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Medvejie Lake Trail

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USE : Hike

DESCRIPTION : Rough trail through downed timber from the Medvejie hatchery to the lake. The trailhead is unmarked but is at the end of the access road through the employee houses. Hatchery staff doesn’t mind pointing out the trail to hikers when they aren’t busy.

LENGTH : 3/4 mile one way

LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY : Moderate

LAND MANAGEMENT AGENCY : City and Borough of Sitka. The CBS Electric Department is responsible for the Green Lake Road. Northern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association manages the hatchery.


ACCESS

The “trailhead” for this non-maintained trail is 3.25 miles from the Green Lake Road gate at Herring Cove. There’s a small pullout for parking right before the gate.

The Green Lake road is also used by pedestrians and mountain bicyclists since the only vehicles that use the road are City vehicles going to and from Green Lake dam and hatchery employees. The hatchery is at Bear Cove and be aware that bears do use the road and are around the hatchery during spawning, starting in June. If bicycling, it is best to slow down when going around blind corners or cresting hills to look for bears.

The road is approximately 7 miles long and Green Lake is located at the end. Where the road divides, at about mile 6, the road to the left goes up to Green Lake and the dam and the road to the right goes to dam powerhouse.

Starrigavan Estuary Life/Forest & Muskeg Trails

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USE : Walk. Estuary Life is an ADA accessible trail.

DESCRIPTION : Upper Starrigavan Valley views. Interpretive signs and displays along Estuary Life boardwalk describe the estuary ecosystem.

DISTANCE : 1 Mile (one way)

TIME : 1.5 Hours (one way)

TRAILHEAD : Begins near the Old Sitka Boat Launch and Ends at Parking area near end of Halibut Point Road, at Starrigavan Campground. The separated multiuse path, along the ocean and through Old Sitka park and the boat launch can be used to walk back to the Boat Launch parking lot.

ELEVATION GAIN : 150 feet

RECOMMENDED SEASON : Year-round, but use caution when wet or icy

LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY : Easy. These gravel and boardwalk trails are accessible to people with physical disabilities at the difficult level. Boardwalk sections can be slippery.

TRAIL MANAGEMENT AGENCY : US Forest Service: Estuary Life trail and Alaska State Parks: Forest and Muskeg trail. Alaska State Parks ceased maintenance of the trail when Ranger position defunded due to budget cuts in 2015.

 

ACCESS

The trail is located about 6.5 miles north of Sitka on Halibut Point Road, and about .25 miles north of the Ferry Terminal. The trail begins at the Old Sitka boat launch parking area and at the US Forest Service campground on the right side of the road, past the bridge over Starrigavan River.

SPECIAL FEATURES

The trail gently climbs through a typical southeastern Alaska forest to reach a scenic muskeg, dotted with small ponds and stunted lodgepole(shore) pines. This trail is barrier free, and rated at difficult for accessibility, with some grades up to 12%. Along the Estuary Life portion of the trail there is a bird viewing platform from which many different birds and other wildlife can be seen.

DESCRIPTION

The trail begins by gradually climbing across a side hill to a forested muskeg with small streams. The trail is gravel until it reaches the outskirts of the muskeg on the top of a low hill. Through the muskeg, the trail is a boardwalk and winds among marshy ponds until reaching the forest again, with views up Starrigavan valley. The trail gradually descends through the forest with occasional glimpses through the trees of Starrigavan estuary.

At the base of the hill, the trail crosses Nelson Logging Road and crosses Starrigavan River to the Estuary Life portion of the trail. In late summer and early fall spawning salmon may be seen from the bridge. This portion of the trail continues on boardwalk at a gentle 5% grade for about a quarter mile to a bird viewing platform. Bears are common feeding on the grassy flats in the estuary, and sometimes use the trails. Interpretive panels discuss the birds that use the estuary and the fascinating dynamics of an estuary.

OTHER SOURCES

Forest Service

http://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/regions/alaska/Starrigavan/index.shtml

Alaska travel information

http://www.alaska.org/destination/sitka/parks-and-trails

Matt Goff’s Site:

Starrigavan Recreation Area

Starrigavan ATV Trails

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USE : ATV, Some Bike and Hike, Cross Country skiing in winter but get there early before the ATV’s arrive.

