12 Attractions in Sitka, Alaska

Sitka is a beautiful coastal town located on the west coast of Baranof Island in southeast Alaska. With a population of just over 8,500 people, Sitka is a quiet and charming destination that offers visitors gorgeous natural scenery, an intriguing history, and plenty of outdoor adventures.

St. Michael’s CathedralHistoric Russian Orthodox cathedral with unique artifacts and tours.
Sitka National Historical ParkPark showcasing Tlingit and Russian history with totem poles and trails.
Alaska Raptor CenterWildlife rescue center with close-up views of raptors, including eagles.
Sheldon Jackson MuseumMuseum presenting Alaskan Native cultures through artifacts and art.
Sitka Sound Science CenterCenter offering marine life education and hatchery tours.
Sitka Trail WorksNetwork of scenic trails for outdoor exploration and hiking.
Fortress of the BearSanctuary for orphaned bears with viewing opportunities.
Alaska Pioneers HomeHistoric site reflecting over a century of community life in Sitka.
Sitka Rose GalleryArt gallery featuring local and statewide artists’ work.
Sitka World War II SitesHistorical sites related to Sitka’s role in World War II.
Sitka Sound Ocean AdventuresOutfitter offering marine wildlife tours and adventures.
Gavan Hill TrailTrail offering a challenging hike with panoramic views.

From its Russian heritage to its wildlife-rich environs, there’s so much for travelers of all kinds to enjoy in Sitka. Outdoor lovers can hike through rainforests, kayak past breaching whales, or reel in an impressive halibut. History buffs will revel in the well-preserved Russian architecture and intriguing museums. And families will appreciate kid-friendly attractions like the Alaska Raptor Center and the Sitka Sound Science Center.

With only a few main roads spanning just 14 miles across Baranof Island, Sitka’s compact size makes it easy for visitors to explore the top attractions around town in just a couple of days. But the wealth of adventures available both in town and on the water could easily fill a weeklong Alaskan itinerary or longer.

This guide covers 12 can’t miss attractions to check out while visiting beautiful Sitka, Alaska. From seaside trails with striking vistas to insightful museums covering natural history and native Alaskan culture, these are the top sights and activities you won’t want to leave Sitka without experiencing.

St. Michael’s Cathedral

Name and Location: St. Michael’s Cathedral is a historic Russian Orthodox church located in the heart of Sitka, Alaska. It is situated on Lincoln Street, just a short walk from the city center and the cruise ship docks.

History and Significance: The original St. Michael’s Cathedral was built in 1848 and was one of the first Russian Orthodox churches in North America. The cathedral was destroyed by a fire in 1966, but it was rebuilt to its original design and reopened in 1976. The cathedral is known for its distinctive onion-shaped domes and its ornate interior, which features icons and religious artifacts from the 18th and 19th centuries.

What to Expect: Visitors to St. Michael’s Cathedral can take a guided tour of the church and learn about its history and architecture. The interior of the cathedral is stunning, with intricate woodwork, golden iconostasis, and beautiful stained glass windows. Visitors can also browse the cathedral’s gift shop, which offers a variety of Russian Orthodox items and souvenirs.

Visitor Information: St. Michael’s Cathedral is open to visitors year-round, with guided tours available during the summer months. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children, with proceeds going to support the cathedral’s maintenance and restoration. The cathedral is located in the heart of downtown Sitka and is easily accessible on foot from most hotels and attractions.

Rising above downtown Sitka with its blue onion domes and orthodox crosses, St. Michael’s Cathedral is a beautiful testament to the city’s Russian heritage. Constructed in the 1840s after the Tlingit people of Sitka were converted to the Russian Orthodox faith, St. Michael’s Cathedral remains an important Sitka landmark.

While touring the grounds and church itself, visitors can admire the ornate mosaics, paintings, carvings, and icons that decorate the cathedral interior. Be sure to check out the striking chandelier made from Sitka deer antlers. Head through the cathedral shop in the basement for unique Russian souvenirs like matryoshka stacking dolls and fur hats. Try a Russian tea and pastry at the delightful cathedral gift shop cafe too.

