Ketchikan is often the first port of call in Alaska by Cruise Ship, giving it the nickname, Alaska’s First City. It is a bustling community backed by forested hills and surrounded by a network of waterways busy with float planes, fishing boats, ferries and cruise ships. The little town of almost 14,000 is built right over the water in many places. Commercial fishing enterprises, growing tourism and the Misty Fjords National Monument to the east make Ketchikan a great place to visit. It’s fishing industry is so large, it has become known as the “Salmon Capital of the World.”

Misty Fjords National Monument is a pristine masterpiece featuring some of Alaska’s most spectacular scenery. Seventeen thousand years ago the area was covered in ice. Massive glacier action carved out its present landscape of long saltwater fjords and 3,000 foot cliffs.

One of the best ways to explore Ketchikan is on foot. Start at the busy City Dock with a stop at the Visitor Bureau to pick up a Ketchikan Walking Tour Map, so you won’t miss anything.

Ketchikan is located in southeastern Alaska and has the distinction of having the world’s largest collection of totem poles. To view some of these carved masterpieces, visit Saxman Village Totem Park, Totem Bight State Park or the Totem Heritage Center.

Ketchikan Visitors Bureau 50 Front Street, downtown on the cruise ship dock. Open May-Sept daily. 907-225-6166 or 800-770-3300
www.visit-ketchikan.com

In 1883, a man named Snow built a salmon saltery where Ketchikan now stands. Two years later, businessmen from Portland, Oregon, hired Mike Martin to investigate possibilities of building a salmon cannery on the banks of Ketchikan Creek. Martin and the cannery’s manager, George Clark, formed a partnership and opened a saltery and a general store. Two years later, with the fishing trade flourishing, Ketchikan was definitely in business and by 1900, with a population of approximately 800, the town was officially incorporated.

With mining activities beginning in the area, Ketchikan became an important trading community, with an estimated two-thirds of miners’ wages reportedly ending up in the bars and bordellos of Creek Street.

Despite a mining decline, the fishing industry and timber operations began to grow with establishment of the Ketchikan Spruce Mills early in the century.
In 1954, Ketchikan Pulp Mill was completed at nearby Ward Cove, assuring jobs not only in town, but in the surrounding woods as well. Today, that industry is in trouble worldwide but the ever-resilient Alaskans are focusing on another mainstay, tourism.

Best Places to Stay in Ketchikan

Black Bear Inn

This waterfront Inn has a B&B suites and two vacation rental units. Free Continental Plus Breakfast for B&B guests, and free Wi-fi included. Parking on site or get picked up/dropped off at the ferry terminal. 

Ketchikan Hostel

They offer clean, comfortable accommodations in a beautiful cedar home. Great views of the Tongass Narrows and only a half mile from the Ferry Terminal.

Gilmore Hotel

The Gilmore Hotel is part of the Wyndham family of hotels. It is located in the heart of downtown, only 3 miles from Ketchikan Airport. Only steps from downtown dining, shopping, entertainment, and cruise ports.

 

Camping in Ketchikan

Last Chance Campground

Last Chance Campground has campsites with  paved access, gravel pads for RV’s, picnic tables, fire pits, water and toilets. Advance reservations can be made for designated sites. 

Signal Creek Campground

Campsites with paved access, gravel pads for RVs, picnic tables, fire pits, water, and toilets. Beautiful campsites surrounded by giant spruce, cedar and hemlock trees. The area is adjacent to Ward Lake, hiking trails and fishing spots.

Ward Lake Recreation Area

Ward Lake Recreation Area is 8 miles north on Ward Lake Road. Follow signs to campgrounds, day use area, shelters, picnic tables, trails and lake for all to enjoy. 

Clover Pass Resort

Clover Pass Resort is 15 miles North of Ketchikan. RV hook-ups with electricity, water, sewer, cable, laundry and dump station.  Rustic accommodations.

 

Things to Do in Ketchikan

Creek Street

Historic Creek Street is not so much a street as a boardwalk built on pilings over Ketchikan Creek. This was the famed red-light district for half a century, until 1954 when the profession became illegal.

The first house, with its bright red doors and windows, is Dolly’s House, the parlor of the city’s most infamous madam. It is now a museum dedicated to this era. Creek Street boardwalk is a collection of historic homes, restaurants, museums, galleries, and shops. All popular stops along the boardwalk.

Allen Marine Tours of Misty Fjords National Monument

Allen Marine Tours explores Misty Fjords National Monument, one of nature’s most spectacular creations, while cruising on a high-speed catamaran. Watch for wildlife as you “fly” at sea level past Revillagigedo Channel’s rugged coastline. Voyage into Behm Canal, surrounded by the pristine beauty of Misty Fjords. View an active bald eagle’s nest, a Tlingit pictograph and New Eddystone Rock, an immense volcanic spire rising from the emerald sea. Learn the natural history of the fjords beneath 3,000 foot vertical cliffs.

