Things to do in Ketchikan

Things to do in  Ketchikan

Big salmon in a small pond

Ketchikan is a quirky, charming Alaskan coastal town with houses and buildings built on stilts, tree-lined hills, views of the Inside Passage, and an abundance of salmon (as well as black bears). It’s an outdoor sanctuary for people who love staying active by kayaking, fishing, hiking, biking, off-roading, and even dog sledding. Some of the best things to do Ketchikan for travelers include attractions like Misty Fjords National Monument Wilderness, Tongass Historical Museum, Totem Bight State Historical Park, and Rainbird Hiking Trail.

Top 14 attractions in Ketchikan

Tongass National Forest

Encompassing some 17 million acres (70,000 square kilometers of Southeast Alaska, the Tongass National Forest is the largest forest in the US and the world’s largest temperate rain forest. Named after the Tongass clan of the Tlingit Indians, the park is home to the Alaskan capital (Juneau as well as the Mendenhall Glacier.More

Saxman Native Village

Saxman Native Village celebrates all things Alaskan and Tlingit—totem poles, folklore and dance, lumberjack exploits, and woodcarvers. The village introduces visitors to the customs and culture of Alaska’s Indigenous population, and features the largest collection of totems you’re likely to see.More

Totem Bight State Historical Park

Totem Bight State Historical Park protects and displays 14 intricate totem poles, sourced from abandoned native villages and restored to their original splendor. Each tells a unique story of Tlingit and Haida carvers, offering insight into Ketchikan’s rich Native Alaskan heritage. There is also an onsite replica Native village with a Clan House.More

Misty Fjords National Monument

Just 22 miles (35 kilometers) outside of Ketchikan lies the vast and remote Misty Fjords National Monument—a collection of sea cliffs, deep-cut fjords, glacial valleys, thick rainforests, and roaring waterfalls. Accessible only by boat or floatplane, Misty Fjords is an outdoor playground for hikers, kayakers, and day cruisers.More

Creek Street

During Alaska’s pioneering days, every gold rush town had a red-light district; in Ketchikan, it was Creek Street. Prostitution wasn’t outlawed here until 1954, and it was legal as long as business wasn’t transacted on dry land. This explains why Creek Street isn’t a street at all, but an elevated boardwalk built on wooden pilings above Ketchikan Creek.More

Guard Island Lighthouse

The historic Guard Island Lighthouse lit up for the first time on September 15, 1924. The original 34-foot wooden structure was particularly important during the Klondike Gold Rush as it aided in shipping along the Southeast Alaska Inside Passage. Today, it’s known for its historical significance, peaceful beauty, and abundance of seals.More

Totem Heritage Center

Ketchikan’s Totem Heritage Center displays the largest collection of original 19th-century totem poles in Alaska, collected from abandoned Tlingit and Haida villages throughout the region. Baskets, masks, carvings, regalia, and historic photographs of old villages where the poles were found round out the excellent collection.More

Ward Cove

Tiny Ward Cove is found on Alaska’s pristine coastline, surrounded by the lush Tongass National Forest and tranquil waters. The cove itself provides a sheltered and idyllic harbor. Once an industrial port, fueled by a pulp mill, Ward Cove today is a small but delightful community, and a perfect place to recharge in nature.More

Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary

Delve into wildlife, scenery, and history at the Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary—a one-stop-shop for Alaska’s natural wonders. Set in the temperate rainforest, the sanctuary is home to lush forests, a salmon spawning stream, historic sawmill, and a totem pole park. Raised boardwalks offer the chance to view black bears, eagles, and more.More

Inside Passage

Extending from Washington’s Puget Sound, along the shores of British Columbia and into the Gulf of Alaska, the spectacular Inside Passage is a highlight of any trip to Alaska. Bays, beaches, peninsulas, fjords, glaciers, rivers, coastal towns, snow-capped mountains, and over 1,000 islands make the region an adventurer’s paradise.More

Dolly's House Museum

At the height of its gold rush, Ketchikan’s red-light district on Creek Street held around 30 bordellos. Dolly Arthur was one of Ketchikan’s better-known madams before prostitution was outlawed; today her parlor and boudoir are preserved as a museum that's filled with memorabilia commemorating the roaring days of the early 20th century.More
Tongass Historical Museum

