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Explore Ketchikan: Alaska in Your Backyard

Savvy Pacific Northwest Travelers know that Alaska is an accessible destination. Closest of all is Ketchikan, situated just north of the Canadian border along the magnificent Inside Passage. At an easy 90-minute flight time from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, convenient connections throughout the Northwest make it a destination that is within reach from all major airports within the region.

Spend less time traveling and more time doing. After a quick stop at baggage claim you can head out to start your adventure, beginning with a scenic 5-minute ferry ride across the Tongass Narrows ($6 per passenger). Take in the waterfront view of Ketchikan as you make the crossing. Rent a car at the airport, or catch a ride with a taxi, hotel shuttle or public transportation when you reach town. If you drive, Ketchikan’s 35 miles of highway is easy to navigate, with the city and downtown areas right in the middle of the route.

Whether you choose a hotel in the heart of town, a quaint inn or one of dozens of unique vacation rentals — many with outstanding views, beach access or convenient locations — choices range from romantic to big enough for family. The ocean to mountain scenery and fresh air speak to the similarities that Ketchikan shares with our northwest neighbors, putting you at ease. It will not take long to discover what makes our town so special. Be sure to make a stop at our visitor information center early in your stay for helpful information and guides to Ketchikan’s historic walking tour, local hiking trails, restaurants and shopping. Staff at the visitor center also can provide recommendations for tours, arts events and other activities taking place during your visit.

Equipped with information, you will be ready to set out and explore. Ketchikan’s downtown area stretches from the waterfront docks to the wooden boardwalk of world-famous Creek Street, which follows along Ketchikan Creek, truly the heart of town. Vast runs of salmon have been returning to the creek for centuries, so much so that the Tlingit people chose the creek as the spot for a summer fish camp, catching and preserving salmon for winter foods. Those same runs of salmon convinced would-be prospectors headed to the Yukon that their fortune might just lie in Ketchikan. Later, Creek Street was infamous as Ketchikan’s red-light district. Today, Creek Street is lined with shops and restaurants, but the fish still return every summer.

Thomas Basin Deer Mountain
Ketchikan’s Thomas Basin and Deer Mountain. Photo by A. Alabastro provided by Visit Ketchikan.

—Public art, most notably in the form of tall totem poles can be found throughout the community. Ketchikan has been recognized as one of the top small arts communities in the U.S. due to the number of practicing artists who live here and are inspired by the natural beauty, and cultural traditions. 

The proud heritage of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian tribes is reflected in art, dance performances and at local parks displaying the world’s largest collection of totem poles. The Totem Heritage Center is a one-of-a-kind facility, created in the 1970s as a repository for original totem poles rescued from abandoned village sites. Today, Ketchikan lays claim not only to having the largest number of totems in the world, but also as guardians of the oldest known poles in existence. Tongass Historical Museum is a thoughtfully curated facility downtown that tells the story of the community through interpretive exhibits, and special programs and events.

Situated within the Tongass National Forest, the nation’s largest, outdoor adventure is minutes away — hiking trails, kayaking, fishing, and boating, camping, biking and many more options await. 

Ketchikan is known as the Salmon Capital of the world, due to the variety of species that migrate through local waters and is proud of its fishing heritage. Salmon, halibut, shellfish, and other wild seafood are abundant and provide delicious menu options.

When to go

High season is June through August, with the most options available for accommodations, activities and dining. The shoulder months of May and September also offer much to do. Ketchikan’s climate is like other communities in the coastal regions of the Pacific Northwest, with rain more likely than snow in the fall and winter. October through April are also the seasons where visitors can enjoy a more intimate experience and take in the art and culture scene.

Getting there

Alaska Airlines offers daily year around jet service to Ketchikan International Airport. Delta provides seasonal service during the busier summer months.  The state-run Alaska Marine Highway System ferries call in Bellingham, Washington, and take 36 hours to travel to Ketchikan. Staterooms and dining services are available. Several small ship cruise companies are visiting Ketchikan this summer including Alaska Dream Cruises, American Cruise Lines, Lindblad Expeditions and UnCruise Adventures.

– Top image of Ketchikan by E. Lindberg provided by Visit Ketchikan.

Advertising Disclosure: This content is provided by Visit Ketchikan, an advertiser of AAA Washington. The content doesn’t necessarily represent the views of AAA Washington.

Interested in planning your next road trip with AAA Washington? Call your travel agent directly or your nearest AAA store to get pro tips, TripTik maps, and more. Find more Pacific Northwest scenic drives and road trips.

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