Ketchikan is a beautiful Alaskan city that is rich in natural beauty as it’s nestled against the Inside Passage. Everything from the snowcapped mountains to the glacier-carved wilderness will make it seem as if it’s an image off a postcard. Adventure-seekers will love all the wilderness and wildlife they’ll come across in the gorgeous city - it’s famous for kayaking, hiking, and various other outdoor activities.
1.Misty Fjords National Monument
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Misty Fjords National Monument is a breathtaking destination composed of snowcapped peaks, steep fjords, blue glacial lakes, sea cliffs, rock walls, and towering waterfalls. It is the largest wilderness in Alaska’s national forests and the second largest in the United States. The natural mosaic is absolutely breathtaking, and the view is worth going through the dense rainforests and misty slopes that surround it. The granite monument extends over 2.3 million acres across the Tongass National Forest and there are extraordinary canals and other waterways you’ll come across during your exploration. Be sure to visit some of the preserve’s most picturesque areas such as Rudyerd Bay, Punchbowl Cove, and Walker Cove.
3031 Tongass Ave, Ketchikan, AK 99901, Phone: 907-225-2148
2.Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary
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For an educational and fun outdoor adventure for the entire family, head to the Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary. The unique experience lets you see a more in-depth side to the 40-acre rainforest reserve while coming across the diverse flora and fauna that reside within it. The walking tour will put you up close and personal with the lush grassy wetlands, creeks overflowing with salmon, and animals such as eagles, seals, and bears. There are many activities along the way too; you can try your hand at crossing suspension bridges, axe throwing, or ziplining. Other things you’re able to see and do at the sanctuary include visiting a historical Alaskan sawmill, exploring the Alaska Raptor Center’s aviary exhibits, and observing a native master totem pole carver at work.
116 Wood Rd, Ketchikan, AK 99901, Phone: 907-225-5503
3.Southeast Alaska Discovery Center
© Southeast Alaska Discovery Center
Located in downtown Ketchikan, the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center is a great place to visit at the start of your trip as it’s filled with so much information about the unique natural and cultural history of the area. You’ll get a better understanding of the land and its people with exhibits that will enable you to visit a recreated native fishing village or take a walk through a lush rainforest. The friendly Forest Service rangers are professional and are more than happy to answer your questions as you go on your guided walk. Other aspects include enjoying a film in their theater or letting the little ones have a go at being Junior Rangers.
50 Main St, Ketchikan, AK 99901, Phone: 907-228-6220
4.Totem Bight State Historical Park
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The origin of Totem Bight State Historical Park came long before the park was actually established; in the early 1900s, many Natives Alaskans were forced to move out of their settlements in search of work because of the non-native settlements that had come in and refused to barter. Over 30 years later, these abandoned villages and totem poles had become eroded by the weather and overgrown by their forest surrounding. The US Forest Service initiated a program that enabled skilled older carvers to not only help repair or duplicate the totem poles, but also teach their skills to young artisans so that the tradition could continue. Many of those you’ll see at the park today will either be restored originals or exact replicas made with the same handmade tools and natural paints that were originally used.
9883 N Tongass Hwy, Ketchikan, AK 99901
5.Tongass National Forest
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At 16.7 million acres and covering most of Southeast Alaska, Tongass National Forest is the largest national forest in the US. Hundreds of nature lovers, adventure seekers, birdwatchers, wildlife enthusiasts, and photographers flock to the forest every year to view the stunning flora and fauna that fills it. You can stroll along the boardwalk trails, go hiking, relax in the remote cabins scattered throughout the forest, take a dog sled ride on a glacier, or go fishing in one of the most thriving salmon streams. Immerse yourself in Native Alaskan culture at Southeast Alaska Discovery Center, view the bears in their natural habitat in the Pack Creek Brown Bear Viewing Area, or get a rare glimpse of eagles at the Anan Wildlife Observatory.
