Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Ketchikan, AK

  • Published 2022/12/06

Ketchikan embodies the unique Alaskan culture through its community and stunning scenery.

This Alaskan city is also called many names like the “Salmon Capital of the World” and the “Gateway to Southeast Alaska,” but this small city has more to offer than meets the eye.

Ketchikan is one of the best places to visit in Alaska aside from the last frontier because of its stunning scenery, fishing expeditions, and rich native heritage.

However, over the years, Ketchikan has transformed itself into a thriving and upcoming arts destination because of its vibrant arts community.

Many of its locals are aspiring artists who contribute to this city’s unique traits.

At the same time, they complement their hometown’s already amazing reputation.

Historically, Ketchikan had its humble beginnings as a logging and fishing community that thrived along the 10-mile stretch of the Tongass Narrows.

Today, it has turned into a stunning tourist destination worthy of your bucket list.

Many exciting things await you in this small coastal city on Revillagigedo Island.

So, read on for the 20 best things to do in Ketchikan, Alaska.

Take Your Best Pose at the Welcome to Ketchikan Sign

View of the colorful Ketchican Sign

Ric Jacyno /

As proof that you’ve set foot in Ketchikan, don’t miss posing for a photo at its famous welcome sign that arches over Mission Street.

The welcome sign is a famous place for tourists in the city to take photos before they tour around.

For many, it’s more of a tradition than a cliché to pose for photos in a tourist attraction’s signage or landmarks as proof that they’ve visited the place.

Moreover, Ketchikan’s welcome sign isn’t just your average landmark, it’s nicely designed, and it has a beautiful backdrop of the nearby snowcapped mountains.

If you’re planning to take photos with the sign, it’s best viewed during nighttime as the letters are vibrantly lit in neon red.

Watch the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show

One of the participants of the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show

ackats /

The Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show is one of the most exciting things to witness in Ketchikan.

This fantastic show happening at the Lumberjack Sports Arena is not just entertaining, but also a showcase of how Alaskan men do their daily work while being competitive.

A man on a wooden pole during the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show

ackats /

The show has been running since the late 50s.

Today, it remains one of the most entertaining attractions in Ketchikan, which also pays homage to the city’s lumberjacks, who are their economy’s backbone.

More than a hundred loggers coming from various parts of Alaska compete in the show that has a regular schedule each month.

The audience watching the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show

ackats /

Conquer the Challenge of the Deer Mountain Trail

Scenic view from the Deer Mountain Trail

ACK Artists /

The Deer Mountain Trail is a place in Ketchikan for those who want to test their mettle outdoors.

This trail is a known destination for seasoned hikers and outdoor adventurers because of its technicality and changing weather conditions.

The entire trail stretches roughly 3-miles, while the hike takes around four hours to finish.

Scenic daytime view at Deer Mountain Trail

ACK Artists /

The challenge in hiking through this trail is its 2,600-feet ascend, paired with unpredictable weather conditions.

In addition, the trail’s narrow surface changes from gravel, dirt, boardwalk to wooden stairs.

The end of the trail leads you to the Deer Mountain Shelter, which serves as a camping site.

Many hikers traverse this trail not just for the challenge but for the scenic backdrop of Ketchikan and the neighboring islands of Revillagigedo.

Peaceful nature at Deer Mountain Trail

Ann O’Ryan Spehar /

Stroll through the Charming Creek Street

The wooden name arch of Creek Street

Jiri Vondrous /

There’s no other unique and charming place in Ketchikan than Creek Street.

This iconic street in the city was constructed along Ketchikan Creek.

It’s built over the creek instead of blasting away the rocky hills surrounding it.

Thousands of visitors stroll through the street’s wooden boardwalk and pilings.

Body of water under the houses at Creek Street

Wise Dog Studio /

Creek Street is home to many of Ketchikan’s local businesses, restaurants, art galleries, hotels, inns, and museums.

Historically, Creek Street served as the city’s red-light district.

However, it transformed itself into the city’s most iconic attraction.

Aside from taking photos, there are tons of leisure activities to enjoy on Creek Street.