Adventure Kart Expedition

Sit back, strap yourself in for the off-road adventure of a lifetime. Experience the Alaskan wilderness from the driver’s seat of an off-road adventure kart. Mountain trails are the perfect venue for off-roading. 

Aerial Zip & Rappel and Rainforest Zip with Skybridges

Two exciting courses in one amazing location. Enjoy gliding through the rainforest on eight zip lines. Navigate aerial bridges suspended between tall trees, all bordering the magnificent Tongass National Forest. This rainforest reserve embraces one of Alaska’s richest salmon spawning streams and a pristine inter-tidal estuary. 

Rainforest Sanctuary

A visit to the nature sanctuary offers spectacular wildlife viewing. Your guide will take you into the dense rainforest bordering the Tongass National Forest, offering a great opportunity to spot black bear, Sitka black-tailed deer, and bald eagles. After your guided walk visits the Alaska Raptor Center exhibit, a historic sawmill, and view the Alaskan Native Totem Park which includes a 40-foot totem, carved on-site by a Tsimshian totem carver.

Arctic Spirit Gallery

This gallery specializes in Alaskan and Northwest Coast Native Art. The art on display is among Alaska’s finest and each piece is unique. Locally owned and operated since 1996. 

Saxman Native Village – Totem Park

Ketchikan is known as the totem capital of the world, and the best place to see the most standing totem poles in one location, is at Saxman Village Totem Park. The totems on display are authentic replicas of original poles previously abandoned in native villages.

A free downtown shuttle or city bus will take visitors to Saxman, which is about two miles south of Ketchikan.

Totem Bight State Historical Park

Located 10 miles north of Ketchikan, Totem Bight State Park is home to numerous restored and re-carved totem poles. Nestled in the lush rainforest, along the Tongass Narrows, visitors can wander through the paths discovering over a dozen beautifully carved totems.

The Clan House offers visitors a glimpse into Alaska Native culture and history. This amazing structure is intricately carved and adorned with vibrant artwork.

Totem Heritage Center

Totem Heritage Center serves as the place where totem poles from Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian communities are gathered and restored to their original condition. The collection totals over 30, making it the largest collection in Alaska. The Totem Heritage Center is on the National Register of Historic Places for its collection of original, 19th century totem poles.

Tongass Historical Museum

A collection of Ketchikan’s history and heritage. The Tongass Historical Museum offers insight into Ketchikan’s past, present, and future with exhibitions, programs and archives.

The Museum is a quick 10-minute walk from the cruise ship docks and downtown.

The Southeast Alaska Discovery Center

Visitors can explore the natural and cultural heritage of the Inside Passage and the Tongass National Forest. Exhibits range from a walk-through a rainforest to a re-created native fishing village. Discover how the forest has sustained vibrant cultures and healthy ecosystems for thousands of years. Rangers are on hand answering questions, giving talks and helping kids become Junior Rangers. 

Scanlon Gallery

Scanlon Gallery is the oldest art Gallery in Alaska. Proudly representing Alaskan Artists and the arst since 1972. There is a wide variety of Original paintings, prints, sculptures, photos, pottery, and hand-crafted jewelry including gold nugget jewelry with nuggets mined and made in Alaska. 

Taquan Air

Fly over the magnificent Misty Fjords National Monument with Taquan Air in an authentic Alaskan Floatplane. View some of the most incredible scenery in Alaska on this once-in-a-lifetime experience. A highlight of your tour will be an exhilarating landing on an alpine lake or remote fjord. 

Ketchikan Walking Tour

This free, do-it-yourself, activity includes 33 points of interest within easy walking distance of the downtown area. The two-mile excursion takes about two hours. The free map can be picked up at Ketchikan Visitors Information Centers.

Deer Mountain Tribal Hatchery and Eagle Center

The wooden buildings over Ketchikan Creek give visitors excellent viewing access to see fish climbing against the current up into pools where they are sorted. The hatchery tours allow guests up close, right in the action, where you can feed the growing salmon. The Deer Mountain Hatchery produces king and silver salmon and steelhead trout. 

Visitors can also explore the eagle enclosure and meet the resident pair of injured, flightless bald eagles.  

Centennial Museum Library

Centennial Museum Library on Dock Street in downtown Ketchikan, has an excellent collection of native artifacts, pioneer relics, wildlife, a gun collection, pioneer household equipment, old photos, and books on Alaska.

Ketchikan Creek and Falls

Ketchikan Creek and Falls is downtown, adjacent to the library. During the spawning season, it offers excellent views of the salmon runs that have made the town famous.

 

Getting around in Ketchikan, AK

Alaska Marine Highway

The Alaska Marine Highway provides year-round ferry transportation throughout Southeast Alaska. The ferries provide residents and visitors with an opportunity to experience the scenery, wildlife, and warm hospitality of a variety of ports between Bellingham, Washington, and Southwest Alaska. All routes within the Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) are, collectively, a National Scenic Byway.

