Things to Do in the Tongass National Forest

1. View the bears

The Tongass is one of the best places in the world to see coastal brown bears. Summer visitors regularly see both brown and black bears meandering around - sometimes on the street inside towns! But for the ultimate, mind-boggling encounter with coast brownies, visit Pack Creek on Admiralty Island, home to 1,5000 grizzlies, more than the grizzly population of the entire Lower 48 states. (The Tlingit name for Admiralty is "Kootznoowoo" or "Fortress of the Bears.") Other very productive bear viewing venues include the Anan Wildlife Observatory near Wrangell and Ketchikan, Margaret Creek (for black bears) near Ketchikan and Fish Creek outside of Hyder.

A black bear cub scrambles up some boulders to keep up with it's mother

A black bear cub scrambles to keep up with it's mother at the Anan Wildlife Observatory. Photo by Maria Jordison.

Salmon spawning in a river

Salmon are a treasured and vital part of life in Alaska. Photo by Jim Taylor.

2. Enjoy the spectacle of Pacific salmon

Just about every Tongass stream concentrates at least one of Alaska's five species of Pacific salmon, offering many chances to view fish converging on spawning beds in the timeless climax of their extraordinary live cycle. (Depending upon regulations, you'll find opportunities for bankside fishing too.) Check out our salmon viewing guides for sites near Juneau, Ketchikan and Sitka.

3. Take a marine tour

The Tongass centers on a productive inland sea - a 500-mile-long archipelago with more than 1,000 islands interconnected by countless channels, fiords and bays. There is no place in Alaska with better viewing of marine wildlife - humpback and killer whales, Steller sea lions, harbor seals, sea otters and Dall's porpoises. Most communities offer great choices for touring the ocean by boat. Some tour operators even guarantee a whale, or your money back! Seabirds like murres, aukets, puffins, cormorants and gulls thrive in these waters, too. Be sure to download a PDF listing of common marine birds.

A humpback whale jumping out of the water

A whale watching tour is sure to be a highlight of your Alaska vacation. Photo by Barbara Greninger.

A hiker soaks in the scenery atop Deer Mountain.

Soak in breathtaking views by taking a hike on Deer Mountain. Photo by Carlos Rojas.

4. Go hiking

Even a quick stroll through the drippy, mossy and cathedral-like space within the Tongass rain forest will feel otherworldly. Include a glacier overlook, a roaring waterfall, a coastal vista - or a heart-thumping scramble up the side of a mountain - and you'll feel like you're the hero in an old-time adventure movie. The forest offers 700 miles of trails, many directly accessible from towns and port stops. Top hikes include the challenging West Glacier or easier Nugget Falls trails in Juneau, the Deer Mountain and Rainbird trails in Ketchikan, and the Indian River Trail in Sitka.

Jim's Lake Cabin nestled in the woods next to Jim's Lake

Experience the adventure and bliss of the Alaskan wilderness by staying in a public use cabin.

5. Stay in a public use cabin or go camping

The Tongass is famous for its extensive network of public use cabins, often scenic log structures situated in stunning wilderness settings far from other people. Visitors can enjoy a comfortable night with ceiling and walls between them and the rain, bugs and bears. More than 100 different cabins can be rented from $45 to $75 per night. Most require boat or floatplane access, with advanced reservations recommended. A few can be reached by trails or roads connected to towns. You'll generally need to pack in necessary gear and supplies to be self-sufficient for your stay. Camping is also a prime activity, frequently with direct access to beachcombing and fishing.

6. Encounter the ice age

Glaciers and icefields - remnants of Alaska's vast Pleistocene ice sheets - dominate the high terrain of Tongass's coastal mountains and fiords, with dozens of tidewater glaciers spilling bergs and bits into the ocean, rivers and lakes. These flowing rivers of ice include some of the most active and spectacular glaciers in the world, and can be very easy to visit. First try the Mendenhall Glacier at the world-famous visitor center a short drive from downtown Juneau. Tour boats carry visitors from both Wrangell and Petersburg for up-close encounters with the LeConte Glacier, the southern-most tidewater glacier in North America, deep inside the Stikine-LeConte Wilderness. For a stupendous look at the terminus of the largest tidewater glacier on the continent, large ship cross-gulf cruises often pass Hubbard Glacier in Disenchantment Bay.

