20 Best Things to Do in Sitka, AK

Sitka

Embarking on a quest to uncover the best things to do in Sitka, Alaska?

In this comprehensive guide, we've melded insights from locals and travelers to present you with a mosaic of experiences that define this remarkable place. While we've highlighted some must-visit spots, it's imperative to understand that these recommendations are shaped by personal opinions and experiences.

There are countless other wonderful places awaiting your discovery. Our goal isn't just to point you to the well-trodden paths, but to inspire you to explore and truly immerse yourself in the city's essence.

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We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the following individuals for their invaluable contributions to this article: Florence Flores, Keith Conway, Carolyn Hynes, Malinda Watt, Faith Knight, Earnest Hill and Manuel Mixon.

Hike the Herring Cove Trail

Snow capped mountain at Herring Cove Trail
Bradley Herrin Photos / Shutterstock.com

My morning would be perfectly incomplete if I didn't walk along the Herring Cove trail, hands down the cleanest and most natural one I've ever set foot on.

The trail designers did a fantastic job incorporating as little man-made material as possible, instead opting for the use of classic rock stairs, which blend beautifully with the surroundings.

Every step on this trail feels like a step into the serenity of nature, with the tree canopy above acting as a protective shield against the harsh wind.

The whispering streams accompanying you along your hike add to the quiet and peaceful atmosphere, making it feel like time has simply stopped.

It's just you, the rustling leaves and the soothing sounds of the stream.

But here's the highlight: there are only two rock stairs that rock along the entire trail, giving it a near-perfect score in my book.

Trees fallen over a creek at Herring Cove Trail
Bradley Herrin Photos / Shutterstock.com

It's a minor detail, but it's these little things that make the Herring Cove trail such a joy to explore.

Just a piece of advice, though, plan ahead for this one.

The beauty of this trail is such that you'll wish you could stay longer, soaking in the stunning views and the tranquility it offers.

It's an amazing hike and walk that I'm fortunate enough to have right in my backyard.

Waterfront view of Herring Cove Trail
Bradley Herrin Photos / Shutterstock.com

Learn about the Initiatives of the Greater Sitka Chamber of Commerce

Living in the heart of beautiful Sitka, one can't help but be involved in the community, and the Greater Sitka Chamber of Commerce has been an excellent platform for that.

Their dedication to serving the community is commendable, and I can personally attest to their diligence - being a member is indeed a privilege.

One area they uniquely shine is their commitment to instilling an understanding and respect for our national symbol, the U.S. flag.

They've taken it upon themselves to periodically remind businesses of the appropriate ways to display or fly the flag – an enlightening initiative that educates us about the United States of America Flag Code.

Considering Sitka's historical significance, the Chamber of Commerce has even suggested an online educational program concerning the U.S.A Flag Code.

This could serve as a fantastic resource for business owners, not just in Sitka but across the country.

Their proposed program aims to be comprehensive, covering everything from flag etiquette to merchandise, athletic attire, decoration items, and more.

They've even thought about the lifecycle of a flag, reminding members that organizations like the American Legion and the Military conduct proper flag-burning ceremonies for flags that are in poor condition.

It's initiatives like these that make me fall in love with my community over and over again.

And as we continue to educate ourselves and others, we're not just improving our community but also setting an example for other communities across the country.

And if you ever get a chance to visit Sitka, you'll understand why so many visitors fall in love with our city.

Perhaps, you might even stay longer than you initially planned.

Spot Whales from Silver Bay

Living in the heart of Baranof Island, I am blessed with the breathtaking view of Silver Bay, a long Fiord extending deep into the island's center.

The sight of the bay, bordered by large mountains on its sides, has a majestic aura that can't be put into words.

Green and Blue Lakes, two of our large water bodies, discharge into Silver Bay and are used for hydrological power, adding a unique blend of nature and technology to the landscape.

What makes Silver Bay even more mesmerizing are the whales.

Being a local, I have the privilege of witnessing these majestic creatures venturing into the bay quite often.