Southeast Alaska Discovery Center: 50 Main Street, Ketchikan, AK 99901, Phone: 907-228-6220
6.Deer Mountain Trail
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Deer Mountain Trail is an extremely difficult trail in Ketchikan that is great for seasoned adventurers who have experience with hiking in similar conditions. The trail is over 2.75 miles one way, and can take anywhere from 3.5 to 4 hours. You will reach elevations of over 2,600 feet and it should be noted that the weather on Deer Mountain is unpredictable and snow persists well into the summer. While some small sections of the trail are gravel, wooden stairs, or boardwalk, most of it is a narrow, natural tread. The trail ends at Deer Mountain Shelter, where you can decide on whether you want to relax and head back, spend the night (on a first-come, first-served basis), or continue on to Silvis Lakes traverse.
7.Totem Heritage Center
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The Totem Heritage Center was founded in 1976 as a way of preserving, sharing, and teaching the artistic traditions of the Haida, Tlingit, and Tsimshian peoples. The center houses the world’s largest collection of unrestored 19th century totem poles, many of which were recovered from uninhabited settlements in Old Kasaan, Tongass Island, and Village Island. You’ll be able to see several totem poles that are on permanent display at the museum and learn from the knowledgeable staff and interpretive panels about the cultural traditions and historical value behind them. In addition to the totem poles, there are also other artifacts such as masks, carvings, photographs, regalia, and baskets on display.
601 Deermount St, Ketchikan, AK 99901, Phone: 907-225-5900
8.Potlatch Totem Park
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Potlatch Totem Park is an extensive educational center where visitors of all ages can familiarize themselves with Tlingit culture and history. The privately owned park is built on an old fishing ground and preserves and celebrates this ancient Native Alaskan craft. Visitors will go through five different clan houses, each of which showcases dioramas filled with information on the area’s tribes, hand-carved and colored to portray the way families lived in the communal setting. The park also has the Carving Center, where you can watch resident carvers practice this ancient art, learn about their unique tools and techniques, and even give it a try yourself.
9809 Totem Bight Road, Ketchikan, AK 99901, Phone: 907-225-4445
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No visit to Ketchikan is complete without a visit to Creek Street, which is actually a boardwalk mounted on a slope beside Ketchikan Creek. The boardwalk is filled with unique shops, cafés, restaurants, and some of the best salmon-viewing spots in the area. It’s listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and is famed for having been Ketchikan’s red light district up till the 1950s. Many of the attractions you’ll come across commemorate that part of their past, including the Dolly’s House brothel, which has since been converted into a museum. Take your time when strolling the lovely stretch and enjoy all the local art and culture while you’re there.
10.Saxman Native Village
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Saxman Native Village is one of the must-visit totem pole parks in Ketchikan as it has the largest collection of standing totem poles in the world. There are 25 totem poles to see, all of which are authentic replicas of original poles found in villages abandoned by Native Alaskans. You can tour the open-air park on your own or join a guided tour to learn more about each pole’s history. In addition to the totem poles, the village is also home to an on-site clan house and a carving shed where you may be able to see native carvers work on projects using traditional techniques and tools. Another fun thing to do while there is witness the native dancing exhibition, which is performed at specific times throughout the day.
2706 South Tongass Hwy, Ketchikan, AK 99901
11.Dolly's House Museum
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Creek Street was once Ketchikan’s thriving red light district, filled with people who were looking for a good time in the form of hard liquor and female companionship. As the brothels were shut down one after the other, the last one to remain was Dolly’s House, named after the dollhouse-like appearance of its exterior. Years after it was permanently shut down in 1954, the house was converted into a museum so that visitors could get a sneak peek into Ketchikan’s rambunctious past. Inside, you’ll be able to see several photos of Dolly, much of the original decor, and even the “secret closet” in her bedrooms, where she hid contraband liquor during Prohibition. The museum is a great way to experience an edgy aspect of the town’s history and shouldn’t be missed.