Inter-Island Ferry

The Inter-Island Ferry Service offers a service connecting Ketchikan to Hollis on Prince of Wales Island. The ferry ride takes 3 hours and operates year-round.

Alaska Car Rental

Ketchikan’s oldest car rental company. They have new and late model cars, vans and SUV s. Convenient locations at both the airport and in town, open 7 days a week..

Ketchikan FAQS:

Is Ketchikan Alaska worth visiting?

Yes, Ketchikan is definitely worth visiting. There is an incredible history and vast array of things to do to keep any visitor busy. Some of the top things to do that make Ketchikan worth visiting are:

Are there grizzly bears in Ketchikan?

No, there are only black bears on Revillagigedo Island, the island that Ketchikan, Alaska is located on.

What will the weather be like in Ketchikan Alaska?

In the summer months of June, July and August, Ketchikan weather is mild, ranging between 50.0 °F | 10.0 °C and 70.0 °F | 21.0 °C. Ketchikan is known for having a lot of rain, but the majority of the rainfall is in the fall. September through January are the wettest months, while May through July are the driest months in Ketchikan.

Will we see any Wildlife in Ketchikan Alaska?

Absolutely you will see wildlife in Ketchikan. Ketchikan is located in the midst of the Tongass National Forest which is home to black bears, wolves, Sitka black-tailed deer, mountain goats, bald eagles, ravens, and over 100 other species of birds. 

Not only does Ketchikan have an abundance of wildlife on land, it’s also possible to see Orca and humpback whales, sea lions, seals, sea otters, river otters, and porpoises. 

Are there wolves in Ketchikan Alaska?

Yes, the rare gray wolf inhabits the Alexander Archipelago, which is made up of the islands and coastal regions of Southeast Alaska. The Ketchikan area is included in this area.

Wolves are not nearly as common to see as black bears or other wildlife in Ketchikan, but it is possible to encounter them.

Can I see bears in Ketchikan?

Yes, black bears are abundant in Ketchikan and on Revillagigedo Island. There are wildlife tours or you may see one crossing the road or fishing for salmon in one of the streams. Bear encounters are a common part of Alaska life.

Can you see the northern lights in Ketchikan Alaska?

Yes, you can see the Northern Lights from Ketchikan if all the conditions are right. First, you will need darkness to see the Aurora Borealis, and Alaska in the summer doesn’t have a lot of darkness. However, Ketchikan is the furthest south city in Alaska and therefore sees the shortest days of any Alaska town in the summer.

Also, because coastal cities like Ketchikan get so much rain, there is a lot of cloud cover, which also makes it hard to spot the Northern Lights. 

So, yes, it is definitely possible to see the Northern Lights in Ketchikan, but it is more difficult than in other parts of Alaska. Click here to see when to spot the Aurora in Alaska.

Do you need a car to get around Ketchikan?

No, it’s not necessary to have a car in Ketchikan. If you arrive on a cruise ship, it is easy to walk around Ketchikan’s downtown area. There is also a free city bus that transports visitors around the city in a loop. The free Ketchikan shuttle bus runs from May through September. There are also city buses that run 7 days a week that service all the major streets in Ketchikan.

If you’re looking for a different type of transportation try the bicycle or electric cart rentals available for visitors.

Local Taxis are also an option for airport or ferry terminal pick up and drop offs. However, taxi fares are not cheap, so ask ahead for the costs. 

Uber and Lyft operate in Ketchikan, however, there is not a large enough population to generate a big demand, so you may not find one available when you need it. Don’t expect a large number of Ubers available at a moment’s notice, like you would in a large city.

If you’re planning to get out of the city, you may want a car, and there are car rental companies in Ketchikan that can help you. Alaska Car Rental has cars available at the airport and a downtown location.

How long is the ferry from Seattle to Ketchikan?

The Alaska Marine Highway Ferry departs from Bellingham, not Seattle. The ferry ride from Bellingham to Ketchikan is 38 hours

Is there taxi service in Ketchikan Alaska?

Yes, there are Taxis available in Ketchikan. Most will offer to take visitors on a private tour of Ketchikan. This can be a good way to get away from the crowds and tour through town at your own pace.

Are there Ubers in Ketchikan Alaska?

Yes, both Uber and Lyft operate in Ketchikan, however, there is not a large enough population to generate a big demand, so you may not find one available when you need it. But if you are able to secure a ride, you should still see savings over using a taxi.

Can you walk around Ketchikan Alaska?

You can definitely walk around Ketchikan. You can walk from the main cruise terminals through downtown to Creek Street, and many of Ketchikan’s main attractions. Walking to Totem Heritage Center may be too long for some people, but you can take the free shuttle or a taxi. 

For the most part, walking around Ketchikan will be the easiest way to get around. But remember, it can rain often in Southeast Alaska, so don’t forget to bring a rain jacket or umbrella.

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