Welcome to Ketchikan sign

Local’s Guide to Ketchikan

Welcome to Ketchikan! Whether you’re here for a day, a week, or a season, there’s a lot to see in town and around the island. Ketchikan is located on the island of Revillagigedo (most just call it Revilla) and resides on the ancestral lands of the Taant’a Kwáan and Saanya Kwáan Tlingit. Ketchikan is known as the First City as it is the gateway to Alaska from the southern end of the Inside Passage.

Getting to Ketchikan

By Air

Ketchikan is less than a 2-hour flight from Seattle with multiple flights each day, making it an easy way to access the wildness of Alaska from the Lower 48. The Ketchikan International Airport is located on Gravina Island with regular ferry service between Ketchikan and the airport (only about a 5 min ferry ride).

• Alaska Airlines

• Delta (Summer only)

By Water

The majority of our visitors arrive by sea, primarily aboard one of the daily cruise ships that call on Ketchikan or Ward Cove from April through October. Ketchikan is accessible via ferry with the AMHS through Bellingham, WA or Prince Rupert, B.C. (Depending on the schedule). We also get travelers that make their way to Ketchikan through the Inside Passage aboard yachts, sailboats, and even kayaks!

Ferry-Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS)

Large Cruise Ship– Carnival, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Disney, Holland America, Princess, Norwegian

Mid-Size/Luxury Cruise Ship– Seabourn, Oceania, Regent Seven Seas, Silver Seas

Small Cruise Ship-American, Alaskan Dream, UnCruise, Lindblad (National Geographic)

Private VesselKetchikan Ports & Harbors

View of Ketchikan from an Alaska Airlines plane

Arriving at the Ketchikan International Airport on Gravina Island 

View of downtown Ketchikan with two cruise ships docked in town

Cruise ships docked in downtown Ketchikan, AK 

Getting Around

Downtown Ketchikan is very walkable, especially for visitors arriving on cruise ships or staying in town. To see more of the area, transportation options include:

Bus-The Silver Line provides access to Saxman Totem Park & Totem Bight State Historical Park, and a free Downtown Shuttle operates May-September.

Taxi– Often available near the airport, and around the downtown cruise ship berths, or call for service. (Ride-sharing like Uber & Lyft are very limited, and sometimes nonexistent)

Rental Car– Recommended for longer stays if you plan to hike or want more flexibility in exploring.

A Bald Eagle perched in a Cedar tree

What to See

Best of Ketchikan

Nature & Wildlife-Ketchikan is located in the Tongass National Forest, and is home to a variety of wildlife including Bald Eagles, Harbor Seals, Steller Sea Lions, Humpback Whales, Orcas, Sitka Blacktail Deer, Black Bears, and of course, Salmon.

Outdoor Recreation-Fishing is popular in the “Salmon Capital of the World”, as well as hiking, camping, and water-based activities like kayaking, paddling, boating etc.

Rich Native Culture-Including the world’s largest collection of Totem Poles!

Vibrant Arts Community– With regular events, exhibits, and public art.

Historic Downtown & Creek Street– Read about the colorful history of Ketchikan via signs on historic buildings throughout the downtown area.

Misty Fjords National Monument– Established in 1978, Misty Fjords is the largest wilderness area in the Tongass, and is only accessible from Ketchikan by boat or floatplane.

Cliffs of Misty Fjords National Monument

Misty Fjords National Monument

Where to Stay

Hotels/Bed & Breakfasts

Downtown-Inn at Creek Street, Cape Fox Lodge

North of Town-The Landing, Black Bear Inn, The Ketch, Salmon Falls

Vacation Rentals

Alaska Travelers

Ketchikan Cabins


• Signal Creek Campground, Last Chance Campground, Three C’s Group Use Campground, Settler’s Cove

Passengers viewing wildlife aboard a Zodiac

Viewing wildlife on the Alaska Ocean Wilderness Expedition in Ketchikan

Things To Do in Ketchikan

• Zodiac Eco-Tour-See Ketchikan from the water & search for wildlife aboard a Zodiac with Out to Sea Expedition Company