St. Michael’s Cathedral offers guided group tours and self-guided tours. Expert docents share stories detailing how the church was constructed and provide context around the many orthodox symbols. As Alaska’s oldest Orthodox cathedral, this sacred building in the heart of Sitka recalls the era when Sitka served as the capital of Russian America in the 19th century.

Sitka National Historical Park

Name and Location: Sitka National Historical Park is a 113-acre park located in Sitka, Alaska. The park is situated on the site of the Battle of Sitka, a historic conflict between the Tlingit people and Russian colonizers in 1804.

History and Significance: The park was established in 1910 to commemorate the Battle of Sitka and to preserve the cultural heritage of the Tlingit people. The park features a collection of totem poles, carved by Tlingit and Haida artists, that tell the stories and legends of the indigenous people of the region. The park also includes the Russian Bishop’s House, a National Historic Landmark that was built in 1842 and served as the residence of the Russian Orthodox bishop of Alaska.

What to Expect: Visitors to Sitka National Historical Park can explore the park’s scenic trails, which wind through the temperate rainforest and along the coast. The park’s visitor center features exhibits on the history and culture of the Tlingit people, as well as the Russian colonial period. Visitors can also take a guided tour of the Russian Bishop’s House and learn about the history of the Russian Orthodox Church in Alaska.

Visitor Information: Sitka National Historical Park is open year-round, with the visitor center and Russian Bishop’s House open from May to September. Admission to the park is free, but there is a fee for guided tours of the Russian Bishop’s House. The park is located about a mile from downtown Sitka and is easily accessible by foot, bike, or car.

Recapping Alaska’s history from Tlingit and Russian occupations through present day, Sitka National Historical Park makes an excellent introduction for first-time Sitka visitors. Spanning over 100 acres of beautiful forest and coastline just north from downtown Sitka, the park consists of self-guided trails with informative signage outlining Sitka’s storied past.

Start by watching the introductory film at the visitor center to gain key context, then collect your free map for hitting the Totem Trail. This gentle loop passes 18 totem poles from Tlingit clans and a replica of a traditional community house. Descriptions detail the meaning behind Tlingit totems’ animal symbols and clan crests depicted.

From the visitor center, take the scenic Indian River Trail through rainforest out to the shoreline Indian River shelter. displays explain the park’s natural environment and traditional Tlingit use of river resources.

Finally, walk out along the Kayaani Trail which follows along Starrigavan Bay. Signs trace the park’s history from battleground where the Russians defeated the Tlingits to its tenure as a sawmill site once Alaska was under American control. Benches are positioned perfectly for admiring views across the Sitka Channel too.

Allow a couple hours to see all the displays at Sitka National Historical Park and walk the mile-long network of trails. Rangers also conduct guided walks and cultural demonstrations from May through September, like dancing and drumming inside the clan house.

Sitka National Historical Park is open year-round from sunrise to sunset. The visitor center is open daily in summer and more limited hours off-season. Entry to the park grounds is always free of charge.

Alaska Raptor Center

Name and Location: The Alaska Raptor Center is a wildlife rehabilitation center located in Sitka, Alaska. The center is dedicated to the rehabilitation and release of injured birds of prey, including eagles, hawks, and owls.

History and Significance: The Alaska Raptor Center was founded in 1980 by a group of volunteers who saw the need for a facility to care for injured birds of prey in Southeast Alaska. Since then, the center has treated over 200 birds per year and has become a leader in raptor rehabilitation and education.

What to Expect: Visitors to the Alaska Raptor Center can take a guided tour of the facility and learn about the center’s work in rehabilitating injured birds. The tour includes a visit to the center’s clinic, where visitors can see the birds being treated, as well as the outdoor habitat areas where the birds are housed during their recovery. Visitors can also attend educational programs and demonstrations, such as the “Raptors in Flight” show, which features free-flying birds of prey.