24 Creek Street, Ketchikan, AK 99901, Phone: 907-225-6329
12.Ketchikan Rainbird Trail
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There are many hiking opportunities in Ketchikan, and if you’re looking for a short-distance trail perfect for a day hike, then head to the Ketchikan Rainbird Trail. The 1.3-mile trail is well-maintained and easy to follow. It has a moderate level of difficulty and the terrain varies from wooden stair steps and gravel to stone stairs and tree roots. It shouldn’t take you more than an hour to get from the head of the trail to the end, and along the way you’ll get to see towering trees in the rainforest and gorgeous views of the city below. The trail is fairly easy to follow, but if you are unfamiliar with the territory or would like additional peace of mind, you can pick up a free personal locator beacon from the Ketchikan Visitors Information Center, with which you can activate a distress signal and send your GPS location to their Rescue Squad.
2600 7th Ave, Ketchikan, AK 99901
13.Tongass Historical Museum
© Tongass Historical Museum
The Tongass Historical Museum is a wonderful space for visitors to learn about Ketchikan’s past and the role the city played as a Native Alaskan fish camp, fishing port, gold and copper mining center, timber town, transportation hub, and much more. You’ll be able to see rare artifacts and historical photographs, which come together to tell the story of how the area has transformed over the years; the museum also has a growing collection of modern Native Alaskan art. There are many permanent and temporary exhibitions pertaining to the history, art, and culture of Ketchikan for you to enjoy as well as several related programs, workshops, and special events.
629 Dock St, Ketchikan, AK 99901, Phone: 907-225-5600
14.Chief Johnson Totem Pole
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The original Chief Johnson Totem Pole was raised in 1901 by Tlingit Chief Johnson in honor of the Kadjuk House on the Raven Clan. The totem pole was restored by native carvers in the early 1940s and was eventually moved to the Totem Heritage Center for preservation. The totem pole that you see today is an exact replica of the original, which was carved by Israel Shotridge and raised in 1989. Visitors should definitely stop by and view the structure as it is a prime example of Native Alaskan totem pole carving and gives a unique look into the land’s history.
Totem Way, Ketchikan, AK 99901
© Salmon Market
Centrally located right in the middle of Ketchikan’s Main Street, the Salmon Market is where locals and visitors go to get all of their authentic Alaskan food products. There are so many things offered at the market, like salmon jerky, gourmet canned smoked salmon, salmon fillets, caviar, reindeer sausage, spreads, and several flavors of Alaskan jams and jellies. The friendly staff will help you find something just right for you or a delicious treat you can take back as a souvenir for friends and family. To entertain the half a million people who go there annually, the Salmon Market offers a wildlife eagle show, has a separate souvenir shop, and invites many local artists to perform on their patio.
200 Main St, Ketchikan, AK 99901
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Rotary Beach, also known as Bugge Beach, has been attracting locals and visitors for a fun-filled day since 1925. There are not many alternative beaches in Ketchikan due to the combination of cold temperatures and distracting sea life such as seals and salmon. Rotary Beach, on the other hand, has a cement causeway that allows tidewaters to come in and warm up in a protected pond – making it the perfect place for families to spend a day in the water. You can swim while enjoying scenic views of Nichol’s Passage, enjoy a hot dog from Tatsudas, bring your own picnic, or sit around a firepit as the sun sets.
3550 S Tongass Hwy, Ketchikan, AK 99901
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17.Scanlon Gallery Arctic Spirit
© Scanlon Gallery Arctic Spirit
Scanlon Gallery Arctic Spirit has housed Southeast Alaska’s largest collection of fine art since 1972. Residents and visitors flock to the gallery to view and purchase the works of several artists that the gallery has identified for their remarkable range of vision and talent. Whether you are looking to purchase original paintings, sculptures, carvings, fine art prints, posters, or fine art books, you’ll find it at Scanlon Gallery. Please keep in mind that their inventory is constantly evolving and that arts can range in price from one end of the spectrum to the other.