Mendenhall Glacier with an alpine glow and reflecting on the water

See the famous Mendenhall Glacier. Photo by Scott Johnson.

A group of people with headlamps exploring El Capitan Cave.

Explore the hidden depths of the El Capitan cave on a guided tour by the U.S. Forest Service. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service.

7. Soak in the hot springs

For a deep dip into Alaska's maritime vibe, the Tongass features a couple of coastal hot springs that can be visited, both situated in quirky enclaves in relatively remote locations. White Sulfur Springs centers on a public use cabin a short boat trip from the fishing outpost of Pelican, on the coast of Chichagof Island about 60 miles west of Juneau. For a venue inside a historic cannery hamlet, visit Tenakee Hot Springs. The community of Tenakee Springs is also on Chichagoff Island, about 50 miles southwest of Juneau by air and 140 miles by boat.

8. Spelunk into a limestone cave

Eons of 100-plus-inches of annual precipitation have dissolved countless caverns and sink holes from the limestone bedrock of Prince of Wales Island and several other islands located in the southern Tongass. With two miles of passages reaching deep underground, El Capitan Cave is Alaska's longest mapped cave, with an interpretive site and a two-hour guided tour (advance reservations required!) It's an adventure to reach the cave's location in the outpost of the Naukiti, a two-hour drive from Craig on the island's gravel road system. From Ketchikan, Kassan is about 33 miles by ferry, and Craig is a 60-mile-flight.

9. Explore a bona fide wilderness

The Tongass is huge! Why not focus your trip by visiting one of five of designated wilderness areas, often viewable from a boat or via a guided tour. In another state, each one of these might be a national park celebrated on the license plate.

  • Admiralty Island National Monument. Covering one million acres of old growth, alpine tundra and rugged coastline - and the highest concentration of brown bears in the world
  • Misty Fjords National Monument Wilderness. With more than 160 inches of rain per year, this 2.1 million acre wilderness is a foggy, mystical place, the deep fjords and shrouded mountains.
  • St. Lazaria Island Wildlife Refuge. This 65-acre island about 10 miles from Sitka has one of the remarkable concentration of nesting sea birds in the region, with tens of thousand of murres, cormorants, puffins, auklets, gulls, eagles and oystercatchers.
  • Stikine-LeConte Wilderness. Located on the mainland between Wrangell and Petersburg, this rugged 450,000 acre wilderness features the Stikine River, the fastest free-flowing river in the United States, and the LeConte Glacier, the most southern tidewater glacier in the Pacific.
  • Tracy Arm Fords Terror Wilderness. Containing two long, narrow saltwater arms that reach deep into rugged mountains toward ice and rock, this 653,000 acre wilderness can be accessed by boats and large vessels.
A lake with surrounding wilderness and snow capped mountains in the background on Admiralty Island

The majestic Admiralty Island. Photo by Mike Pederson.

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Things to Do

Day Tours & Attractions View All

Season: May 19 to Sep 10 $799+

Explore Alaska’s hid­den gems with cus­tomized flight­see­ing and back­coun­try adven­tures for small groups to fit your time­line from Juneau, Sit­ka, or Glac­i­er Bay Nation­al Park. Some options include bear view­ing, glac­i­er tours or hot spring adventures!

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.

On one of the run-off creeks from Achilles Moun­tain or Twin Peaks Moun­tain above pours a 100-foot or more water­fall right beside Ton­gass High­way towards the end of the road

Season: Late April-early October $147 per person 4 hrs

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

Season: Late April-early October $102 per person 3.5 hrs

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.

Season: Late April-early October $164 per person 4 hrs

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.