Visitor Information: The Alaska Raptor Center is open year-round, with guided tours available from May to September. Admission is $15 for adults and $10 for children, with discounts available for military and veterans. The center is located about 2 miles from downtown Sitka and is accessible by car or by shuttle bus from the cruise ship docks.

No trip to Southeast Alaska is complete without a bald eagle sighting. But at the Alaska Raptor Center, visitors can get an up close and personal look at these majestic raptors that symbolize wilderness and freedom.

As Alaska’s largest wildlife rescue center, the Raptor Center cares for 200-300 injured eagles, owls, falcons and hawks annually. Approximately 20 rehabilitating birds reside on site at any time, giving visitors the rare chance to see bald eagles alongside other species like the feathery horned owl or the elusive peregrine falcon.

Interactive exhibits detail what makes raptors such exemplary hunters. See talons capable of carrying heavy animals through the air and explore differences between types of beaks and feathers that have adapted for the raptor’s environment. When a resident eagle gives its feathers a shake, it’s easy to appreciate how air pockets between feathers trap heat to keep Alaska’s raptors warm.

Don’t miss the short film telling stories of individual injured raptors treated at the center or the daily bird presentations where handlers detail each bird’s history. Friendly staff happily answer questions as visitors observe the birds’ enclosures just feet away.

Before leaving, head out on the Forest and Muskeg loop trail behind the center to scan the treeline for wild eagles and other birds that call Southeast Alaska home. The Raptor Center also leads eagle viewing boat cruises and guided birding walks for more raptor sightings throughout the year.

The Alaska Raptor Center is situated just north of downtown Sitka at Sawmill Creek Road. Summer hours are 8am-4pm daily and shorter hours are offered in winter months. General admission includes the exhibits hall, film and trail access. Upgraded admission allows visitors to take home professional photo souvenirs of their eagle encounter.

Sheldon Jackson Museum

Name and Location: The Sheldon Jackson Museum is a museum of Alaska Native art and culture located in Sitka, Alaska. The museum is housed in a historic building on the campus of the former Sheldon Jackson College.

History and Significance: The Sheldon Jackson Museum was founded in 1887 by Sheldon Jackson, a Presbyterian missionary who worked to establish schools and churches in Alaska. Jackson collected a vast array of Alaska Native artifacts during his travels, which formed the basis of the museum’s collection. Today, the museum is home to over 6,000 objects, including traditional clothing, tools, weapons, and artwork from the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian peoples.

What to Expect: Visitors to the Sheldon Jackson Museum can explore the museum’s exhibits, which showcase the rich cultural heritage of Alaska’s indigenous peoples. The museum’s collection includes intricate carvings, woven baskets, beaded clothing, and other traditional crafts. Visitors can also attend educational programs and workshops on topics such as Alaska Native history and art.

Visitor Information: The Sheldon Jackson Museum is open year-round, with extended hours during the summer months. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children, with discounts available for Alaska residents. The museum is located on the campus of the former Sheldon Jackson College, about a mile from downtown Sitka. Visitors can walk or take a shuttle bus from the cruise ship docks.

Housed in a stately concrete building that dates to 1895, the Sheldon Jackson Museum introduces visitors to Alaskan Native cultures through an extensive collection of artifacts and artworks spanning the entire state. Exhibits trace common themes between indigenous groups including ways of life, artistry skills and ingenuity in subsistence living.

Highlights at the Sheldon Jackson Museum include a full-size replica of a Tlingit tribal house, Chilkat robes featuring exquisite wool weaving, ornate carvings and tools fashioned fromhorn, wood and stone. See Alaska Native masks used for ceremonial dances that portray animal symbolism and spiritual themes. Visitors can also observe craft demonstrations as Native artists create baskets, carvings, beadwork and other traditional handicrafts on select days.

Situated on the former campus of the historic Sheldon Jackson College just a few blocks from downtown Sitka, the Sheldon Jackson Museum building itself was constructed in 1895 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Entry tickets are valid for two consecutive days so visitors have ample opportunity to immerse themselves in the exhibits on Alaskan Native cultures and histories.