DESCRIPTION : Small network of roads and trails built primarily for ATV use. All users use caution. Fast speeds and blind corners can present hazards. Major landslide occurred in 2015 which has impacted the trails.

DISTANCE : 1 to 2 mile loops

TIME : 1 Hours (one way)

TRAILHEAD : Begins at the end of the Nelson Logging Road in the gravel parking lot.

ELEVATION GAIN : 300 feet

RECOMMENDED SEASON : Year-round, but use caution when wet or icy

LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY : Moderate to Challenging.

Please pack out all trash.

TRAIL MANAGEMENT AGENCY : US Forest Service


 

ACCESS

The motorized trails are located about 6.5 miles north of Sitka. Drive on Halibut Point Road, and turn off at the bridge before the estuary onto Nelson Logging Road. Follow the narrow road across several bridges until a large gravel parking and off-loading area appears on the left. Please don’t park at the shooting range.

SPECIAL FEATURES

Many of the trails at Starrigavan cross Coho salmon rearing streams. ATV riders are asked to respect the fish, and not ride through streams. Much of the area was extensively logged and the Forest Service has implemented forest thinning projects throughout the area.

DESCRIPTION

The ATV trails in the area are old logging roads, but the Forest Service has created a few new trails just for ATV riders. Please use these trails with respect to other users and ability levels. Younger and less-experienced riders often use these trails for training and practice before tackling the trails at Kruzof Island or other areas.

CAUTIONS

These gravel and rock trails are maintained for ATV riding and loose rocks, rough surfaces, and blind corners present challenges and hazards to users. Be aware that high-speed ATVs and motorcycles may be encountered at any time.

OTHER SOURCES

Forest Service Site http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/tongass/about-forest/districts/?cid=stelprdb5396292

Thimbleberry Lake/Heart Lake Trail

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USE : Hike and Bike

DESCRIPTION : Trail head 4 miles southeast of town, on left, off of Sawmill Creek Road just past Thimbleberry Creek. Second trailhead is off Blue Lake Road. If the gate is closed park across from the Industrial Park and hike . mile up the road to the trailhead. Nice views of Thimbleberry and Heart Lakes. Bears often frequent the area of the trail in particular when berries are ripe.

DISTANCE : 0.25 mile to Thimbleberry Lake, 1 mile to Heart Lake. (one way). 1.6 mile to Blue Lake Road TH.

TIME : 1 hour (one way) hiking, 30 min biking. Two hours to do loop back along Sawmill Creek Road separated path.

TRAILHEADS :

– Thimbleberry Trailhead begins four miles east of Sitka on Sawmill Creek Road.

– Heart Lake Trailhead is . mile up Blue Lake Road, which is to the left, across from the Industrial Park near the end of Sawmill Creek Road.

ELEVATION GAIN : 100 feet to Thimbleberry lake, 350 feet to Heart Lake

RECOMMENDED SEASON : Year round

LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY : Easy to moderate. Trail has been recently re-finished and is a bit less steep from the south trailhead, though both offer a nice reward after a short climb. Bears may be present.

TRAIL MANAGEMENT AGENCY : City and Borough of Sitka


 

ACCESS

TWO TRAILHEADS:

Thimbleberry Trailhead: The trail begins about 4 miles southeast of Sitka on Sawmill Creek Road. Cross Thimbleberry creek Bridge (watch for sign) and immediately to your left is a trailhead sign and parking area.

A separated bike path and bike lanes will get you from downtown to the Thimbleberry trailhead.

Heart Lake Trailhead: Access from Blue Lake Road is about 5 miles east of Sitka. At mile 5.5 on Sawmill Creek Road across from the pulp mill, turn left onto the uphill gravel

road. Blue Lake Road is closed in the winter and maybe closed during project or road work. Call the City and Borough Electric Department for updates.

Once at the Blue Lake Road trailhead, bicycles and hikers can continue up Blue Lake Road for more views and good riding. The next trail up the valley is the Beaver Lakes Hiking Trail.

