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Southeast Alaska
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Southeast Alaska


Tongass National Forest & Smaller Wilderness Areas

Hyder, AK & Stewart, BC

Misty Fiords National Monument


Prince of Wales Island



Stikine-Leconte Wilderness

Admiralty Island National Monument


Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness

Sitka & Sitka National Historic Park

West Chichagof-Yakobi Wilderness & South Baranof Wilderness


Skagway, Klondike National Historic Park & White Pass and Yukon Route

Glacier Bay National Park & Gustavus

Yakutat & Russell Fiord Wilderness


The Alaskan panhandle, generally referred to as the Southeast, is a region of lushly forested isles, sinuous fjords, jagged coastal mountains, and glaciers. It stretches from the Dixon Entrance—the large inlet just north of Prince Rupert, British Columbia—to Yakutat Bay on the St. Elias coast. This northern limit reflects the extent of the Tongass National Forest, which encompasses most of the region. Long a favorite destination for cruise ships, the area is one of the loveliest in the state.

Humpback whales roll through the waters, lofting their tails before diving deep. Eagles perch on the tops of the tall evergreens, their white heads serving as beacons of identification to the sharp-eyed. As your ferry, cruise ship, tour boat, or kayak rounds a point, yet another great glacier becomes visible. Abundant waterfalls, misty clouds, and ephemeral rainbows paint the landscape with motion and color.

Four roads link Southeast towns with ferry connections to highway routes in Canada. In British Columbia, Prince Rupert is reached via B.C. 16 from Prince George, while Highway 37A connects the Cassiar Highway to Stewart and its tiny neighbor, Hyder, Alaska. From the Yukon, the Klondike Highway crosses from near Whitehorse over White Pass into Skagway. Haines is reached on the Haines Highway via Kluane National Park, British Columbia’s Alsek-Tatshenshini Wilderness Park, and the Chilkat River. In summer, ferries serve Prince Rupert, Haines, and Skagway several times a week. The Hyder-Ketchikan ferry runs weekly (see chapter 6 for details).

Though every town of the Southeast is unique, most share a common heritage. Camps and villages of the native Tlingit Indians grew into many of today’s larger settlements. Resource exploitation—whether of otter pelts, fish, timber, or gold—led to the creation of virtually all the modern towns. Southeastern communities share a dependence on the calm water routes of the Inside Passage for transportation and supplies.

Today, all of the larger towns are bound together by tourism as well. Most visitors to Alaska travel in the Southeast—and wisely so! In prioritizing areas to explore, the Southeast should be at or near the top of most lists. People familiar with the islands and mountains of the Pacific Northwest will find the landscape somewhat similar, though much wilder and greater in scale. For the rest of us, the Alaskan Southeast will seem stunningly different. For all, it’s some of the best the Earth has to offer.

Information on many of the sights featured in this chapter can be obtained from the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center, 50 Main Street, Ketchikan, AK 99901, 228-6214, r10_ketchikan_Alaska_Info@fs.fed.us, www.fs.fed.us/r10/tongass/districts/discoverycenter.