Sheldon Jackson Museum hours are 9am to 5pm daily mid-May through early September with reduced days and hours in shoulder seasons. Guided group tours should be booked in advance.

Sitka Sound Science Center

Name and Location: The Sitka Sound Science Center is a marine science research and education facility located in Sitka, Alaska. The center is situated on the waterfront, with stunning views of Sitka Sound and the surrounding mountains.

History and Significance: The Sitka Sound Science Center was founded in 2005 as a partnership between the Sitka Sound Science Center nonprofit organization and the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The center’s mission is to promote marine research and education in Southeast Alaska, with a focus on sustainable fisheries and ecosystem health.

What to Expect: Visitors to the Sitka Sound Science Center can explore the center’s exhibits on marine life and ecology, including a touch tank with live sea creatures and a display on the life cycle of salmon. The center also offers educational programs and workshops for all ages, such as tide pool walks and marine mammal monitoring. Visitors can also take a tour of the center’s research facilities and learn about the latest projects and findings.

Visitor Information: The Sitka Sound Science Center is open year-round, with extended hours during the summer months. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children, with discounts available for families and groups. The center is located on the waterfront, about a mile from downtown Sitka. Visitors can walk or take a shuttle bus from the cruise ship docks.

Families traveling with kids and all visitors who want to get out on the water in Sitka should head to the Sitka Sound Science Center. This non-profit runs educational programs that get locals and tourists alike involved in learning more about the amazing Southeast Alaskan marine environment.

The Science Center’s key attraction is the working hatchery where visitors can feed baby salmon by hand and watch them swim about as they mature. Self-guided signage details the four-year life cycle of salmon who get their start in streams and return to their birth river to spawn. Understand how hatchery efforts help stabilize commercial fisheries as wild salmon populations decline.

Visitors should also check the schedule for the Science Center’s daily enrichment talks covering marine life topics like sea stars and kelp forests. Special kids’ activities might find young visitors getting messy experimenting with sensory tubes that mimic an octopus’ siphon.

Make time to explore the dock system where seals are known to haul out. Interpretive displays name various boats and review commercial fishing practices. Don’t miss watching the live video feed from an underwater camera – you never know what sea creatures might swim by!

Throughout the year, the Sitka Sound Science Center leads hands-on field seminars exploring intertidal zones, guided kayak trips in scenic locations like Redoubt Bay, and whale watching cruises during peak migration months. Book an adventure to make the most out of your Sitka visit!

The Sitka Sound Science Center is located one mile north of downtown Sitka. It’s open daily in peak summer season with more variable hours the rest of the year. Entry to see the hatchery and permanent exhibits is free while field programs charge reasonable rates.

Sitka Trail Works

Name and Location: Sitka Trail Works is a nonprofit organization that maintains and promotes the hiking trails in and around Sitka, Alaska. The organization is headquartered in downtown Sitka, but its work can be seen throughout the region.

History and Significance: Sitka Trail Works was founded in 1998 by a group of local volunteers who saw the need for a coordinated effort to maintain and improve Sitka’s hiking trails. Since then, the organization has worked to build and maintain over 50 miles of trails, ranging from easy nature walks to challenging backcountry routes.

What to Expect: Visitors to Sitka can explore the many hiking trails maintained by Sitka Trail Works, which offer a variety of landscapes and difficulty levels. Some of the most popular trails include the Gavan Hill Trail, which offers panoramic views of Sitka Sound, and the Indian River Trail, which winds through old-growth forest and along a scenic river. Sitka Trail Works also offers guided hikes and educational programs for visitors and locals alike.

Visitor Information: Sitka Trail Works maintains a website and a trail map that visitors can use to plan their hiking adventures. The organization also has a store in downtown Sitka where visitors can purchase trail maps, guidebooks, and other hiking gear. Hikers should be prepared for variable weather conditions and should always carry appropriate safety gear, such as water, food, and first aid supplies.

