The City of Sitka occupies an enviable position on the Pacific shores of the Alexander Archipelago's most mountainous island. With wild and scenic country surrounding the Port of Sitka, there are many opportunities for outdoor activities. The Port of Sitka is a busy port of call for cruise ships sailing the Inside Passage during the summer months. Large ships anchor off shore, and smaller craft transfer passengers to shore.
The Port of Sitka has an oceanic climate with relatively mild to cool temperatures and plentiful rain. The Port of Sitka gets about 86.1 inches (219 cm) of rain and 30.9 inches (78 cm) of snow each year. Average temperatures range from a low of 1.6°C (35°F) in January to a high of 14°C (57°F) in August. Temperatures in the Port of Sitka rarely exceed 21°C (70°F) and seldom fall below freezing. May and June are the sunniest months, and October is the wettest month of the year.
Visitors to the Port of Sitka who love the outdoors will find many opportunities for adventure and fun including several trails. The US Forest Service manages several remote cabins. The Baranof Cross-Island Trail that goes from the Port of Sitka to the Baranof Warm Springs community offers excellent backpacking. Travelers should be experienced backpackers or should use the services of an experienced guide, as the mountains have rapidly-changing weather conditions, and travelers will cross ice fields with dangerous crevasses.
Less experienced hikers will enjoy the 11-kilometer (7-mile) trip to the summit of Mount Edgecumbe, a dormant volcano. The highest point on Baranof Island, and a challenging climb, is Peak 5390 (its height). There are many other trails in the Port of Sitka area that can be reached from the road system: Indian River Trail, Mount Verstovia Trail, Beaver Lake Trail, Mosquito Cove Trail, Harbor Mountain/Gavin Hill Trail, Redoubt Lake Trail, and Shelikof Trail.
Kayakers can enjoy short guided day-excursions and longer trips from the Port of Sitka to other Baranof Island locations like Baranof Warm Springs, Goddard hot springs, Port Walter, Port Alexander, or Port Armstrong. Experienced ocean kayakers travel to locations on the western side of Chichagof Island like White Sulphur Hot Springs.
Sitka National Historical Park is Alaska's oldest national park. First established in 1910 as the Sitka National Monument, the park memorializes the 1804 Battle of Sitka (between the Tlingits and the Russians) and preserves Native totem art. The remains of the Tlingit fort and battlefield lie in the heart of the 113-acre Port of Sitka park. The Visitors Center is open throughout the year and contains the Alaska Indian Cultural Center, authentic totem poles, and a museum with exhibits that depict the traditional life of the Tlingit peoples.
Also within the Sitka National Historical Park is the Russian Bishop's House. Open from May through September for regular tours, Park Rangers lead visitors through this unique original 1843 log structure representing the buildings of the Russian colonial period in the Port of Sitka. From October through May, visitors can arrange tours by appointment. The building is not accessible to wheelchairs.
The Alaska Raptor Center in the Port of Sitka is open from May through September. Visitors can observe bald eagles, hawks, falcons, and owls from across the Western United States in a 17-acre facility that borders the Tongass National Forest.
Baranof Castle Hill State Historic Site is a National Historic Landmark and a traditional site in the Port of Sitka for raising the American flag. This is the site where the Russian flag was lowered and the US flag was raised when ownership of Alaska was transferred from Russia to the United States in 1867. When Alaska became the 49th of the United States, the first 49-star American flag was raised here. Visitors can walk (also wheelchair accessible) to the top of the hill for breathtaking views of the waterfront and the Port of Sitka's downtown.
St. Michael's Russian Orthodox Cathedral in the Port of Sitka is also a National Historic Landmark. Built in the mid-19th Century, the Cathedral was a key component of Russian cultural influence and the Seat of the Russian Orthodox Diocese of North America. While the original building was destroyed by fire in 1966, many artifacts were preserved.
Visitors are asked not to go into the Saint Lazaria National Wildlife Refuge (St. Lazaria Island), but boat tours are available. Just 13 nautical miles from the Port of Sitka, Saint Lazaria is home to a wide variety of bird species. Fragile because so many species nest on the island, the US Congress designated it as a Wilderness in 1970. The US Fish and Wildlife Service manages the refuge, which is only 55 meters (180 feet) above the sea at its highest point. With mature Sitka Spruce forests, the trees hide burrows of tufted puffins, petrels, and rhinoceros auklets. The rocky cliffs are home to pigeon guillemots, murres, pelagic cormorants, and glaucous-winged gulls. Almost half a million birds lay eggs here.
The Port of Sitka's Sheldon Jackson Museum has world-famous Alaska ethnographic collections that tell the story of the indigenous peoples that lived here for thousands of years. Exhibits include popular totems, kayaks, and Aleutian-style baidarka (sea kayaks). The base of the collections came from Rev. Dr. Sheldon Jackson, a Presbyterian missionary who travelled throughout the region in the late 19th Century, collecting some five thousand items. This Port of Sitka museum was founded in 1887. It is famous for its magnificent totems, Eskimo masks, Native baskets, traditional clothing, and argillite carvings.
Visitors to the Port of Sitka will not want to miss the Sitka Tribal Tours. The two-hour walking tour skirts the harbor, visiting the Sitka National Historical Park and the Sheldon Jackson Marine Science Facility. Participants will get to see authentic Tlingit Native dancers in a traditional clan house. There are also several cultural coach tours.
Travelers who want to visit the Port of Sitka by sea can find an extensive list of cruise opportunities by visiting the Cruise Compete website.