"Gavan" means "harbor" in Russian, and Gavan Hill is the forested mountain that rises behind the harbor of Sitka, the former capital of Russian America. It has a superbly laid-out trail leading to wonderful alpine and maritime vistas. Any fit person with only a few hours in Sitka can enjoy this introduction to the Baranof Island mountains.
It takes only a few minutes to walk to the main trailhead from downtown Sitka. From the Russian Bishop's House, walk six blocks up Baranof Street to its end. The well-marked trailhead, with space for a few cars, is on the right. For a good street map
that shows the trailhead, click on this link
Gavan Hill Trail
Forest floor at 2000'.
The Gavan Hill Trail starts with about three quarters of a mile of boardwalk across a pretty muskeg. This gentle section ends at a signposted intersection with the Sitka Cross Trail
. Crossing over this, continue more steeply (often on wooden stairs) through beautiful rain forest. After about a mile you'll come to a viewing platform, elevation 1400 feet, with a nice outlook
over the harbor. The trail continues to the main ridgeline of Gavan Hill (2000 feet), and then wends its way up the crest to the summit table, another 600 feet higher. Views get better and better as you go. The 2500-foot ascent from trailhead to summit will take an average hiker a couple of hours one way, excluding stops to enjoy the scenery.
This trail may be the most highly engineered trail in Alaska--boardwalks, stairs, and bridges make the footing solid and dry. Fortunately, it's been built with a nice eye for terrain, and it's varied and interesting throughout.
A February view toward the interior of Baranof Island from the summit. For identification of the peaks in this view, go here.
Westward view across Sitka Sound
When to Climb
Gavan Hill is a good destination year-round. Being close to the warm waters of Sitka Sound, it can be snow-free for much of the winter.
Camping is waterless but largely unrestricted on Gavan Ridge. There is a basic trail shelter on the Gavan Hill Trail a short distance north of the summit, usable on a first-come, first served basis. No permits are required.
For camping and hosteling options in the town of Sitka, go here
External LinksGreat info on the Gavan Hill forest
Smaller plant and bird life on Gavan Hill
Sitka Conservation Society
Tongass National Forest
(trail is not shown)
View of Gavan Hill from below