Adventurous visitors looking to stretch their legs in Sitka’s beautiful environs should head out on the trails maintained by Sitka Trail Works. As Southeast Alaska’s largest trail system, Sitka Trail Works’ path network spans over 50 miles of gorgeous coastal forest scenery surrounding town.

Sitka Trail Work’s crown jewel is the Sitka Cross Trail – a 4 mile route accessible just up Sawmill Creek Road behind the airport. Following gentle grades, hikers pass massive old growth trees and ascend to stunning viewpoints over Sitka and the ocean beyond. Keep an eye out for foraging deer, playful river otters and soaring eagles.

Just across the channel north of downtown Sitka, the 2 mile Mosquito Cove Trail loops through mature forest and the old Starrigavan cemetery site. Logs placed over the boggy muskeg make this an easy, family-friendly trek any time of year.

For those seeking a more intensive hike, the Gavan Hill Trail climbs over 800 feet to sweeping vistas from Baranof Castle Hill high over Sitka Harbor. See the trails map linked below for more great hikes including the Beaver Lake Loop, the Five Peaks Alpine Trail and the Luthi Peninsula Tidelands Traverse.

Sitka Trail Works provides free detailed trail maps on their website and at key tourist spots around town. Be sure to download Avenza Maps phone app for GPS services on the trail. Sitka Trail Works also leads guided hikes to popular routes on occasional weekends.

With over 14 hours of usable daylight in June and early July, daylight stretches long enough for tackling multiple treks around Sitka. Just beware of bears, always hike in groups of 3 or more, and make noise in dense brush areas. For detailed bear safety precautions, review the Alaska Department of Fish & Game website.

Fortress of the Bear

Name and Location: Fortress of the Bear is a wildlife sanctuary and education center located in Sitka, Alaska. The sanctuary is situated on five acres of land just outside of town and is home to several rescued brown bears.

History and Significance: Fortress of the Bear was founded in 2007 by a group of volunteers who saw the need for a facility to care for orphaned and injured bears in Southeast Alaska. Since then, the sanctuary has taken in several bears that were deemed unsuitable for release back into the wild, either due to injury or habituation to humans.

What to Expect: Visitors to Fortress of the Bear can take a guided tour of the sanctuary and learn about the bears and their stories. The tours include a visit to the bear habitat, where visitors can observe the bears playing, swimming, and foraging for food. The sanctuary also offers educational programs and workshops on bear biology and conservation.

Visitor Information: Fortress of the Bear is open year-round, with guided tours available from May to September. Admission is $15 for adults and $10 for children, with discounts available for families and groups. The sanctuary is located about 5 miles from downtown Sitka and is accessible by car or by shuttle bus from the cruise ship docks. Visitors should dress warmly and be prepared for variable weather conditions.

The Fortress of the Bear rescue center provides a safe sanctuary for orphaned and injured brown bear cubs to grow up wild at heart while avoiding dangerous run-ins with humans before their release back into the Tongass National Forest. Visitors to the Fortress of the Bear receive a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to observe these impressive animals up close in a natural enclosure.

As you walk the 3/4 mile loop trail encompassing the eight-acre site just outside Sitka, pause to watch rescued bears roaming, swimming and playing with their preferred enrichment toys. Interpretive signs detail each bear’s backstory – how they came to the center and their prospects for eventual release. See the big bear snores emanating from the bunkhouse on a sleepy afternoon!

Time your visit for one of the daily bear presentations where skilled handlers share more intimate details on the resident bears’ progress and personalities while visitors stand just 30 feet away safely behind a reinforced wall. You’re sure to leave smiling after watching tongues lap up frozen fish treats and pools splash during rambunctious bath time antics.

The Fortress of the Bear welcomes visitors to its magical muskeg habitat an hour’s drive north from Sitka out scenic Sawmill Creek Road between May and early October. Come share stories and help fund food, toys and fenced habitat for these magnificent brown bears by booking a trip to the Fortress of the Bear.

Alaska Pioneers Home

Name and Location: The Alaska Pioneers Home is a state-run assisted living facility located in Sitka, Alaska. The home is situated on a scenic hilltop overlooking Sitka Sound and the surrounding mountains.