Season: Late April-early October $154 per person 3 hrs

Begin in down­town Sit­ka, where you’ll take a motor­ized, rigid-hull inflat­able on a 15- to 20-minute ride across beau­ti­ful Sit­ka Sound, with the mas­sive vol­cano Mt. Edge­cumbe pro­vid­ing a dra­mat­ic back­drop. Look for marine wildlife on your way to a unique float house in a small, pro­tect­ed bay where you’ll kayak across shim­mer­ing water.

Relax in some of Alaska’s hot springs, nat­u­ral­ly heat­ed by the earth below

Season: May 01 to Sep 30 $115+ 10 - 45 mins

Get a thrilling, bird’s‑eye view of Alaska’s snow-capped peaks, moun­tain lakes, water­falls, and more on an unfor­get­table heli­copter flight­see­ing tour from Ketchikan.

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.

Season: Jun 01 to Sep 08 $340 per person 5.5 hrs

Feel the tru­ly unique thrill of walk­ing on an ancient glac­i­er. This unfor­get­table expe­ri­ence begins with a canoe trip to the glac­i­er, where you’ll don cram­pons and explore the gor­geous blue ice…no expe­ri­ence required!

Season: Apr 01 to Sep 30 $159+ per person 3+ hrs

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.

Season: Apr 28 to Oct 06 $174 3.5 hours

Take time to enjoy the upper canopy of the Ton­gass Nation­al For­est on a zipline tour that offers the excite­ment of fly­ing through old-growth for­est, walk­ing across a sky-bridge, and a tea break to soak up the moment. Glide across 7 zips on this course locat­ed in the Eagle­crest Ski Area on Dou­glas Island and fin­ish up your tour with some axe throw­ing. It’s a blast for the whole family!

Season: Apr 27 to Sep 29 $339+ 80 minutes

Tak­ing a TEM­SCO heli­copter tour shows off the Gold Rush lands around Skag­way in a new light, reveal­ing gor­geous, glac­i­er-filled val­leys, tum­bling water­falls and peak after icy peak at the north end of the Juneau Ice­field. Then land on a remote glac­i­er for an excit­ing guid­ed jour­ney on ice that was formed thou­sands of years ago!

Difficulty: Moderate Distance: 5 miles Elevation Gain: 100 feet

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. 

Difficulty: Difficult Distance: 10 miles Elevation Gain: 1300 feet

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. 

Difficulty: Difficult Distance: 2 miles Elevation Gain: 170 feet

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. 

Season: May to September $200+ Fishing, $100 Wildlife Viewing 2 hours - Full Day

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.

Season: Mid-May to Mid-September $899+ 3 - 12 days

Sock­eye Cycle offers fab­u­lous­ly in-depth trips that stretch across the state, and even into Cana­da, and last any­where from 3 to 12 days. Cycling around Alas­ka is spe­cial in a few ways. The roads can some­times be quirky, and some­times a lit­tle more rugged than a fresh­ly paved road some­where else. But on the oth­er hand, you‘ll like­ly get the road to your­self, so you can relax and spend more time enjoy­ing the scenery. These mul­ti-day trips offer a  ...more

Season: Year Round
Day Trip, $500 per per hour | Multi-Day, $2800 per day (whole boat, up to 6 pax)
Cruise Ship Type: Small Ship Cruises
Ship Name: S/V Arcturus

This South­east Alas­ka-based tour oper­a­tor will leave you with a new def­i­n­i­tion of what it means to have a once-in-a-life­time Alas­ka cruise: You sail on an inti­mate ves­sel — often get­ting to steer your­self, under the super­vi­sion of an expe­ri­enced licensed cap­tain — while explor­ing away from the crowds, and get­ting a won­der­ful­ly up-close view of the wildlife and scenery. Sail­ings from Juneau and Sitka. 

