After this two-mile hike, you can honestly say you’ve trekked around South America: the Aleutian version, that is. Look at a map of the area, and you’ll see a familiar geographic shape at the south end of Amaknak Island. It looks just like a small version of South America. That’s how Little South America, or “LSA,” got its name. The moniker goes back at least to World War II, when the area was also known as Hill 400 or Bunker Hill. You’ll hear it referenced locally by any of these names today.
The hike around LSA is a flat, short walkabout. It’s great when you don’t have a lot of time, since it’s close by the airport and cruise ship docks and you can take in many dimensions of this historic fishing town in just an hour. Watch boats coming and going, look for whales, spot a wide variety of birds (including puffins nesting in the cliffs), walk the beaches, search the tidepools, and talk with locals who might be out on the same stroll or enjoying a beach party.
The west side of LSA is a favorite location for whale watching, especially at Glass Beach. Humpbacks tend to feed in the protected waters of Captains Bay in late summer and early fall. You might also spot orca, sea lions…or even orca chasing sea lions! In between marine mammal sightings, search in the rocks and sand for specimens of colorful beach glass, which often washes up with the tide here.
Going on toward the south side of the island, you might stumble upon a beach party. Locals like to come here to recreate – making bonfires or just enjoying the view. You’ll also find the gate to Bunker Hill Road. During World War II, this area served as a lookout, with 15mm guns emplaced at the top of Hill 400 and several tunnels built into the hill. A warehouse/recreation hall and Base End Station were also constructed here by Navy Seabees in 1942 and 1943. Hike up the hill to check out what’s left, and take in the 360-degree view of the entire area.
Coming around to the east side of LSA brings you to Carl E. Moses small boat harbor, built in 2011. Watch the fishing action up close, as boats come in and out from the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands. If you’re in town in late June, you might even spot racers running by in the two-mile Summer Solstice Classic (you might want to give it a try yourself!).
The northern side of LSA, along Airport Road, offers paved bike/walking trails with interpretive signs and benches along the route. As the link between Amaknak and Unalaska Island, this is a busy area that provides more opportunity for seeing Unalaska people on the go.
- Bring a camera for photos.
- Bring binoculars for wildlife viewing.
- Be sure to purchase a land use permit from the Ounalashka Corporation before exploring.·
- It may be tempting, but leave behind any “souvenirs,” including natural items (such as eagle feathers) and WWII relics.