DESCRIPTION

The trail climbs rapidly through a hemlock-spruce forest for about an eighth of a mile, to the left below the bridge is Thimbleberry Falls. After a few switchbacks and bridges, follows a power line corridor to Thimbleberry Lake. The distance to the lake is an easy .25 miles. A small dock and a skate changing area is at the lake outlet. In the winter it is a favorite skating spot although it can be quite windy. The lakeshore is fairly accessible. Fishing for trout is fair, with the best spot being at the northeast end of the lake, near the inlet stream.

The trail continues along the north and east sides of the lake following the power line corridor. Follow the trail up and over a somewhat steep rise about a half mile further to Heart Lake. There is a small dock and a rowboat (oars should be there, but BYO lifejackets.) Heart Lake is a local swimming hole in the summer and a great skating spot in the winter. The trail continues around the south end of Heart Lake, splashes across a small stream, and continues down a steep grade to Blue Lake Road.

OTHER SOURCES

US Forest Service trails site.
 http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/tongass/recreation/hiking/recarea/?recid=79142&actid=50

Sitka Through 4 Seasons.
http://www.travelsitka.com/

 

Harbor Mountain/Gavin Hill Trail

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USE : Hike

DESCRIPTION : At the summit, excellent views of Sitka Sound, Baranof Island, Kruzof Island, Mt Edgecumbe and more peaks. Eagles and deer can be seen frequently along the trail when above tree line.

DISTANCE : 6 Miles (loop) •DISTANCE: 6 Miles (loop)

– Gavan Hill Trail – 2.1 miles from Baranof trailhead to ridge, 2400′ elevation gain

– Gavan Ridge to Harbor Mt shelter cabin- 1.5 miles, 600′ elevation gain

– Harbor Mt Trail – 2.4 miles, 1000′ elevation gain – ups and downs to the shelter cabin

TIME : 4-6 Hours (loop)

TRAILHEADS – End of Harbor Mountain Road & Baranof Street Trailhead, High School, Yaw Drive. To do the loop, you will have to stage a car at either trailhead, get back to the other trailhead or trade keys (and cell phone numbers) with someone going the other way.

RECOMMENDED SEASON : Mid spring through fall (though there is good skiing and snowshoeing on the ridges in winter). Beware avalanche areas.

LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY : Difficult with possible hazardous weather. The trail has some areas where footing is difficult. There are extensive stairs, steps, roots, rocks, and log steps. Boardwalk sections can be very slippery when wet or icy.

TRAIL MANAGEMENT AGENCY : US Forest Service; Cross Trail portion by City and Borough of Sitka


 

ACCESS

Harbor Mountain Trailhead – Go approximately 4 miles northwest of Sitka along Halibut Point Road and turn right onto Harbor Mountain Road. The paved and gravel road winds 5 miles up Harbor Mountain gaining 2,000 feet in elevation. This is a steep climb with sharp switchbacks. RVs and vehicles pulling trailers should not attempt the drive.

The Forest Service closes the road in early winter to vehicles, and opens it with adequate snow cover for snow machines and ATVs. For restrictions and closures: see the USFS Harbor Mountain Rec. Area page.

Gavan Hill Trail – The trail begins at the end of Baranof Street about 1/2 mile from downtown Sitka. The trailhead is obvious. There are 3-4 parking sites by the trees.

HISTORY

The Harbor Mountain Road was built during World War II to provide access for building a lookout and other military installations at the top of the mountain (Fort Ray). The Gavan Hill portion of the trail was constructed in 1937 to provide forest access to recreation and hunting. Much of the boardwalk was built in the late 1990s.

SPECIAL FEATURES

This is the only alpine area in southeastern Alaska that is accessible by road. Wonderful vistas of Sitka Sound, Sitka, Mt. Edgecumbe, and numerous mountains and islands can be seen from the road and trail. The Harbor Mountain Trail has recently received a major restoration and re-routing by the Forest Service. Many steep grades have been rerouted and the tread smoothed with gravel. They also designed several rock benches for picnic spots along the way. This trail connects with Gavan Hill Trail, which terminates in Sitka on Baranof Street. An emergency shelter is located on a small knob near the saddle between Harbor Mountain and Gavan Hill. Campfires are discouraged in this sensitive sub-alpine environment.