History and Significance: The Alaska Pioneers Home was established in 1913 as a retirement home for Alaska’s early settlers and gold rush pioneers. The home has since expanded to serve seniors from all walks of life, providing a comfortable and supportive living environment for those who need assisted living or skilled nursing care.

What to Expect: Visitors to the Alaska Pioneers Home can take a tour of the facility and learn about its history and mission. The home features a museum with exhibits on the lives of early Alaska pioneers, as well as a gift shop with handmade crafts and souvenirs. Visitors can also stroll the home’s scenic grounds and enjoy the panoramic views of Sitka Sound.

Visitor Information: The Alaska Pioneers Home is open to visitors year-round, with tours available by appointment. Admission is free, but donations to support the home’s programs and services are welcome. The home is located about a mile from downtown Sitka and is accessible by car or by shuttle bus from the cruise ship docks.

Visiting places where local history unfolded always adds a meaningful layer to understanding a destination. In Sitka, the Alaska Pioneers Home showcases over a century of community life as the town developed in Southeast Alaska.

This sprawling campus along beautiful, walkable Linclon Street functions as a skilled nursing facility for elderly Alaskans today. But the Alaska Pioneers Home began in 1913 as a residence for sourdoughs – prospectors from the Klondike gold rush who helped establish Sitka’s fishing industry as they aged.

Stroll through the grounds and step inside the main building to view historic photos depicting residents over the years along with cultural artifacts and stories showcasing life in Alaska since territorial times. See a prospector’s cabin, a dogsled set up for mail routes, and a Tlingit canoe carved from a single cedar log.

Be sure to wander down the estuary boardwalk behind the property for excellent birdwatching over the tidal flats. Plan to grab lunch on the back deck at the Home’s restaurant, Sweet Pea’s. Menu offerings focus on local, sustainable foods and coffees roasted right in Sitka.

The Alaska Pioneers Home historic displays are accessible daily to walk through freely, while guided group tours should make reservations in advance. Visiting this site makes for a lovely hour spent reflecting on Sitka’s place in Alaskan history with gorgeous estuary views as a bonus.

Sitka Rose Gallery

Name and Location: The Sitka Rose Gallery is an art gallery located in downtown Sitka, Alaska. The gallery features the work of local and regional artists, with a focus on Alaska Native art and crafts.

History and Significance: The Sitka Rose Gallery was founded in 1999 by artist and entrepreneur Sandy Grimes. Grimes saw the need for a space to showcase the work of Sitka’s many talented artists and artisans, and the gallery has since become a fixture of the local art scene.

What to Expect: Visitors to the Sitka Rose Gallery can browse a wide selection of original artwork, including paintings, sculptures, jewelry, and textiles. The gallery features the work of both established and emerging artists, with a focus on contemporary Alaska Native art. Visitors can also attend artist receptions and demonstrations, and purchase unique gifts and souvenirs.

Visitor Information: The Sitka Rose Gallery is open year-round, with extended hours during the summer months. Admission is free, and the gallery is located in the heart of downtown Sitka, just a short walk from the cruise ship docks. Visitors can also shop online through the gallery’s website.

Art lovers visiting Sitka will be impressed by the caliber of native crafts and fine artwork created and sold in town at galleries and studios around town. Top among them, Sitka Rose Gallery is a downtown jewel showcasing fiber art, prints, sculpture and jewelry crafted by artists from Sitka and across the state.

The gallery’s namesake embroidered silk “roses” depict the beautiful flora found around Sitka. Invest time studying the intricate petals, leaves and stems woven with the highest level of artistry. Table runners, wall hangings, clothing patches and more exhibit creative renderings of local plants like fireweed, rose hips and trailing blackberry brambles.

Beyond the embroidery work, Sitka Rose Gallery sells all kinds of unique Alaskan pieces like gold jewelry influenced by Tinglit designs, economic wildlife carvings in antler and yellow cedar, prints portraying coastal scenery, and blown glass works tinted like the northern lights dancing across night skies. Meet visiting artists during gallery receptions from May through August too.

