A Day Without Rain: Hiking Deer Mountain in Ketchikan, Alaska

Updated on February 23, 2019

Deer Mountain at the One Mile Lookout Point

Hiking Deer Mountain - My Personal Journey

A morning mist caressed the silver-grey sky as the sun slowly peeked through the window of the dormitory-like cabin I called home during my six month summer stay in Ketchikan, Alaska. Finally, a day without rain, a perfect day for a hike along one of Ketchikan's many scenic trails. While among the popular ports of Alaskan cruises, Ketchikan is still one of Alaska’s hidden gems. This is especially true when it comes to hiking trails.

Most visitors to the Southeast Corridor, like me—a busy employee in the tourism & cruise ship industry at the time—do not have the time (or desire) to take on a full day hike. And so, for those folks, some excellent shorter, well-maintained, and easy-to-follow trails can be found, not to mention conveniently located close to the cruise ship terminals.

A favorite of both locals and visitors alike is Deer Mountain. Conveniently located a short uphill distance from downtown Ketchikan, the Deer Mountain trail is arguably one of the best “day hike” hiking trails in Southeast Alaska. No other trail in this region offers such dramatic views of surrounding islands, the “First City” itself, and alpine lakes, than Deer Mountain. Plus, you will experience hiking among a lush, temperate rainforest-like canopy, muskeg, and alpine ridges – quite the alternative from traditional tours that most cruise ships offer.

Yet, don’t let this pristine beauty fool you as this is not an easy saunter through the rainforest hike. The Deer Mountain Trail is classified as “Difficult” and for good reason. This trail has steep switchbacks, meaning lots of steps – which can be hard on the knees if not in shape – rocky and uneven surfaces, wet and muddy or snowy and slippery conditions in places, and some areas may be difficult to navigate. Unpredictable weather can also provide a challenge, considering it can change dramatically within the 3,000 foot elevation change, going from sunny and clear to enveloping you in a thick fog or rain.

Overall, for the average hiker, though, the trail through Deer Mountain is not as intimidating as it sounds, and the beauty it beholds within is well worth the trip. The majority of the hike is under a dense forest canopy until about 2,600 feet above tree line, where the scenery then changes to alpine vegetation. Around every twist and turn as you ascend the summit, the views get more and more spectacular. Typical of hiking trails in Alaska, Deer Mountain has a varied terrain ranging from gravel to wooden stair steps and stone stairs to tree roots to small streams to muskeg and snowfields. Old forest growth covers the lower elevations as the trail passes beneath a canopy of Sitka Spruce, western hemlock, and red cedar trees. Above tree line, alpine vegetation is abundant in the form of dwarf blueberry, wild heather, and other high-altitude flowers.

If you creep quietly along the trail, Alaskan wildlife can often be spotted including black bear, mountain goats, Sitka black tail deer, red squirrels, and ptarmigans. While I did not meet up with any bear along my journey, I was lucky enough to spot a glimpse of some black tail deer grazing in a lush green meadow.

I also came across an A-frame shelter at the summit, which I later learned is a popular destination for both locals and visitors. The shelter is located in the saddle between the Deer Mountain summit and the next summit to the northeast. It was originally used in the 1930s as a ski hut, providing further access to the upper flank of the mountain. Overnight use of the shelter is allowed and requires a permit. Another point of interest to note, Deer Mountain was selected as a National Recreation Trail in 1978. Combine this tidbit of history, alongside the unique history of Ketchikan itself, with dramatic views of Annette, Pennock, Gravina, and even Prince of Whales islands, and this is what makes Deer Mountain one of the best day hikes in this region.

For the more die-hard, adventurous hikers, the “Deer Mountain Challenge” is put on by the local running club every August, which is an organized rigorous run up and down the mountain. Whether you are an average hiker looking for a short day hike in the hills of Southeast Alaska or an avid adventurer, Deer Mountain is highly recommended as offering the best of both worlds. Below are just a few trail options, details, and advice to make your hike a challenging, yet exciting and memorable one.

Hiking Deer Mountain: Tips & Tricks

Deer Mountain Trail Options & Details:

  • Access & Distance: Trail head can be accessed via car or walking a ½ mile up Ketchikan Lakes Road to the junction at the landfill. If driving, turn left and the parking area is 100 feet northeast of the junction, towards the mountain. The hiking trail itself is 2.5 miles from trail head to summit; trail head is 1.5 miles from the cruise ship terminals.
  • Difficulty: More Difficult – steep, uneven surfaces, rocky tread
  • Trip Time: 2.5 hours to the summit (one way); 1 hour to the 1 mile lookout (one way)
  • Options: A mid-way overlook with similarly spectacular views about a mile up the trail. A good option for those who do not wish to invest the full 4-5 hours it typically takes to reach the summit.
  • Elevation Gain: 3,001 feet
  • Season: June through September – any earlier and trail can be snow packed
  • Cautions: The weather can change dramatically in this area. Be prepared for all weather conditions including strong winds, snow, and low visibility due to fog and rain. Be sure to check the local weather forecast before you leave.
  • Hiking Tips: Dress in layers including raingear
  • Bring a foldable walking stick
  • Gaiters are recommended for earlier season hiking
  • For the full hike to the summit, it is highly recommended to bring the typical hiking necessities such as matches, knife, shelter, map and compass, first aid kit, extra food, and signal mirror or flares, and a whistle.
  • Resources: Don’t forget to check out the Ketchikan Visitor Center and/or Southeast Alaska Discovery Center and pick up a Ketchikan Hiking Guide.

Deer Mountain Trail, Ketchikian, Alaska:
Deer Mountain Trail, Ketchikan, AK 99901, USA

get directions

Deer Mountain Trail is located a ½ mile up Ketchikan Lakes Road,the junction at the landfill. The trailhead is 1.5 miles from the cruise ship docks.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, skyaboveus.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)