318 Mission Street, Ketchikan, AK 99901, Phone: 907-247-4730
18.Knudson Cove Marina
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Ketchikan is often called “the salmon capital of the world” and you’ll see why with a visit to Knudson Cove Marina. The full-service marina can be found nestled into the stunning Tongass National Forest and has everything you need for a day out on the waters. You can use their fuel station if you’re bringing your own boat, rent a boat for a DIY fishing trip, or arrange for guided charter fishing. There’s also a tackle shop and a fully stocked liquor store so you have everything you need for your day trip. And then, once you’re all packed and ready to go, you won’t really have to go far as many visitors catch 30 to 50-pound king salmon just minutes from the dock!
407 Knudson Cove Rd, Ketchikan, AK 99901, Phone: 907-247-8500
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19.Main Street Gallery (Ketchikan Area Arts and Humanities)
© Main Street Gallery (Ketchikan Area Arts and Humanities)
The Main Street Gallery is a community gallery that is dedicated to artist development. They host ten exhibits each year of works in various mediums and these can be solo, group, or open-call shows. The first Friday of each exhibiting month is the gallery’s show opening and visitors are invited to enjoy the complimentary reception with new art and refreshments and can also meet the artists. At these shows, you’ll come across the works of many local and national artists as well as traveling exhibits, so be sure to stop by and see what’s on display.
330 Main St, Ketchikan, AK 99901, Phone: 907-225-2211
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20.Guard Island Lighthouse
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Guard Island Lighthouse was first constructed in 1904 as a 34-foot wooden tower, which deteriorated soon after due to harsh weather conditions. The dilapidated tower was replaced in 1924 by a single-story tower made out of reinforced concrete. The lighthouse was a guiding light for many fishermen, as the area had previously destroyed countless vessels with its dense fog and shallow inlets. Today, visitors can see the structure, which has since then been added to the National Register of Historic Places. It is a marvelous sight to see and an important aspect of Ketchikan’s history.
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21.Ketchikan Kayak Co.
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The Ketchikan Kayak Company has been operating high-end, small-group ecotours in Ketchikan’s Inside Passage since 2003. The exceptional guided kayaking tour lasts 4 hours and takes you through downtown Ketchikan, into Knudson Cove Marina, and on to the protected ocean waterways of Clover Pass. During your trip, you may be able to see resident sea lions and seals, a bald eagle’s nest, humpback whales, orcas, and many types of migratory birds. In addition to the fun and educational tours, Ketchikan Kayak Co. now also offers hikes and electric-assist bicycle tours so you can enjoy the land’s extensive wilderness during your trip.
540 Water St #303, Ketchikan, AK 99901, Phone: 907-225-1272
22.Bering Sea Crab Fishermen's Tour
© Bering Sea Crab Fishermen's Tour
The Bering Sea Crab Fishermen’s Tour is perfect for visitors who want to get out on the Alaskan waters and see why the state is so famed for its fishing. The tour lasts around 3 hours and includes waterproof jackets and complimentary tea, coffee, and hot chocolate. You’ll be cruising through the protected waters of the Inside Passage and will be able to see firsthand the crew pulling up the catch. Be prepared to catch a glimpse of some mysterious creatures from the depths of the sea, which you can photograph before they are released back into the water. During the tour, you’ll also learn all about the history of Alaska’s fisheries, the fishing vessel, and the Alaskan wildlife you may come across such as bald eagles, seals, and bears. Phone: 888-239-3816
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23.George Inlet Crab Feast
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The George Inlet Crab Feast is somewhat of a tradition when you visit Ketchikan. The event consists of eating as much steaming hot Dungeness crab as your stomach can hold, starting with a homemade salad and ending with a delicious slice of cheesecake smothered in Alaskan blueberries. The meal is housed in the rustic and elegant George Inlet Lodge, which was once a cannery bunkhouse that was relocated from a location 90 miles away. If you’re too stuffed to move, you can just book a room and stay the night! The feast is one of the best ways to try out the delicious crab cuisine that everyone in Alaska knows and loves.
