So you want to go hiking in Sitka? Excellent choice! Our 50+ miles of trails provide an unforgettable experience on your Alaska trip. Before you go, make sure you brush up on your bear-aware tips and safety protocols for hiking in Southeast Alaska. If you haven’t selected your trail yet, check out our Which Sitka Trail Should You Hike article to determine which of our stunning routes make the most sense for your trip.
Bring a paper map to supplement any digital map.
Print out our official hiking guide, or pick up a printed copy at the Visit Sitka Visitor Center open year-round. Study your trail on it’s Sitka Trail Works trail profile. Sitka Trail Works also has maps of each trail route online that can be printed.
Bring more water than you think you need.
Especially in the summer, Sitka can be warmer than most expect. Make sure you’ve got at least 32oz worth of water for the more extreme trails, and at least 16oz for the easier ones.
Bring high-protein snacks for energy.
If you forgot your hiking treats, make a pit stop at one of our grocery stores for wide selections of high-protein bites to keep you moving. These snacks are like your trusty sidekicks, providing a steady supply of fuel to keep you going mile after mile.
Pack layers and a water-proof jacket.
Sitka is a part of the Tongass National Rainforest, so it’s likely to rain during your hike. Although the tall hemlock and Sitka Spruce trees offer a thick canopy that blocks out most of the rain, you’ll want to come prepared with a waterproof jacket.
Bring a lighter or waterproof matches.
In case the urge calls for a campfire on the beach!
Even though Sitka is notorious for its overcast days, those UV rays can still pack a punch, so make sure to protect your skin. Your future self will thank you!
For longer hikes like Harbor Mountain/Starrigavan, Mt. Verstovia, or any off-the-beaten-path trails, pack an emergency thermal blanket, tent, or tarp for unexpected weather protection.
Keep reading for the best bear-aware tips, straight from the locals.
Borrow a Marine VHF-radio from the Fire Department and tell them your plans.
For longer, more strenuous trips, you’ll want to stop by Sitka’s Fire Department, located in the downtown core. There, you can borrow a marine radio and submit your hiking plans. Both will come in very handy if you find yourself in an emergency while out in the wilderness.
Be a Good Trail Neighbor
Take only photos and leave only footprints.
We’re guests in the Earth’s ancient playground. By leaving things as you found them, you not only show respect for the environment but also help preserve the beauty and integrity of Sitka for future generations to enjoy. Leave the rocks and plants, but take all the photos you can!
Pack it in, pack it out.
“Pack it in, pack it out” isn’t just a suggestion; it’s the golden rule for responsible adventurers. Our lush, green paradise is home to a dazzling array of wildlife and plant species, and keeping it pristine is a top priority. So, when you’re out exploring, make sure you leave no trace of your presence and leave everything as you found it.
Keep in mind that you’re in the backyard of hundreds of creatures native to Southeast Alaska. Bears, deer, salmon, whales, eagles, and so many more call this rugged wonderland home. Respecting the local critters is essential- it helps maintain the delicate balance of nature. Keep a respectful distance, observe from afar, and leave no trace, allowing both you and the wildlife to continue to thrive for generations to come.
Be considerate of other hikers.
Sharing the trails with fellow adventurers is all part of the experience. Being considerate of others by yielding the trail, keeping your noise level reasonable, and practicing good trail etiquette ensures that everyone can savor the serenity and splendor of our trails. Make sure to check trailhead signage before your hike to make sure you’re following all the rules and regulations before your trek.
In Sitka, we only have coastal brown bears. Sitka is located on Baranof Island where the brown bear population is about one bear per 1.5 square miles. Bear activity is highest between spring and fall, but bears are present year-round. While trekking through bear country, remember the following:
• Share your hiking plans with someone else
• Make noise to announce your presence- but remember to keep your noise level reasonable to respect other hikers!
• Hike in groups, and keep dogs on leashes
• Carry bear spray in an accessible area and know how to use it beforehand
• Stay alert, and approach blind corners with caution
• Throw trash away in bear-resistant dumpsters
If you encounter a bear, DO NOT RUN. Back away slowly while facing the bear. Make noise and try to look large. Use bear spray if necessary.
Before you lace up those hiking boots and hit the trails, remember: safety first, adventure second! By following these hiking essentials and staying bear-aware, you can fully enjoy the awe-inspiring beauty while respecting the incredible wildlife and community that calls it home. Embrace the wild, savor the sights, and make memories that’ll last a lifetime, all while keeping safe. Happy hiking, fellow adventurers!