Sitka Must See – Tongass National Forest

Tongass National Forest

If you are planning a trip to Sitka, Alaska, one of the places you have to include as part of your itinerary is the Tongass National Forest. (photo credit:

If you are planning a trip to Sitka, Alaska, one of the places you have to include as part of your itinerary is the Tongass National Forest.  This public gem features a range of habitats, awe-inspiring scenery, and more than 400 species of marine animals and wildlife including bald eagles and grizzly bears.

One of the best things about the Tongass National Forest is the amazing opportunities for recreation and adventure unlike anything you will find in the lower 48 states.  From viewing the wide variety of native wildlife to kayaking down crystalline waterways, there is something to see and do for the nature lover in all of us.  The vast swaths of dense rainforest, the abundance of wildlife, and the incredible natural beauty found around every corner make for a truly Alaskan experience.

The Tongass National Forest is unique in that it is the largest national forest in the country.  It spans more than 500 miles across the Southeastern part of the state from the Pacific Ocean to the Canadian border.  It is also the largest temperate rainforest that remains intact in the entire world.  More than 70,000 people in 32 communities call the lands of the National forest home including both the state capital of Juneau and the sea-side town of Sitka.

For visitors to Sitka, the national forest has to be on the must see list.  You can hike across meadows, up mountains, and through dense growth forest.  You may come across caves to explore, peat bogs to transverse, and many places carved out specifically to enable visitors to view the natural wildlife.  For hiking enthusiasts, a visit to Sitka means days of hiking trails varying in the experience each provides, the scenery displayed, and skill level required.   Hiking is the best way to experience the wonders of the national forest.

There are an abundance of hiking opportunities for day trips and backpacking adventures.  For more information on trails in the Tongass, check the National Forest Service’s website.

Here are two examples that offer an example of the type of hiking you can find accessible from the stunning seaside town of Sitka.

Herring Cove Trail

Herring Cove is a very popular, beautiful newer trail located 7 miles southeast of Sitka. The Herring Cove Trail is 1.4 miles long. It begins at Parking Area At Trailhead and joins the Beaver Lake Trail at Beaver Lake. The Herring Cove Trail gives access to Beaver Lake.

Mt. Edgecumbe Trail

This 7 mile trail takes you up to the summit of Mt. Edgecumbe which has an elevation of about 3,000 feet.  The dormant volcano provides a wide range of terrain beginning with spruce flats near the base and winding through peat bogs, dense forest, and once you rise above the timberline, red volcanic ash left over from the last eruption in 2200 B.C.  The upper part of the climb to reach the crater can be quite steep.  You can find the trail on Kruzof Island about 10 miles west of Sitka.

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