Please don’t cut the trees – they are very few and slow growing. Be sure to leave no trace and pack it out.

Weather: The weather can deteriorate very quickly on the ridges and peaks. It may be sunny in the parking lots but very windy and wet up high. Be sure to dress appropriately and carry the 10 essentials (plus a few we added for Sitka) and be prepared for very bad weather and cold, wet conditions. Be a safe hiker and turn back if the weather deteriorates or visibility is compromised by clouds. Sitka Search and rescue has had to rescue many hikers along this route. Don’t be the next victim.

DESCRIPTION

Going from Harbor Mountain Trail – The trail begins at the end of Harbor Mountain Road. The trailhead is marked by a bulletin board and handrails, and proceeds up the hillside in a series of switchbacks, gaining 300 feet in elevation. At the ridge, a short spur trail leads to the left to an overlook. The main trail turns to the right and follows the ridge toward the summit of a knob where WWII lookout (Fort Ray) ruins are located.

Before reaching the summit, however, the trail turns east and runs along the hillside of an immense north-facing sub-alpine meadow. The trail then follows along a ridge toward the peaks of Harbor Mountain. The view from this ridge is spectacular: mountains, deep valleys, alpine rock fields, high meadows, twisted trees and wildflowers.

As the trail continues on toward the rocky peaks of Harbor Mountain, it forks off to the right and skirts the hillside, circling around Gavan Ridge to Gavan Hill, then drops steeply down steps and stairs to town. The other fork of the trail continues up the steep shoulder slope of the peaks, and ends as it reaches the steep rocky alpine at about 2,500 feet.

Going from Gavan Hill Trail – The trail begins at the Baranof St. Trailhead and goes .8 mile to the intersection with the main Cross Trail. It starts with 600′ of accessible trail; turn left before the bench. Upon reaching the junction with Cross Trail turn right and go another .3 miles to the upper Gavan Trail. At this point it becomes a hiking trail climbing to 2200’ in about one mile. The trail is very steep with stairs and steps with numerous switchbacks to Gavan Ridge. Turning right at the ridge and hiking 2.0 miles will take you to the shelter cabin. Hiking an additional 2.3 miles beyond the shelter leads one to the Harbor Mountain parking lot.

OTHER SOURCES:

For information on the WWII radar site on Harbor Mountain see Harbor Defenses of Sitka. http://www.sitkaww2.com/harbordefenses/Locations/harbormtn/harbormtn.html

US Forest Service Harbor Mountain Rec. Area page:

http://www.fs.usda.gov/tongass/ 

http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/tongass/about-forest/districts/?cid=stelprdb5397106

http://alaska.ustrails.org/trails/Harbor-Mountain-Gavan-Hill-Trail.html

 

Halibut Point State Recreation Site

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USE : Walk

DESCRIPTION : Oceanfront park with 3 picnic shelter, easy access to beach and wildlife. Park was abandoned by Alaska State Parks when Ranger position defunded due to budget cuts in 2015. Volunteers currently maintain the park. No restroom facilities or trash cans. Pack in, pack out all refuse.

DISTANCE : 0.5 Mile (one way)

TIME : 30 Minutes (one way)

TRAILHEAD : Loop trail that begins at Granite Creek foot bridge near the center of the park.

ELEVATION GAIN : 30 feet

RECOMMENDED SEASON : Year round.

LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY : Easy.

TRAIL MANAGEMENT AGENCY : Alaska State Parks owns the land but the park is currently maintained by volunteers.


 

ACCESS

The trail begins at the footbridge that crosses the Granite Creek within the Halibut Point State Recreation Site. This park is located approximately 4.5 miles north of Sitka on Halibut Point Road. Park at the second parking area and walk down the service road to the footbridge.

SPECIAL FEATURES

Three picnic shelters are located throughout the park. This is a beautiful area to enjoy both mature Sitka spruce – western hemlock forests and scenic beaches.

DESCRIPTION

This is a loop trail with spur trails to the beach and a picnic shelter. After crossing the bridge, the trail goes either left or right. To the right are the spur trails to the beach. The main trail winds around through mature forests until coming out on the beach. The trail then follows the beach for a stretch, then winds back into the forest and returns to the footbridge.

