On a clear day, Mount Ballyhoo provides a panoramic view of the area, from the windy Aleutian skies to the rough waters of the Bering Sea below. Hikers love it. So did the U.S. military back in the 1940s, when the threat of enemy attack was a reality and a Pacific defense system was a critical part of the nation’s wartime strategy.

More than 100 buildings peppered the hillside here, making up U.S. Army Base Fort Schwatka and Battery 402. This coastal outpost was considered cutting edge for its time. The Battery’s position high on Ulakta Head gave lookouts a strategic view and its 8-inch, 21-ton guns boasted a range of 22 miles.

Underground bunkers disguised under layers of tundra, Quonset huts, cabanas, a recreation hall – even an officer’s club ­– were built within a year. Most are gone now, casualties of seven decades of Aleutian wind, rain and snow.

While the buildings have faded into the landscape, the panoramic view is the same. Hike around Ballyhoo and Ulakta Head today and it’s easy to imagine the lives of the 250 servicemen who were stationed here – their lonely hours in the damp, peering into the skyline and scanning the sea for enemy activity.

Before you explore, get a self-guided tour map at the World War II Visitor Center, and a land use permit from the Ounalashka Corporation (the property owner). Then, tread carefully and with caution. Steer away from cliffsides, which may be undercut, as well as the old underground tunnels, which have collapsed.

Getting There

Ulatka Drive
Unalaska, AK 99692

Ballyhoo is well known as a great local hike, and can be walked in an hour. It’s steep, but the views all along the route are magnificent. (Find the trailhead just past the airport along a dirt road). You can also rent a car and take Ballyhoo Road to Ulakta Drive. This is a switchback, gravel road first built in the early 1940s and then upgraded when Fort Schwatka and its surroundings became a National Park Historic Site in the mid-1990s.

Driving Directions

Prices & Dates

Best time to visit May - October