Sitka Parks & Trails

You’ll be hard pressed to find a town in Alaska with as many hiking options as Sitka. Alpine hikes, self-guided naturalist walks, city trails, historic walks: Sitka has it all. And it was recently featured as one of America’s towns for running trails in the magazine “Canadian Runner.”

As proud residents point out, this isn’t an accident. The extensive trail system is part of a plan by Sitka Trail Works, a nonprofit dedicated to creating and improving trails around the town. The group works with landowners and government agencies to ensure access to and development of trails. Their first project, in the late 1990s, used recently laid-off workers from the local mill to improve trails. The group’s goals include building 16 new hiking trails and reconstructing 14 more. Most of the new and improved trails adjacent to the road system are finished; a multi-day, hut-to-hut overnight backpacking loop will soon be added.

So get out and enjoy the many well-maintained local trails. Because they’re so well-used, bear encounters are rare. Instead, bears generally use game trails, avoiding the high-traffic trail areas. Still, it’s smart to make some noise, consider carrying bear spray, and look for trailhead signs alerting hikers to any bear sightings.

There are also shuttle rides out to the trails if you plan to hike on your own.

· Hank’s Taxi and Tour Service (907) 747-8888

· 738-Taxi (907) 738-8294

Show Map

Sitka Hiking Trails

Difficulty: Easy Distance: 5 miles

Close to town on mod­er­ate ter­rain, this trail is a pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion for locals and trav­el­ers and is used for every­thing from fam­i­ly walks to trail runs. The trail fol­lows the turquoise blue Indi­an Riv­er up through the val­ley to a water­fall. This river­side ter­rain makes it a good place to look for birds and oth­er wildlife like deer. In late sum­mer, the riv­er fills with salmon (though fish­ing is pro­hib­it­ed). The bears have their own trail on  ...more

Difficulty: Moderate Distance: 6 miles

This is a beau­ti­ful hike in June and July, when the alpine wild­flow­ers are at their peak. But it’s a beau­ti­ful hike any­time, because the views from up top — fac­ing Mount Edge­cumbe and over­look­ing Sit­ka Sound — are awe­some. There are two ways up this moun­tain: a big climb or a big drive. 

Sit­ka was Alaska’s first offi­cial Bike-Friend­ly Com­mu­ni­ty, and it shows. Bike lanes and racks abound. Besides 14 miles of paved roads, there are many moun­tain bik­ing trails, and even a new, sin­gle-track route of the inti­mate expe­ri­ence of rid­ing through old-growth forest.

Difficulty: Moderate

If you’re here on a sun­ny day, you know this peak — it’s the dom­i­nant, gen­tle vol­cano that fills the view to the west. And intre­pid hik­ers can walk all the way to the top. The trail is about 10 miles west of Sit­ka and is only acces­si­ble by boat, so you’ll have to char­ter a boat and be com­fort­able with wilder­ness hiking. 

Difficulty: Easy

Over­look­ing the East­ern Chan­nel, this park is designed for whale watch­ing, with 3 cov­ered view­ing shel­ters, pub­lic-use binoc­u­lars, and 11 inter­pre­tive signs. Learn about whales’ feed­ing habits, migra­tions, and biol­o­gy while walk­ing the boardwalk.

Difficulty: Easy Distance: 1 mile

This is a pop­u­lar trail for cyclists, fam­i­lies, and swim­mers! Yep, on sun­ny days this is one of the warmer spots to take a dip. That’s because the small lakes warm up in the sum­mer (relatively…if you’re from Flori­da you might dis­agree). The trail can be accessed using pub­lic trans­port, and cyclists can even mount their bike on the bus. A local bike shop does a tour here, and if you come back down Blue Lake Road there are some fun, steep…  ...more

Difficulty: Easy

This is a great, easy walk that can be linked to the For­est and Muskeg Trail and Mos­qui­to Cove Trail. The board­walk trail trav­els through a rich tide­lands ecosys­tem, where you’ll find good bird watch­ing for shore and seabirds. You may even spot bears, who show up here to feed on young grass­es in ear­ly sum­mer and return in mid-July to the end of Sep­tem­ber for the pink and sil­ver salmon runs. The U.S. For­est Ser­vice man­ages the area, and the…  ...more

Difficulty: Difficult

One of the newest trails in Sit­ka, this beau­ti­ful hike fol­lows a creek, pass­es sev­er­al water­falls, and takes you through old-growth for­est. It’s quite pop­u­lar, and you’ll find the Her­ring Cove park­ing area crowd­ed on the week­ends. It’s also great for fam­i­lies, despite being a lit­tle steep at points, thanks to fun trail fea­tures and fish­ing plat­forms at a lake stocked with grayling. The trail — made from grav­el, rock steps, and…  ...more

Difficulty: Easy

This is one of the pret­ti­est trails for a vis­i­tor who’s not a big hik­er. It’s an inter­pre­tive trail with a self-guid­ed brochure, and you’ll trav­el through prime exam­ples of the dom­i­nant for­est ecosys­tems in the area: for­est and muskeg. Learn about these ecolo­gies while walk­ing a gen­tly slop­ing trail of grav­el and board­walk. One of the best ways to enjoy this trail is to park at Old Sit­ka State Park locat­ed just ½‑mile north of the Ferry…  ...more

