If you are planning a trip to Sitka, make sure you include a visit to the Sitka National Park as part of your itinerary. Here you can see towering trees, hike along scenic trails, and immerse yourself in the unique history of this coastal town. The park commemorates the battle for Sitka that was fought between Russian fur traders and the native Tlingit people. Originally set aside by President Harrison in 1890 for public use, it became a National Park in 1972.
One of the things that make Sitka and its National Park special is the rich cultural and historical atmosphere that is present throughout the town. This is true even inside the national park, where you can view the display of traditional Tlingit and Haida totem poles. The original totem poles were collected from 1903 to 1905 by the District Governor John Brady from various tribes across the Alaskan territory. Before making their way to the park in Sitka, they made two appearances in other parts of the country. The first stop was at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri. Then in 1905, the totem poles where displayed at the Lewis and Clark Exposition before arriving at their permanent home in Sitka. While the totem poles you will find on display in the park today are replicas of the originals, remaining portions of those originals are preserved and on display in Totem Hall in the visitor’s center. For the complete totem pole experience, take the virtual Carved History Walk available in the park. The walk guides visitors on a 15 stop tour of the totem poles.
Part of the rich history of Sitka is the interconnectedness of the three cultures that have called this land home – the native tribes, the Russian fur traders, and Americans. You can see signs of this cultural diversity throughout Sitka and one of the best places for this kind of cultural experience is the Russian Bishop’s House. You can find the fully restored house, which is one of the only remaining examples of colonial Russian architecture in the entire Western Hemisphere, about a half a mile from the national park.
Planning your visit to the Park is easy because of its close proximity to the center of town. While the park is open all year-round, the opening hours for the visitor’s center and trails vary by season. And if you want to tour the entirety of beautiful Russian Bishop’s House during the winter, you need to make arrangements in advance as full tours are done in the off-season by appointment only. Your concierge at the Alaska Ocean View Bed & Breakfast Inn will arrange a tour for you.
Make the most of your visit by taking one of the ranger led tours available every day during the summer. While in the Park, you can enjoy the borreal rain forest, see some of the biggest trees in Sitka, and watch the wildlife that is present throughout the Park. Just make sure you set aside some time to tour the visitor’s center after taking in all the natural beauty of the trails and scenery. The exhibits inside the visitor’s center feature traditional Tlingit life and art. And, don’t miss seeing the free 15 minute film in the visitor center theatre.