Their presence brings a sense of calm and serenity, making every viewing a therapeutic experience.

It's not just the bay, though.

The surrounding area is equally stunning, offering a haven for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike.

See Birds of Prey up Close at the Alaska Raptor Center

Front view of Alaska Raptor Center's exterior
Linda Harms / Shutterstock.com

There's something truly magical about spending a quiet afternoon at the Alaska Raptor Center.

I've been a regular visitor for years now, drawn by the sense of tranquillity and awe that this place inspires.

It's not just a rehabilitation center for injured birds of prey; it's a sanctuary where you can learn about these majestic creatures and their role in our ecosystem.

The center is nestled in a picturesque setting, teeming with natural beauty.

It’s a sanctuary for bald eagles, hawks, owls, and falcons, most of whom are nursing injuries.

The dedicated staff and volunteers are always there, caring for these majestic birds with devotion and expertise that goes beyond a simple job description.

A guided tour of the center offers an up-close and personal experience with the resident birds.

Seeing a bald eagle up close is truly awe-inspiring - their majesty and power are palpable.

Owl at Alaska Raptor Center
Danita Delimont / Shutterstock.com

The tour guides provide a wealth of information about these magnificent creatures, their habits, and their habitats.

It’s not just about seeing the birds but understanding them as well.

The Alaska Raptor Center is a place of learning.

They're committed to educating the public about the importance of protecting these birds and their habitats.

It’s a cause I wholeheartedly believe in and support.

Finally, there's a beautiful hiking area that houses additional birds, providing breathtaking views of the surroundings.

It's an added bonus to an already enriching visit.

A rescued bird at Alaska Raptor Center
Stephen James Burke / Shutterstock.com

Explore the City's Rich History at Sitka Historical Society & Museum

Stepping into the Sitka Historical Society & Museum, it's like stepping back in time to discover the unique history of Sitka.

Right off the bat, the museum leaves you with a warm, friendly impression thanks to the courtesy of their wonderful staff.

The older female employee in particular, is always ready with a wealth of knowledge and a helpful attitude.

For a mere $5, you gain access to a treasure trove of information that paints a vivid picture of Sitka's history.

The compact size of the museum is deceptive; it's packed full of valuable exhibits that are both enlightening and intriguing.

It's an investment that guarantees a return on knowledge and appreciation for the past.

The highlight of the museum visit, though, has to be the totem walk.

Nestled on the right side of Sitka Historical Society & Museum, the walk is a picturesque path by the water, lined with beautifully carved totems.

You'll find them on the water side of the walk, leading up to a totem standing tall amidst a green grass field.

It's a peaceful journey that warrants a leisurely stroll unless, of course, you fancy a walk through the woods without totems.

Pick Berries at the Old Sitka State Historic Park

It's undeniable there's nothing quite like a day spent at the Old Sitka State Historic Park.

The hiking trails are nothing short of phenomenal, offering a true taste of Alaska's raw and untamed beauty.

You can almost feel the energy of the land beneath your boots as you trek your way through the lush environment.

And let's not forget the salmon berries, an absolute must-try here in the park.

Whether you pick them fresh yourself or opt for the tantalizing jelly, the burst of flavor is a delight to the senses that you won't soon forget.

One of my favorite spots in the Old Sitka State Historic Park is the waterfront near the river.

It's a tranquil spot that offers stunning views of the surrounding area.

The Harbour Mountain, in particular, is worth the journey.

Yes, it's a climb, and you might feel out of breath halfway up, but the panoramic view of the beautiful Sitka you're rewarded with at the top is something you won't want to miss.

The mountain climb is mostly done in your car, with only the last 40 minutes requiring some footwork. But trust me, it's worth every step.

Conveniently, the park is also an easy walk from the ferry terminal, which you can reach by public bus.

Once there, you should definitely check out the dock.

It's a fun little spot where you can peek under the pilings and discover a variety of ocean critters.

It's always a thrill to see what you might find there.