• Kayaking- Alaska Kayak Company, Ketchikan Kayak Company, Southeast Exposure

• Snorkeling with Snorkel Alaska

• Day trip to Misty Fjords

• Bear Viewing at Herring Cove via Private Van-Alaska Fireweed Adventures, Emerald Forest Tours

• Fishing Charter-Baranof Fishing, Worman Sportfishing, Reel Alaska Fishing Charters

• Off-road UTVKetchikan AdventureVue

• Take a Hike

Easy-Ward Lake Trail, Ward Creek Trail, Rainbird Trail

Moderate-Perseverance Trail, Carlanna Lake Trail

Difficult-Deer Mountain, Dude Mountain

Ketchikan Area Trails Guide

-For guided hikes, check out Wild Wolf Tours or Tongass Teague

Safety in Southeast Alaska: It is important to note that weather conditions change rapidly in this region including heavy rain, snowfall, high winds, and thick fog. Hikers should be prepared for all weather conditions as well as difficult terrain and carry essential survival equipment in their packs. Cellphone coverage is limited on most trails in the area; the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad supports a program that allows hikers to check out SPOT beacons from the Berth 2 Visitor’s Center and the Ketchikan Public Library for use in the event of an emergency. Trails are maintained, but rugged, and emergency assistance is unlikely to be rapid.

First lookout on Deer Mountain Trail in Ketchikan Alaska
A woman crossing a bridge on a hike in Ketchikan
Totem Poles at Totem Bight State Historical Park

Totem Bight State Historical Park in Ketchikan

• Explore downtown Ketchikan & visit historic Creek Street

• Visit a Local Museum-Tongass Historical Museum, Southeast Alaska Discovery Center, Totem Heritage Center

• Learn more about Alaska Native culture & view Totem Poles-Saxman Totem Park, Totem Bight State Historical Park

Where to Eat (& Drink)

• Coffee

-Alaska Coffee

-New York Café

-55 North Bakery

-Local Grounds (drive thru & downtown café)

-Brewed Awakening (drive thru)

-Pilothouse Coffee

-Green Coffee Bean Company (Ward Cove)

• Breakfast

-New York Café (Recommended for breakfast, lunch, & dinner!)

-Jellyfish Donuts

-55 North Bakery

-Pioneer Cafe (if you’re wanting a traditional diner style breakfast)

• Lunch

-The Alaska Fish House

-Alaska Crepe Company

-Just Dandy Apothecary & Cafe

-Burger Queen-Order from The Asylum Bar if you want a burger & beer

-Polar Treats-Sandwiches, wraps, & ice cream

-AJ’s Burgers-North of town near Walmart

-The Barn Door Eatery- Knudson Cove

• Dinner

-The Eagle’s Nest

-Cape Fox Lodge

-108 Taphouse & Burger Bar

-Annabelle’s Famous Keg and Chowder House

-Bush Pilots’ Lounge

• Drinks

-Bawden Street Brewery

-Uncharted Alaska Distillery

-Alaska Legends Cider & Winery

-Or stop by one of many local bars downtown!

Creek Street in Ketchikan Alaska

Where to Shop
(for souvenirs, gifts, art, & locally made goods)

• Julie’s Fine Jewelry & Gifts-Front Street & Berth 4

• Woodlands Clothing-Locally designed apparel & gifts-near Berth 4

• Sockeye Sam’s-Gift shop-near Berth 3

• Old Ache-Gift shop-Main Street

• Scanlon Gallery-Local Art- Mission Street

• Crazy Wolf Studio-Native Art-Mission Street

• Parnassus Books– Bookstore-Creek Street

• Fabulous Fiber Arts and More-Yarn shop-Creek Street

• The Star Gallery (Formerly Soho Coho)-Art gallery & gifts-Creek Street

• Chinook & Company-Local food products & gifts-Creek Street

• Niblick’s General Store-Home goods & gifts-Creek Street

• The Captain’s Lady Boutique & Gifts-Creek Street

• Ketchikan Dry Goods-Gifts & accessories-near Creek Street

• Out to Sea Expedition Company-Outdoor gear & gifts-Thomas Basin

What to Pack

When packing for a trip to Southeast Alaska, regardless of the season, layers are key! You will find that things are pretty causal in Ketchikan, and dressing for the weather takes priority. During the primary visitor season (May-September), temperatures average around 50-60° F (10-15° C) but tend to be cooler at the beginning/end of the season and can climb to over 80° F (26 ° C) at times during the summer. Ketchikan is located in a temperate rainforest and sees an average of 12-13 ft (3-4 m) of rainfall each year, so you should plan for rain!

