Ketchikan, Alaska

Haida Descendant Dancers at the Totem Bight State Historical Park. Photo by Ketchikan Visitors Bureau.

Cultural Journey
Between the mountains and the sea, Ketchikan is the most accessible true Alaskan getaway

Just 90 minutes from Seattle you’ll find the dramatic scenery, outdoor adventure, and culture, of a quintessential Alaska experience

The Alaska of Your Dreams

If you’ve only ever dreamed of visiting Alaska, odds are that the pictures painted in your mind are exemplified by the outdoors of the Ketchikan area; and all the wonderous opportunities they provide. Located on the banks of southeast Alaska’s Inside Passage and encompassed by the Tongass National Forest, Ketchikan has epic adventures in every direction. Hiking, ziplining, fishing, even snorkeling, help make Ketchikan a bucket list destination. And being an easy day trip for cruise passengers, overnight ferry, or quick 90-minute flight away, you can make those Alaskan dreams come true time and again, in virtually no time at all.

Once there, epic day hikes abound in every direction, from an easy old-growth forest loop that visits Lunch Falls, to the life-affirming views gained via the Deer Mountain Trail, and beyond; hikers of all appetites will be more than satiated. If you prefer less caloric expenditure with more wind-blown hair, soar through the trees on a zipline tour.

If you really want to take your sightseeing to the next level, no other outing will provide a “We’re not in Kansas anymore” experience like a visit to the Misty Fjords National Monument.

Just over 20 miles east of Ketchikan, the Misty Fjords are 2.3 million acres of larger than life, eye-widening, glacier-carved goodness. Deep, U-shaped fjords, alpine lakes, towering waterfalls, and 3,000-foot sheer granite cliff faces will leave a lasting impression no matter how you visit them – whether by boat, floatplane, or both.

What trip to the Salmon Capital of the World would be complete without a chartered fishing excursion? All the fishing to be had is world-class in southeast Alaska. Anytime from May through September, you can catch a variety of salmon species as well as halibut, cod, rockfish and more. Having more King Salmon filets than you know what to do with is a sure-fire way to ensure you are the most invited guest in the neighborhood when summer BBQ season rolls around.

A sweeping, birds-eye view of Ketchikan and the Tongass Narrows. Photo by Ketchikan Visitors Bureau.

Layers of History and Culture

From the rich and vibrantly colored art of the native Alaskans to the colorful characters that helped establish the town of Ketchikan, there are a number of utterly fascinating layers of history and culture to discover. Beyond the intriguing chapters of human history to absorb, the shopping and entertainment options in Ketchikan help provide a well-rounded cultural experience capable of sending you home with new knowledge to share as well as art for the living room.

To garner an in-depth and poignant understanding of the land, recent history, and history of the people who have called the area home for untold generations, spend some quality time at the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center. For a contemplative look into the artistic traditions of the native Tlingit, Tsimshian, and Haida peoples, visit the Totem Heritage Center and the Totem Bight State Park. The Tongass Historical Museum adds more contemporary historical insight, detailing how Ketchikan became Alaska’s “First City” through mining, fishing, timber, and transportation.

The Misty Fjords (above) will leave a lasting impression, as will Alaska’s abundant outdoor activities, from kayaking (below) to world-class fishing. Photo by Ketchikan Visitors Bureau.

Photo by Ketchikan Visitors Bureau.

A walk along the historic boardwalk mounted on stilts, Creek Street, is a must regardless of what your getaway goals might be. There is, as you might imagine, plenty of bawdy history to uncover from the town’s rough and tumble early days, and it’s all thoroughly documented up and down the street. Beyond the salacious tidbits to be gleaned from Ketchikan’s past, there are also a number of shopping and art gallery options for modern-day gifts and keepsakes.

Ketchikan might not have quite as much to choose from as Seattle when it comes to its culinary scene and lodging options. But they know their seafood and land-based proteins, and they know what to do with them. When it’s finally time to call it and day and recharge for the next one, a solid lineup of economy, historic, and boutique lodging accommodations are all within walking distance of downtown.
When you must head home, fear not. You’ll get back sooner than if you’d driven to Portland. Besides, no food cart or book store is going to top those Misty Fjords.