in Ketchikan, a town world-famous for its fishing. Ideal for cruise ship passengers or any visitor to town looking for an amazing fishing experience.
Explore the gorgeous, dynamic scenery and wildlife around Ketchikan by getting out on the water in a low-impact Zodiac — an authentically Alaskan way to travel! Every expedition is different as there’s flexibility for some spontaneity. You can spend extra time in a place if there’s a magical, National Geographic-type moment happening!
Experience kayaking in Alaska the way it should be — away from the crowds — with these unique Ketchikan paddling tours that make you feel like a true explorer. Your small group (usually just 4 people) will board the company’s comfortable boat and set off from the Ketchikan cruise-ship dock, leaving the big ships and the crowds behind. Choose from a 3‑hour tour, or 5‑hour kayak and hike tour.
Alaska invites contemplation and reflection. Experience the quiet side of Ketchikan on a guided walk through dense stands of cedar and spruce to a rural ocean beach. Here you can connect with the land and sea through activities such as creative writing, meditation or tai chi.
Drive your own jeep along private logging roads that wind up into the mountains, on your way to an alpine lake. Paddle across the shimmering lake to a shoreline camp for a delicious snack over an open fire. Enjoy some storytelling, then go on a short nature walk through a beautiful old-growth forest.
Board a rigid-hull inflatable boat for a 20-minute ride out to a secluded island. Weave through a series of small islands with massive cliffs that rise hundreds of feet out of the ocean, check out active bald eagle nests and look for sea lions and seabird rookeries along the way. Once at the island, you’ll climb out on the beach, break out into smaller groups, and set off on a stunning hike on a boardwalk that snakes through the rainforest. ...more
Don a wetsuit, mask, fins and snorkel and get an up-close look at the unique sea creatures of the 49th state: urchins, sea stars, crabs, sea cucumbers, and…what’s that…a humpback whale swimming nearby?! This is the magic of snorkeling in Alaska — a singular experience that you can only do in the waters around Ketchikan. No experience? No problem.
Paddle all around a shimmering lake, looking for wildlife on the shore and reveling in the spectacular mountain views that surround you. Then stop off at a shoreline camp to enjoy a snack over an open fire. When you’re finished, you’ll go on a short walk through a dramatic old-growth forest.
Baranof Fishing Excursions offers classic Alaska fishing experiences from their private marina in downtown Ketchikan. They provide everything you need from rubber boots to expert guides, for an extraordinary fishing adventure!
Ketchikan Parks & Trails View All
If you are a lover of alpine, stunning views, and longer, more challenging hikes, then this all-day, one-way mountain traverse between Carlanna Lake and Perseverance Lake is the perfect choice.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This hike offers a nice wide-open space experience and is not very long. Much like hiking the access road to Lower Silvis Lake, the Whitman Trail is another service road to two dams that generate electricity for Ketchikan residents and was recently made available for hiking and recreation; however, no motorized vehicles are permitted. Informative signs are posted on a fence gate up the road and on both dams.
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 ...more
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.
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.
The drive out to the Dude Mountain trailhead is one of the most scenic drives that Ketchikan has to offer. The trail begins winding through lush rainforest. The last part is steep and can be muddy in wet weather or covered in snow in spring and fall.
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.
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.
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.