Situated along congested Halibut Point Road in downtown Sitka, Sitka Rose Gallery makes a convenient stop while strolling between other local businesses. Summer hours are 9am to 5pm daily with winter hours varying based on cruise ship schedules. Be sure to visit!

Sitka World War II Sites

Name and Location: Sitka World War II Sites are a collection of historic landmarks and memorials located throughout Sitka, Alaska. These sites commemorate the role that Sitka played in the defense of Alaska during World War II.

History and Significance: During World War II, Sitka was a strategic military outpost, with a naval air station, army garrison, and coastal defenses. The town played a key role in the Aleutian Islands Campaign, which sought to defend Alaska from Japanese invasion. Today, the Sitka World War II Sites preserve the memory of this important chapter in American history.

What to Expect: Visitors to the Sitka World War II Sites can explore a variety of historic landmarks and memorials, including the Sitka Naval Operating Base and Japonski Island Boathouse, which were used by the U.S. Navy during the war. Other sites include the Sitka National Cemetery, where many veterans are buried, and the Alaska World War II Memorial, which honors the sacrifices of Alaskans who served in the war.

Visitor Information: The Sitka World War II Sites are located throughout the town of Sitka and can be explored on foot or by car. Many of the sites are open year-round, with interpretive signage and exhibits. Visitors can also take guided tours of the sites through local tour operators.

Beyond its Russian heritage, Sitka also played an intriguing role during World War II that visitors can still see traces of today. As the only deep water port between Seattle and Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, Sitka’s strategic location made it key for staging Allied campaigns to oust Japanese invaders.

Start at Totem Square downtown to view the World War II Memorial honoring the Alaskan residents who served in every branch of the military. Etched granite panels also commemorate the 1944 attack when a Japanese plane bombed military buildings and merchant ships anchored in Sitka’s harbor.

Along Katlian Street, find the old army barracks which have been converted into businesses and apartments today. Then head south along Seward Avenue through the old military base inside Sitka National Historical Park. Interpretive signs trace how thousands of soldiers were stationed in this area both during and after the war while an airstrip was constructed where Japanese subs once entered Sitka Sound.

Drive down Sawmill Creek Road near the airport to explore Fort Ray – an installation built in the aftermath of the Japanese bombing though no subsequent attacks ever occurred. Displays at the on-site museum explain more about Sitka’s place in World War II history through artifacts, stories and engaging films.

Though seven decades have passed since its days as a Pacific military stronghold, traces of Sitka’s World War II history can still be felt around town today.

Sitka Sound Ocean Adventures

Name and Location: Sitka Sound Ocean Adventures is a tour company based in Sitka, Alaska that offers a variety of marine wildlife viewing and adventure tours in the waters around Sitka.

History and Significance: Sitka Sound is home to a rich diversity of marine life, including whales, sea lions, otters, and countless species of birds. Sitka Sound Ocean Adventures was founded by a group of local experts who saw the need for a tour company that could provide visitors with an authentic and educational experience of this unique ecosystem.

What to Expect: Visitors who book a tour with Sitka Sound Ocean Adventures can choose from a variety of options, including whale watching, ocean fishing, and kayaking trips. The company’s knowledgeable guides provide expert commentary on the wildlife and ecology of the area, as well as tips on how to spot and photograph the animals. Tours are conducted on comfortable, high-speed boats equipped with heated cabins and restrooms.

Visitor Information: Sitka Sound Ocean Adventures operates tours from May to September, with multiple departures daily. Tours range in length from a few hours to a full day, and prices vary depending on the type of tour and the number of participants. The company’s office is located in downtown Sitka, and tours depart from the Sitka harbor. Visitors should dress in warm, waterproof layers and bring a camera and binoculars.

Southeast Alaska’s temperate rainforests, glaciated mountains and fertile ocean environment collide to create a rich ecosystem teeming with incredible biodiversity. Visitors aiming to witness Sitka’s impressive marine life and forage for delicious wild foods should book an outing with Sitka Sound Ocean Adventures.

