Despite its small size, there are unique and exciting things to do in Sitka for all kinds of travelers. Peer up at towering totems along the Totem Trail in Sitka National Historic Park. Discover the rich indigenous history of the Tlingits, and journey through the lush, alpine Alaskan forests of Tongass National Park. Cast a fishing reel into the Sitka Sound and wait patiently for fresh salmon to take the bait.
After a day of hiking or touring, spend a while in Sitka’s quaint downtown, where you’ll find galleries, cafes, and eateries alongside quintessential Alaskan shops. You’ll fall in love with this laid-back land of simple pleasures. Here are some of the best things to do in Sitka.
1: Trek Through Tongass National Forest
Tongass National Forest is the largest forest in the United States, spanning over 500 miles of lush cedars and conifers, dense rainforests, and magnificent glaciers. More than merely a temperate rainforest, Tongass National Park includes streams for swimming salmon, picturesque fjords, and sweeping bays.
Put on your sturdiest hiking boots and head out on the trek of a lifetime. Look for birds nesting in the tall spruce trees. Keep your eyes peeled for Alaska’s abundant wildlife like black bears, mountain goats, and bald eagles.
There are several popular hikes in the area for beginner and expert hikers alike. Explore the Indian River Trail for a longer, more intermediate hike, which spans over eight miles. Once you get to the base of Sisters Mountain at around four miles in, start making your way back. In the late summer, colorful salmon crowd and jump upstream along the river.
Some of the best hiking in Sitka is at Silver Bay. Trek through the rainforest until you get to the coastline and look out for whales at the overlook from Whale Park.
For a relaxed hike fit for all skill levels, try Mosquito Cove Trail in Tongass National Forest for an easy 1.25-mile loop along the beautiful Alaskan coastline. You’ll enjoy the hemlock forests and tall cedars as you explore.
2: Go Fishing in Sitka Sound
Aside from being one of the most beautiful places in Alaska, Sitka Sound has been a fishing paradise since the days of the Tlingits, who were one of the first groups to inhabit the area. Famous around the world for its sportfishing, Sitka Sound is also home to several varieties of Alaskan salmon and other species like halibut and rockfish.
Set sail along Sitka Sound on an intimate fishing charter, and learn the tricks of a great catch from a professional fishing captain. Feel the thrill of the chase while surrounded by fresh evergreens and towering peaks in the near distance. Whale sightings are common here, as are harbor seals, sea otters, and even sea lions.
3: Dive Into History at Sitka National Historical Park
Experience thousands of years of Southeast Alaskan culture and history at the Sitka National Historic Park. Take a hike on the mile-long Totem Trail to see nearly 20 totems dotting the way. Head to the cultural center at the park to watch artists demonstrate how these stunning totems are carved and painted.
Discover the history of the Battle of 1804 being the Tlingits and Russian forces, which inspired the park’s creation. All 59 acres share the rich traditions and stories of Sitka.
4: Get Up Close to Native Alaskan Wildlife
Animals lovers won’t want to miss an opportunity to see brown bears in their natural habitat and learn from knowledgeable naturalists against the backdrop of Tongass National Forest. Fortress of the Bear leads the way in the conservation and rehabilitation of Southeast Alaska’s bears, saving orphaned or injured brown bear cubs and helping them go on to live healthy adult lives.
Get up close to the bears, learn the stories of why these creatures thrive near the Sitka Sound, and discover the challenges that bear populations face, even in regions like Alaska where they’re a protected and valuable part of the local ecosystem.
Another must-see experience for wildlife enthusiasts is the Alaska Raptor Center, which rehabilitates injured birds of prey and releases them back into the wild. There’s even a dedicated habitat to flightless birds who can’t return to their original habitat, called “Raptors in Residence.” Close to Tongass National Park and the Indian River, birdwatchers can glimpse bald eagles, hawks, snowy and pygmy owls, and more.
5: Tour St. Michael’s Cathedral
Russia once claimed Sitka as an outpost and constructed the town’s religious center, the first Russian Orthodox church in North America. On a journey through Sitka’s top attractions, St. Michael’s Cathedral ranks high on the list for its storied history and its significance to locals.
Painted a greyish blue with white-framed windows, you wouldn’t think St. Michael’s is a church at first—that is, until you spot its dark turquoise domes and the belltower adorned with a classic Greek cross.
When a fire ravaged the church in the 1960s, Sitka residents banded together to save its artifacts in remembrance of the cathedral’s impact on the community. By 1962, St. Michael’s was deemed a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service.
Today, a tour of the reconstructed St. Michael’s offers a glimpse of Sitka history and Russian influence that helped shape the town.
6: See Sitka via Kayak
There’s no shortage of things to do in Sitka on land, but why not take things to the water? Water sports like kayaking will open your eyes to the majesty and scale of Sitka’s waters. Admire the towering spruce trees and keep a lookout for harbor seals playing in the water and brown bears off in the distant forest.
Grab a paddle and set off in a kayak on the way to secluded coves, across sweeping seas, and along breathtaking mountainscapes in Sitka Sound and the Indian River. Or, canoe into Crescent Bay, just beyond the rows of boats bobbing in Crescent Harbor.
7: Explore Mount Edgecumbe Volcano
Mount Edgecumbe sits on the southern end of the rugged Kruzof Island, just west of Stiak. Board an ocean raft on a high-speed jaunt to Kruzof Island, where jagged rocks and powerful currents make the ride an adrenaline-pumping adventure. Watch for puffins and other birds as your captain masterfully guides you through secluded volcanic caves.
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