OTHER SOURCES:

http://www.sitkatrails.org/trail-log/category/halibut-point-rec/

Beaver Lake/Herring Cove Trail Loop

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USE : Hike

DESCRIPTION : Popular trail well suited to family outings. Views of nearby rugged mountains, wildlife and muskeg.

LENGTH : Multiple trail distances available. 1 3/4 miles

TIME : 1 hour one-way

TWO TRAILHEADS : One at the steel bridge at Sawmill Creek Campground off Blue Lake Road and the other is the Herring Cove Trailhead. Blue Lake Road is closed in the winter and maybe closed during project or road work. Call the City and Borough Electric Department for updates.

- From Campground around Beaver Lake and back 1.7 miles.

- From Campground to Herring Cove and back 3.4 miles.

- From Campground to Herring Cove and back along SMC and Blue Lake Roads 6 miles – 3 hrs.

– Big trail loop is easiest hiked beginning at Herring Cove to Beaver Lake. Goes around Beaver Lake and back or on to Herring Cove

ELEVATION GAIN : 250 feet

RECOMMENDED SEASON : Early spring through late fall

LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY : Moderate. Popular trail well-suited to family outings. New alignment and recent rock work and gravel have the tread in great condition. Steep grade at the beginning/end of the trail. The middle section around the lakes is mostly level with some stepping stones and log steps.

TRAIL MANAGEMENT AGENCIES : US Forest Service – Blue Lake Campground, around Beaver Lake and Herring Cove trail beyond the water fall viewing.

City and Borough of Sitka – Herring Cove Parking Lot to large waterfall.


 

ACCESS

Primary access is from the new Herring Cove Trailhead parking area at the end of Sawmill Creek Road 6 miles east of Sitka. Drive past the Sawmill Cove Industrial Park and past Blue Lake Road to the gate and trailhead parking area.

Access from Blue Lake Road is about 5 miles east of Sitka. At mile 5.5 on Sawmill Creek Road across from the pulp mill, turn left onto the uphill gravel road. Go 1.5 miles along Blue Lake Road to the Sawmill Creek Campground, first right. The trail begins across the bridge over Sawmill Creek on the south side of the open gravel area.

The Herring Cove trailhead is another mile beyond the Industrial Park. Beyond the Sawmill Creek Bridge the road is gravel. The trail head is almost at the end of the road. Take an immediate left after driving through a gate.

SPECIAL FEATURES

One of Sitka’s favorite hiking trails. By Beaver Lake there are great vistas of nearby rugged mountains. Lovely walk over muskegs, along marshes and through stunted forests. Beaver Lake has been stocked periodically with grayling between 1986 and 1991. The Forest service has installed new docks and picnic pads at the lake. An aluminum rowboat is available for use by the public at one of them. Please leave the oars in the boat, tie it up, and bail it out completely. At the back side of the lake tremendous, old growth trees are found.

The Herring Cove trail parallels a stream with a series of waterfalls. After one climbs the first steep hillside, the trail flattens out in a glacially formed “hanging valley” with large old growth trees. A 100’+ waterfall is at the top of the valley. Beyond the waterfall the trail goes across boardwalk, up a hill and then back down to Beaver Lake.

DESCRIPTION

From Herring Cove TH – This trail is a cooperative project by Sitka Trail Works, the Rasmuson Foundation, the USFS and CBS. The trail begins with short accessible pathway to the first bridge. The Trailhead parking area and ADA accessible trail was built by Sitka Trail Works. A scenic little waterfall marks the beginning of the narrower and less accessible trail, built by Oregon Woods contractors employing former Trail Works construction crew members. Designed by Barth Hamberg of the US Forest Service, it was built with gravel surfacing, rock armoring and minimizes the use of log steps for durability. The trail begins to climb and takes advantage of large boulders and tree for some whimsical trail features. A tight squeeze through a rock passageway makes a nice photo spot. After this cleft, the trail climbs rapidly on rock steps parallel to the rushing cascade. There are several observation spots along the trail for views of the freshet or to catch your breath. Eventually the trail levels out through a scenic gorge with views up the avalanche chute and waterfalls. After a more level section, the trail drops abruptly to join the Beaver Lake loop down artfully placed rock steps. Caution should be taken during heavy rain events due to potential flooding and be aware of an avalanche danger as well. Dogs should be leashed through all wetland areas to minimize damage to delicate vegetation and mosses along the trail.