Take Pictures with the Totems at Sitka National Historical Park

Handicraft display at Sitka National Historical Park
Supapai / Shutterstock.com

Living so close to the Sitka National Historical Park, I often find myself wandering the 122-acre expanse of natural beauty.

Just a stone's throw from downtown, it's easy to find myself here, lost among towering spruce and hemlock trees.

The park also boasts a coastal walk featuring carved wooden totem poles, a testament to the rich history of our indigenous peoples.

The trails here are easy nature walks, ideal for families or individuals simply looking to enjoy a serene hike.

My personal favorite is the Totem Trail loop.

It's a quick one-mile hike that never fails to leave me feeling rejuvenated, surrounded by the lush greenery of the rainforest.

One of the unique features of the park is the abundance of wildlife.

Bald eagles are a common sight, soaring overhead, and during the right season, you can see salmon swimming upstream in the Indian River.

It's always a magnificent sight! Apart from nature, the park is a repository of history as well.

Display of totem at Sitka National Historical Park
Linda Harms / Shutterstock.com

It marks the site of an ancient battle between invading Russian traders and our indigenous people.

The first-floor museum of the Russian Bishop’s house, which is free to enter, offers a fascinating glimpse into this turbulent past.

And if you're a fan of art, you're in for a treat. The visitor center hosts live totem pole carving demonstrations.

It's a wonderful way to understand the intricacies of this art form and appreciate the skill that goes into each carving.

The walk from the park to the harbor is nothing short of spectacular, with views of the ocean, mountains, and verdant landscapes.

And the best part? You don't need a cruise tour to enjoy all this - it's all free!

Tourists admiring Sitka National Historical Park's totem pole
Gary Gilardi / Shutterstock.com

Cycle through Whale Park

There's something special about waking up to the serene beauty of Whale Park, nestled in the heart of Southeast Alaska.

I've been bathing in the allure of this place for years, and each day brings a unique spectacle that makes this corner of the world so astonishing.

Before the sun fully rises, I often find myself taking a stroll along the wooden boardwalk, which, despite being occasionally littered with tree debris, offers a panoramic view of the water body that simply takes your breath away.

A slight inconvenience, yes, but the chance to see starfish near the shore more than makes up for it.

You may even get lucky and spot a whale or two, a sight that never fails to fascinate both young and old.

The biking trails around the park are another highlight.

I love pedaling through the park, with the salty sea breeze in my hair and the opportunity to stop for breathtaking photos at every curve.

It's an experience that brings out the child in me, and I can't recommend it enough to every nature enthusiast.

And then there's the intriguing blend of cultures and lifestyle stories that Southeast Alaska offers.

Whale Park is a gateway to understanding the history and traditions that have shaped the community.

The information provided in the park can be a great learning experience, sparking curiosity and fostering respect for the diversity that makes us unique.

Whale Park is more than just a tourist spot.

It's a treasure trove of experiences and stories that captivate the heart.

Nothing quite encapsulates the spirit of Sitka like the Island Artists Co-op Gallery.

Pacing through its welcoming ambiance on Lincoln Street, right next to St Michael's Russian Orthodox Cathedral, it feels like you're stepping into the heart of our city's vibrant artisan community.

It's this charm that makes it hard not to be a proud patron of this artistic haven that's run by our very own local talents.

Island Artist Co-op Gallery represents 27 of the city's finest artists.

Each visit always feels fresh with the wide variety of art on display.

The turn of each corner reveals a new world of creativity - from fine handcrafted jewelry to stunning photography, from delicate pottery to vibrant fish prints, from soothing wood turnings to mesmerizing watercolors, and from exquisite hand-painted silks to a host of other treasures.

Each piece is a story brought to life by the hands of our gifted artists, inspired by the life we lead here in beautiful Sitka.

Reflect on Rich Cultural History at the Tlingit Totem Pole

Close view of Tlingit Totem Pole
Joy Prescott / Shutterstock.com

"Nature's masterpiece" that's how I would describe my daily strolls at the Tlingit Totem Pole.

