Ketchikan Alaska Hiking Trails
Close to Town Day Hikes

The Rainbird Trail offers stunning city views!

Ketchikan is blessed with amazing Alaska Hiking opportunities! While most visitors simply do not have the time (or desire!) to take a full day hike, there are great, shorter, well-maintained, & easy to follow Ketchikan hiking trails conveniently located close to the Cruise Ship Terminal! One of my favorite day hikes in Ketchikan is called the Rainbird Trail, located a short distance from the downtown Cruise Ship Terminals and the Ferry Terminal.

View of Ketchikan from the Rainbird Trail in Ketchikan AlaskaOne of the amazing views from the Rainbird Trail

The Rainbird Trail

The Rainbird Trail is a delightful 1.3 mile trail that winds through a rainforest with towering trees, shrubs, & ferns before skirting a bluff that offers striking views of the city and Tongass Narrows humming with cruise ships, floatplanes, fishing boats, ferries and barges (not to mention a couple geocaches!). It's one of my favorite go-to hike!

The University of Alaska Southeast Ketchikan hosts the trailhead for the Rainbird Trail

The Ketchikan Rainbird Trail is named after the mythical 'Rainbird' said to inhabit the local rainforest. A Ketchikan icon, you will find the Rainbird all over town on logos, tour companies' names, & apparel. (Like the Ketchikan Yacht Club Burgee!)

The University of Alaska Southeast Ketchikan Rainbird Trailhead sign

I began the hike at the trailhead located at the University of Alaska Southeast (UAS) campus. This Ketchikan Alaska hiking trailhead is easy to get to by either taxi or city bus.

The trailhead is located on the left side of the parking lot, to the left of the buildings. There is a trailhead sign which helps! 

Day Alaska hiking in Ketchikan on the Rainbird Trail

The trail is typical of most Alaska hiking trails - it starts off gravel and begins an upward climb. The trail surface changes many times - from gravel to wooden steps, tree roots, large rocks, etc.

The start of the hike is a decent uphill with steps interspersed. I got my heart rate up but it wasn't a killer. It levels off and the walk is great. I crossed a few itty bitty creeks (easily crossed with a short hop), the sound making the hike all the more pleasurable!

Amazing rainforest trees on the Rainbird Trail in Ketchikan

All during the hike we were rewarded with amazing trees (check out the large one I pictured - it was HUGE!) and even in early Spring it was very green.

The ferns were gorgeous and the berry bushes were just beginning to send out their new shoots. OK, sorry, I'll get back to the hike! haha...

Amazing rainforest views on the Rainbird Trail in Ketchikan

About 1/2 way into the hike there are a set of steps going down hill. This route takes you to the 1st set of stairs that run back down to the street below - I kept going to the next set.

And then I got to the bluff where I sat back & enjoyed the panoramic views....and it was stunning! I stopped & watched the float planes taking off & landing, the fishing boats going here & there, and the eagles flying all around. And I took lots of pictures (and even found a geocache!) - of course!

You'll see spectacular city & island views on the Rainbird Trail in Ketchikan
The Rainbird Trail in Ketchikan Alaska has gorgeous city views!

Gorgeous, huh?! It's no wonder why I love it here and why this is one of my favorite Ketchikan Alaska hiking trails. :-)

I continued along the trail until it terminated at the 2nd set of stairs (300+ stairs!) down to the street below. Walking along the street to the crazy Schoenbar street - which then took me to the Berth #4 Cruise Ship Terminal.

Ketchikan Alaska Hiking - Rainbird Trail Details

  • The trail is 1.3 miles long and I budget 1 hour for a leisurely hike from the trailhead to the staircase (it usually takes us a lot less even with stops to talk to passersby and photos).

  • The walk from the trail end to Berth #4 takes approximately 30 minutes

  • Level of Difficulty: Moderate

  • The trail is typical of Alaska hiking trails in that it has varied terrain - gravel, wooden stair steps, stone stairs, tree roots, & hops over small streams. You may want to consider bringing a foldable hiking stick, I love mine!

  • I always start out with several layers to stay warm while in the cool rainforest canopy but end up peeling them off as I go along. As always - dress in layers! (There are more details on the What to Pack page).

  • Always take a water, a small first aid kit, & cell phone, and wear good hiking shoes!

  • Don't get lost! For peace of mind while Ketchikan Alaska hiking, pick up a free personal locator beacon from the Ketchikan Visitor Information Center. If you become lost it can be activated to send a distress signal and your GPS location to the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad. When your Ketchikan hiking adventure is over, simply return it!

  • Dry weather conditions are best but not required.

Getting there and back

The trailhead is approximately 2 miles from the downtown Cruise Ship Terminal but it is a pretty hefty climb! You can easily take a taxi to the trailhead as they will be lined up at the Cruise Ship berths. A taxi to the trailhead will cost less than $10 and you can even make arrangements for them to pick you up at the end of the trail if you wish.

There are 3 Taxi Companies in Ketchikan:

  • Sourdough Cab (907) 225-5544
  • Alaska Cab       (907) 225-2133
  • Yellow Cab       (907) 225-5555

You can also take the Ketchikan City Bus to the trailhead, though it will cost you a little more time (but less $$!). Here are your options:

  • Take the Silver Line (Northbound), picking up across the street from the Eagle Statue at Berth #2. Transfer buses at the Alaska Marine Highway System/Post Office to the Green Line which will take you to the University. Once you finish the hike you can either walk back to the Cruise Ship terminals - an easy(ier!) down hill walk or pick up the Green Line at the Library back to the Cruise Ship terminals.

  • the hike backwards! Board the Green Line (Southbound) that picks up at Berth #4 or Berth #2 at the Eagle Statue (on the Tongass Trading Co side). This bus will take you as far as the Library, and you can simply walk to the 1st set of stairs & doing the hike backwards from my description above. This will mean your hike ends at the College. Once here, you can take the Green Line back to the Cruise Ship Terminals.

Here is the Ketchikan City Bus Schedule where you can see the times the departure times for the bus. The City Bus Drivers are amazing! Tell them your plan to make sure there are no schedule changes.

I hope you enjoy the Ketchikan Alaska hiking trails as much as I do!

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