Season: May 06 to Sep 09 $549+ 1.5 hrs

Hop on a TEM­SCO heli­copter for an Alaskan adven­ture com­bin­ing avi­a­tion, sled dogs and mas­sive glac­i­ers. Get an amaz­ing view of the gor­geous land­scape sur­round­ing Juneau, and then ride along as an ener­getic team of huskies tours you around the ancient, snow-packed Menden­hall glacier.

Season: May 03 to Aug 31

Get great views with some hands-on fun — com­bine a scenic flight­see­ing heli­copter tour with the exhil­a­ra­tion of dog mush­ing on a glac­i­er with a team of huskies! It’s easy to do — just go with North­Star Trekking on their Juneau Glac­i­er Dog Sled Adven­ture. You’ll fly over the Juneau Ice­field for about 35 min­utes and land in a sled camp on the snow-cov­ered mid­dle branch of the Nor­ris Glacier

Difficulty: Moderate

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

Difficulty: Easy Distance: 3 miles Elevation Gain: 150 feet

If you are look­ing for a short­ish in-town” trail, this trail begins at the back of a neigh­bor­hood and walks up a ser­vice road to a dam that over­looks a moun­tain-lake scene. 

Season: May - September $249+ Day Trips 6+ hrs

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!

Difficulty: Easy Elevation Gain: 450 feet

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. 

Season: May - September $119 3.75 hrs

Plen­ty of whale tours let you watch the orcas and hump­backs as they breach and spout from the water — but not many also let you eaves­drop on the big mam­mals’ con­ver­sa­tions. This 3.5‑hour tour out of Juneau is equipped with an ampli­fied hydrophone sys­tem; lis­ten to the whales under­wa­ter while enjoy­ing the lush rain­for­est views. Onboard the North Star — a 48-pas­sen­ger jet boat with large win­dows, an out­side view­ing deck, and a com­fort­able inside  ...more

Season: May - September $109+ 4 - 4.5 hrs

Take a spin through Juneau on a fun bike tour. It’s a great way to explore Alaska’s cap­i­tal city, with lots of scenery and his­to­ry along the way. Choose from one of sev­er­al options. There’s a bike and brew tour, which includes see­ing the Menden­hall Glac­i­er as well as a tast­ing of Alaskan beers. Or ride your bike out to Dou­glas Island for a tram ride, 1,800 feet up Mt. Roberts for some spec­tac­u­lar views. Or cus­tom design your own great bike trip  ...more

Season: May 01 to Sep 30 $61 2 hrs

Walk the fine line between folk­lore and gold fever. The Liarsville Camp, near Skag­way, was orig­i­nal­ly named after jour­nal­ists who came here dur­ing the Klondike Gold Rush and cooked up all man­ner of tall tales. The event begins with an all-you-can-eat feast in the for­est. Then explore the old trail camp and fin­ish off your day with a vis­it the Fan­cy Goods store. You can also have your pic­ture tak­en with one of the dance hall girls or the camp’s  ...more

Season: Apr 28 to Sep 30 $255+ 40 min - 3 hrs

Go with Wings Air­ways and you’ll take off from Juneau in a 10-pas­sen­ger DeHav­il­land Otter float­plane and get a lush view of the city as well as the sur­round­ing moun­tains and ice fields. Opt for a 40-minute flight see­ing tour, or book the Flight and Feast Tour,” which takes you to dine at a 1920’s lodge.

Season: Mid April - Late October $404-$534 3.25 - 5.25 hrs

North­star Trekking oper­ates out of Juneau and caters to all styles of explo­ration. The curi­ous glac­i­er observ­er can sim­ply fly to the glac­i­er and snap pho­tographs from flat or rolling ter­rain. You can also choose to hike on the glac­i­er itself. If you’re very adven­tur­ous, you can even learn how to climb on the ice walls. No mat­ter which option you choose, North­Star Trekking will guide you all the way, mak­ing sure you get the most out of this  ...more

