The Tongass (Tongas) National Forest
The Tongass (Tongas) National Forest in Alaska is the largest U.S. National Forest with 16.7 million acres (26,100 sq mi). Most of its area is temperate rain forest and remote from population centers. The Tongass, which is managed by the United States Forest Service, encompasses islands of the Alexander Archipelago, fjords and glaciers, and peaks of the Alaska Coast Mountains. Alaska cities and towns with access to the Tongass include Craig, Hoonah, Juneau, Ketchikan, Petersburg, Skagway, Sitka, Thorne Bay, Wrangell, and Yakutat and all have United States Forest Service Ranger Offices except Skagway which provides a National Park Service Visitors Center.
Ketchikan Hiking Trails
Ketchikan is a great location to access a number of great hiking trails in the Tongas National Forest. The town is also a popular cruise port of call. Below are a few trails near to downtown to consider if your cruise ship stops for a day.
In just two or three hours you can hike through some fantastic forests, explore local history and have an opportunity to take in some fantastic vistas. Below are maps and descriptions of four trails in or near town.
Schoenbar Trail (0.25 miles) Description: This trail goes through the Ketchikan Park District which contains City Park and the Totem Heritage Center. The trail connects Schoenbar Road to both Harris Street and Grant Street, providing a pleasant forested walk. This trail offers a forest experience right in town with access to Ketchikan Creek between from Harris Street Bridge and the trailhead parking lot.
Married Man Trail (0.20 miles) – A historic trail used by men to get to Ketchikan’s historic red-light district on Creek Street without being seen. It is now a nice walk around the rocky gorge area of Ketchikan Creek. Just before the Creek Street trailhead is a viewing platform looking up the narrow, rock gorge of Ketchikan Creek. The trail ends at Park Avenue and has nice views of the roaring creek and the fish ladder. It’s a nice walk through a dense, shaded forest right in town.
Rainbird Trail (1.3 miles, one way), 1 hour (one way). This is a more Difficult hike starting on Water Street, near the Berth 4 dock, follow Jefferson Street up a steep hill to Madison Street (6th Ave). Once you have reached the top, head west (left) onto Third Avenue and follow to the trailhead on the north side of the road. Another trailhead is located at the University of Alaska Southeast parking lot, accessed by following Jefferson Street up from Tongass Avenue past Ketchikan High School to College Avenue. The trail starts at the rear of the parking lot. The trail is a natural path with some sections of stairs and boardwalk. Access via the UAS and Third Avenue trailheads will have a steep climb, but then levels off with several small stream crossings on the trail route. The trail offers easily access to the rainforest close to downtown Ketchikan. A number of places along the trail offer great view of Ketchikan and surrounding area.
Waterfront Promenade (1.3 miles (one way) 1 hour (one way) The waterfront promenade can be accessed from a variety of locations in the downtown Ketchikan area. This trail passes two boat harbors (Thomas Basin and the Casey Moran Harbor) with moorage for numerous commercial and recreational boats. There are great shopping opportunities for locally-crafted items along the Promenade, including with native, marine and wildlife themes. Two visitor information centers are along the trail, as well as the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center. It features interpretive signs with information on Ketchikan’s past and businesses along the Promenade offer items of interest to visitors.