Clinging to a narrow ledge of land between the water and the striking steep-sided mountains is the port city of Ketchikan.
Once known as the ‘canned salmon capital of the world’, this was the city’s ambition when it was founded in 1885 and fishing is still an important industry. Today it is a principal port for visiting cruise ships and the Alaska Marine Highway.
Things to see in Ketchikan
The town’s Totem Heritage Centre exhibits a display of totem poles salvaged from deserted Tlingit villages, whilst the Deer Mountain Tribal Hatchery, and Eagle Centre raises 350,000 salmon and trout every year and is a great place to learn all about their life-cycle.
All over the city there are wooden stairways leading somewhere higher, especially on Edmond Street, known as the ‘Street of Stairs’. Picturesque Creek Street is the former red light district and Thomas Basin is particularly photogenic, being home to Ketchikan’s fishing fleet and you can watch the fishermen unload their catch before following them in to the nearby Potlatch Bar, a classic fisherman’s pub.
Although you may wish to spend a day or two in Ketchikan itself, there are plenty of intriguing destinations just a short flight or ferry trip away.
Misty Fjords National Monument
One of the highlights of the region is the vast Misty Fiords National Monument, an awe-inspiring series of sheer, glacially-scarred granite fjords draped in dense rainforest. The monument covers more than 800,000 hectares of wilderness on the southern tip of the Alaska Panhandle, part of a vast coastal rainforest which can receive over 400 centimetres of rain each year.
The region is marked by deep valleys, massive sea cliffs, tumbling waterfalls and sharp ridges formed by volcanic activity and glaciation. The lower slopes appear to be an unbroken carpet of cedar, spruce and hemlock whilst above the timberline alpine heaths burst into colour in the spring.
Numerous fjords chisel narrow passages into the granite edges of this dramatic wilderness, the perfect setting for breathtaking journeys by ship amongst old lava flows and glaciers calving into the water.
A cruise is the perfect way to discover this dramatic seascape.
Suggested Ketchikan itinerary
This sample itinerary will give you an idea of what is possible when you travel in Ketchikan, and showcases routes we know work particularly well. Treat this as inspiration, because your trip will be created uniquely by one of our specialists.
Map of Ketchikan
Places & hotels on the map
Accommodation choices for Ketchikan
We’ve selected a range of accommodation options for when you visit Ketchikan. Our choices usually come recommended for their character, facilities and service or location. Our specialists always aim to suggest properties that match your preferences.
Ideas for experiencing Ketchikan
Our specialists seek out authentic ways to get to know the places that could feature in your trip. These activities reflect some of the experiences they've most enjoyed while visiting Ketchikan, and which use the best local guides.