Season: May 01 to Sep 30 $112 3.5 hours

Glac­i­erview Sea Kayak­ing with Alas­ka Trav­el Adven­tures offers the oppor­tu­ni­ty to kayak through Auke Bay while enjoy­ing views of Menden­hall Glac­i­er. You’ll also have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to see wildlife like whales, sea lions, seals, and bald eagles. Kayak­ing offers a much more inti­mate and qui­et expe­ri­ence than oth­er boat tours; at the same time, it is per­fect for trav­el­ers who want an adven­ture. And even if you’ve nev­er pad­dled a kayak before, a  ...more

Season: May 01 to Sep 30 $149 3.5 hrs

The focus of the 3.5‑hour Menden­hall Glac­i­er Float Trip is great views of the name­sake glac­i­er, which is 1.5 miles wide, 150 feet high, and the most famous part of the mas­sive Juneau Ice­field that even John Muir once raved about. Glide along the ice­berg-stud­ded lake and scope out the glac­i­er, get­ting up-close views of hang­ing glac­i­ers and tow­er­ing peaks. Keep an eye out for birds nest­ing in the rocky cliffs, as well as otters, seals, black  ...more

Season: Apr 19 to Sep 17 $319+ 2-3 hrs

A tour aboard a TEM­SCO heli­copter offers beau­ti­ful views of Alaska’s Cap­i­tal City, and up-close explo­ration of Menden­hall, one of the state’s most acces­si­ble glac­i­ers. Look out on alpine lakes, moraines, and crevass­es before you land and check out the Juneau Ice­field for yourself.

Season: Apr 27 to Sep 29 $74 Round Trip 45 mins one-way

Oper­at­ing from May to Sep­tem­ber, this pri­vate fer­ry ser­vice is the eas­i­est and fastest way to trav­el between Haines and Skag­way. The 45-minute ride pass­es through Taiya Inlet, a steep-walled rocky fjord just out­side of Skag­way, and then opens up to the Lynn Canal near Haines. As you ride, look for seals and sea lions, as well as hump­back, minke, and orca whales. Don’t for­get to look up from the water from time to time to check out the  ...more

Difficulty: Easy

Once you reach the Moun­tain House at the 1,800-foot lev­el of Mount Roberts, step onto trails that begin in a sub-alpine ecosys­tem and climb anoth­er 300 feet into the true alpine. With six­ty stair steps, a length of one-half mile and an ele­va­tion gain of just 150ft, the main trail will take you to open vis­tas, moun­tain val­leys, snow gul­lies, rocky ridges and stun­ning views of moun­tains in Glac­i­er Bay, British Colum­bia, the South­east Alaskan…  ...more

Season: Jun 04 to Oct 19 $130 2.5 – 2.75 hrs

Ride the rails on a real gold-rush era, nar­row-gauge rail­road from Skag­way into the heart of the Yukon. On the White Pass & Yukon Route Rail­road, you’ll have sev­er­al trip options, tak­ing you past glacial rivers, water­falls, and gorges for a real taste of wild Alas­ka. You’ll feel like you’ve gone back in time on this authen­tic train, as you climb 3,000 feet to scenic vis­tas and past apt­ly-named spots named Inspi­ra­tion Point and Dead Horse  ...more

Eagle­crest is one of the few com­mu­ni­ty-owned ski areas in the US — and the only one that can boast of being on an island, which gives it the unique perk of hav­ing ski slopes with ocean views. Whether you are a begin­ner look­ing to play in the snow, or a long­time ski­er or board­er, Eagle­crest makes a great all-ages win­ter play­ground. In sum­mer, enjoy hik­ing, moun­tain bik­ing, and berry picking. 

Difficulty: Easy Distance: 1 mile

Locat­ed in Menden­hall Wet­lands State Game Refuge, this trail is wheel­chair-acces­si­ble and close to the air­port. It has many oppor­tu­ni­ties for water­fowl and bird watch­ing. It is excel­lent­ly main­tained. This makes the trail a very easy hike. Many times you will see strollers, run­ners and bik­ers on this trail because it is paved. 

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: Easy Elevation Gain: 100 feet

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. 