This highly regarded outfitter leads land and water-based adventures showcasing stunning areas both near and far from Sitka’s shores. Paddle through bioluminescent waters out to the bird cliffs at Saint Lazaria Islands National Wildlife Refuge. From the comfort of a stable kayak, watch humpback whales bubble net feeding just feet away as eagles circle overhead. Return home with coolers overflowing with spot prawns and rockfish caught from hidden coves that only tribal members once accessed.

Sitka Sound Ocean Adventure’s skilled guides are experts at navigating Southeast Alaska’s nuanced weather and tidal patterns. They keep guests safe while navigating narrow fjords where seals laze on icebergs and orcas hunt for herring. Between paddling under iconic Sitka rainbows, guides seamlessly interpret the natural wonders and Alaska Native legends that have connected Tlingit people and wildlife to this coastal place for centuries.

See website for a full list of Alaska adventure options spanning photography paddles, multi-day camping excursions, and private charters aboard the tricked out expedition sailboat Raven. However you choose to explore, Sitka Sound Ocean Adventures promises breathtaking beauty and memorable moments around every point.

Gavan Hill Trail

Name and Location: The Gavan Hill Trail is a popular hiking trail located in Sitka, Alaska. The trailhead is located at the end of Baranof Street, just a short drive from downtown Sitka.

History and Significance: The Gavan Hill Trail is one of Sitka’s most beloved hiking routes, offering stunning views of the town, Sitka Sound, and the surrounding mountains. The trail was built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps and has been maintained by local volunteers and the U.S. Forest Service.

Looking for an exhilarating hike with panoramic payoff? Check out the 2 mile out-and-back trail to the top of Gavan

Hill. Accessible from within Sitka National Historical Park just south of downtown off Lincoln Street, this moderate trail gains over 800 feet in elevation before culminating on the open summit knob.

The trail sets off from a small dirt parking area inside the national park’s southern section. Walk down past the national park’s maintenance area then cross the steel bridge over Indian River. Early on, the wide gravel road leads gently through thick coastal forest. Listen for eagles calling overhead as salmon struggle upstream below the footbridge.

Around a half mile in, the road narrows into a true hiking path with boardwalked sections traversing damp lowlands. As the route begins to climb in earnest, catch glimpses of Sitka’s historic buildings downtown through breaks in the trees.

Emerge from the forest onto Gavan Hill’s summit to witness a breathtaking 360° panorama. Looking west, admire the imposing Mount Edgecumbe volcano rising from the sea. Turn northward over the site where Russia officially claimed Alaska as its territory in 1804 as sailors’ ships fill Sitka Channel below. Swing southeast to follow the meandering curve of Baranof Island’s mountainous spine cloaked in emerald forest.

Visitors should take care to watch their step along the summit’s rocky and exposed terrain. But on a clear day, you’ll be tempted to linger enjoying views of Sitka and the snow-dappled coast mountains bordering the North Pacific stretching to the horizon.

With its steep yet short distance, the invigorating hike up Gavan Hill makes for a perfect leg stretcher anytime during your Sitka stay. Bring a windbreaker though since ocean breezes can be brisk at the top even when town remains mild down below.


A trip to Sitka serves as the quintessential Alaskan getaway with adventures spanning lively cultural sights and outdoor wilderness escapes. Wandering past historic attractions evokes Sitka’s legacy as both important Tlingit territory and the former capital of Russian America centuries ago. And residents’ continued legacy manifests through fine art galleries and Native dance performances today.

Out amidst the natural beauty blanketing Baranof Island’s rugged coastline, travelers find limitless opportunities to sightsee on scenic boat tours, paddle quiet bays scanning for wildlife, and hike through tunnels of old growth forest to breathtaking vistas. Whether planning just an extended weekend or a weeklong stay, Sitka’s charming locale and wealth of things to see and do beckons you to come explore southeast Alaska’s “Paris of the North.”

Leave a Comment