Sitka, Alaska: Where there are only 14 miles of roads but more than 14 miles of trails! Sitka is one of the bigger towns in southeast Alaska with a population of around 8,000. It’s a popular cruise ship destination in the summer time, with passengers delivered daily in town from multiple ships. Sitka is native land of the Tlingit people and was where the Russians handed over the Alaskan Territory to the US. So, there are wonderful historical sites in town to check out on your post-run recovery walks.
Sitka receives quite a bit of rain (almost three times as much as Seattle – so pack a rain jacket) but you can always see the nearby volcano Mt. Edgecumbe or the innumerable peaks protruding from Baranof Island, not to mention eagles and whales! Pack your bear spray in your trail running pack (but not on the airplane – not cool). Speaking of the airport, you can walk on a mile long sidewalk straight into town after landing – so no need for an automobile. Plus none of these awesome trails need a car – feel your fossil fuel footprint diminishing… (besides the airplane or ferry ride you just took to get here).
Sitka Cross Trail + Totem Park: <12 Miles
The Cross Trail traverses the backside of town through forest and muskegs (your new favorite viewpoints) and over small (and large) wooden foot bridges. The trails are well-developed with always a few other runners or bikers around. There are many access points from town and it is well marked. At the southern end, you can cross into Totem park where you can visit the historical visitor center and take a 1.5 mile tour around the wooded totem pole loops along the beach with views of the mountains and Sitka Sound. You can turn the cross trail into a short or longer run depending on where you access. An out and back can get up to about 12 miles.
Indian River: 9 Miles Out and Back
Head off the southern spurt of the Cross Trail along many wooden bridges, downed trees-turned-bridges up to Indian River Falls. The Falls are nothing too exciting, but the trail meanders nicely along the river and has a rope swing near the beginning if you are feeling up to a polar plunge. Bring bear spray and look out for ice if it’s not summer or late spring.
Thimbleberry, Heart, & Beaver Lakes + Herring Cove: 10 Mile (ish) Loop
Make an adventurous loop starting from the Thimbleberry Lake trailhead south of town, up to Beaver Lake by the dam that is the electrical supply for the town. You’ll be rewarded with elevation gain, old growth, a nicely developed trail up to Beaver Lake featuring nice lookouts, muskegs and wooden foot bridges. Head down the trail south to Herring Cove, which features stunning sunset glimpses off the sound, and head back on the gravel road along Sitka Sound past the Fortress of the Bear to the Whale Park. Take your chances at spotting a bear while stretching your hammies on the beautiful viewing balconies, then head back about a mile on the road to your starting point.
Mt. Verstovia: 6 Miles Roundtrip
Head south from town and park at the Mt. Verstovia trail head. Hike/run (though mostly hike) up the trail (which can be icy late spring) up to Mt. Verstovia. Be prepared for stunning views of the sound and Arrowhead peak, and some major elevation gain.
Gavan Hill: 6 Miles (ish) Out and Back
Head up the Gavan Hill trail from the sign on the well-marked Cross Trail. You’ll be stepping up many a stair to access this beautiful viewpoint. If there is not much snow, you can connect to Harbor Mountain and make a big loop for yourself. Or you can just head back down after you feast on mountain and sound views (and your well-planned picnic lunch).
Feasting After Your Feats
There are three grocery stores in Sitka to stock up on your long run needs: Market Place in town (which is meager but manageable), Lakeside (close to town), or SeaMart (about 3 miles north of town but the greatest selection of Costco’s finest, plus the best grocery store parking lot view). After an all day adventure, head to Mean Queen and feast on their large pizzas and salads. The tab won’t be cheap but they always have a $3 brew on tap and a gorgeous Sitka sound vista. North Sister Crepe and Juice Bar has limited hours but is great for a small acai bowl, Alaskan crepe or juice of the day. Head to Baranof Island Brewing just south of town on Sawmill Creek road for some homegrown Sitka Spruce Tip Ale to enjoy with your home-cooked salmon dinner.
Need a place to nap post-run with a view without getting soggy? Hit up the library, with some nice cozy chairs to curl up in and enjoy the setting sun.