If there is adventure in your blood and you have the itch to travel there are few places on the planet as splendid and grand as Sitka, Alaska. Situated on the Alaskan panhandle, Sitka is, by area, the largest city-borough in the country although its total population is around 9,000. Settled thousands of years ago by Tlingit Indians, Sitka is a beautiful ocean-side city that offers a wealth of rich experiences that will appeal to adventurers of all kinds.
If you prefer to be out and about, you will find plenty of things to do in Sitka. Start with a sightseeing tour aboard a local floatplane and get a bird’s eye view of our breathtaking scenery. You can also spend the day kayaking, hiking, or visiting local wildlife in their natural habitat. Here are some of the most popular outdoor attractions in Sitka to help you plan your stay.
Alaska Raptor Center
With the goal of rehabilitating and releasing injured bald eagles back into the wild, the Alaska Raptor Center in Sitka plays a big role in helping protect and preserve this cherished species. The center treats hundreds of eagles and other birds each year and provides a safe sanctuary for those bald eagles that are unable to return to the wild. These Raptors-in-Residence provide a thrilling educational experience for visitors of all ages. Try to attend an eagle release back into the wild, it’s awesome.
St. Lazaria National Wildlife Reserve
Take a wildlife sightseeing cruise out to view this 60-acre island made from volcanic rock called a volcanic plug with its steep cliffs and caves rising straight up out of the areas deep ocean floor creating excellent nesting habitat sixteen miles offshore so virtually free from prey. Thousands of birds nest and roost in this national wildlife preserve. During the summer months, you can see such birds as nesting puffins (horned and tufted), cormorants, common murres (aka the penguins of the north), rhinoceros auklets, oyster catchers, and peregrine falcons of the fourteen species of birds, predominantly sea birds, nesting there. While this trip is great for bird watchers, you may also see sea lions, seals, sea otters, and a humpback whale or two along the way. If you are there during a low or preferably minus-tide the boat may poke its bow into a sea cave for you to view the incredible thick, colorful tapestry of wildlife clinging to the sides of the cave. It is best described as awesome and a reason to go to this island on its own merits. This wind swept, ocean wave carved island looks prehistoric and unlike all other island in the area. This small island has a beauty of its own that evokes fantasy illusions of leprechauns and dinosaurs.
Sitka National Historical Park
This park, which is the oldest federal park in the state, was established to commemorate the 1804 Battle of Sitka. Within the park, you will find the historic battlefield and totem poles documenting the history of the natives. In the parks visitor center is a 15 minute film narrating the parks significance. The park has nearly 1 -2/3 miles of trails within its lush forest landscape, salmon-rich river estuary and along its ocean beach. You can tour the totem poles within the park by using your cell phone to learn of each poles story. Begin your totem walk with the large totem pole near the parking lot at the National Parks main entrance to learn how.
Tongass National Forest
The Tongass National Forest, which is comprised of more than 17 million acres, is the largest national forest in the country. And the largest temperate rain forest left in the world. It stretches all the way to the border with Canada and houses three native Alaskan nations (Tlingit, Haida, Simshian) and 31 communities including Sitka and the state’s capital, Juneau. The vastness of this forest means there is a wealth of recreational activities to explore and wild life to view.
Hike Sitka’s popular Cross Trail
It runs along the base of the mountains just behind Sitka and intersects with many other trails such as the Gavan Hill trail and Indian River trail.
Climb Mount Edgecumbe
Mount Edgecumbe is a dormant 3,200 foot volcano located at the southern end of Kruzof Island, 15 miles across the water from Sitka. It offers a 7 mile trail to the summit (crater) and is a popular attraction for visitors and locals alike. While guided tours are available, most hikers can make this trip without a guide but will need to hire a water taxi to get there and back. This is the only volcano in Southeast Alaska and is often likened to Japan’s Mt. Fuji. The trail begins at Fred’s Creek.
- Things to Do in Sitka, Alaska (sitka-alaska-lodging.com)