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Tongass National Forest

Juneau, Alaska

Encompassing some 17 million acres (70,000 square kilometers of Southeast Alaska, the Tongass National Forest is the largest forest in the US and the world’s largest temperate rain forest. Named after the Tongass clan of the Tlingit Indians, the park is home to the Alaskan capital (Juneau as well as the Mendenhall Glacier.

Visitors to Tongass National Forest have an enormous array of activities to choose from: bird-watching, trekking, camping, glacier trekking, lake canoeing, off-roading, fishing for five separate species of salmon, or simply relishing the pure fresh air and pristine natural beauty. Wildlife is also prevalent, with chances to view otters, brown and black bears, wolves, eagles and Sitka black-tailed deer. Hike with a guide through the forest to learn more about the indigenous trees and plants, or combine a nature walk with a paddle on a secluded lake in a Native American-style canoe. To get a sense for the sheer size of the forest, consider taking a helicopter tour from Ketchikan.

  • Dress in warm layers, and be prepared for mist and rain any time throughout the year.
  • Wear sturdy, water-resistant shoes suitable for walking over uneven surfaces, particularly if you plan to hike.
  • Before visiting the Tongass National Forest, you may want to visit the Tongass Historical Museum in Ketchikan to learn about the area’s geography and Native Alaskan heritage.

Tongass National Forest covers most of Southeast Alaska and surrounds the Inside Passage. The communities of Ketchikan and Juneau serve as the main gateways to the forest and the jumping off points for most guided tours and activities.

Rain is common throughout the year in Tongass National Forest, though April and May tend to be the driest months. The best time to spot bears in the park is during the salmon spawning season, typically mid-July to late-September.

Tongass National Forest is divided into 19 wilderness areas. Some of the best areas of the park to explore include: Admiralty Island National Monument, home to one of North America’s densest populations of brown bears; the glacial lakes and waterfalls of Misty Fjords National Monument near Ketchikan; and the Russell Fjord Wilderness, home to the Hubbard Glacier.

Yes, you can explore Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. There’s plenty to do in the rain forest, especially outdoor lovers looking for a wild Alaska adventure. You can hike or walk the trails, fish its natural streams, go on a dog-sled tour, and do many other guided and self-guided options.

Yes, there are black bears and brown bears in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. The national forest has one of the highest populations of brown bears anywhere in the U.S. as its natural habitat gives the bears everything they're looking for—particularly salmon.

Yes, there are brown bears (typically known as grizzlies in the interior) in Tongass National Forest. The bears reside within the forest on Admiralty Island, a natural habitat to more than 1,500 brown bears. Brown bears are identified by the hump on their back and face shape.

Yes, you can hike in the Tongass National Forest, which features more than 700 miles (1,127 kilometers) of trails made for enjoying the beauty of the Alaskan rain forest. From beginner-level trails that feature ADA-accessible boardwalks to more rugged, advanced hiking trails, there are many opportunities to explore.

Yes, there are wolves in Tongass National Forest. The Alexander Archipelago wolf calls the area home, as does their main food source—deer. They’re found mostly on the large islands south of Frederick Sound all the way to Vancouver Island. Other animals in the forest include moose, beavers, foxes, and porcupines.

The wild Alaskan wilderness is what makes Tongass National Forest special. The remote area is home to wildlife, including a high concentration of brown bears, and endangered species and rare plants. Misty Fjords National Monument Wilderness, Admiralty Island, and the Alaska Raptor Center are among its special places.


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