From Blue Lake Road/Sawmill Cove Campground – The marked trailhead is on the south side of a small clearing in the alder just southwest of the bridge. The trail is steep for the first quarter mile with an elevation gain of about 200 feet spread over several switchbacks. The trail climbs through an open forest of hemlock, Sitka spruce and yellow cedar. The mostly gravel trail runs through open forest and parallels the Beaver Lake outlet stream and associated marshes and muskegs. The trail leads to several fishing platforms along the southern edge of the lake. The trail continues from this point around the circumference of the lake along the shores and through open forests back to the fishing platforms.

OTHER SOURCES:

http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/tongass/recreation/hiking/recarea/?recid=79060&actid=50

http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/tongass/recreation/hiking/recarea/?recid=79083&actid=50

Sitka National Historical Park

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USE : Walk

DESCRIPTION : Commemorates the site of the Battle of Sitka between the Tlingit Indians and the Russians in 1804. Traditional and historic totem poles line the trails throughout the park.

DISTANCE : 1.5 Miles (one way)

TIME : 1 Hour (one way)

TRAILHEADS : Begins and Ends at National Park Service Visitor Center

ELEVATION GAIN : 20 feet

RECOMMENDED SEASON : Year Round

LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY : Easy. Well maintained, dry, level trail.

TRAIL MANAGEMENT AGENCY : US National Park Service


 

ACCESS

The accessible Sitka Sea Walk begins downtown at the Centennial Building and leads to Sitka National Historical Park. The Sea Walk parallels Lincoln Street through Crescent Harbor Park and leaves the roadway to meander through the forest after the Sitka Sound Science Center. Begin at the ocean front doors of the National Park Service Visitor Center by the totem pole near the beach.

HISTORY

The Historical Park commemorates the site of the Battle of Sitka between the Tlingit Natives and the Russians in 1802. An informative brochure with a map can be obtained from the Park Visitor Center.

DESCRIPTION

Sitka National Historical Park trail is made to order for the stroller who wants a taste of southeast Alaska’s forests and waters in a non-strenuous setting. The well maintained trail is in Sitka spruce-western hemlock forest and parallels the shoreline of Eastern Channel. A guidebook is available at the Visitor Center that interprets the totem poles along the trail. During mid to late summer, huckleberries and blueberries are common. Also, watch the shore and trees for ravens, eagles and other birds. Squirrels are likely to pop up anywhere year-round.

There are numerous spur trails to the adjacent pebble and sand beach. At the southwestern end of the park there are a series of paths running through the beach meadows and grass flats. During the spring and early summer, these meadows support a wide array of colorful wildflowers.

The main trail leads along Indian River where pink, chum and coho salmon return to spawn during late summer and early fall. This is truly an amazing sight as thousands of fish are side by side flopping up the river. The best fish viewing point is the arched bridge.

Cross over the bridge and follow another loop trail southeast along the river past the Russian Monument, or northwest through the forest back to the bridge.

The Riverside Trail takes off right before the bridge on the Visitor Center side of the park and connects the park to Sawmill Creek Road.

OTHER SOURCES:

https://www.nps.gov/sitk/learn/index.htm

Gavin Hill Trail (to Harbor Mountain)

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USE : Hike

• DESCRIPTION : Begins near at the end of Baranof Street and the Cross Trail/Gavan Trail Trailhead, downtown. Follow the Cross Trail connector .8 mile to the Cross Trail, turn right and go .3 mile to the upper Gavan Trail. It is well marked with signs. The upper Gavan trail has multiple staircases, switchbacks, and log steps with a steep climb. Great views of surrounding area. Can continue to Harbor Mt, or check out the nice shelter cabin at the top.

