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 miles up to 2,200 feet. Or if you aren’t up for that, go halfway. At 1,200 feet there’s a small platform with great views of town, the surrounding waters, and the volcanic peak of Mount Edgecumbe. Turn around from here, or go big and get to the alpine. (The trail was rebuilt in 2010 and is easy to follow.) The peak is about ¾-mile, with an altitude of 2,400 feet. Another ¾-mile takes you to the Harbor Mt. Shelter cabin. From the cabin it’s another 1-½ to 2 hours to get to the parking lot at the top of Harbor Mt. Road. Cell phone coverage is very spotty; the Sitka Fire Department will check out a VHF radio to you on a first-come, first-served basis. If you want to make the through-hike, you need to arrange transportation down Harbor MT road with a cab company. Make sure to look for bald eagles and ravens—they catch the drafts off these alpine ridges. Watch the weather on this hike; if it’s clear on top, go for it. If the peaks are wreathed with clouds or it’s rainy, windy conditions on the ridge can get a poorly-dressed hiker into exposure trouble very quickly.
The Big Hike