Sitka National Historical Park is Alaska's smallest national historical park, but it’s big on Alaska history and scenic beauty.
The 113-acre park was established in 1890 and is the oldest federally designated park in Alaska. Located within easy walking distance of downtown Sitka, the park is an important site for Tlingit and Russian history and is home to authentic Tlingit and Haida totem poles nestled in a rainforest of giant Sitka spruce trees.
Things to Do
Located at the mouth of Indian River, the park preserves the site where the local Tlingit tribe was defeated by the Russians in the Battle of 1804. Today, the park tells the stories of Russian and Tlingit history in the area and celebrates Tlingit and Haida totems and artwork.
The Sitka National Historical Park Visitor Center displays Russian and Tlingit artifacts and has a theater that shows a video about the area’s history. During the summer, the visitor center hosts the Demonstrating Artists Program, housing three art studios where Alaska Native artists demonstrate woodworking, beading, weaving, and metal engraving.
The Totem Trail is a mile-long path through Sitka spruce and western hemlock trees that showcases 18 Tlingit and Haida totems. From a footbridge over the Indian River, the trail connects to the Russian Memorial Trail, leading to the historic grounds of the Battle of Sitka, where Russian colonists fought with local Tlingit peoples, eventually leading to the establishment of Russia’s settlement in Alaska. Visitors can explore the trails as a self-guided tour or join a ranger-led walk.
The National Park Service also renovated the Russian Bishop's House, the oldest intact Russian building in Sitka. Built in 1843 out of Sitka spruce, the two-story log house is one of the few surviving examples of Russian colonial architecture in North America. Tours are offered daily of the historic building that once served as a school, Bishop's residence, and Russian Orthodox chapel.
In 1804, Russian soldiers arrived in the area with four ships to revenge a Tlingit raid on a nearby outpost two years earlier. The Russians' cannons did little damage to the walls of the Tlingit fort. When the Russian soldiers stormed the structure with the help of Alutiiq people, the Tlingits defeated the Russians in a bloody battle. It was only when the Tlingits ran out of gunpowder and flint that they decided to retreat and withdraw to the eastern side of Chichagof Island, leading the Russians to enter and take control of the deserted fort.
The area became a national monument in 1910 and Sitka National Historical Park in 1972. But in preserving the battlefield of the Battle of Sitka, the park also preserved a lush temperate rainforest and a rocky coastline that gives way to views of island-studded waters and mountains. Such a setting and the unique mingling of Tlingit culture and Russian history make this one of Alaska's most unusual national parks.
Facilities and Camping
There is no camping at Sitka National Historical Park. Visitor facilities include the Visitor Center, several miles of hiking trails, and the historic Russian Bishop’s House. Lodging and dining options are within walking distance in Sitka.
Sitka National Historical Park is located within walking distance of downtown Sitka. The city is accessible only by air or sea. Commercial airlines fly directly from Seattle, Juneau, and Anchorage. Sitka is also a port of call for ferries on the Alaska Marine Highway System and many cruise ships.
Explore more things to do in Sitka.
For more information, visit the Sitka National Historical Park website.
On display at the Sitka National Historical Park Visitors Center (907-747-0110) are Russian and indigenous artifacts along with a video in the theater that provides an overview of the battle. Outside the center carvers are usually working on a totem while nearby is Totem Trail, a mile-long path past 18 totems that were first displayed at the 1904 Louisiana Exposition in St Louis and then moved to the newly created park. Eventually the trail arrives at the site of the Tlingit fort near Indian River, where its outline can still be seen. Visitors either explore the trail as a self-guided tour or join a ranger-led 'Battle Walk.'
The National Park Service also renovated the Russian Bishop's House, the oldest intact Russian building in Sitka. Built in 1843 out of Sitka spruce, the two-story log house is one of the few surviving examples of Russian colonial architecture in North America. From mid-May through September tours are offered daily of the building that served as a school, Bishop's residence and chapel.
There is a per person entry fee to the Sitka National Historical Park Visitors Center and the Russian Bishops House Accessibility: Sitka is located on Baranof Island on Alaska's southeastern panhandle. The city is accessible only by air or sea. Commercial airlines fly directly from Seattle, Juneau and Anchorage. Sitka is also a port of call for ferries on the Alaska Marine Highway System and many cruise ships.
For more information on the park contact the Sitka National Historical Park Visitors Center (907-747-6281).
Visit the Sitka community page for accommodations, tours and activities.