Gavan Hill Trail (to Harbor Mountain)

  • USE : Hike
  • DESCRIPTION : Begins near the end of Baranof Street at the Cross Trail/Gavan Trail trailhead, downtown. From Baranof Street follow the Cross Trail connector 0.8 miles to the Cross Trail, turn right and go 0.3 miles to reach the upper Gavan Hill Trail. It is well marked with signs. The upper Gavan Hill Trail has multiple staircases, switchbacks, and log steps with a steep climb. There are great views of the surrounding area. Continue along the ridge to the Harbor-Gavan Hill Shelter, and further to the Harbor Mountain Trail parking lot.
  • DISTANCE : 6 miles (one-way)
    • 2.1 miles from Baranof Street trailhead to ridge, 2400′ elevation gain
    • .5 miles from Gavan ridge to Harbor Mountain shelter, 600′ elevation gain
    • 2.4 miles from shelter to Harbor Mountain Trailhead, 1000′ elevation loss– ups and downs
  • TIME : 6 hours (one-way)
  • TRAILHEADS :  Baranof Street trailhead & end of Harbor Mountain Road. Also accessible via Cross Trail connectors at Sitka High School or Yaw Drive. To start at Baranof Street and end at Harbor Mountain, you will have to stage a car at either trailhead, loop back to the Baranof Street 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 : Moderate to difficult. Steep climbs with 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
Gavan Hill to Harbor Mountain Ridge Trail Map


The trail begins at the end of Baranof Street about 1/2 mile from downtown Sitka. The trailhead is well marked. There are 3-4 parking spots.

If ending at Harbor Mountain trailhead, you will need to descend the mountain via 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 Road and Recreation Area page.


The Gavan Hill portion of the trail was constructed in 1937 to provide forest access for recreation and hunting. Much of the boardwalk was built in the late 1990s.


A shelter is located on a small knob near the saddle between Harbor Mountain and Gavan Hill. Access is available on a first-come, first-served basis. 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.


The trail begins at the Baranof Street trailhead and goes 0.8 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.


For information on the WWII radar site on Harbor Mountain see Harbor Defenses of Sitka.

US Forest Service Harbor Mountain Rec. Area page:

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