• Layers-Base layer (t-shirt or long johns), Mid layer (fleece or sweatshirt), Outer layer (rain jacket). We also recommend bringing an insulated puffy jacket for cooler days!

• Lightweight Rain Jacket & Rain Pants-You may not end up using the pants, but if it’s really wet, you will be glad to have them!

• Waterproof Shoes-You’ll see many locals sporting brown & tan rain boots called XtraTufs year round!

• Hats, Gloves, & Sunglasses-Especially if you plan to be out on the water!

Man dressed in rain gear looking at Fireweed

When to Visit

The majority of our visitors arrive during the summer season (May-September) with the peak from June-August. Over the past few years, the cruise ship season has stretched a bit longer with ships now arriving in mid-April and staying until late October. While the weather is generally most pleasant during the summer, the best time to visit depends on what you want to see and do while you’re here!


Spring in Ketchikan varies in terms of weather. March & April can be mild with days of sun and rain, or you could have storms & snow well into April. May is warmer, with more mild weather. Many visitor oriented things like souvenir shops & tours are closed until May (when the cruise ship schedule picks up), but year-round businesses are open. It is a good time to visit if you want to see snow on the mountains, but if you plan to hike, alpine trails will likely still be covered.

Overall: less crowded, colder weather, fewer options for activities


Summer is the most popular time to visit Ketchikan (and for good reason). There is always a chance of rain, but the weather is generally mild with fewer storms and warmer temperatures. The days are longer, which allows more time for outdoor activities, and it is the best time for viewing certain wildlife like Black Bears & Humpback Whales. If you plan to fish for Salmon, you should schedule your visit around the timing of the salmon runs (note that it varies between species). From berries & salmon to activities & visitor volume, summer in Southeast is a time of abundance.

Overall: most crowded, best weather, everything is open


Fall in Ketchikan is fleeting. Weather in September varies from summer temperatures & sunshine to fall storms & endless days of rain; you never quite know what you’ll get! If the winter brought heavy snowfall, September can be one of the best months for hiking as the snow has melted and termination dust has not yet arrived at higher elevations. October & November can have beautiful clear & crisp fall days or raging storms that keep many locals inside with a good book & a warm drink.

Overall: unpredictable weather, less crowded, shorter days


Winter in Ketchikan is mild compared to other places in Alaska (thanks to our coastal climate), with average temperatures of 35°- 40° F (1°- 4° C). Seasonal businesses will be closed, and outdoor activities are often limited by severe weather. December has the darkest days with sunrise around 8 am and sunset around 3 pm. January tends to be clear & cold, and false spring in February can be beautiful, but deceptive as it is usually followed by heavy snowfall.

Overall: coldest weather, no crowds, limited options for activities

Thomas Basin in Ketchikan Alaska
Winter in Thomas Basin Ketchikan Alaska

Local Tips

• Don’t let the rain stop you! They say there is no bad weather, just bad gear, so come prepared and embrace the liquid sunshine. Tours & activities operate rain or shine, so you might get wet, but it’s all part of the adventure. If we waited around for the rain to stop, we would be spending way too much time inside.

PS: Umbrellas are not very useful here due to the wind; it is best to buy some decent rain gear and go for it!

• Mind the tides. The tides in Ketchikan can vary by over 20 ft (6 m) in 6 hours, which causes a drastic change in the landscape throughout the day. At lower tides, you can peek into tide-pools and discover colorful sea creatures like sea stars and anemones. Remember to be mindful of the tides when exploring around the saltwater because some areas accessible at low tide can become islands or even fully submerged at high tide.

• And finally: Don’t be afraid to ask a local! Most folks find that Alaskans are very friendly and willing to help out when needed. We love where we live, and many of us enjoy recommending a favorite spot or sharing about our experience living on an island in Southeast Alaska. 

Winter in downtown Ketchikan

For more Southeast Alaska Travel Tips read our blog, or follow us on social media @outtoseaexpeditions

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