This park offers an experience like no other.

It's much more than just a beautifully carved totem pole.

This place is where the grandeur of nature and the rich Tlingit culture intertwine, creating a unique fusion that leaves one in awe every time.

The walk around the park is a mere 1-2 miles, but every step is filled with captivating views and tranquil spots to relax.

I often find myself pausing my walk simply to appreciate the breathtaking scenery.

There's something truly special about being surrounded by towering trees and lush greenery.

It's peaceful, quiet, and incredibly soothing.

But that's not all.

The are around Tlingit Totem Pole also offers an easy hike that I recommend everyone to try.

If you're lucky, you might even spot eagles soaring above.

It's a sight you wouldn't want to miss.

The true gem of the park, however, is the wilderness.

The untouched beauty of the wild is simply amazing.

There's a sense of raw, unfiltered beauty that I think every nature lover would appreciate.

Each visit leaves me inspired and rejuvenated.

Every now and then, I like to sit by the totem pole, taking a moment to reflect on the rich cultural history of the Tlingit people.

The intricate carvings on the pole are truly a sight to behold.

There's something truly magical about stepping into the Artist Cove Gallery.

It's like entering a vibrant world of creativity, color, and wonder.

The gallery is home to an impressive display of unique jewelry and artwork, each piece speaks volumes about the talents of our local artisans.

Each time I visit, I find myself mesmerized by the beautiful pieces on display, their intricate details a testament to the skill and creativity of the artists.

The owners, including Steve, are not just welcoming, they're knowledgeable too.

They have a knack for storytelling, painting vivid pictures about the origin of each piece, the inspiration behind it, and the artisan who created it.

This not only adds a personal touch to every item but also provides a deeper understanding and appreciation of the art.

My visits to the gallery have not only led to some great purchases but also some fantastic recommendations, like the charming bookstore in Haines.

The gallery recently added an online function to their website, and I must say it's been a game-changer.

I've been able to do my gift shopping online, choosing from a wonderful array of unique contemporary local works, native art, fossils, and mineral specimens.

It's not just convenient but also allows me to share a piece of our local talent with friends and family who live out of town.

Artist Cove Gallery is not just a gallery; it's a celebration of art, creativity, and local talent.

Have a Personal Bear Encounter at the Fortress of the Bear

A bear swimming at Fortress of the Bear
Gary Gilardi / Shutterstock.com

Every now and then, I take a detour from my usual routine to spend some time amidst nature, and it's often at the Fortress of the Bear.

While it's a common sight to see tourists flocking in droves to this sanctuary, I've been a regular here for quite some time now.

The Fortress of the Bear, a refuge for orphaned brown and black bears, is more than just a tourist attraction for us locals.

It's a testament to our love for wildlife and our commitment to the environment.

It's not like one of those typical zoo experiences - it's different, more intimate.

The bears here are active and lively.

They move around, eat, play, and even communicate using sign language.

It's a delight to watch them go about their daily routine in their enclosures.

A black bear at Fortress of the Bear
Stephen James Burke / Shutterstock.com

The staff here are not just caregivers for these beautiful creatures; they're passionate advocates for bear safety.

They're knowledgeable and willing to share, making the experience more enriching.

One of my favorite times to visit is during off-peak hours.

The viewing platform is not as crowded, giving the kids a better chance to see the bears.

They even provide crates for the little ones to stand on for a better view.

What I appreciate most about this place is that it's not just about viewing and learning about bears but also the effort to rescue and protect them.

It's a non-profit organization, and every bit of help they receive goes directly to the care of these bears.

Bear walking through the Fortress of the Bear
Gary Gilardi / Shutterstock.com

Marvel at Marine Cretures at Sitka Sound Science Center

Every weekend, I find myself at the Sitka Sound Science Center, a place that has never lost its charm even after countless visits.

It's like having a piece of the ocean right here in our backyard.

By far, the most amazing experience is taking a tour of the science center and hatchery.

The guides are brilliant and make the tour an immersive and educational journey.

