Starrigavan Estuary Life / Ben Grussendorf Forest & Muskeg Trails

  • USE : Walk.
  • DESCRIPTION : Upper Starrigavan Valley views. Interpretive signs and displays describe forest, muskeg, and estuary ecosystems.
  • DISTANCE : 0.3 mile Estuary Life Trail (one way) + 0.9 mile Ben Grussendorf Forest & Muskeg Trail
  • TIME : 1.5 hours (one way)
    • Starrigavan Estuary Life Trail begins near the end of Halibut Point Road, at the bird viewing shelter off of the Starrigavan Campground loop.
    • Ben Grussendorf Forest & Muskeg Trail begins near the gravel parking area across from the Starrigavan Boat Launch, and ends at parking area at Starrigavan Campground.
    • To complete the loop, you can take the separated multiuse path along the ocean and through Old Sitka State Historical Park between trailheads.
  • ELEVATION GAIN : 150 feet
  • RECOMMENDED SEASON : Year round, but use caution when wet or icy
  • LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY : Easy. Estuary Life is an ADA accessible trail (difficult). Boardwalk sections can be slippery.
  • TRAIL MANAGEMENT AGENCY : US Forest Service- Starrigavan Estuary Life Trail; Alaska State Parks- Ben Grussendorf Forest & Muskeg Trail


The trails are located about 6.5 miles north of Sitka on Halibut Point Road, and about 0.25 miles north of the Ferry Terminal. You can access trailheads at the Starrigavan Boat Launch parking area and the Starrigavan Campground parking area. The two short trails connect via Nelson Logging Road near Starrigavan Creek and Halibut Point Road.

The Forest & Muskeg Trail gently climbs through a typical southeast Alaskan 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 Trail there is a bird viewing platform from which many different birds and other wildlife can be seen.


The Forest & Muskeg 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 a bridge across Starrigavan Creek leads you to the Estuary Life 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 commonly seen 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.


Forest Service:

Alaska travel information:

Matt Goff’s Site:

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