Difficulty: Easy

If you’re look­ing for a nice day along the water­front with the fam­i­ly, this is the spot. Watch fish­ing boats come and go, have a pic­nic at one of the cov­ered shel­ters, or go tide­pool­ing with the kids. At low tide you can access Mag­ic Island and look for sea crea­tures. A nice one-mile loop trail winds through the park — it’s a good place to stretch your legs. And there’s an inter­est­ing mod­ern totem pole, carved by Tom­my Joseph in remem­brance of…  ...more

Difficulty: Easy

Once the admin­is­tra­tive head­quar­ters for an empire stretch­ing from Asia to Cal­i­for­nia and Hawaii, Cas­tle Hill today is lit­tle more than a grassy hill with a few inter­pre­tive signs, a mod­est stonewall, sev­er­al old can­nons, and a few flag­poles. But when you vis­it the top of this hill, you’re stand­ing on rich his­toric grounds.

Difficulty: Easy Distance: 1 mile

Arrange a water taxi ride to this man made arch­i­pel­ago extend­ing into Sit­ka Sound, a rel­ic of decay­ing for­ti­fi­ca­tions built to defend Alas­ka from for­eign inva­sion dur­ing World War II. Dur­ing World War II, Sit­ka was the hub of mil­i­tary activ­i­ty in South­east Alas­ka, with a U.S. Naval Air Sta­tion and oth­er installations.

Difficulty: Easy Distance: 7 miles

This trail is close to town and starts on a flood­plain. The Cross trail inter­sects Gavan Hill Trail at mile 1 then leads throough thick trees. Anoth­er off-shoot trail leads to Sit­ka High School. The next part of the trail is an old log­ging road and comes out behind the base­ball field. The trail ends short­ly thereafter.

Difficulty: Moderate Distance: 1 mile

This pop­u­lar trail is well suit­ed for fam­i­ly out­ings. It leads through stunt­ed forests to a board­walked sec­tion of the trail near Beaver Lake. Once you have reached the lake, there is a boat avail­able for pub­lic use. This is a great place to take the kids and keep an eye open for grayling in the lake. It was peri­od­i­cal­ly stocked with grayling between 1986 and 1991

Difficulty: Difficult

This is a big climb: you’ll gain 2,550 feet en route to the sum­mit. And you can con­tin­ue along an alpine ridge to the next sum­mit (about one hour), Arrow­head, which sits at 3,300 feet! If you make it to these peaks, you’ll be reward­ed with big views and a beau­ti­ful alpine envi­ron­ment. And the trail can be accessed via pub­lic transport. 

Difficulty: Easy

This beau­ti­ful trail is part of an exten­sive local sys­tem of trails and board­walks. It’s pop­u­lar with locals and state fer­ry trav­el­ers, since it can be linked via trail to the fer­ry ter­mi­nal, the For­est and Muskeg Trail, and the Estu­ary Life Trail. 

Difficulty: Easy

You won’t find any old build­ings here, but there are great inter­pre­tive signs and numer­ous hik­ing trails at this state park. And it’s an impor­tant place — the site of the first Russ­ian set­tle­ment on Bara­nof Island.

Difficulty: Easy Distance: 1 mile

Start­ing at the Nation­al Park Ser­vice Vis­i­tor Cen­ter, this trail sys­tem takes you through rich coastal for­est and along a salmon stream, then opens to views of the shore­line and coastal moun­tains. It also trav­els past totem poles and memo­r­i­al sites, includ­ing that of the 1804 Bat­tle of Sit­ka. The last armed con­flict with the Tlin­gits in Sit­ka and the begin­ning of Russ­ian rule, this bat­tle is memo­ri­al­ized with a plaque installed in 2011. Park…  ...more

Difficulty: Difficult Distance: 6 miles

Start­ing from the Bara­nof Street trail­head, it’s about 2 miles up to 2,400 feet! That’s steep — steep enough to make for a chal­leng­ing race, the Alpine Adven­ture Run, which coin­cides with an annu­al meet­ing of spe­cial­ists in the sports med­i­cine field. The trail starts eas­i­ly, with a raised board­walk that takes you through open mead­ows and then a for­est of big hem­lock and spruce to a steep trail, with stairs and steps. You can climb this for 1.6…  ...more

Difficulty: Difficult

Har­bor Moun­tain Trail­head can take you to the sum­mit of Har­bor Moun­tain, but you have to dri­ve up to 1,800 feet. This road was orig­i­nal­ly built dur­ing World War II to pro­vide access for mil­i­tary instal­la­tions. Be care­ful: the road is in decent shape, but it’s nar­row. From the trailhead/​parking area, the trail fol­lows a ridge with great views in all direc­tions. It’s had recent upgrades, so it’s easy to fol­low and there are rock bench­es and…  ...more

[{"slug":"sitka","title":"Sitka"},{"slug":"tongass-national-forest","title":"Tongass National Forest"}]

Explore Further

Expert Advice