Back to Blog

Winter in Ketchikan, Alaska

 Playing hide & seek at Totem Bight State Park, Ketchikan, Alaska.  Playing hide & seek at Totem Bight State Park, Ketchikan, Alaska.

“What do you do in the winter?” It’s one of the most common questions our guests ask us. Does life in Ketchikan end once the last cruise ship has set sail? Although the silence downtown is spooky for a couple of days fortunately, for those of us who live in Ketchikan year-round, there is a lot to do in the off season months and, because we are in the midst of the world’s largest temperate rainforest, our winters are not nearly as cold as most people imagine. We do have winter jobs too. I know, it’s unbelievable, but after finishing our ridiculously fun jobs for the season we don’t just kick back and relax or head to warmer climes. Greg often works the sea cucumber dive fishery in the fall months and I split my time between the Southeast Sea Kayaks office and the school district. We do have a lot more time for fun though and most of it is about getting out with the kids and enjoying the town and our beautiful surroundings. Here are some of our favorite things to do in Ketchikan during the winter:

Hike the Trails

Our paltry lower bodies need some work after the summer of sitting around in kayaks, so fall and winter we hike the trails around Ketchikan with the kids. We love Settler’s Cove for bird-watching, Ward Lake for a leisurely stroll and Carlanna Lake for a good hill workout. Rainbird Trail is our after school favorite because it’s right in town and not too tough for the legs of a kayak guide (or 7 year old). The views are not too bad either…

 Taking in the view from the top of the Rainbird Trail: a great hike above the town of Ketchikan. Taking in the view from the top of the Rainbird Trail: a great hike above the town of Ketchikan.  Snow on the mountains and high tide at the Creek Street Bridge in Ketchikan, Alaska Snow on the mountains and high tide at the Creek Street Bridge in Ketchikan, Alaska

Paddle our Kayaks

Kayaking really is what we love to do. We try to get out on the water at least once a week in the winter rain, hail or shine for some exercise and fun. It can be chilly, but with almost no boat or float-plane traffic we get water all to ourselves. There is a lot of great paddling right around Ketchikan. Some days we head around Pennock Island (to see if we can break the 2 hr 7 minute circumnavigation record set in 2004) or out to see the seals at Walden Rocks. Our kids love to paddle up the Ketchikan Creek and when we have time we to take our kayaks and launch from Mountain Point where the sea lions and humpback whales are often playing at this time of year. Winter paddling takes a few extra layers and poggies or gloves are definitely required (yes, even for Greg) but once we have the ice emptied out of the kayaks and are out on the water I am always glad that we made the effort.

Go to the Monthly Grind

It is no secret that I am a big fan of the all things Ketchikan, but the Monthly Grind is one of my absolute favorite Ketchikan things to do. On the third Saturday of every month Ketchikan’s talented musicians, artists, dancers and poets perform at the beautiful Saxman Tribal House. There is a warmth in the Tribal House on Grind nights that is more than just the combined body heat of all our friends and neighbors. It is the warmth of a small community come together to celebrate each others talents and enjoy each other’s company and, of course, eat dessert.

 Greg plays at the Monthly Grind.  Greg plays at the Monthly Grind.

Visit Ketchikan’s Tourist Attractions

There is something wonderful about having the tourist spots all to ourselves all winter, also, the Grant Street playground is closed for renovation. So we play hide and seek amongst the Totem Poles at Totem Bight; wander along Creek street and watch the seals playing in the Ketchikan Creek;  take the Cape Fox tram (free all winter) and ride our bikes up and down the boardwalks on the cruise ship docks. On rainy days our kids love to go to the USFS Discovery Center where the friendly staff have scavenger hunts and other kids activities on hand (just ask at the front desk).

Enjoy the View

 A snowy morning in Ketchikan, Alaska.  A snowy morning in Ketchikan, Alaska.

My number one favorite thing about living in Ketchikan is that amazing water views are not only affordable, they are downright unavoidable. During the winter months we have time to slow down and appreciate the incredible beauty of our surroundings here in Southeast Alaska. Sure, we get a more than our share of rain: over 25 inches fell in December 2013! There are some magnificent winter storms with gale force winds and rain so heavy that you are soaked as soon as you step outside but there are also beautiful, soft misty days and crisp, white snowy days. Whether I am sitting in our floating office answering emails or driving the kids to school I am constantly awed by the town’s gorgeous mountain and ocean views. I feel so fortunate to live here in Alaska and even more fortunate to be able to spend the summers sharing it with visitors. 

 It's not that cold! We really do get a few beautiful days for paddling in the winter.  It’s not that cold! We really do get a few beautiful days for paddling in the winter.