Difficulty: Moderate Distance: 3 miles

The lake and glac­i­er are the pre­mier des­ti­na­tion for the thou­sands of cruise-ship tourists who vis­it Juneau, but they don’t ven­ture much beyond the vis­i­tor cen­ter and the short trails just out­side it, leav­ing the moun­tains above the cen­ter very qui­et in comparison. 

Difficulty: Easy Distance: 2 miles

This is a wheel­chair-acces­si­ble trail that fol­lows the Menden­hall Riv­er green­belt area, start­ing at Broth­er­hood Bridge off Glac­i­er Hwy. The name is Tlin­git for going back clear­wa­ter trail.” Expect a lot of traf­fic. The trail is 2‑miles long, paved, and pro­vides one of the great views of Menden­hall Glac­i­er, begin­ning at the Broth­er­hood Bridge trail­head. In mid-sum­mer, over a flat field of iris and fire­weed, the Menden­hall ris­es between…  ...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. 

Difficulty: Moderate Distance: 3 miles

The path to the Per­se­ver­ance trail­head, Basin Road, show­cas­es a dra­mat­ic change from urban to wilder­ness, lead­ing from down­town Juneau to a spec­tac­u­lar canyon. At the end of it is where Per­se­ver­ance Trail begins, and this for­mer rail line (named for the mine it once ser­viced) quick­ly climbs up above the Gold Creek val­ley. There’s plen­ty to see along the way, includ­ing old mine shafts that blow cool winds, and a stretch of trail where the  ...more

This bear view­ing spot is a bit unusu­al because it attracts only black bears. A short 26-mile float­plane or boat ride from Ketchikan brings you to a dock where you’ll then walk 1.5 miles to the view­ing plat­form. You’ll see up to 10 black bears feast­ing on fish near the fish ladder.

Difficulty: Difficult Distance: 3 miles Elevation Gain: 1500 feet

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. 

Difficulty: Easy Distance: 1 mile

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. 

Difficulty: Difficult Distance: 5 miles Elevation Gain: 2600 feet

Deer Moun­tain is Ketchikan’s icon­ic back­drop. The path briefly threads between res­i­den­tial lots, then turns to a rocky trail that quick­ly ascends. On the way up there are mul­ti­ple scenic overlooks. 

This 12-mile glac­i­er is part of Ton­gass Nation­al For­est and its vis­i­tors’ cen­ter is just a half mile from the glacier’s face. Once dubbed the Auk Glac­i­er by John Muir (after a mem­ber of the Tlin­git tribe), 

One of two tide­wa­ter glac­i­ers at the head of Tra­cy Arm, South Sawyer Glac­i­er extends deep under­wa­ter and makes for a very blue ice­berg. It is the larg­er of the two glac­i­ers, and if con­di­tions are good you can come with­in 12 mile of the face. Check for moun­tain goats at the base of the glac­i­er. Just fifty miles south­east of Juneau, this glac­i­er is not one to miss! 

Season: May 01 to Sep 30 $22+

Nalu means wave” in Hawai­ian, and the Glac­i­er Nalu Camp­ground Resort com­bines the stun­ning scenery of Alas­ka with the relaxed atmos­phere of Hawaii. Whether you’re trav­el­ing by RV or tent camp­ing, this spa­cious, 12.5‑acre park — sur­round­ed by large spruce trees with a creek run­ning through it — is per­fect for cou­ples or fam­i­lies who want to expe­ri­ence out­door living.

In the town that boasts of being the Alaskan salmon cap­i­tal of the world, here’s where you can see the salmon in action — hun­dreds of thou­sands come through every sum­mer. This spot, right next the library and at the end of Creek Street, offers a prime view of the crowds of salmon on their way to spawn.

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Parks & Trails View All

Difficulty: Moderate Distance: 5 miles Elevation Gain: 100 feet

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. 