You can shop, dine, visit art galleries and museums the entire day.

Exterior of the famous Dolly's house at Creek Street

illuminaphoto /

Step Inside the Southeast Alaska Discovery Centre

The Southeast Alaska Discovery Centre along Main Street is the best place to know anything about Ketchikan and the Alaskan frontier.

This fascinating discovery center is one of the first places you need to visit when you arrive there.

You will learn a lot about the locals and their rich Native American history and heritage from its interactive exhibits.

In addition, you’ll also learn about the unique ecology and wildlife of Ketchikan.

In addition, Kids can have fun by joining its wide range of outdoor activities and games.

The discovery center also offers guided hikes through Ketchikan’s Tongass National Forest and a tour through the native fishing village along the Tongass Narrows.

Browse through the Tongass Historical Museum

If you’re interested in more history about Ketchikan and Southeast Alaska, head to the Tongass Historical Museum along Dock Street.

It’s a fascinating place to explore and learn about the city’s colorful past as a former timber town and fishing port.

The museum houses a vast collection of artifacts, memorabilia, and historical photographs detailing Ketchikan’s backstory and its people.

In addition, the museum also houses a collection of modern Native Alaskan art.

Moreover, it has many temporary and fixed exhibitions that pertain to Ketchikan’s art, history, and unique culture that is worth visiting.

Traverse the Rainbird Trail

A short wooden footbridge at Rainbird Trail

Debbie Ann Powell /

If you’re looking for a relaxing hike that gives you amazing views of the vistas in Ketchikan, then head to Rainbird Trail along 7th Avenue.

One of the most popular activities you should do there is hiking, but if you’re too intimidated by the Deer Mountain Trail, the Rainbird Trail is the perfect option.

Rocky trail of Rainbird Trail

Debbie Ann Powell /

It has a 1.3-miles of well-maintained trail that you can traverse with a moderate difficulty level because of its woody terrain.

However, it is not as difficult as it may seem when you’re already hiking along the trail.

The entire hike would likely last an hour from the head trail to its end and get rewarded with beautiful sceneries.

An uphill trail at Rainbird Trail

Enrico Powell /

Check Out the Totem Poles

An eagle shaped totem pole at Totem Bight State Park

Enrico Powell /

If you want to learn more about the Alaskan Native culture and arts, check out the totem poles at the Totem Bight State Park along Tongass Highway.

It is a fascinating place to visit and see closer the 19th-century totem poles created by Native Americans in Ketchikan.

In addition, you can also learn about its history and various meanings through the Totem Heritage Center.

A totem pole called "Kadjuk Bird" at Totem Bight State Park

Debbie Ann Powell /

Take photos of the unique and beautiful carvings of the totems carefully designed by Native Americans in the city.

Historically, the totems already existed way before the area became a state park.

The US Forest Service helped Natives restore and bring back the beauty of the totem poles after the park was established, while newer totem poles were made in the past years.

Visiting the totem poles lets you appreciate the artistic side of the Alaskan Native Americans that created them.

A tall totem pole at Totem Bight State Park

Enrico Powell /

Stop by the Eagle Park

A wooden carved eagle at Eagle Park's entrance

DianeWierengaPhotographer /

Like the Welcome to Ketchikan sign, Eagle Park displays a huge eagle statue as its focal point.

As a visitor, it’s an incredible backdrop for a photo that you can have as your souvenir.

The huge eagle statue is named “Thundering Wings,” created by Nathan Jackson and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Jackson was a local of Ketchikan known throughout the world as a Tlingit master carver.

So, make time to stop by Eagle Park and take photos as your souvenir in this landmark.

Roam through the Saxman Native Village

The tribal house of Saxman Native Village

alysta /

Saxman Native Village is known for its unique and beautifully carved totem poles and wooden statues made by Native Americans in Ketchikan.

The place lets you enjoy watching the intricately detailed totem poles and the village’s famous clan house.

