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Southeast Alaska has no shortage of dormant or extinct volcanos, mountains, lush valleys, and beaches. All that varied landscape means one thing: an abundance of hiking opportunities. To discover some of the best trails for your abilities and time restraints, follow our hiker’s guide to Sitka.
Beaver Lake and Herring Cove Trail Loop
Possibly the most egalitarian of all Sitka hikes, this three-mile-one-way jaunt has negligible elevation gain (save for the beginning and end), well established routes made up of gravel or stepping stones, and family-friendly features including docks, established camping spots, picnic pads, and a public-use aluminum rowboat. Be sure to check out the top-notch vistas of area mountains by Beaver Lake and the calm waters near Herring Cove.
Starrigavan Recreation area
A must for birders, these connecting trails allow for a customizable itinerary. Start on the Ben Grussendorf trail (from the Old Sitka parking lot), before linking up with the Estuary Life Trail and Mosquito Cove. Over the course of roughly 3.5 miles, walkers will cross over boardwalks perched above marshy ponds, through forested muskegs, and by streams.
Indian River Trail
Weaving through the valley between Gavan Hill and Mt. Verstovia, hikers follow the river that the trail gets its name from for 4.38 miles one way, ending near the base of Indian River falls at the base of The Sisters Mountain. Keep an eye out for wildlife – you might see moose drinking from the river or bears looking for a salmon dinner.
Mt. Verstovia and Arrowhead Trail
The awe-inspiring nature of Mt. Verstovia builds like a crescendo. It starts slowly, as hikers cross through thickets of alder and salmonberry, then hemlock spruce, up switchbacks and rocky sections, before reaching the ridge, which levels off into grassy sub-alpine meadows with stunning sweeping vistas. Hikers have the option of stopping there, at Picnic Rock (where the maintained trail ends), or continuing to the peak of Arrowhead.
It’s not the most accessible of hikes, but those who make the voyage by sea taxi to Kruzof Island and climb the steep steps to the summit of the extinct volcano are rewarded with spectacular views of the crater and the surrounding area. Plan for a difficult hike (3,200 feet elevation gain over the course of 6.7 miles) with muddy spots close to the shore and loose pumice by the rim. Go on a clear day.
Gavan Hill Trail
To see what are arguably some of the best views in the Sitka area, hikers need to slog up the formidable Gavan Hill. At six miles each way, it’s a doozy of an uphill. But from the summit it’s possible to see Sitka Sound, Sitka, Mt. Edgecumbe, and numerous other mountains and islands.