The Best Running Routes in Sitka, Alaska

Views from Russian Loop Trail in Sitka, Alaska
Views from Russian Loop Trail in Sitka, Alaska | © Bailey Berg
Bailey Berg

Whether you’re looking for a trail run that will ease you into your first 5k or are in the search of something that’ll help you prepare for Seward’s Mount Marathon race, Sitka has a plethora of options for runners. Here are just a few of our favorites within minutes of downtown Sitka.

Cross Trail

With multiple access points, the Cross Trail is arguably the most adaptable trail near the city. At its longest, the wide, gravel trail spiders across town for 3.8 miles, hugging the base of Gavan Hill. Elevation gain is negligible, with just a couple of rolling hills. Though it only extends just short of four times, runners pass through a handful of ecosystems on the route, including forest wetlands, old growth timber, and second growth forest. Keep an eye out for the waterfalls at Cascade Creek.

Totem Trail

This easy, flat one-mile loop is known for showcasing a collection of totem poles that are reproductions of those donated by Alaska Native leaders to the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair and the 1905 Lewis and Clark Exposition (they were eventually sent back to Sitka, but over the years needed to be remade due to the originals decaying). Short and sweet, it hugs the coast for the first half, offering stunning views of Crescent Bay and the hodgepodge cluster of islands to the southwest before looping back along the Indian River.

Views from Totem Trail

Russian Memorial Loop

Situated right next to the Totem Trail, it’s easy to tack this 0.8 mile trail on and expand your cultural knowledge of Sitka while getting in your morning run. The trail swoops around to the Russian Memorial, which was erected in memory of the Russian sailors and Aleuts killed during a battle in 1804.

Indian River Trail

Another trail named for the waterway it follows, the trail is largely straight, largely flat, and clocks in at 8.4 miles out to an impressive waterfall. Bonus: the bracing water descending from the mountain above makes for a solid mid-run ice bath for sore legs.

Gavan Hill Trail

If you’re looking for a run that will leave your calves burning and have you in marathon shape in no time, this nearly 11-mile out-and-back trail will do the trick. The well-maintained, step-heavy trail weaves up Gavan Hill to a scenic overlook of the town below. Cool down on the flat Cross Trail afterwards.

Mount Verstovia Trail

Even for those accustomed to mountain running, the Mount Verstovia trail is no joke. Over the course of 4.5 miles, runners ascend the steep and rugged steps to the summit at 3,402 feet. Those who make it to the top are rewarded with incredible views of Sitka and the mountains beyond. More novice mountain runners might consider just hoofing it up to Picnic Rock, a little over half way up at 2,550 feet. The lookout is equally impressive and it eliminates the steep scramble before the summit.

Thimbleberry Lake and Heart Lake Trail

Minimal elevation gain, distractingly gorgeous lakes (we’re looking at you hemlock spruce trees and Thimbleberry Falls), and a well-maintained gravel trail make for a solid running route for those training for a 5k. Those looking to really go the distance can add on the trail following Sawmill Creek Road to achieve whatever their mileage goal is for the day.

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