Tall totem poles at Saxman Native Village

Ric Jacyno /

There are guided tours available in Saxman Native Village that you can join to learn the meanings behind the totem poles and other statues, while you’ll get the chance to witness Native Americans doing traditional dances inside the clan house.

More than 25 totems and statues are found inside the native village.

In addition, you can visit its carving shed and see how Native Americans carve their artworks that are also sold as souvenirs.

Alaskan natives wearing colorful clothing at Saxman Native Village

Ric Jacyno /

Buy Artworks at the Crazy Wolf Studio

If you’re looking for a fancy souvenir from your visit to Ketchikan, head to the Crazy Wolf Studio.

It is home to top-notch and authentic Native art that is reasonably priced.

This art studio situated along Mission Street offers visitors a museum vibe because of its authentic Native arts.

The artworks displayed there range from jewelry pieces, lithographs, carvings, hand-made drums, bentwood boxes, etc.

In addition, you can buy souvenir items such as t-shirts and keychains in this art studio.

Wander through the Soho Coho-Ray Troll Gallery

Given the vibrant local arts community in Ketchikan, many of the attractions you’ll be visiting have relevance to art.

With that in mind, you should drop by the Soho Coho-Ray Troll Gallery situated on the famous Creek Street.

It is owned by world-renowned artist Ray Troll, known for his unique and cartoony creation that depicts various wildlife and prehistoric animals.

The gallery, which also serves as the official shop for his artworks, offers visitors and art enthusiasts a remarkable experience to see his quirky but beautiful masterpieces.

In addition, the gallery also functions as a souvenir shop where you can buy novelty t-shirts, cards, calendars, and books with Troll’s arts printed on them.

Paddle on a Kayak on Eagle Island

To explore the Tongass Narrows, you should experience kayaking through Southeast Exposure Outdoor Adventure Center.

This Ketchikan-based tour company offers this fun-filled outdoor adventure, specifically their kayak tour.

Their kayak tour usually lasts three hours paddling across the scenic Eagle Island situated along the northwest side of Clover Point.

They have various kayaking tour packages for Ketchikan visitors who want to experience a different tour around the island.

Before heading out, their staff provides everyone with a brief safety talk and orientation.

After the orientation, you’re free to spend the rest of your time paddling on board a two-person sea kayak.

Step Inside the Dolly’s House Museum

The bright colored exterior of Dolly’s House Museum

illuminaphoto /

Way before Creek Street became a popular tourist spot in Ketchikan, it served as the favorite place for ‘recreation,’ for loggers and fishermen after long work hours.

Established in 1919, Dolly’s House served as a brothel, but today, it now serves as a historical attraction in Ketchikan.

Visiting Dolly’s House Museum offers you a trip down memory lane and see how brothels operate back in the day.

Name sign of Dolly’s House Museum


The museum is filled with memorabilia, photographs, original furnishings, and wares used back in the day.

One of the main attractions in this museum is Madam Dolly’s bedroom which has a secret closet that used to stash contraband liquor back in the Prohibition era.

If you want to see the unique history of Ketchikan, step inside the Dolly’s House Museum.

Taste Different Salmon Dishes at Salmon Market

Front entrance and name sign of Salmon Market

Darryl Brooks /

Before heading home, include a food trip on your itinerary in Ketchikan, and there’s no other place to have a scrumptious food trip than the Salmon Market along Main Street.

Ketchikan is abundant in various types of salmons; many of them are even seen swimming through Creek Street’s stream, making it a staple food in the city.

To grab the freshest salmon, including various salmon dishes, head to Salmon Market.

View of the Salmon Market from across the street

Chantarat /

This local fish market, which mainly provides Salmon, offers visitors a straightforward but delicious experience.

You’ll get to taste various salmon dishes from smoked salmon bagel sandwiches and other gourmet dishes at Salmon Market.

Many travelers stop by and enjoy fresh Salmon prepared in front of them, making this a must-try experience in Ketchikan.

Colorful name sign of Salmon Market

Brian Logan Photography /

Take in the Astonishing Views at Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary

Totem poles in front of the Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary

Claudine Van Massenhove /

The Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary offers an unparalleled view of Alaska and is ideal for those who enjoy the outdoors.