Through their explanations, I've gained a newfound appreciation for the intricate processes that occur in the hatchery.

The touch tanks inside are the real deal, where you can feel the thrill of touching sea life.

It's as if the ocean's creatures have come to shake hands with us.

Another aspect that seems to captivate everyone's attention is their interactive aquarium which is home to local sea life.

It is located in a picturesque setting adjacent to the Sitka Historic Park (Totem Park), making it a visual feast for nature lovers.

The touch pools are fun and engaging, perfect for kids and for those who are kids at heart.

It's a fond memory to see the spark of curiosity light up in the eyes of my niece as she gently felt the different sea creatures for the first time.

The gift shop is also worth a mention.

It's full of extraordinary kids' gift items that are not just toys but also tools for learning.

Admission to the center is quite affordable, and the experiences and memories it offers are priceless.

The Sitka Sound Science Center truly is a treasure trove of marine life, making every visit a delightful learning experience.

Admire the Waterfalls of Red Bluff Bay

Talk about immersing yourself in the breathtaking beauty of nature!

Red Bluff Bay, my sanctuary in the heart of Southeast Alaska, never fails to amaze me with its untamed beauty.

I've been seeking solace in this natural retreat for years, and each visit feels just as awe-inspiring as the first.

Every morning, I witness the wild spectacle of the sun emerging from the bay, casting a warm, golden hue over the evergreen forest.

The chirping of numerous birds creates a symphony that is music to my ears.

The bay is brimming with wildlife, and if you're lucky, you might even spot a bear wandering by the water's edge.

For me, it's always an exhilarating sight, reminding me of the raw, unfiltered beauty of the wilderness.

One of the bay's crown jewels is its majestic waterfall. I remember the first time I laid my eyes on it.

I was simply spellbound by the sight of water cascading down, sending sprays of refreshing mist into the air.

The waterfall is a sight to behold, especially after heavy rain when it's at its most powerful.

The roar of the water echoes throughout the bay, creating a soothing, rhythmic soundtrack that adds to the serenity of this place.

Red Bluff Bay covers a significant area, and it's always an adventure exploring its different facets.

One day, I might take a leisurely stroll along the shoreline, while the next day, I might embark on a rigorous hike to conquer one of the surrounding peaks.

Every corner of the bay features a new sight to behold, a new experience to immerse in.

Discover the History of the Russian Bishop's House

Exterior of Russian Bishop's House
The original uploader was Lordkinbote at English Wikipedia., CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

You wouldn't believe the sense of history that envelops you as you step through the doors of the Russian Bishop’s House.

The air is thick with tales from another time, whispers of a past era when this place was the beating heart of the Russian Orthodox Church in North America.

Every nook and cranny of this building, completed in 1842, has a story to tell.

Living in this city, I have had the privilege of meeting various visitors guided by the National Parks through this architectural gem.

The thrill of standing in one of only four Russian-period buildings left in North America never gets old.

Looking around, it's easy to imagine the hustle and bustle of the past, with religious leaders making crucial decisions that affected their far-reaching diocese, which stretched from California to Siberian Kamchatka.

The guided tours offered by the National Parks are the only way to visit, and let me tell you, they are absolutely free and worth every minute.

The park rangers are not only informative but also great storytellers.

They paint a vivid picture of the past and lead you through an unforgettable journey into a time when this part of the world was under Russian rule.

Every time I walk out of the Russian Bishop's House, I feel like I leave a little piece of myself behind.

And in return, I take with me a deeper connection with the roots of my city, a new understanding of its past, and renewed reverence for the enduring structures that keep our history alive.

Have a Reflection at St. Michael the Archangel Orthodox Cathedral

Wandering through the quiet streets of Sitka, you can't help but notice the impressive figure of St. Michael the Archangel Orthodox Cathedral.

This remarkable structure stands as a symbol of the city's rich Russian heritage.

A walk inside is like a step back in time to the mid-19th century when the church was first built.

