Nestled against the base of White Alice Mountain, Hoonah is the largest Tlingit village in Alaska.
About Hoonah (Tlingit: Xunaa, Gaaw Yat’aḵ Aan)
The town of Hoonah is located on Chichagof Island, about 30 miles west of Juneau along Icy Strait in the Inside Passage. The Huna, a Tlingit tribe, have lived in the Icy Strait area for thousands of years. In 1912, the Hoonah Packing Co. built a large salmon cannery north of town. The cannery operated on and off under different ownership until the early 1950s, and it sat shuttered for decades until the local Native corporation, Huna Totem Corp., purchased and rehabilitated the facility to create the private cruise port now called Icy Strait Point.
Things to do
Since Icy Strait Point opened in 2004, Hoonah has attracted more visitors, particularly those who arrive by cruise ship. The port is centered around the restored salmon cannery, which now houses a museum, local arts and crafts shops, restaurants, and a mid-1930's cannery line display. Outside is the world’s largest and highest zip line at 5,330 feet long, featuring a 1,300-foot vertical drop – a thrilling ride with fantastic views of the surrounding mountains and ocean. Icy Strait Point houses several restaurants where visitors can dine on freshly caught seafood while taking in the waterfront views. A range of excursions are available at Icy Strait Point catering primarily to cruise ship passengers, from Alaska Native dance performances to bear viewing and whale watching.
Hoonah lies in a prime location for charter fishing in Icy Strait. Charter boat operators take clients out throughout the summer to target halibut and the five species of salmon: king, coho, sockeye, chum, and pink, which are headed to spawn in area’s rivers and streams.
Hoonah is ideally located for excellent opportunities to view of some of Alaska’s most exciting wildlife: bears and whales. Hoonah-based charter boats offer daily trips in the summer that cruise the north shore of Chichagof Island to Point Adolphus to view brown bears and bald eagles along the shoreline and humpback whales, harbor seals, Steller sea lions, and Dall porpoises in the surrounding waters.
Half-day whale watching tours search for humpbacks and orcas and most offer a 100% guarantee of whale sightings or your money back. Land-based bear viewing tours travel via bus or van from Hoonah to explore the wilderness of Chichagoff Island, which has the highest concentration of brown bears in the world. And you don’t have to travel far to see wildlife: humpbacks and orcas are often seen right from shore and eagles are spotted regularly in town.
Alaska Native Tlingit culture is the backbone of Hoonah, the largest Tlingit village in the state. Hoonah totem sites are located in front of the Hoonah City School and at Icy Strait Point, featuring locally-carved canoes and totems. Local tour operators lead cultural tours that showcase Tlingit dance, music, arts, and history, including the unique opportunity to tour Icy Strait in a traditional hand-carved Tlingit dugout canoe.
Surrounding Hoonah is the Tongass National Forest, the largest national forest in the United States. The Hoonah Ranger District of the Tongass National Forest oversees a network of nearby hiking and mountain biking trails and several public use cabins, most of which are accessible by boat or float plane. A US Forest Service office is located in Hoonah and can provide information on cabins and recreation opportunities in Tongass National Forest.
Sea kayakers are also drawn here for the 40-mile wilderness paddle that follows the shorelines of Port Frederick and Tenakee Inlet from Hoonah to Tenakee Springs. The two inlets are connected by a short portage and the trip ends for many in the Tenakee Springs’ natural hot springs.