DISTANCE : 6 Miles (loop)
• Gavan Hill Trail – 2.1 miles from Baranof trailhead to ridge, 2400′ elevation gain
•Gavan Ridge to Harbor Mt shelter cabin- 1.5 miles, 600′ elevation gain
•Harbor Mt Trail – 2.4 miles, 1000′ elevation gain – ups and downs to the shelter cabin

TIME : 4-6 Hours (loop)

TRAILHEADS : End of Harbor Mountain Road & Baranof Street Trailhead, High School, Yaw Drive. To do the loop, you will have to stage a car at either trailhead, get back to the other trailhead or trade keys (and cell phone numbers) with someone going the other way.

RECOMMENDED SEASON : Mid spring through fall (though there is good skiing and snowshoeing on the ridges in winter). Beware avalanche areas.

LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY : Difficult with possible hazardous weather. The trail has some areas where footing is difficult. There are extensive stairs, steps, roots, rocks, and log steps. Boardwalk sections can be very slippery when wet or icy.

TRAIL MANAGEMENT AGENCY : US Forest Service; Cross Trail portion by City and Borough of Sitka


 

ACCESS

Harbor Mountain Trailhead – Go approximately 4 miles northwest of Sitka along Halibut Point Road and turn right onto Harbor Mountain Road. The paved and gravel road winds 5 miles up Harbor Mountain gaining 2,000 feet in elevation. This is a steep climb with sharp switchbacks. RVs and vehicles pulling trailers should not attempt the drive.

The Forest Service closes the road in early winter to vehicles, and opens it with adequate snow cover for snow machines and ATVs. For restrictions and closures: see the USFS Harbor Mountain Rec. Area page.

Gavan Hill Trail – The trail begins at the end of Baranof Street about 1/2 mile from downtown Sitka. The trailhead is obvious. There are 3-4 parking sites by the trees.

HISTORY

The road was built during World War II to provide access for building a lookout and other military installations at the top of the mountain (Fort Ray). The Gavan Hill portion of the trail was constructed in 1937 to provide forest access to recreation and hunting. Much of the boardwalk was built in the late 1990s.

SPECIAL FEATURES

This is the only alpine area in southeastern Alaska that is accessible by road. Wonderful vistas of Sitka Sound, Sitka, Mt. Edgecumbe, and numerous mountains and islands can be seen from the road and trail. The Harbor Mountain Trail has recently received a major restoration and re-routing by the Forest Service. Many steep grades have been rerouted and the tread smoothed with gravel. They also designed several rock benches for picnic spots along the way. This trail connects with Gavan Hill Trail, which terminates in Sitka on Baranof Street. An emergency shelter is located on a small knob near the saddle between Harbor Mountain and Gavan Hill. Campfires are discouraged in this sensitive sub-alpine environment.

Please don’t cut the trees – they are very few and slow growing. Be sure to leave no trace and pack it out.

Weather: The weather can deteriorate very quickly on the ridges and peaks. It may be sunny in the parking lots but very windy and wet up high. Be sure to dress appropriately and carry the 10 essentials (plus a few we added for Sitka) and be prepared for very bad weather and cold, wet conditions. Don’t be too proud to turn back if the weather dictates. Sitka Search and rescue has had to rescue many hikers along this route. Don’t be the next victim.

DESCRIPTION

Going from Harbor Mountain Trail – The trail begins at the end of Harbor Mountain Road. The trailhead is marked by a bulletin board and handrails, and proceeds up the hillside in a series of switchbacks, gaining 300 feet in elevation. At the ridge, a short spur trail leads to the left to an overlook. The main trail turns to the right and follows the ridge toward the summit of a knob where WWII lookout (Fort Ray) ruins are located.

Before reaching the summit, however, the trail turns east and runs along the hillside of an immense north-facing sub-alpine meadow. The trail then follows along a ridge toward the peaks of Harbor Mountain. The view from this ridge is spectacular:

mountains, deep valleys, alpine rock fields, high meadows, twisted trees and wildflowers.

As the trail continues on toward the rocky peaks of Harbor Mountain, it forks off to the right and skirts the hillside, circling around Gavan Ridge to Gavan Hill, then drops steeply down steps and stairs to town. The other fork of the trail continues up the steep shoulder slope of the peaks, and ends as it reaches the steep rocky alpine at about 2,500 feet.

