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 a 20 minute walk from downtown (or a 5 minute drive), 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 islands beyond. Come on a Thursday in summer and you may catch an evening sailboat race followed by a brilliant sunset. In fact, Rainbird is one of the best locations to watch the sun sink low behind the mountains, illuminating the edges of town and the water in brilliant oranges, reds, pinks, and golds.
The original 0.6-mile trail was renovated as part of the UAS Rainbird Trailhead Improvement project in 2010. This cleaned up the overgrown northern end from the overpass to the UAS–Ketchikan campus, making it more accessible to the community.
Once you ascend the metal stairs on either end of the overpass and up the mountainside, the trail levels out and allows you a leisurely stroll through old growth rainforest. Despite occasional noises drifting up from the town, the forest’s protective cover gives you the sense that you’ve stumbled a true slice of the Alaskan wilderness. Midway through the trail, the forest opens up and you may hear calls from the ravens that occasionally alight on the branches of Sitka spruce. And take some time to enjoy the salmonberries and redcaps that grow on the southernmost and northernmost portions of the trail—they’re a delicious mid-summer treat!