11728 S Tongass Hwy, Ketchikan, AK 99901, Phone: 907-225-6077
24.Alaska Fish House
© Alaska Fish House
Alaska Fish House is a popular choice for people who are craving fresh Alaskan seafood. The gourmet seafood dining experience sits at the end of Main Street, next to one of the most historic fishing fleets in Ketchikan. While you decide on what you want, the friendly and professional service staff will bring you a complimentary sample of smoked salmon cornbread that will excite your taste buds. Some of the popular entree options you should consider while there include the halibut and chips, grilled salmon, and their famous smoked salmon chowder. They have several live musical performances scheduled, so you can enjoy local artists while you have your meal.
3 Salmon Landing, Ketchikan, AK 99901, Phone: 907-247-4055
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25.Bar Harbor Restaurant
© Bar Harbor Restaurant
The Bar Harbor Restaurant is renowned by residents and visitors alike and is often considered one of Ketchikan’s finest dining experiences. They offer a rare chance to enjoy their delicious cuisine on their deck, which overlooks Bar Harbor. It’s a unique opportunity to be able to see the boats come in and out of the harbor as you enjoy freshly prepared meals that are full of flavor. The menu includes many Alaskan specialties, which rotate depending on what is in season. Popular choices on their menu are the perfectly marbled ribeye steak, the seared ahi tuna, and the New Zealand rack of lamb. There’s no better way to end a dining experience at Bar Harbor Restaurant than with their famous bread pudding with rum sauce.
2813 Tongass Avenue, Ketchikan, AK 99901, Phone: 907-277-4321
25 Best Things to Do in Ketchikan, Alaska
- Misty Fjords National Monument, Photo: Courtesy of dani3315 - Fotolia.com
- Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary, Photo: Courtesy of Eugene Kalenkovich - Fotolia.com
- Southeast Alaska Discovery Center, Photo: Southeast Alaska Discovery Center
- Totem Bight State Historical Park, Photo: Courtesy of Scott Griessel - Fotolia.com
- Tongass National Forest, Photo: Courtesy of adfoto - Fotolia.com
- Deer Mountain Trail, Photo: Courtesy of Refocus Photography - Fotolia.com
- Totem Heritage Center, Photo: Courtesy of FRANK FLAVIN - Fotolia.com
- Potlatch Totem Park, Photo: Courtesy of Savanah Plank - Fotolia.com
- Creek Street, Photo: Courtesy of emperorcosar - Fotolia.com
- Saxman Native Village, Photo: Courtesy of Alysta - Fotolia.com
- Dolly's House Museum, Photo: Courtesy of emperorcosar - Fotolia.com
- Ketchikan Rainbird Trail, Photo: Courtesy of Nenad Basic - Fotolia.com
- Tongass Historical Museum, Photo: Tongass Historical Museum
- Chief Johnson Totem Pole, Photo: Courtesy of Alysta - Fotolia.com
- Salmon Market, Photo: Salmon Market
- Rotary Beach, Photo: Courtesy of Christopher - Fotolia.com
- Scanlon Gallery Arctic Spirit, Photo: Scanlon Gallery Arctic Spirit
- Knudson Cove Marina, Photo: Courtesy of Terri - Fotolia.com
- Main Street Gallery (Ketchikan Area Arts and Humanities), Photo: Main Street Gallery (Ketchikan Area Arts and Humanities)
- Guard Island Lighthouse, Photo: Courtesy of korionov - Fotolia.com
- Ketchikan Kayak Co., Photo: Courtesy of MIRACLE MOMENTS - Fotolia.com
- Bering Sea Crab Fishermen's Tour, Photo: Bering Sea Crab Fishermen's Tour
- George Inlet Crab Feast, Photo: Courtesy of Nishihama - Fotolia.com
- Alaska Fish House, Photo: Alaska Fish House
- Bar Harbor Restaurant, Photo: Bar Harbor Restaurant
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Alan James - Fotolia.com