Going from Gavan Hill Trail – The trail begins at the Baranof St. Trailhead and goes .8 mile to the intersection with the main Cross Trail. It starts with 600′ of accessible trail; turn left before the bench. Upon reaching the junction with Cross Trail turn right and go another .3 miles to the upper Gavan Trail. At this point it becomes a hiking trail climbing to 2200’ in about one mile. The trail is very steep with stairs and steps with numerous switchbacks to Gavan Ridge. Turning right at the ridge and hiking 2.0 miles will take you to the shelter cabin. Hiking an additional 2.3 miles beyond the shelter leads one to the Harbor Mountain parking lot.

OTHER SOURCES:

For information on the WWII radar site on Harbor Mountain see Harbor Defenses of Sitka. http://www.sitkaww2.com/harbordefenses/Locations/harbormtn/harbormtn.html

US Forest Service Harbor Mountain Rec. Area page:

http://www.fs.usda.gov/tongass/

http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/tongass/about-forest/districts/?cid=stelprdb5397106

http://alaska.ustrails.org/trails/Harbor-Mountain-Gavan-Hill-Trail.html

Mount Verstovia Trail

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USE : Hike

DESCRIPTION : Lower hill slope was logged by Russians in 1860. On a clear day, there are great views of surrounding area from the top.

LENGTH : 2.5 Miles (one way)

TIME : 3 Hours (one way)

TRAILHEAD : Begins 2 miles east of Sitka on Sawmill Creek Road. Ends on the ridge of Mount Verstovia*

ELEVATION GAIN : 2,550 feet to Verstovia*, 3,300 feet to Arrowhead*

RECOMMENDED SEASON : Spring through late fall

• LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY : Difficult. Steep trail with many switchbacks. Tread in places is poor and usually wet, slippery and muddy. Numerous log steps and rocky/rooty sections. Some ropes and cables to grab in some of the more exposed places.

• TRAIL MANAGEMENT AGENCY : US Forest Service


ACCESS

Two miles east of Sitka along Sawmill Creek Road. Look for the trailhead sign on the left shortly after Wolff Drive. Park in the small 2-car lot. Please don’t let dogs loose at the parking lot for the sake of the neighbors.

HISTORY

The lower hill slope was logged by the Russians in 1860. Russian charcoal pits are still somewhat visible about a quarter mile up the present trail which was first built in the 1930’s for recreational purposes of local residents.

SPECIAL FEATURES

The trail ends in sub-alpine meadows and high ridges. The view from Mt. Verstovia is spectacular. Watch for bald eagles catching thermals.

Locals use this trail to access the upper bowls for skiing in the winter. Avalanches are a hazard, particularly with new snow, or temperature changes.

DESCRIPTION

The trailhead is well signed about two miles out Sawmill Creek Road. The first short segment of trail runs through thickets of alder and salmonberry; soon thereafter it enters

the western hemlock-spruce forest where it remains until breaking over the ridge on the west shoulder of Verstovia. About a third of a mile along the trail, one begins a series of switchbacks up the southwest side of the mountain. There are a couple of nice viewpoints with benches in the forest openings along this part of the trail. At about 2,000 feet the trail reaches a ridge and generally follows it east up to the shoulder of Mt. Verstovia (2,550 feet).

The vegetation change between the 2,000 foot level and summit is dramatic. One moves from an open forest dominated by mountain hemlock into brushy meadows, across snowfields, through grassy sub-alpine meadows and finally into rocky alpine area with stunted, twisted plants. The “peak” of Verstovia is also referred to as “picnic rock”. The maintained trail ends here.

The peak of Arrowhead can be climbed by heading northeast along the rocky alpine ridge. This is an unmaintained trail. It takes about an hour to reach and climb the peak from the end of the trail. The last part of the climb is quite steep and exposed with loose scree; only for the sure-footed climber.

*Special Note: The peak names, Arrowhead and Verstovia used here follow local usage that does not correspond to the topographical map of Sitka A-4.

Local name Verstovia is the same as peak 2550 on the USGS map.

Local name Arrowhead is the same as Verstovia on the USGS map.

OTHER SOURCES:

Sitka Trail Guide (Matt Goff)

Sitka Trail Blog (Matt Goff)

http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/tongass/recreation/hiking/recarea/?recid=79146&actid=50