Land of the salmon and totems, Ketchikan is a hotspot for green sanctuaries and incredible wildlife. Its Inside Passage has no doubt attracted hordes of cruise passengers to make a stopover here. From its virgin forests, gorgeous hiking trails to its quaint Creek Street and local delicacies, this southernmost city of Alaska has won the hearts of many avid-travelers. And if you happen to be one, then consider our compiled list of some of the free things to do in Ketchikan, Alaska:
Totem Poles of Ketchikan
Bight State Historical Park
Besides being a Salmon city, Ketchikan is also lauded for its dramatic totem poles which represent the indigenous culture. And you can’t leave this charming city without visiting one of the fascinating totem parks. Just some 16 km (10 miles) from the north of Ketchikan lies the Totem Bight State Historical Park sprawled across 13 hectares (3 acres) of lush green land which was once inhabited by the native Tlingit and Haida people in the 19th century. They eventually abandoned their fishing village with their clan houses and totem poles. Not until 1938, the U.S. Forest Service took the initiative to hire native skilled carvers to preserve the totem poles. Bight State Historical Park is currently home to a collection of 14 totem poles and a clan house which can host up to 50 people! Behind each totem pole, there are meanings and stories that carry great value to the native people.
Address: 9883 N Tongass Hwy, Ketchikan, AK 99901
Operating Hours: Mon-Sun: 07:00 am – 06:00 pm
How to get to Bight State Historical Park: The cheapest way to get to the park is by taking the bus from Front St to North Tongass Hwy, which will take you around 30 minutes to reach there.
Potlatch Totem Park
Another totem site you don’t want to miss is the Potlatch Totem Park located close to the Bight State Park. The park offers a holistic experience to visitors who want to learn more about the indigenous culture and their creative masterpieces. Enjoy the privilege of seeing resident carvers in action, where you’ll get an up-close view of the carving process, and learn about the ancient carving techniques. Another hallmark of the site is the antique car museum displaying cars dating back to the early 1900s. And to add some fun and adventure, stroll along the main path of the park and enjoy picking some wild berries.
Operating Hours: Mon-Sun: 07:00 am – 04:00 pm
Scenic hiking trails of Ketchikan
Hike the Deer Mountain trail
With abundant forested areas and gorges, Ketchikan makes one of the most impressive hotspots for adventure junkies. And one of the best ways to explore the city’s off-the-beaten tracks is by hiking the Dear Mountain located 8 km (5 miles) away from downtown. The 4.8 km (3 miles) hiking trail begins at the trailhead (on Ketchikan Lakes Road) and continues to the Upper Silvis Lake. At the initial stage, you’ll hike on a wooden boardwalk followed by steep terrains with many switchbacks. It is recommended to avoid hiking during the rainy season as the path can be very muddy and slippery. As you reach the summit (3000 feet) bask in the panoramic view of the surroundings.
Address: Tongass National Forest, USGS Ketchikan B-5, USFS leaflet Deer Mountain Trail, Ketchikan, AK 99901
How to get there: You can take a bus Green Line at the Deermount and Fair Sts to head south on the Ketchikan Lakes Road.
Duration: 3 hours (round trip)
Hike the Carlanna Lake Trail
Classified as a moderate hiking trail, Carlanna Lake Trail is a good option if you wish to explore the wild nature close to Ketchikan. This mossy hiking trail takes you on an 8-km (5-mile) rugged path where you’ll get several chances to indulge in fun adventures-berry picking, swimming in the lake or fishing at one of the rustic deck. As you keep getting closer to the summit, the path gets slippery and muddy making it difficult to climb, but once there you’ll be rewarded with the scenic view of the lush valley. The best time to access this trail is between March and October.
Address: Canyon Rd Ketchikan, AK 99901
How to get there: Take 2 miles north on Tongass Hwy from Ketchikan, turn up Carlanna Lake Road, then turn left on Baranof Ave and continue straight until Fairview Ave. Turn right on Canyon Road till the dead-end where you’ll find a gate. The hiking trail begins up the gravel road just behind the gate.
Duration: 5 hours (round trip)
If you’re pressed for time and wish to explore the flora and fauna of Ketchikan then hiking the 2 km (1.3 miles) Rainbird Trail is your best bet. Ideally located close to downtown cruise ship terminal, this one hour trail promises a rejuvenating experience especially those who wish to recharge. Tread lightly and if you’re lucky you’ll spot some wild eagles or bears in their natural habitat. At the top bask in the awe-inspiring view of the city and Tongass Narrows.
Address: 2600 7th Ave, Ketchikan, AK 99901
How to get there: Take the Ketchikan City Bus to the trailhead at the University of Alaska Campus.
Duration: One hour
Discover some incredible local masterpieces of Ketchikan by visiting the Scanlon Gallery Operated since 1972 by Susan and Mike Peters, the art gallery displays a huge collection of handcrafted jewelry, photographs, paintings, glass sculptures, and prints.
Address: 318 Mission St, Ketchikan, AK 99901
Opening Hours: Tues-Sat: 10.00 a.m- 05.00 p.m
Main Street Gallery
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The "Artists of Kethikan" Invitational Exhibit is on display June 2-July 28, featuring artwork by Carmel Anderson, Hall Anderson, Rhonda Green, Jim Guenther, Mary Ida Henrikson, Norman Jackson, Danelle Landis, Terry Leberman, Maida Kelley, Sandy Shepard, Nancy Tietje, Steven Villano, Felix Wong & Evon Zerbetz. #ketchikanarts #artliveshere
This community arts space is an initiative by the Ketchikan Area Arts and Humanities Council which aims to promote the work of local artists. Each year the council hosts around 10 exhibition shows where you’ll get the chance to discover some local talents via paintings, photographs, and sculpted works. You can even have some fun at the yoga or dance classes which are usually organized.
Address: 330 Main St, Ketchikan, AK 99901
Opening Hours: Mon-Wed: 09.00 a.m – 05.00 p.m
Stroll along the Creek Street in Ketchikan
One of the popular attractions of Ketchikan is Creek Street, a quaint area, which was once a ‘red light district’ till 1954. Creek Street is actually perched on stilts above a river, home to the salmon run, and exceptional art galleries. There’s also the Married Man’s Trail known for being the escape route for wandering spouse looking for a quick exit point whenever there was a police raid. And if you hike along the winding trail you will end up with a scenic view of the town and harbor.
Address: Creek St, Ketchikan, AK 99901