Things To Do In Ketchikan
1. Learn All About Totems
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. 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. 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.
Another option is to fly high above the temperate rainforest on a zipline tour; choose from eight different courses!
4. Take to the Water
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. Or just wander down to Ketchikan’s waterfront to check out the world’s 12th-busiest fishing port.
If you’re more interested in paddling, take a sea kayaking tour, where you can explore the famous Inside Passage on a 3- or 5-hour excursion.
5. Traverse the Backcountry
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. Spot Wildlife
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
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.
You’ll find out why Ketchikan is famous for salmon with Captain Jared of Rainy Day Charters. Leave the cruise ship crowds behind for an authentic Alaskan experience, surrounded by water, wilderness and wildlife. It’s a perfect excursion for a half-day in port, even better if you have more time to fill your entire box with fish.
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
This exhilarating tour puts you in a rugged Tomcar for a back country ATV adventure over 10 miles of old logging roads through the Tongass National Forest. The off-road excitement is matched by amazing views as you navigate twist and turns, motor easily up hills, and splash through epic potholes. It’s sheer fun for the whole family. Get Dirty!
Bike 5 miles alongside a 100-year-old water flume, surrounded by the gorgeous Tongass National Forest, to a salmon-spawning stream at Ward Creek. After a delicious snack, hike about ¾‑mile, following a boardwalk up into the forest. You’ll learn all about the plants that thrive in this unique environment.
Fly through the upper stories of a temperate rainforest in this thrilling zipline adventure. Two exciting courses, each with 8 zips, are located within the Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary – home to spawning salmon, bald eagles, and black bear! Whether you’re a newbie or an old hand, this is the ultimate location for a zipping good time.
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.
Fly through dramatically beautiful landscapes in a DeHavilland floatplane for an iconic Alaskan experience. In this 2‑hour adventure, you’ll visit Misty Fjords National Monument, where glaciers carved out the land 17,000 years ago. See an untouched world of deep fjords, lush green forest and sparkling lakes. Experience a water landing and venture out onto the floats to take in the beauty – and peacefulness – of remote Alaska.
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.
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.
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!
The lush green Tongass National Forest stretches out below as you take a classic Alaskan floatplane ride to Neets Bay, one of the best places in Southeast Alaska to see black bears fishing for salmon. This 3‑hour trip packs in spectacular flightseeing, a nature walk, and the chance to watch bears in their natural habitat.
Just outside Ketchikan, the Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary promises a close-up view of old-growth forest, salmon habitat, an historic lumber mill, totem carving, raptor exhibits, and chances to see black bear and other wildlife – all in under 3 hours! There’s no better introduction to Alaska’s Southeast than this showcase of ecology, wildlife, history and Native culture.
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!
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 is black bear country, and just outside town you can see them in their favorite summertime activity – fishing for protein-rich Alaska salmon. A walking tour through the lush foliage of the Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary reveals prime salmon habitat, a certain attraction for hungry bears. Wait and watch for this apex species in action – pouncing on fish, teaching cubs, and chasing each other to the feasting grounds.
Ketchikan Parks & Trails View All
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.