A hike to the windy, northernmost point of Amaknak Island provides a good uphill workout, a peek into World War II history, and a breathtaking panoramic vista of the Bering Sea and the islands around you.
This same view motivated the military to choose Ulakta Head on Mount Ballyhoo for a coastal battery during the 1940s, to protect the nation from Japanese invasion. Back then, more than 100 buildings sprang up on the mountainside to form coastal defense Battery 402 and Fort Schwatka, which quartered 250 servicemen. Today Ulakta Head is part of the Aleutian World War II National Historic Area. Few of the buildings have withstood the test of time and Aleutian weather. Visitors can drive or walk to what does remain of Fort Schwatka and Battery 402, and can also hike further up to the peak of Mount Ballyhoo (1,634 feet).
Wildlife is abundant on Mount Ballyhoo, and you might see fox, ground squirrels, ptarmigan, eagles and ravens. On clear days in the summer, many locals and tourists walk or drive up to Ulakta Head to watch whales spout as they migrate through in search of food.
- Before you head up, get a recreational land use permit from the Ounalashka Corporation.
- The Ounalashka Corporation and the National Park Service have developed this informative self-guided tour booklet on Fort Schwatka. You can also get a copy at the World War II Visitors Center.
- Dress in layers, as fog or rain can roll in unexpectedly. It’s often windy at the top, so bring your windbreaker and hang on to your hat!
- Carry a basic day-pack and a quart of water.
- Bring binoculars for wildlife viewing.
- It may be tempting, but leave behind any “souvenirs,” including natural items (such as eagle feathers) and WWII relics. This is private property and a National Historic Area, so collecting is illegal.
- Pack out your own items, including trash.