Ketchikan is famous for its colorful totem poles, rainy skies, steep-as-San Francisco streets, and lush island setting. Some 13,500 people call the town home, and, in the summer, cruise ships crowd the shoreline, floatplanes depart noisily for Misty Fiords National Monument, and salmon-laden commercial fishing boats motor through Tongass Narrows. In the last decade Ketchikan's rowdy, blue-collar heritage of logging and fishing has been softened by the loss of many timber-industry jobs and the dramatic rise of cruise-ship tourism. With some effort, though, visitors can still glimpse the rugged frontier spirit that once permeated this hardscrabble cannery town. Art lovers should make a beeline for Ketchikan: the arts community here is very active. Travelers in search of the perfect piece of Alaska art will find an incredible range of pieces to choose from.The town is at the foot of 3,000-foot Deer Mountain, near the southeast corner of Revillagigedo (locals shorten it to Revilla) Island. Prior to the arrival of white miners and fishermen in 1885, the Tlingit used the site at the mouth of Ketchikan Creek as a summer fish camp. Gold discoveries just before the turn of the 20th century brought more immigrants, and valuable timber and commercial fishing resources spurred new industries. By the 1930s the town bragged that it was the "salmon-canning capital of the world." You will still find some of Southeast's best salmon fishing around here.This town is the first bite of Alaska that many travelers taste. Despite its imposing backdrop, hillside homes, and many staircases, Ketchikan is relatively easy to walk through. Favorite downtown stops include the Spruce Mill Development shops and Creek Street. A bit farther away you'll find the Totem Heritage Center and Deer Mountain Tribal Hatchery. Out of town (but included on most bus tours) are two longtime favorites: Totem Bight State Historical Park and Saxman Native Village Totem Pole Park.
Copyright © 2017 by Fodor's Travel, a division of Random House, LLC. All rights reserved.
Things You Can't Miss
Exhibits, films and dioramas at the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center interpret local lifestyles and the ecosystem of the lush coastal rain forest.
John Elk/Getty Images
The Totem Heritage Center preserves the world’s largest collection of 19th-century totem poles, plus masks, carvings and other evocative works.
Abundant salmon attract dozens of bald eagles, which nest and feed in the area. Local firms offer special tours to see the majestic birds up close.
When packing for your trip, don't overpack. Light travel is much more enjoyable. These travel tips help eliminate items you don't need to keep your luggage in check.
Mark Weiss/Getty Images
Explore the rain forests, mountains and spectacular fjords of this huge wilderness area on a scenic boat cruise or sightseeing floatplane journey.
Jeff Foott/Getty Images
There’s a lot of misinformation out there about cruise ships. Read on to get the facts vs. fiction.
Check out these 5 products to cross off your checklist before hitting the road for your next trip to the great outdoors.
Savings on hotels, car rentals, cruises, tours and airfare
Shared Trips to this Destination
|Trips||Places Of Interest|