Tongass Historical Museum

The history, art, and culture of Ketchikan and Southeast Alaska are preserved and promoted by the Tongass Historical Museum, whose permanent collection includes artifacts and tools that originated in Alaska Native communities, historical items from Ketchikan’s fishing industry, and an excellent selection of photographic material.More
Port of Ketchikan

Port of Ketchikan

If you’re sailing north from Seattle or Vancouver, the Port of Ketchikan on Revillagigedo Island will likely be your first port of call. The former salmon fishery and so-called "Salmon Capital of the World" offers visitors a real taste of Alaska’s frontier personality and cultural heritage, and serves as the gateway to Alaska's Inside Passage.More
Southeast Alaska Discovery Center

Southeast Alaska Discovery Center

The Southeast Alaska Discovery Center provides visitors with an introduction to the history and culture of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. Rangers offer interpretation, while a theater screens films on cultural history. Facilities also include a recreated native fishing village and a trail through the temperate rainforest.More

Top activities in Ketchikan

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All about Ketchikan

When to visit

Although Ketchikan gets far less snow than other parts of Alaska, the winters can still be cold, snowy, and dark. Spring and summer offer the best times to visit, especially if you’re looking to explore stunning Alaskan wilderness areas like Totem Bight State Historical Park, Rainbird Hiking Trail, and Misty Fjords National Monument. Summer’s warmer temperatures and long daylight hours make it easier to enjoy the many things to do in and around Ketchikan.

Getting around

If you’re headed to Ketchikan from the cruise ship docks—and you’re planning to spend the day in the downtown area—you can either easily walk around or use the free shuttle bus that runs from May to September. Bike rentals and taxis are also available in the main area of Ketchikan. If you’re driving, pay attention when parking as many lots have time restrictions or require a permit.

Traveler tips

Ketchikan calls itself “The Salmon Capital of the World”—and for good reason. After exploring the shops on the city’s historic Creek Street area, head to Salmon Ladder Vista at the end of Married Man’s Trail to see huge groups of salmon in their natural habitat. Another must-do in Ketchikan is seeing the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show on Spruce Mill Way, which is a family-friendly display of true Alaskan skill and strength.

Local Currency
US Dollar ($)
Time Zone
AKDT (UTC -10)
Country Code

People Also Ask

What is Ketchikan known for?

Ketchikan sprung to life as a salmon cannery, and it’s still known as the Salmon Capital of the World. As the southernmost entrance to the Inside Passage, the town also boasts views of forests, mountains, and seas, and Indigenous culture runs through the town’s veins.

How do I spend a day in Ketchikan?

Start on colorful Creek Street, walking the wooden boardwalk on the water’s edge. Head downtown for a bite and shopping—Front Street’s Ketchikan welcome sign may warrant a selfie—and then zip to Saxman Totem Park or Totem Heritage Center for Indigenous history. Finally, hop on the Rainbird Trail.

Are there moose in Ketchikan?

While moose aren’t known to frequent Ketchikan, they can be spotted in the nearby Misty Fjords National Monument Wilderness. Closer to town, you’ll spot wolves, black bears, mountain goats, Sitka black-tailed deer, and bald eagles.

Is Ketchikan walkable?

Ketchikan is a cruise ship port and so most travelers are on foot. This is not an issue as Ketchikan competes as one of the country's more walkable towns. Built into a hillside, the town is small and compact, and you'll find plenty to do around Creek and Front streets.

Is Ketchikan worth visiting?

Yes. Many consider Ketchikan one of the prettiest towns in the US. Consider it safely in the Goldilocks zone: small enough to retain Indigenous roots and 20th-century charm, big enough for restaurants, attractions, and adventures. And outfitters abound to take you into, through, and above the Alaskan wilderness.

Is Ketchikan safe?

Yes. While a glance at crime stats may suggest that Ketchikan is unsafe, those numbers don’t reflect the tourist experience. Petty theft rates are low, and solo travelers aren’t in much danger when surrounded by Ketchikan’s cruise crowds. Still, don’t travel with valuables or carry large sums of money.

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