Eagle­crest is one of the few com­mu­ni­ty-owned ski areas in the US — and the only one that can boast of being on an island, which gives it the unique perk of hav­ing ski slopes with ocean views. Whether you are a begin­ner look­ing to play in the snow, or a long­time ski­er or board­er, Eagle­crest makes a great all-ages win­ter play­ground. In sum­mer, enjoy hik­ing, moun­tain bik­ing, and berry picking. 

On one of the run-off creeks from Achilles Moun­tain or Twin Peaks Moun­tain above pours a 100-foot or more water­fall right beside Ton­gass High­way towards the end of the road

Difficulty: Easy Distance: 1 mile

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. 

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: 3 miles

The lake and glac­i­er are the pre­mier des­ti­na­tion for the thou­sands of cruise-ship tourists who vis­it Juneau, but they don’t ven­ture much beyond the vis­i­tor cen­ter and the short trails just out­side it, leav­ing the moun­tains above the cen­ter very qui­et in comparison. 

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: Easy

Once you reach the Moun­tain House at the 1,800-foot lev­el of Mount Roberts, step onto trails that begin in a sub-alpine ecosys­tem and climb anoth­er 300 feet into the true alpine. With six­ty stair steps, a length of one-half mile and an ele­va­tion gain of just 150ft, the main trail will take you to open vis­tas, moun­tain val­leys, snow gul­lies, rocky ridges and stun­ning views of moun­tains in Glac­i­er Bay, British Colum­bia, the South­east Alaskan…  ...more

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.

Difficulty: Moderate Distance: 3 miles

The path to the Per­se­ver­ance trail­head, Basin Road, show­cas­es a dra­mat­ic change from urban to wilder­ness, lead­ing from down­town Juneau to a spec­tac­u­lar canyon. At the end of it is where Per­se­ver­ance Trail begins, and this for­mer rail line (named for the mine it once ser­viced) quick­ly climbs up above the Gold Creek val­ley. There’s plen­ty to see along the way, includ­ing old mine shafts that blow cool winds, and a stretch of trail where the  ...more

Difficulty: Difficult Distance: 3 miles Elevation Gain: 1500 feet

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. 

Difficulty: Easy Elevation Gain: 450 feet

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. 

Difficulty: Difficult Distance: 2 miles Elevation Gain: 170 feet

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. 

Difficulty: Moderate

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

Difficulty: Easy Elevation Gain: 100 feet

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. 

Difficulty: Difficult Distance: 5 miles Elevation Gain: 2600 feet

Deer Moun­tain is Ketchikan’s icon­ic back­drop. The path briefly threads between res­i­den­tial lots, then turns to a rocky trail that quick­ly ascends. On the way up there are mul­ti­ple scenic overlooks. 

Difficulty: Easy Distance: 3 miles Elevation Gain: 150 feet

If you are look­ing for a short­ish in-town” trail, this trail begins at the back of a neigh­bor­hood and walks up a ser­vice road to a dam that over­looks a moun­tain-lake scene. 

Difficulty: Difficult Distance: 10 miles Elevation Gain: 1300 feet

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. 

Difficulty: Easy Distance: 1 mile

Locat­ed in Menden­hall Wet­lands State Game Refuge, this trail is wheel­chair-acces­si­ble and close to the air­port. It has many oppor­tu­ni­ties for water­fowl and bird watch­ing. It is excel­lent­ly main­tained. This makes the trail a very easy hike. Many times you will see strollers, run­ners and bik­ers on this trail because it is paved. 

Difficulty: Easy Distance: 2 miles

This is a wheel­chair-acces­si­ble trail that fol­lows the Menden­hall Riv­er green­belt area, start­ing at Broth­er­hood Bridge off Glac­i­er Hwy. The name is Tlin­git for going back clear­wa­ter trail.” Expect a lot of traf­fic. The trail is 2‑miles long, paved, and pro­vides one of the great views of Menden­hall Glac­i­er, begin­ning at the Broth­er­hood Bridge trail­head. In mid-sum­mer, over a flat field of iris and fire­weed, the Menden­hall ris­es between…  ...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. 

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