The ornate interior, resplendent with golden icons and intricate woodwork, echoes the profound spirituality that is woven into the fabric of Sitka's history.

St. Michael the Archangel Orthodox Cathedral is not just a church, it's an artistic masterpiece that leaves you in awe of the craftsmen who painstakingly worked on it.

Visiting here is a routine for me, a sort of solace from the mundane.

And the best part? It's free.

Though, as someone who has witnessed the beauty and serenity it offers, I gladly contribute a donation whenever I can.

Despite being surrounded by the quiet solitude of Sitka, the cathedral is anything but dull.

On the contrary, it's one of the few places in this city that regularly breathes life into an otherwise ordinary day.

Whether it's the soft strains of a hymn that lulls the city to sleep or the resonating peal of the bells that awaken us each morning, the cathedral is a constant, comforting presence.

Walk through History of Baranof Castle State Historic Site

Exterior of the Baranof Castle State Historic Site.
Jrozwado, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Every day, I find myself drawn to the tranquil beauty of the Baranof Castle State Historic Site.

Located atop a small hill behind the city, this historic site offers sublime views of the mountain range and water, including the shy Mount Edgecomb that often hides behind the clouds.

The view is, without a doubt, a sight to behold and never fails to make me feel a surge of pride for being part of such a beautiful city.

I often take leisurely strolls, following the stairs and well-marked path that lead to the top.

It's a special hike, a journey that offers solitude and peace.

It's just me and the bald eagles, flying freely, painting a striking picture against the clear blue skies.

At times, I feel like I have the whole Baranof Castle State Historic Site to myself, as if I am in a private sanctuary.

But what makes this spot even more special is its rich history, which is palpably present.

This is, after all, the place where America signed to purchase Alaska from Russia.

A cannon display at Baranof Castle State Historic Site
Jrozwado, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Every corner of this historic site whispers tales of the past, each one more intriguing than the last.

The informational plaques scattered around the area are my friends on this journey back in time.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Go trekking at the Tongass National Forest

Scenic view of Tongass National Forest
Ryan Minuto / Shutterstock.com

There's a little peace of heaven right here on earth, and it's called the Tongass National Forest.

Each day, I wake to the sounds of rustling leaves whispering ancient tales, and the harmonious chorus of birds singing their morning hymns.

This vast wilderness is a trove of nature's wonders, with its teeming wildlife, towering mountains, and cascading waterfalls.

Camping, fishing, and hiking in the nation's largest national forest is a lifestyle for me. The scenery is as magnificent as it is diverse.

From the breathtaking Nugget Falls trail to the historic slide cemetery near Dyea, there's always something to amaze and inspire.

My favourite trail is the Chilkoot. I remember a spring flood washing out some bridges once, making the challenging trek into a mellow stroll.

It was a pleasant surprise, despite the change in plans.

The history behind the trail, especially that of the slide, is as touching as it is devastating.

As you tread through the forest, there's something about the air.

A waterfall at Tongass National Forest
jet 67 / Shutterstock.com

It's crisp and clean and fills your lungs with a rejuvenating freshness. And if you're lucky, you'll spot a grizzly or two from afar.

Don't worry, though, they're more interested in the salmon.

And speaking of salmon, I've spent countless hours by the Taiya River, casting my line and enjoying the peaceful solitude.

There's something therapeutic about fishing at Tongass National Forest, surrounded by the untouched beauty of nature.

When the sun sets, the forest transforms into a magical realm.

The stars shine brighter, the air grows even fresher, and the silence is broken only by the rustling of leaves or the occasional hoot of an owl.

It's an experience like no other.

Nature trail at Tongass National Forest
Carol Hurt / Shutterstock.com

Final Thoughts

Living in Sitka is an adventure-filled experience with a perfect mix of nature and culture.

Every corner of my beloved city offers a new discovery, infusing each day with an extraordinary blend of excitement and tranquility.

It's a place that values its past, celebrates its present, and looks forward to a future filled with awe-inspiring natural beauty, captivating history, and a vibrant community spirit.

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