SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


The Trails of Ketchikan
By Marie L. Monyak


February 17, 2006

Trails, trails and more trails. Ketchikan has no shortage of trails. So the proverbial sixty-four thousand dollar question isjust how many hiking trails are there in Ketchikan? How many can you come up with?

Unfortunately the answer isn't all that easy. There are trails accessible by the road system and trails accessible only by boat. There are developed/improved trails, developed trails, handicapped accessible trails and trails that are just cleared and brushed. Then there are the primitive trails.

Some trails are on Forest Service land, some on State land, some on Borough landwell, you get the picture. The number of trails varies, depending on the location and type of trail.

If you had been at the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center last Friday night for the presentation by the Ketchikan Outdoor Recreation and Trails Coalition (KORTC) you would have learned everything you ever wanted to know about hiking the trails in and around Ketchikan.

jpg Ketchikan Trails

Members of the Ketchikan Outdoor Recreation and Trails Coalition (KORTC)
From left to right: Harold Adams, Jim Mitchell, John Dickinson,
Kathy Wiechelman, Mike Sallee.
Photo by Marie L. Monyak

The answer to the previously asked, sixty-four thousand dollar question is16. It's generally accepted that there are 16 developed trails which are accessible by the road system in the Ketchikan area.

It's amazing that no matter how long you live in Ketchikan there is always something new to learn. Did you know that the trail above the Third Avenue Bypass has a name? Did you know it's called Rainbird Trail?

The KORTC has endless amounts of information about all the trails on Revilla Island. The organization was formed in 1992 and is primarily an information sharing organization that assists in the planning, promotion and maintenance of hiking trails in the Ketchikan area.

The evening's presentation began with Jim Mitchell, President of the KORTC who gave a brief synopsis of the Trails Ketchikan Initiative, the Carlanna Lake Access Project and the effort underway to acquire permanent access to Coast Guard Beach and South Point Higgins Beach.

Mitchell proceeded to introduce Harold Adams who gave a slide show presentation of many of the trails in and around Ketchikan. Anyone who wasn't aware of the numerous trails in the Ketchikan area was pleasantly surprised, not only by the number of trails but the beautiful scenic views afforded by many of them.

Adams provided many pictures of well defined trails covered in gravel and lengthy boardwalks through muskeg fields sprinkled with violet colored Lupine and blazing red Indian Paintbrush that teased the audience. A view as far as the eye can see was the reward for making it to the top of many of the trails. Seeing these maintained trails, literally in the middle of nowhere, was evidence of the KORTC's presence and involvement in providing a healthy outdoor activity for all of Ketchikan to partake of.

As Adams finished his slide show he turned the floor over to Kathleen Wiechelman who spoke about the Adopt-A-Trail Program which KORTC sponsors. Wiechelman pointed out that there are numerous trails in need of adoption by organizations or even groups of people that will make a point of maintaining their adopted trail a minimum of four times a year.

Volunteers can do minimal work such as picking up litter and cutting back brush or volunteer for heartier work such as adding gravel to previously muddy paths, installing wooden boardwalks through muskeg, trimming overhanging trees or building benches and tables.

Mitchell came back to the podium to expand a bit on the Carlanna Lake Trail. "The proposed trail would start at the dam and run along the east shore of the lake with approximately 2 or 3 fishing access trails. The main trail would continue on to a bridge that would be built over the inlet stream. From there it would be a primitive route leading to a connection with the Minerva Mountain trail," Mitchell said.

Acquiring public access to Coast Guard Beach and South Point Higgins Beach on the North end of town was the next topic which was covered by John Dickinson who said, "Both parcels are owned by the Alaska Mental Health Trust yet have been used for generations by the people of Ketchikan."

Dickinson pointed out the many traditional uses of these two areas such as beachcombing, swimming, picnicking, environmental education classes and subsistence gathering of plant life. Both of the trails have been partially improved and are in need of finishing but the land ownership issue needs to be addressed.

"A lot of people don't even realize that it is not public land, both Coast Guard Beach and South Point Higgins Beach are owned by the Mental Health Trust and they have that land to generate funds so eventually something will happen to that land and it may get sold off."

Dickinson continued, "A working group has been formed to look into a solution to acquire the lands so that they remain parklands with public access. We are going to have to have money to acquire these lands, grant funding is one way."

Dickinson wanted to point out that, "The next meeting of the KORTC is to be held on February 23rd at 5 P.M. at the KPU building. We have sign up sheets if anybody wants to join. Everyone is welcome, they can be a part of the phone tree, they can work on the trails, work on grant writing, donate a million dollars, whatever." Dickinson said.

After a bit of laughter, Dickinson sat down and Mike Sallee came forward to share his personal vision of possible new trails for Ketchikan in the future.

For anyone who wants to get outdoors and get involved in a community effort, the KORTC is a worthwhile choice. You may visit their website at
Or for further information or questions you may contact their President, Jim Mitchell at 225-6808.

For information about the Adopt-a-Trail program contact Kathleen Wiechelman at 247-7780 or email her at kwiechelman(AT)


Marie L. Monyak is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Contact Marie at mlm1x[AT]


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