The woodland surface of this 40-acre rainforest reserve is covered with mosses, wildflowers, and a wide range of berries. It has high stands of hemlock, spruce, and trees.

On-site activities include exploring an easy-to-access half-mile Tongass path, the aviary displays at the Alaska Raptor Center, observing a Native master totem pole carving at work, and touring an old Alaskan sawmill.

An owl at Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary

Claudine Van Massenhove /

Along the journey, there are numerous activities you may participate in, such as zip lining, axe slinging, and walking suspension bridges.

Visit the Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary for an entertaining and instructive outdoor excursion for the whole family.

An eagle at Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary

Claudine Van Massenhove /

Take a Look around the Totem Heritage Center

Totem pole in front of the Totem Heritage Center

Richard N Horne, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Founded in 1976 and situated in Ketchikan, Alaska, the Totem Heritage Center is a historical and cultural museum.

Not only does it include the greatest collection of untouched 19th-century totem poles, but it also has a lot more to offer!

Numerous items came from abandoned communities in Old Kasaan, Tongass Island, and Village Island.

Building sign of the Totem Heritage Center

Richard N Horne, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Along with the totem poles, various relics are on exhibit, including masks, sculptures, photos, regalia, and baskets.

The building’s exterior is also decorated with many sculptures and totem poles!

Do not miss Totem Heritage Center when visiting Ketchikan, Alaska!

Totem poles in the Totem Heritage Center

Richard N Horne, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Delight in Seafood Meals at Fish House

Exterior of the Fish House

Ruth Peterkin /

The Fish House is unquestionably the best option in Ketchikan for fresh and quality Alaskan fish.

Drop by to experience fine seafood cuisine close to Ketchikan’s finest historic fishing fleet at the end of the main road, only a short stroll from the cruise ship ports.

Choose from items like grilled salmon, halibut with chips, crab, and the well-known smoked salmon soup on the menu.

Building sign of the Fish House

Jim Lambert /

Additionally, they offer a free taste of their delectable smoked salmon cornbread.

The Fish House is a well-known gathering spot for residents and visitors due to its historical perspective, cannery-style building, rustic feel, and central location.

Drop a Visit and Explore the Waterfall Resort Alaska

Over a century ago, the Waterfall Resort tale in Alaska first began.

On Prince of Wales Island, amid acres of untamed nature, early commercial fishermen established Waterfall Cannery close to a natural waterfall.

They are in a prime habitat on the western side of Prince of Wales Island, which attracts the huge king and silver salmon of Southeast Alaska each year.

The incredible quantity of salmon, lingcod, halibut, and other sport fish that site visitors consistently reel in makes Waterfall Resort Alaska famous across the globe.

Waterfall Resort has more than 20 custom-built cabin cruisers, making it the most extensive luxury fishing fleet in Alaska.

Other time-honored amenities include the historic Gift Shop, a dining area and saloon, crew lodgings, guest accommodations, fish-processing facilities, and a marina.

Schedule a Water Excursion with Ketchikan Kayak Company

Kayaking at Ketchikan

MintImages /

Since 2003, the Ketchikan Kayak Company has provided outstanding, personalized, guided kayaking experiences.

They now provide 5 Star-rated electric bike and hiking tours, including guided trips into the Tongass National Forest.

After riding, you’ll take a supervised stroll along a track through a thick rainforest with waterfalls, salmon spawning streams, and breathtaking beach scenery.

Then you’ll get back on the bikes and ride back to the marina.

Everything you need is provided for all trips when they gather downtown on the ship piers.

Compared to many excursions on board ships, theirs are smaller, more personal, and feature knowledgeable instructors who are also natives of Alaska.

Final Thoughts

Ketchikan is truly a dream destination because of its genuine Alaskan charm.

Something is exciting for everyone waiting in this Southeastern Alaskan city.

Discover Ketchikan either with your friends, family, or all by yourself.

Lastly, don’t forget to refer to this post if you’re looking for recommended attractions to visit in Ketchikan.

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